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A tradeshow can offer you the chance to show-off your product or services face to face. These shows are for insiders and are made for you to mix it up with prospects and investors. Even in the age of social and mobile networking, trade shows are still among the most effective for reaching potential consumers.

Tradeshow Strategy & Tactics

If you are a young company or start-up you can use it to build interest and attract attention to what you are doing. If you’ve been around awhile, trade shows are a great way to make major announcements, get big clients, and interact with customers.
 
Like any other kind of marketing, the key to tradeshow marketing is planning, strategy, and tactics. Here’s a brief list for first-timers and seasoned experts, that can help make your tradeshow a success.
 

1. Decide which to attend.

 
Make a list of all the events in your industry. Visit as a guest the year before to events you are interested in. Do a walk through to evaluate. If you can’t do this, look for reviews online, or email past exhibitors. How crowded was it? What were the attendees like? Was it worthwhile? How much did it cost for a booth?
 

2. Set your goals.

 Do you need to get press? Meet investors? Land customers? Or do you need a more intimate environment to work on partnerships? You have figure out which of these trades shows are going to be a good match for you reaching your goals. That also means you need to get to know your demographic and what shows they will be at. If you are focusing on customer development, smaller conferences work better for this. If you want to interact w/ as many customers as possible, attend a more crowded event.
 

3. Budget your tradeshow marketing by quarter.

 Put events on a schedule but be flexible for change after you evaluate the performance of each show. Often time the first show you attend will be the most expensive. The investment needed for the initial materials, like signage, table dress, video, and display panels can be considerable. Most of that can be reused for future shows and you can adjust your budget accordingly.
 

 4. Target attendees.

Make a key list of attendees you want to meet then schedule meetings before you attend the event (4 – 6 weeks before the show). This might include editors of magazines & blogs, existing customers, potential customers, vendors, competition, and potential partners. Schedule a dinner or host an after party. Invite some friends and then a bunch of attendees you want to meet. Pick a great venue to snag high-profile people. Make it about networking, not selling. You want to hear about what they do more than what you do. Use social media to generate interest. You can tweet your show details to your followers via Twitter, send updates to groups of friends on Facebook, and use other social networking platforms to build hype.
 
From epicprescence.com: Rachel Nevers at event marketing platform Splash recounts how her team made this tactic work:
“The night before the expo (when everyone was settling into their hotel rooms), we promoted a Facebook post that invited attendees to swing by our booth to watch live demos and to enter our raffle. The expo hashtag was displayed, and the location of our booth was front and center. We found it to be one of the best ways to invite our existing user-base to come to meet us face-to-face — AND to pique curiosity from new prospects.”
Global Allies approached The Gettys Group to create a repeating industry event that gathers some of their top clients, hotel owners, brands and designers in one place to consider new perspectives, make connections, and gain insights into the future of the hospitality industry. We put together a hype video to help promote the event with a tight turnaround time. The final piece was eventually edited into as graphics package as a post-event recap. We were provided with boards and brought the piece to life with animated titles using glitch elements to drive home their theme of “Disruption by Design”. Music provided by the client for the temp video was “Seventeen Years” by RATATAT.

6. Inbound: it’s all about visibility.

Invest extra money in a corner booth if you can afford it. They attract traffic (about 2x more), but usually, cost more ($200-$500 more). A nice looking booth, a stack of business cards, marketing materials, and a compelling demo are the basics. This all needs to be on point. Video is also a great way to keep walk-ups engaged so they are there long enough for the full pitch. It doesn’t need to have sound if the show floor is too noisy. I’ve done a series of videos for Whirlpool at CES, several years in a row, and they didn’t have sound. They used text, images, and motion to capture peoples attention and imagination. 

7. Put the right people in the booth.

 
While drafting your tradeshow strategy, make sure you outline a staff training program. Emphasize relationship building and quality over quantity. Keep in mind that the priorities and skillsets of salespeople (cultivating prospects and converting them to customers), and those of marketing people (generating leads) are often quite different. Having many skillsets available allows you to better manage your booth traffic. Marketing people can focus on gathering leads, customer service or salespeople can focus on qualifying prospects, and salespeople can work with customers who are ready to buy.
 

8. Swag.

Contests, Giveaways and freebies are good at getting buzz. Coffee mugs, stress balls are tried and true, but a creative swag item that relates to your demo or presence can be more effective. Limit giveaways to those who give you their contact information. The downside is that this can often generate low-quality leads, so budget accordingly. All freebies should have a clear CTA.

9. Outbound: walk up to people and give away

You can give away a bag w/ company’s logo and booth location. People are going to be getting a lot of swag and material and they need somewhere to caryy all that. Why not get make them aware of your company and booth location.  If you are new to tradeshows, this is a great way to get some people to your booth.  However you look at it, you are going to need an outbound strategy
 

10. Be a speaker at a panel.

It shows credibility and it’s a great way to send people to your booth. At some shows,  we’ve created hype videos that play before the speaker comes on.  The one we show here is for United Therapeutics which is a pharma company that deals with breathing issues. We gave them a highly energetic sports-fueled intro that focused your attention on their team building theme while associating it with their core brand benefits.

11. Track lead movement post-show.

It’s super important to have a follow-up plan before the show. Have procedures set-up with your sales team so valuable leads don’t fall through the cracks. Make sure they are prompt so the lead doesn’t get cold.
Have any Tradeshows strategies you’d like to share, let us know in the comments below!

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