September 29th, 2018 BY Douglas Lober

12 Insider Secrets of Prepping for a Trade Show

Trade shows are one of the most effective means of marketing. Considering they also help you build your industry contacts and deepen your knowledge of your chosen subject, they’re hands-down one of the best investments you can make.

Before you that much of your annual marketing budget toward a trade show, however, it behooves you to make a solid plan ahead of time. That way, you have the best chance of seeing good results from the event.

Just what should your plan include, you’re wondering? Never fear, faithful marketer. Here’s a 12-step plan full of insider secrets to help you prep for your next convention or trade show like a pro. Pull out that promotional pen and notepad, and get ready to take some life-changing notes. Let’s dig in.

Plan Well in Advance

There’s nothing worse than a rushed trade show presence. Around the time you’re booking hotel rooms and flights, make a list of all the convention-related chores you have to do, and get started.

Decide Which Products/Services You’re Promoting

Do you have a new product launching around the time of the show? Are you making a major push to meet quota on a particular service? Have you created a new report or white paper that you’re hoping will make the rounds?

Any of the above answers is fine. What’s not so great is all of the above answers. Many companies make the mistake of overloading their prospects with offerings. The paradox of choice is a well-documented principle that says people are less likely to make a decision if they have lots of options. You don’t want that, so choose one or two offerings and promote them hard.

Make Audience Profiles

Your customer profiles dictate whom you’re trying to attract and how best to get their attention. Make them immediately after you set your goals, including salary, company, interests and more.

Ensure Your Online Material Is Up to Snuff

True, you attend conferences and trade shows to get that face-to-face interaction which often proves so powerful in closing the deal. But make no mistake: your web presence still matters. A lot.

Why? Because the first thing an interested party will do that evening or after leaving the trade show is look you up online. They’ll troll through your website, check in on your social media profiles and may even Google you to see what comes up. That’s why it’s so important to have a clean, well-designed and up-to-date web presence, so get your ducks in a row beforehand.

Prep Emails

In some cases, your prospects are already planning to attend the trade show. They’re in your industry, and would have registered whether you’re going or not.

In other cases, your prospects might come just to see you. Perhaps you have a relationship, perhaps they just needed that slight bit of extra convincing, or maybe they were already going to be there, but now know to check for you.

Whatever the case, it’s critical you let them know of your presence. Prep emails at least a month ahead of time letting them know you’ll be there. Shoot for 6 weeks ahead, 4 weeks ahead, 2 weeks ahead and 1 week ahead. Don’t discount the last-minute bookers; they’re there.

Send Emails and Other Collateral

Send out your emails on time. There’s nothing more annoying than spending a bunch of time or hiring a copywriter to write a newsletter, only to have its information become obsolete before you get it out.

The best secret for making sure that doesn’t happen? Automate. Write all your emails, then load them into your system all at once. They will go out as scheduled, without you having to do any more work.

If you’re sending out any other collateral, like a print campaign, be sure it’s prepped and ready to go as well.

Offer Training

While it’s tempting to assume “they know what they’re doing” and let your company go about business as usual leading up to the trade show, don’t. Trade shows and conventions require different tactics, and without training, even your best salesman may be lost. School them in what your goals are and how best to meet them.

Schedule Pre-Show Meetings

Trade shows are all about the one on one. While that does happen during the bustling Fridays and Saturdays that comprise the bulk of the show, you’re much likelier to close a deal during the quiet pre-conference hours.

To leverage these critical times, book pre-show meetings at your booth, where you can get prospects alone and talk to them about what your product or service can do for them. It’s not only a better way to form a long-term relationship, it’s likelier to result in them signing on that dotted line.

Design a Well-Branded Appearance

Your colors, logo saturation and items should all blend together to brand you seamlessly. Make sure a member of your team is on the job of getting tablecloths, banners, streamers and promo items well ahead of time.

Use Social Media to Get the Word Out

Start those social media announcements months in advance, and keep up a steady flow of information in the weeks leading up to the big event.

Provide Giveaways

Nothing is so powerful as free items that complement your prospect’s lifestyle. Examine promotional products judiciously, choosing items that match your business model, meld seamlessly with your brand and theme, and won’t break the bank.

Also, choose products that just won’t break, period. There’s nothing worse than a bag full of cheap swag from a big show, so don’t contribute to that. It’s bad for business and bad for the Earth. Instead, select a few thoughtful reusable items that prospects will use for years to come.

Take It Easy

There’s no rule saying a trade show has to be a nightmare. While the planning stages might feel a little rushed, try to enjoy yourself as well. Attending trade shows is a fun way to enhance your network and make sales along the way, and should represent a highlight in your year … not a chore to get past.

The best way to avoid the latter feeling is to start planning months ahead of time, so follow the above steps and get started today.