7 Smart Ways to Get More from a Trade Show

trade-show-tipsTrade shows. We’ve all been to them. And when it comes to exhibitors we know what we like and what booths we’re likely to avoid. What makes the difference?

There seem to be a few basic tips to putting together an effective exhibit. We’ve visited and exhibited at lots of trade shows, particular focused on fleet management, over the years, and you quickly learn what works and what doesn’t – from attracting delegates to making sure you get a return on exhibition costs.

We also rounded up opinions from experts in the industry to tell us what they thought made for a good exhibit.

We’ve put all these suggestions together for you so you can avoid the common mistakes while making the most of your trade show opportunity.

1.       Decide what your goals are – Known in advance what you want to achieve from a trade show. Trade shows aren’t cheap and if you don’t know what you want out of it, you could be just throwing money away. Who do you want to target? What do you want them to take away from your exhibit? How will you measure success?

2.       Make your giveaways work for you – Free giveaways are definitely a failsafe way to attract delegates to your booth, but are they a dead-end? If you have no way to follow those people up, or you just hand them out as people walk by, you won’t have any idea of what sort of return you’re getting from that fancy pen, chamois or embossed compendium.  Some booths have successfully used giveaways that keep people around – maybe a raffle, or an interactive game – the goal is to keep them at your booth instead of them just walking by.

3.       Visit other booths – Learn from the mistakes of others and copy their strengths (or even better, improve on them). Wandering around is an important way to see how it feels for a delegate. What’s getting your attention? Where’s everyone going?

4.       Know your audience – How much do you know about the demographics of attendees? While you can’t always generalize you should have a good idea of the typical person who attends this event and what presses their buttons. Is it more of a techie crowd? Perhaps an iPhone polishing cloth is a better giveaway than a tool belt?

5.       Build up some buzz – Give everyone plenty of advance notice that you’ll be attending a trade show (see our plug below). Use social media to get the message out, particularly targeting industry professionals in the area. Give them an incentive to come and visit your booth, like a special giveaway for the first 50 who have a special “password” that you’ve mentioned on a medium like Twitter – if nothing else you can quickly gauge how much of your target are using these channels!

6.       Show your trade – It’s not a brochure show, it’s a trade show so make sure you’re actually showing off your trade. If you sell tracking devices, have one setup. Let people handle the product and see it in action. They need to see how it relates to their job and how it will help them and their business solve their problems.

7.       Make sure you can track leads – Giving stuff away or handing out business cards may seem productive but if you have no way of knowing how many of those people seek you out when they get back to their office then it’s very hard to measure ROI. At least think about putting a unique URL on your handouts so you can see how many visits you get to your website. Or try a tracked phone number that redirects to your sales line.

Whatever you do, make sure you put your best foot forward and I’d like to finish with a comment made by a fleet supervisor from Milwaukee who put’s it well: “One point often overlooked is that everyone at the trade show is in your targeted industry, they might not be a customer now, but you never know down the road. If that pen, cool giveaway or fun interactive element gives you the ability to interact and leave a positive impression it may be worth the expense and a second look.” Well said.