Signed up for a trade show—now what?

The first article in this series covered the value of doing a trade show, talked about choosing which shows to participate in and asked that you compare your cost per contact between a sales trip and a trade show (not a consumer show). You have made your choices based on solid information from the trade show producer, your peers and your own research aligning the programs with your current target markets and annual goals.

Once you are comfortable with your choice of events to participate in, it’s time to set some goals for the trade show. Sit down with your staff and review your marketing and sales priorities for the year in that particular market. Set goals for each of those areas. Market awareness; new brand recognition; new business development; existing client support in each market, etc. What do you want to accomplish with your attendance? Make your goals realistic and measurable.

Tracking tip: Generate a targeted, behind-the-scene web page and have that URL on your marketing collateral. Then you can check and see how many views it got and other Google analytics. Is there something else that will point them to that page? A value added resource? A "how to" article? An entry form for a gift or free product?

Here’s a short formula to help you with your prospecting goals. Lets say you are attending a trade event in your primary market and that your product is in line with the overall theme of the show. You should be have at least 15% of interest from the attendees, probably more like 20% to 25%.

If you know how many active trade show hours there are (you can pretty much knock of the first and last hour of each day of a multi day event – Let’s say 8 active trade show hours over 2 days). Then take the attendance figure, determine what 25% of that number is, and that would give you the potential number of good prospects you should meet during the event. (Let’s say there are 100 people attending. That means you should walk away from the event with approximately 25 good prospects)

Then take the number of potential prospects (in this case 25) and divide that number into the active show hours (8 hours divided by 25 contacts is 3 prospects in each active hour of the show) NOW – you have a prospects goal for your sales staff to reach. If you know what revenue the average event at your property generates, you probably only need 1 event generated from the trade show to cover the cost of your attendance.

Tracking tip: Use the business cards collected to write a number or notes on the back of their card with either "codes" for the product interest and a number from 1-5 (1 being the weakest prospect) and the initials of the person who spoke to them. This makes followup a lot easier, and you now have a reminder on what you talked about, dates for their event, etc.

These prospect numbers will change up or down, based on whether you are in your primary, secondary or tertiary market and whether your product is in line with the general theme of the trade show or a fringe product. Do separate goal setting for each event you are participating in.

If you hope to reach some specific goals then everything you do before a trade show should drive traffic to your booth.

You don't just show up and hope for the best. Should you depend on the trade show producer to get the people you need to see at the event? That’s a yes and no answer. Yes, the producer should have their own marketing plan to attract the right people through the door but you cannot and should not rely on them to get YOUR specific clients. Make sure you have your own pre-show promotion plan. Here's a few questions to answer to assist you in pre-show promotion:

  1. What city are you or your best sales people going to be in?
  2. Do you have a client/potential client contact list for that city?
  3. Have you contacted your current and potential clients to let them know you are in town for this event?
  4. Can you invite them to meet you at the event – or before or after the days show hours?
  5. Does the trade show producer have a way for you to invite your clients without divulging your confidential contact list?

Each one of your contacts in that particular city should know you will be there, when the event is and invited to attend if possible. If not able to attend, make the time for phone calls and or meetings outside the trade show hours. Everything you do prior to the event should be directing your potential clients to your booth at that show.

About 2 - 3 weeks prior to the event, send a note or call your client and prospective client list for the city you will be in. Will they be available, can you send them an invitation, what is new/different at your property you would like to have a conversation about.

Tracking tip: You can have a special prize drawing at your booth, only for your client/prospect list in that city. You could email them a specific entry form for them to complete and bring to your booth to enter. Ask a couple of pertinent questions on the entry form to narrow down the likelihood of generating business and a time frame.

The next article addresses the staffing issue; who you should send to trade shows and how to "work" the booth.

Written by Lisa Marin
Lisa Marin

Lisa has been organizing trade and consumer programs for the Canadian Travel Industry for almost 30 years. She has also worked in Sales & Marketing within the industry for both Hotels and Resorts.

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