Alexis Exhibits

Developing an Effective Tradeshow Marketing Strategy

Establishing an effective marketing strategy for a trade show is essential to converting the money spent on exhibits, booth space, and the travel expenses to increased sales. Companies must plan and begin executing their trade show marketing strategy before the show begins and continue after the tradeshow until the last lead has been followed up.

Once a strategy has been devised and bought into by upper management; it’s time to get a plan in place to deploy it. Make sure that your marketing goals are easily measurable so you can easily assess the effectiveness of your plan after the show and determine the role trade shows will play in your future marketing plans.

Here are a few things that can help you develop and deploy an effective trade show marketing strategy so that you can be the “talk of the show.”

Before the show

Trade show organizers will supply you with a list of ppre-registeredattendees. Use this list to contact registrants via phone calls, written invitations to promotional events at the show, direct mail, and emails. A teaser that gives attendees a reason to stop by your booth (free giveaways, enticing entertainment, etc.) can help boost traffic. Well before the show, be sure and add sections to your website such as forums, event calendars, and newsletters to reach a large portion of customers and leads.

During the show

These marketing activities include live demos, in-booth entertainment or attractions, audiovisual programs, tradeshow giveaways, and free food and beverages, if permitted.

Effective marketing during the show is contingent upon having a well-trained and professional staff manning your booth. Getting attendees to stop by the booth will only get you so far. After that, it’s up to your employees to welcome them, introduce themselves, and give them a quick overview of your company and its products or services. Be sure that booth workers take notes and obtain contact information along with information specific to that person that might come in handy when contacting them after the show.

After the show

This is where many companies fall short. If you want to convert sales leads into actual sales, this needs to be an essential part of your marketing plan. Thanking attendees and following up with them is important if you want them as future customers. Follow up within a week of the show by sending a personalized note, along with any marketing material you deem appropriate for that particular prospect.

In the weeks following the show, attendees will be besieged with emails, sales collateral, and sales pitches via social networking sites from exhibitors. Set your company apart from the sea of competitors by making personal phone calls to promising sales prospects. This extra effort confirms your company’s commitment to service and establishes a pathway to building a relationship with a future customer.

All these marketing strategies should be built around establishing and reinforcing your company’s commitment to quality and customer care. Implementing a trade show marketing plan that focuses on relationship management and personalized attention to prospects as well as current customers will go a long way towards growing your business and increasing sales.

Trade Show Strategy: Plan it Like an Expedition

I like to think about a trade show like an expedition. I’m headed off to some exotic land in search of treasure. I will be deep in the jungle, cut off from civilization for days. It will be hard to get supplies. I know that my team should expect no outside help. The fate of the entire expedition rests in the hands of the people I choose to man the booth, careful planning and how well equipped we are to meet the expected – and unforeseen – challenges.

The treasure is, of course, new customers and sales. And getting those new customers requires an action plan.

Plan your targets in advance

About 75% of show attendees plan booth visits and meetings before the show starts. Review the attendee list in advance of the show. ID your targets. Start to invite people to visit your booth a few weeks before the show. Personal phone calls are most effective and harder to ignore than e-mails and mailings. Think about pre-show communications that will create anticipation of your booth – it can feature a special promotion or some buzz about a new product release.

Make sure you and your team are outfitted for this adventure

Select clothes that look professional or that support the theme of your booth, but also make sure that everyone will look great all day. Plan on it being either too hot or too cold – attire with a jacket that can be removed is a great choice. And wear comfortable shoes. (One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was wearing beautiful, brand new shoes that were not a great fit to a trade show.) It is almost impossible to really smile if you have been standing for 6 hours and your feet hurt.

Have enough staff or find a partner

Ideally, you will have enough staff in your booth to meet with prospects and give your team breaks. If you have limited staff or have only one person at the booth for a show, find another larger company to partner with. It is best to do this before you select your booth location so that you can be located next to each other or share a larger space.

Pick the right team

Who you pick for this “expedition” is essential to making it successful. Fill your team with high-energy people who have an upbeat attitude. And make sure that everyone who is representing your company has deep product knowledge.

Plan your sales material carefully

People who attend a show are bombarded with information and the best way to be remembered is from your sales literature. Make sure it is easy to carry and packed with valuable information – your goal is to make sure people take your material back to their office. If you have a really valuable prospect, make sure to get their contact information and send material to them after the show.

Carefully select your bait

Over 90% of exhibitors bring a premium or free sample to give away at a trade show because offering an attractive free gift is great way to attract people to your booth. You will be the best choices and can usually save money if you plan this in advance.

What do you do before a show to make it more successful?

