Your complete trade show marketing checklist
Planning to exhibit at a trade show or conference means juggling a lot of tasks and project management. Here’s a timetable to help you plan your company’s presence at the next sponsored event:
Six months to one year
- Establish your goals and budget — Determine how many leads you need to come home with to make a return on your tradeshow investment. Realistically, this is going to be less than 5 percent of the entire audience that end up as sales-qualified leads.
- Sign exhibit contract and pick booth location — Usually the sooner you commit, the better pricing and booth placement you get. Don’t be afraid to negotiate fees and packages. When selecting a booth, try to pick a spot near the entrance, a main aisle, or by food and beverage stations.
- Pick your message and start concepting — Define the audience you are trying to attract at this event. Make sure you have them described in full as a persona. This will help determine your booth design, marketing pieces, and social media posts. For booth ideas, see this Tradeshow Marketing Pinterest board.
Three to six months
- Design and refine marketing pieces — Get a few design concepts for your booth display with your chosen messaging, then refine the best one. Attendees will need something to take home with them to remind them of your meeting; although your standard brochure might work, it would be better to be aligned to the specific audience and event and then match your booth look and feel for recall.
- Book travel — Conference room blocks at hotels can sell out closer to the event and airline pricing is usually best when booking as far out as possible.
One to three months
- Order materials — To avoid last-minute rush charges and added stress, get your marketing materials into production as soon as possible. If the materials will have to ship to the show, be sure to add in enough padding in your deadlines so you can ship at ground rates rather than overnight.
- Contract for services — Now is the time to get in on exhibitor discounts for early bird ordering of carpet, electrical, internet, catering, and other booth services.
- Plan direct mail and email campaigns — You should have your pre-conference direct mail and email campaigns designed and ready to go for the day you receive the attendee list from the conference organizers. Then, all you need to do is hand off the list to your vendor and let the messages roll out!
- Pick your giveaway item — A promotional product with your logo can attract attendees who like to collect freebies to your booth. Many of these items are produced overseas, so be sure to give yourself enough time for international shipping.
Weeks before conference
- Connect with prospects — It’s time to start networking, so have your salespeople who are attending reach out to qualified prospects by email and LinkedIn. They can invite them to dinner or just to connect and follow each other online.
- Packing and shipping — Once all of your materials are in, create a packing list and make sure you have everything you need for a successful exhibit. We like to include little tool kits with our tradeshow shipments that include everything a salesperson might need — screwdriver, extension cord, screen cleaner, packing tape, scissors, etc.
- Plan agenda — Take a look at the conference schedule and plan out your days at the conference. How will you occupy the nonexhibit times? Maybe explore a relevant session or visit a customer in town for coffee.
- Get social — Investigate if the event has any relevant hashtags and be sure to schedule some social media posts using those hashtags to get your message in front of attendees monitoring the feeds.
- Collect leads and take good notes — Make sure you have an effective system for collecting information from attendees. When you get back home it will be hard to remember the details from each person you met and what was discussed. A lead scanning app can be a lifesaver if you don’t want to deal with entering information off scraps of paper or business cards.
- Execute follow-up mail and email campaigns — Again, your post-conference email and mail campaigns should be designed and ready to go for when you have the post-attendee mailing list in hand.
- Post blog recap — Sharing what you took away from a conference can be used as a piece of marketing content that works well on social or in your monthly newsletter. People who could not attend appreciate a good recap of events with nuggets of value from keynote speakers.
- Determine ROI and decisions for next year — Now is the time to take a hard look at results. Did booth traffic lead to enough meetings or sales to cover the expense? If not, the conference may not be a good fit for your product.
Anything missing from my trade show marketing checklist? Let me know in the comments below.
Looking for more trade show advice? Read this: 6 of the Worst Trade Show Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Maeghan Nicholson is the marketing manager at Suttle-Straus.
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