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“I’m Too Sexy”– Marketing with Trade Shows

Do you remember the song “I’m too sexy” by Right Said Fred? We laughed, sang along (even if it was only in the shower) but we noticed. So how do we get that level of confidence in promoting ourselves? It comes down to planning and preparation. The fashion industry is a great example for businesses to examine and take the best from. This industry is highly evolved, well organised, and very, very, very profitable. One of the keys to their success is trade shows. Yes, they call them much sexier names, but they are still, simply, exhibitions. Getting their product physically in front of a target audience in a concentrated environment so they can look, feel and choose. Then inviting people to come along and talk about, raise brand awareness and buy their products.

So if you’re not Alex Perry, Sass and Bide, Lisa Ho or the Zimmermans, or even into fashion, how can you do this too for your business?

Fortunately, if you look at each city and even regional centres, you will find well attended convention centres. Trade shows are a big avenue for promoting a business for both large and small businesses and there are a wide variety to suit either business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C) or specific industry trade shows.

Whilst the fashion industry plans their business seriously in advance, highly successful businesses have marketing calendars in place for 12 months in advance. Planning a successful trade show requires organisation, creativity and resilience. While most business-to-business (B2B) organisations measure trade show success by the number of leads, opportunities and return on investment (ROI) that come out of an event, the level of effort that goes into it ultimately determines its success rate. Trade shows are a huge investment for a company. So, you need the metrics to prove why it is an effective tactic in your marketing wheelhouse.

Here are ten tips in planning to ensure your trade show is a success:

1. Plan far in advance. One of the most important things you can do before a trade show is to plan well ahead of the scheduled time. It is never too early to start. Popular trade shows can be booked out, some have exclusivity or caps on the numbers of businesses per industry that are allowed, and some offer incentives and discounts for booking in advance.

2. Look for Opportunities. Research what is in your area well ahead of time and if it matches your target market, get in early. You can then schedule in time to organise your stand, your materials, your strategy and campaign – without stress.

3. Pre-Show Campaign Planning. Now it’s time to create something to be excited about. Can you launch a new product or service around the same time as the event? Do you have big news to share during the week of the show? Do you need to print product sheets and order giveaways? Start preparing emails for the trade show at least four to six weeks before the event. You will want to inform your audience of your presence at the trade show and use your communication platforms (social medial, website, blogs and emails) to announce any important news, teasers and opportunities to meet the team.

4. Prepare a Run Sheet and Logistics Document. Create a run sheet and logistics document to ensure nothing is left out and expectations are communicated. The document should include phone numbers for everyone on your team in case you need to contact them while on site. Print out a few copies and make it easily accessible on a mobile device for travel.

5. Prepare the team. An effective tool in trade show preparation is communication. For larger companies, various teams typically attend trade shows, including marketing, sales and the executive team. Make sure everyone is on the same page and has all of the relevant information leading up to the event. Include meetings and booth hours on everyone’s calendars (and in the correct time zone!). Invite everyone who will be attending the trade show to participate in a “prep call” the week before the trade show is scheduled. Prepare a slide deck and include housekeeping items such as the hotel, venue, booth hours, dress code, etc., as well as an overview of scheduled booth meetings and networking events.

6. Schedule pre-show booth meetings.

The most successful trade shows are the ones where sales and marketing worked together to pre-schedule booth meetings with prospects, customers and partners. Set a realistic goal for your team (e.g., use last year’s pre-scheduled meeting number as your benchmark and increase it by 15%).

In addition, create a shared calendar to give the sales team visibility into the booth schedule so they can see which who will be available during each day of the trade show.

7. Be active on social media. Post photos from the event to your social channels before, during and after the event. Invite attendees to stop by your booth to enter a contest, pick up a giveaway or watch a demo. Make sure to include your booth number and event hashtag so attendees can easily find you.

8. Provide giveaways, activities or competitions Remember, relevant and fun giveaways equal more traffic. Invest extra money in a giveaway, activity or competition to attract attendees. Get creative in your offerings. I have seen everything from slot machines with cash prizes to frozen margaritas. Everyone loves food. We have used a candy bar for “Sweet Deals” available on the day. Rent an espresso machine or ice cream truck and invite attendees to come and hang out in your booth if you can match that to your campaign. This will help break the ice, opening up conversations and, hopefully, qualified opportunities.

9. Capture, capture, capture! During the opening day of the trade show, meet with your onsite team at least 30 minutes before the doors open. Make sure they know the layout of the booth, giveaways and activities to promote and how you are going to capture leads. Show them the forms, devices and how they work. Let them try it. If the event has badge scanners, demonstrate it and let them try it. You will be surprised at how many badge scanners vary from show to show. It is also important to take advantage of the scanners that allow you to type in notes after your conversation. This will help your team with post-show follow-up. Make sure your team don’t get caught up in social and they have a spiel to capture their information.

10. Debrief and follow up.

Schedule a debrief call with your team after the trade show. Take notes on what worked well and opportunities for improvement. Did you have a good booth location and enough traffic? Did your messaging resonate with attendees? These notes will be helpful when determining what to change as you begin planning for the next trade show. Post-show follow-up is crucial. Make sure all leads are uploaded into your customer relationship management (CRM) system and shared with your sales team within 48 hours of the conclusion of the event. This data provides insight into booth traffic, number of qualified leads and potential opportunities for your business. This action can be used to build historical data related to trade shows and provide justification for attendance at future events.


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