Calculating a Trade Show’s ROI

Exhibiting at trade shows is a costly and time-consuming marketing activity. Though that is indisputable, the costs are often more than recouped when the show is a success and your company leaves with many promising sales leads that can— with proper sales follow-up —be converted into future customers.

roiSo how do you determine whether a trade show was a success and worth the expenditure? In order to determine if the cost of attending a show was justifiable, you’ll need to calculate the show’s return on investment (ROI). In this case, ROI is the gain or loss from the money spent on various marketing activities (tradeshows, sales promotions, advertisements, etc.) that are intended to drive sales.

Calculating ROI is pretty straightforward. You simply divide the gross sales dollars resulting from the effort, in this case a tradeshow, by the cost spent to execute it. For example, if your company generated $600,000 in gross sales as a result of sales leads generated at a trade show event and it cost $150,000 to attend.

ROI: $600,000 ÷ $150,000 = 4

ROI is expressed as a ratio so it would be 1:4, which means for every dollar invested, your company got back four dollars. The tricky part is that it’s very difficult to determine exactly which sales leads from tradeshows resulted in actual sales. So in this case, you’re estimating ROI, not calculating an actual ROI.

In order to estimate ROI from tradeshows, companies use a variety of methods. Some companies have determined through past experience the average number of qualified leads it takes to get a specific number of opportunities to pitch to potential buyers, and how many of these will ultimately result in a sale.

The number of presentations that close in a sale are known as the “close ratio.” Over time, a company will be able to compute an average close ratio. Once a company has determined a close ratio, it can use leads generated at a show to estimate potential ROI from that event.

Another way to estimate ROI is to perform a sales conversion study. This is a controlled interview technique that is conducted via email or phone within a few weeks of an event. The intent is to uncover buying intentions and purchasing time from a pool of qualified leads collected at an event.

ROI: Gross dollar buying intentions ÷ cost of the event and the cost of the survey = Potential ROI

Don’t overlook the soft benefits

While you are calculating the dollars and cents, don’t forget to consider the benefits of exhibiting that can’t be expressed in numerical terms, like:

  • Strengthening relationships with current clients.
  • Increasing brand awareness.
  • Consumer education efforts.
  • New product introductions.
  • Investor relations and improving perception of your company in the financial community.
  • New market introductions.
  • Public relations including editorial coverage.
  • Competitive intelligence.
  • Customer insight and research.

Though measuring exact ROI is difficult, these techniques can help you estimate your possible return using information that is more easily accessed from your internal sales groups. Using a projected ROI is a great way to strengthen reported results from tradeshows as well as to increase your credibility with upper management.

What should you know about your Trade Show prospects?

dataOne of the most important decisions you need to make about exhibiting at a trade show is what information you should collect from your key prospects.

Many trade shows place barcodes on attendee badges and have scanners available for rent at a reasonable fee. This streamlines the process of building lead lists and provides a fast, unobtrusive way to gather critical information for follow-up.

When a prospect enters your booth and inquires about a product, just ask permission to scan the bar code on their badge. Then also record the products or services the person is interested in knowing more about. Most trade shows will email a spreadsheet to participating exhibitors with complete contact information and other information about the prospects.

It is a simple, effective and useful way to systematize prospect information and prioritize sales leads. And you will have almost all of the information you need to effectively follow-up on your trade show leads.

Some Exhibitors have taken data collection to a whole new level

One Fortune 500 company tracks everything imaginable about a trade show prospect using a special RFID barcode that they place on prospects when they enter their booth. They track the prospect’s path in the booth, the specific displays and demos in the booth the prospect visited, the total time spent in the booth, who accompanied the prospect to the booth and so on. Then they combine this information with registration data to create a prospect profile. In all, this company collects over 200 pieces of information about every prospect. The catch is that they didn’t have any idea what to do with most of the information they gather.

What information should you collect about prospects?

The most important part of a trade show is that it provides an opportunity to establish and build a personal relationship with each prospect. It is vital to make sure that you do not interfere with the 1-on-1 dialog with a series of questions designed to gather information. Work to make the conversation very natural and focus on the vital info.

If you can get contact information from the trade show registration, then you do not have to do anything more than scan a badge and you can focus on the critical questions and answers:

  1. What products or services are of interest?
  2. When do the buyers plan to make their purchase?
  3. How much does the buyer plan to spend?
  4. What are the most important benefits and features the buyer is looking for?
  5. Who is your competition and what advantages does the buyer believe the competition offers?

Does it matter if the prospect spent 8.4 minutes or 6.2 minutes in your booth? No. What matters is that you can identify the high-value prospects to sell to during the show and to contact after the show and that these prospects have a positive experience at your booth and remember your company and your staff favorably.

Make a Big Impact With a Small Trade Show Exhibit

You may be planning a small trade show booth, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a big impact. Here are a few ways to make any exhibit a big win.

Keep it simple
Your exhibit will stand out if you create a very simple booth. Keep it uncluttered, only include the essentials, and make it open and inviting.

