Trade Show Planning:
Your Roadmap To Success

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trade show planning

Thoughtful, strategic trade show planning is essential to achieving your exhibiting goals and maximizing your return on investment, which includes both your money and time.

The first step in the trade show planning process is to identify the management tools and resources you need for successful show participation. Then, begin by researching opportunistic conferences and events that reach your target audience of potential buyers. To identify shows with strong potential talk with current customers and learn about the events they attend. Also, contact professional organizations and colleagues in your industry for additional suggestions.

Online trade show directories are another valuable resource, as well as your local chamber of commerce and area business associations. Once you find an event that looks opportunistic, request to review lists of past vendors and attendees, if available from the show sponsor. Ensure the show you select draws the type and number of prospects you want. Other considerations include geography, timing, cost, and sponsor reputation.

To promote sales in your booth, consider your need for audio-visual equipment, sound systems, large-screen televisions, tablets, computers, and other technology. Promotional items, literature, special displays and other marketing tools should always be included in the consideration mix.

Then, develop a detailed plan and tradeshow check list that includes these steps:

  • Establish Specific Event Objectives… such as the number of product sales, leads generated, publicity secured, image and awareness initiatives, etc.

  • Set a Realistic Budget… that includes a projected return on investment

  • Develop a Compelling Sales Message… to use in all tradeshow marketing and sales initiatives, including booth graphics, banners, brochures, advertisements, and sales presentations.

  • Create a "WOW" Exhibit… that attracts people and instantly conveys your brand message. No matter what type of exhibit you select among the many trade show displays available, the design and graphics must deliver your marketing message with a powerful punch. Even your lighting, booth accessories, table covers, and booth flooring play a role in the image you portray with your exhibition stands.

  • Create a Trade Show Marketing Plan… that is divided into three sections: 1. Pre-Show Marketing, 2. At-Show Marketing, and 3. Post-Show Marketing. You've got to aggressively pre-sell prospects before they arrive, fully engage them during the show, and promptly follow-up with them after the event to generate additional sales.
  • For some unique promotional ideas, click here. Also think about the benefits of participating in virtual trade shows to complement your face-to-face exhibiting activities.

  • Reserve Your Booth Location in the Exhibition Hall… with the sponsor as part of your trade show planning process. Try to secure a high traffic location at the event. In addition, confirm access to electrical outlets and other needs you may have for your display.

  • Marketing Collateral… including sales literature, product sheets, business cards, and promotional items. These print marketing materials further awareness during the exhibition event and help people keep your brand and products top-of-mind once the show concludes.  

  • Train and Schedule Staff… to effectively convey your sales message and ensure your booth is always staffed adequately.

  • Prepare Follow-up Information Packets… so they are ready to immediately use with new leads after the show is over

  • Make Travel Arrangements… to ensure you, your staff, exhibit booth, materials and supplies arrive in plenty of time for the show.

  • Follow-up with Attendees… prioritize your leads and make follow-up contact promptly.

  • Evaluate Trade Show Success… to determine if you met your objectives and identify changes to make in the future.

For more information to assist with successful trade show planning and execution, see the related articles listed below.

Related Information - Trade Show Planning

Insights and Tools

Selecting Opportunistic Trade Shows
Trade Show Planning Tools
Tips for Exhibiting in Another Country
Success Strategies from a Trade Show Veteran
Trade Show Event Follow Up
Check List to Evaluate Event Competitors
International Exhibiting Tips
Trade Show Finder
Planning Timeline
Trade Show Goal Setting
Selecting Prime Booth Space in the Exhibition Hall

Getting a Leg Up

Tradeshow Follow-up to Close the Sale
Use Media Packaging to Increase Trade Show Results
Collecting Trade Show Leads
Trade Show and Exhibiting Trends
Exhibitor List Serves as Insightful Marketing Tool
Effectively Using Humor in Your Marketing
Get the Most Out of Attending a Trade Show

Looking at the Numbers

How to Stretch Your Trade Show Budget
Tradeshow Budget Planning Tips
Know the 5 Trade Show Expenses You Can't Control
A New Way to Look At Success Measurement
Trade Show Budget Considerations
Trade Show Expense Allocation

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