Event and trade show marketing can be tough - just how can you maximize the return on your trade or event show investment? We're laying out some common areas of focus for you that may help your next event be a stellar one. After all, a trade show can be one of your more costly marketing endeavors.

  • Budget and plan - plan a lot! As you would likely do with any other business growth initiative, plan and budget out all costs and activities associated with the event or trade show; show fees, booth fees, travel, food, marketing collateral, staff pay, technology, etc.. Trade shows can get pricey - ensure you have the budget, then rock solid pre, during, and post event plan in place
  • Pre-show/event marketing and meetings - don't leave all the "fun" for during the event. Begin your outreach, connecting, and marketing weeks before the big event; 3-6 weeks before even. Identify key attendees, companies, or influencers, and set time aside to have coffee, or Skype sessions with them before the event. Use the meetings to network - make it about them, not you, and hopefully they'll even give you some insider information on the upcoming event.Also VERY important, begin promoting the event and your attendance early via your social media channels, networking groups, email, and word of mouth. Also, place content (a blog or event page as examples) about the event/show on your website
  • Choose your best players - don't just select those you think would enjoy the event or are "people persons". Yes, a business trip is a nice break in the routine, and bubbly personalities help, but you need your "A-team", go-to salespeople present. You need folks at/in your booth that can connect, network, and relationship build - not just sell (PS - create a contest or something to incentivize your trade show staff to excel and perform at higher levels)
  • Give the crowd some "juice" - consider arranging to have some of your best clients and/or surrogates attend (and pay their way). It's a lot easier to sell and promote your business and products to folks who have already bought from you than to new prospects - let them help promote you (plus this will "wow" your existing clients into continuing the relationship with you)
  • Be outstanding (and a little outrageous) - think of the sea of exhibitors, and the folks facing all of them. Be one of the booths, teams, and experiences an attendee remembers. Have a truly interactive, engaging booth and space; bright, colorful, simple yet edgy signage, an interactive touch screen (TV or tablets), and friendly, fun and witty staff. Also, create & feature a booth experience; a game, fun quiz, contest, or challenge that will leave attendees with a flash-point memory of you and your business. Create an environment that captivates traffic as long as possible, while leaving a lasting impression
  • Limit your collateral (but be flashy) - remember, most events yield thousands of attendees, and thus LOTS of collateral being handed out to those attendees,most of which remains in bags, or is just thrown away. Business/contact cards and signage are a must, but give attendees (in exchange for their information) one or two key marketing pieces that are memorable and fun. Wearable items, or items that light up or draw attention somehow are even better - attendees leave your booth and are already promoting your business for you! With your print collateral, invest the time and money in truly professional design and printing; remember, attendees are looking to be wowed, wooed, and entertained at these events - the "do-it-yourself" route won't suffice here
  • DON'T sell - do you enjoy being sold to when all you've done is said hello or exchanged a look with someone? No? Neither do trade/event show attendees. Treat trade shows like mega networking events - make the exchanges you have with attendees more about getting to know them and their businesses and lives, and less about you. Ensure your booth has some space for one-to-one chats so you can really build solid experiences with booth visitors
  • Collect and measure - effectively. Ensure the trade show host, or you yourself, has some means of capturing lead information. Keep prospect qualifying in mind (does the lead have the need for your product/business, and do they have the required budget and resources), then sort your leads by temperature, qualification/status, and interest. Finally, measure your investment in the trade show to gauge true ROI
  • Follow-up FAST - strike while the event iron is hot! In general, waiting one to two days after an event is more than acceptable to follow-up with leads. Waiting any longer will only dilute the relationship built. Remind the lead why they enjoyed your booth and interaction so much. Lastly, keep in touch with those leads - even if they don't progress into clients - you never know who they are connected to

Be sure you really plan out your trade show marketing and activities. You'll find it's not just about being memorable or extravagant at events - it's about connecting, learning, and immersing into the business and commerce communities.