Look professional
Make sure that every aspect of your booth is professional – from your exhibit, to your sales collateral, to your booth staff. A professional looking booth is critical to building credibility and to attracting traffic.

Be dramatic
Use distinctive materials, tension fabrics, woods, colored metal and layered graphics to present a current look and build visual interest.

tallgiraffeThink tall
Design a booth that incorporates one tall element that is visible above the crowd. It can be as simple as an overhead sign with a unique design, shape and movement, or something more unusual like moving lights on a group of hanging banners.

Get the best booth staff
In a small booth, the staff can be the difference between engaging attendees and just blending into the background. Make sure to have an outgoing, knowledgeable team at the show.

Start your marketing before the show
About 75% of show attendees decide on exhibit visits and seminar attendance in advance. Set up meetings with clients, prospects, and press ahead of time.

Follow-up after the show
Don’t let one hot lead fall through the cracks; make sure to follow-up all the qualified leads after the show.

It doesn’t matter if your trade show exhibit is the largest at the show or a smaller booth, the same principles of great trade show presentation still apply. Make sure your trade show exhibit stands out from the rest of the show, that your team executes flawlessly and every element works to bring your brand to life.

The Perfect Trade Show Booth Requires a Great Team

teamHave you ever been to a trade show and see a great exhibit, but no one is there to greet you? Or you start to approach a booth and see a couple disengaged people slumped in chairs, hiding? Or the booth staff is occupied talking on their cell phones and texting? My bet is that you just passed this exhibit by.

The team who staffs your booth is a critical part of a successful event. Make sure they are properly trained, motivated and equipped to succeed.

  • Select people to staff the booth who have the right attitude. You need people who are open and approachable, who can smile when their feet hurt, and who really enjoy meeting new people.
  • Train your team so that they know the main messages you want to communicate at the show, and can answer most customer questions. Knowledgeable people in your booth will generate higher quality leads and more sales.
  • If product demonstrations or structured sales presentations are part of the exhibit, make sure that every member of your team is at least loosely scripted and has rehearsed.
  • If you have any special promotions, make sure the booth staff understands all the details and deal terms.
  • Have a formal staff schedule and base the staff rotation on the expected trade show volume at given time. Develop a contingency plan to adjust staffing if needed.
  • Establish a dress code which is consistent with your company’s or organization’s brand and the booth theme.
  • Formalize the lead qualification process and make sure everyone uses the same criteria to qualify prospects and record contact information.

What do you think is the most important factor when selecting someone to staff your trade show booth: product knowledge or positive attitude?

Take the Lead: How to Leverage Tradeshow Prospects

The number-one priority of nearly every tradeshow exhibitor is to leave that event with a high number of qualified leads that with proper follow-up can be converted into future customers. Leads replenish the sales pipeline, bring in new customers, and generate sales revenue. Efforts to do this must start by developing a strategy for gathering and qualifying leads in the early planning stages for an event.

Assess an attendee’s interest in addition to obtaining relevant information

5324511_sRepresentatives of your company who will be working in your booth need to know in advance what information they need to gather from each attendee to determine whether that person has the potential to buy your product or service. In order to determine that, the booth personnel need to assess an attendee’s interest in addition to obtaining other relevant information on their specific needs, budget requirements, and timing for a potential purchase.

Select an automated tracking system

Automated tracking systems can also facilitate the process of capturing prospects’ contact information, though they might lack the personal contact that conveys that your company is truly interested in their needs and how it might be able to help them meet those needs. Automated tracking systems can be rented and work by electronically capturing data by having booth visitors swipe their badges as they enter the booth.

These systems vary, so do your research. Be sure the system’s output provides all the data you require for post-show marketing initiatives. Educate yourself on which equipment and software will best achieve your objectives. If automated systems can’t provide all the information you need, you might be better off opting for manual means of tracking tradeshow leads.

Know as much as possible about each sales prospect

More is better when it comes to information about potential leads. By knowing as much as possible about a sales prospect, you can devise a more effective follow-up strategy that more closely aligned with the specific needs of each person. In addition, detailed information enables you to evaluate the potential of each lead so you can prioritize your efforts. With detailed lead information, you can fine-tune your post-show marketing efforts and focus on the prospects you can most likely to convert to future customers.

Follow-up after the show is also critically important. Be sure and have booth personnel make note of how each prospect would prefer to be contacted by a company representative. After the show, contact prospects by phone, mail, or email. Be sure and follow up—either by a personal call or written contact—within a week of the show. After the show, track leads to determine each show’s effectiveness and expand efforts in shows with the best return on investment (ROI).

Who Makes the Best Trade Show Booth Staff?

What to Consider When Determining the Best Staff for your Trade Show Booth

It may not always be the best idea to have your top salespeople staff your tradeshow display. There are several reasons to consider others to staff your booth.

