Planning Your 2016 Trade Show Strategy

By now your marketing/trade show budget dollars are set.  You may need to be smart with how those dollars are spent, especially if you have more important shows to cover than you have budget to exhibit at them. There are several ways to sell and/or network with prospects without investing in expensive booths and extensive staffing:

  • Co-locate in a partner booth. Not only does this save money but it may also provide visibility by leveraging your partner’s brand identity.
  • Host a reception for clients and prospects the day prior to the event or on an evening during the show.
  • Schedule an invite-only dinner for media/analysts. I only suggest this if you have something significant to share.
  • Leverage social media opportunities such as live tweets from the show even if the company’s show presence is minimal – or virtual.
  • Promote news announcement(s) though PR and social channels and announce just prior to or leading up to the show.
  • Conduct a Focus Group with customers/prospects and gather their feedback on important topics.
  • Capture video customer testimonials at the show that you can showcase on your website, in PowerPoint presentations and promote through digital channels.
  • If you were accepted to speak at the show or are leading a panel presentation, promote the news in advance to clients, prospects and industry participants who may want to listen to your words of wisdom.
  • Attend networking events. I suggest vetting the many options ahead of time so you can maximize your time at the show and attend the events that make the most sense.
  • Build on your relationships. Trade shows are an ideal venue to meet new people but it’s also a time to build on existing relationships. There’s nothing like catching up over coffee to reinvigorate a long-distance relationship. Be sure to mine your contacts to reconnect with or get to know better those who’ll be attending.

And if you do invest in a booth:

  • Ensure buzz-worthy promotions that draw attendees to the booth (consider catchy props, contests, games, etc.).
  • Develop timely, topical story angles/pitching topics at least 6-months in advance to build momentum leading up to the show.
  • Execute a strategic social media campaign that has the frequency needed to rise above the noise and leverages a well-connected digital influencer to expand your reach.
  • Leverage multiple customer touchpoints to reach your audience; you can’t rely on foot traffic alone.
  • Coordinate media/analyst interviews and follow up post-show.

Whether you invest in a booth or just have a presence at a show remember it is an ideal opportunity to garner media attention. If you are launching a major news announcement, this is a prime time to send a press release in advance of the show to pique interest among media and analysts who are often in attendance at key shows and are often available to meet in person. After the show, make sure you follow-up and leverage any media opportunities.

Here’s wishing you much success for a prosperous and fun 2016 trade show experience.


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