  1. Most salespeople are born and bred to “close sales” and very few sales can actually be closed at a trade show.
  2. Salespeople will most likely have a number of current customers at the show. Tradeshow marketing objectives are, for the most part, based on gathering leads. It may be better to allow your sales staff the freedom to spend time with their customers and use others to staff your booth.
  3. Salespeople are typically very hard to manage. A well trained, disciplined approach to booth staffing may produce better results.

salespeopleSo if not salespeople, then who does make the best booth staff? There is no one correct answer to this question. I believe that each company needs to look at the goals and objectives that they have established for each show and staff accordingly. Each tradeshow exhibit, large or small, should have a preplanned basic procedure for handling visitors that is designed to properly communicate your chosen message, answer any questions and record lead information for follow-up.

There should be people assigned to greeting and qualifying visitors to the booth. This role should be filled by a person who is approachable, pleasant, smiling, energetic and a good communicator. Choose people to fill this role very carefully, as they will make that first and lasting impression on your prospects. Once a prospect has been qualified, this person should also be capable of delivering a brief presentation on your company.

As conversation with the prospect continues into more depth, there must also be someone in the booth that is very product or service knowledgeable. This could be a technical person, manager, or inside sales representative. Ideally, with the help of your staff, the prospect gets the information they need and leaves your booth with a positive impression of your company.

Think about your goals for the show and make sure to select and send the staff that gives you the best shot at not only meeting your goals, but exceeding them.

The Other Reasons to Exhibit at Trade Shows

Almost everything that is written regarding the justification for exhibiting at tradeshows, talks about marketing, lead generation, and sales. These are important benefits, to be sure, but here are several other very good reasons for companies to participate in shows and to make sure that they compare favorably to their competitors. For example:

green pencil checking off checklistThe Investment Community – Companies of all sizes, public or private, need to consider that many investment analysts attend trade shows. Where better to gauge a company’s market position relative to their industry, than at a show? Financial statements are not the only consideration when deciding on investments. Savvy institutional investors often walk the aisles of shows to better understand current positions and future potential.

The Press – We have all seen shows like 60 minutes touring the Consumer Electronics Show or the Housewares Show, but these are not the only times that the press is present at shows. In every industry, people want to see what’s new. In addition, the information that is published will be posted on the internet, allowing global exposure. Favorable press coverage can really help your marketing efforts.

Recruiting – When a company comes to a show with a new or larger exhibit, prospective salespeople or managers see a financially strong, growing company, and are much more likely to consider becoming part of the team.

Market Research – When a prospect comes to your booth, why not do some market research? The key here is to formalize the information gathered by using a lead card. Asking a question like, “What would you think if we added an automatic feeder to our production system?” could provide valuable information for future product development.

While none of these reasons are going to justify the investment of exhibiting at a trade show on their own, they all add to the overall ROI. As such, be sure to consider ALL of the potential benefits when discussing the merits of exhibiting at a show.

How To Make Tradeshow Booth Leads Truly Valuable

Why are sales leads collected at tradeshow exhibits viewed as having very little real value by management and the sales staff? Why are 75% of tradeshow leads never followed up? Since most sales organizations are composed of aggressive, proactive, money motivated, commissioned sales people, it just doesn’t seem to make sense.

Gathering Sales Leads With Value at your Tradeshow

custom_design_trade_lead_caSo, what is the biggest problem with tradeshow leads? In my experience: Tradeshow leads are difficult to follow up effectively.

If you consider the impersonal nature of taking leads at a show, it only makes sense. Attendees are given a magnetic striped card that is scanned when they come to the tradeshow display. This automatically provides an exhibitor with basic information about the prospect – name, title, company, address, email, phone etc. Most lead retrieval units also provide an opportunity to categorize the lead – “hot lead, contact immediately” or “send information only.” While this is an efficient means of collecting information at a tradeshow booth, it provides very little information to the salesperson who contacts the prospect after the show.

Your Leads are Human, not Barcodes – Custom Design your Tradeshow Lead Card

A much better way to assure effective follow-up is to design a lead card that asks a few targeted questions that will be important in post-tradeshow follow-up. When defining lead card questions, the best source of information is the people who will responsible for following up. Some ideas to consider:

  • What products are you most interested in?
  • Who are you currently purchasing this product from?
  • What problems do you have with your current supplier?
  • What could we do to earn your business?
Other helpful tips to keep in mind:
  • Keep the tradeshow lead card as short as possible and consider providing the prospects with a premium item as a reward for taking time to answer your questions.
  • Always swipe the attendee’s badge so that you have their basic information for follow-up.
  • Energize your booth staff by offering a prize to the person who collects the most completed lead cards each day.

Try this at your next tradeshow booth and you will notice an immediate increase in results.

Need help with your trade show strategy? Let’s talk.