Make It Count: Managing and Measuring Your Trade Show Marketing Efforts

May 05, 2015

Your company decides to participate in trade show marketing without expecting a return on their investment in time and money. But many miss out on the best opportunity for returns by failing to tie their marketing strategy to measurable trade show objectives. Do you want your trade show exhibit to raise awareness of your company? Launch a new product? Generate leads? Provide a place to meet with current clients? Your answers to such strategic questions will help you define exactly what you want to achieve from a given trade show and then set stretch goals to help everyone involved focus their efforts.

1.   The Five-Second Rule for Trade Show Exhibits

trade show marketing

What do you want your target market to think about your company?

Within five seconds, most people who walk by your trade show display will decide whether your message is of interest to them. Make sure you get your best prospects to stop at your booth and stay a while.Your trade show exhibit should match your corporate brand image and send a powerful message at a glance.

Many companies invest heavily in pre-show marketing to targeted attendees with promotions designed to bring them to your exhibit. If you are relying just on passersby to make a sale, you may be missing a big opportunity.

2. The Right Size for a Trade Show Booth

How big should your booth space be and why?

The bigger the space, the more area you have to display your products and services and make a positive impression. But bigger is not necessarily better, when you factor in your budget and your potential ROI.

The first step is to determine how you will utilize the space, which depends, in part, on the message and the image you want to convey. If you want to demonstrate that you are the leading company in this market, your trade show booth had better be big and bold.

With a small budget, first-time exhibitors may just want to work from a skirted table with professional-looking tabletop graphics. Others may bring a portable, pop-up display wall with shelves to display their products.  Still others go custom with larger spaces that allow them to have several different areas within the booth to perform different functions, such as showing a multimedia display, conducting product demos or meeting privately with clients and prospects.

Before you decide, be sure to familiarize yourself with the exhibitors’ guide, which can help you understand what you can and cannot do with your booth space. Some shows, for example, prohibit giveaways, while others welcome them. The guide also should contain a list of other companies participating, who could be prospects as well, along with a floor plan and a schedule of when the show floor will be open. 

Location is critical. Try to get your booth space in a corner, entranceway, or other high traffic area. You want to see a steady flow of traffic by your booth. For the most popular shows, you will need to submit your request for booth space as soon as the show permits in order to get the best location. Some exhibitors will place their booth order for the following year on the day that the show closes.

3.  The Need for Measurable Goals

What do you want to measure?

Just like creating a business plan, companies need to plan for effective trade show marketing.  The plan should establish the results you want and how those results will be measured. Your goal may be as simple as “one closed sale” or collecting 50 “A” leads. Whatever you decide, determine upfront how you are going to measure the success of participating in any particular trade show event. You might want to calculate such ratios as the cost per lead or the cost per orders written.

According to the article, Formula for Success, in EXHIBITOR magazine, the trade show manager for Wells Fargo Mortgage achieved amazing results by creative show planning in advance of a National Association of Realtors convention in San Francisco.

“Wells Fargo staffers interacted with approximately 5,500 attendees, 10 percent more than at the prior year's show. And of that group, 2,217 were ranked as highly qualified leads, an improvement of more than 66 percent compared to the previous year's show. Furthermore, attendees stayed in Wells Fargo's exhibit longer than they had in the past. Attendees spent an average of 25 to 35 minutes in the booth, roughly 20 percent longer than their average dwell time in 2012. And an exit survey (conducted on the second and third days of the show with more than 420 attendees) … discovered that 89 percent of realtors were more likely to refer homebuyers to Wells Fargo following their visit to the booth, and that 95 percent of attendees had a more favorable impression of the mortgage lender than they did before attending the show.”

Those are numbers that really prove the exhibit’s effectiveness. But the company wouldn’t have known where they stood without doing the market research and quantifying their results.

4. The Power of a 30-Second Elevator Speech

What is most important for our clients and prospects to know?

Instead of standing around asking sales-type questions, your staff will be more effective with prospects if everyone can share the same 30-second elevator speech. The speech should include the main messages you want to get across, such as your products’ major features and how it benefits your customers. Those same points should be reflected in your booth graphics and literature.

Talk with your marketing/advertising personnel to make sure that the messages that drive your brand advertising are carried over to the trade show event.  Keep the focus the same and make sure your messages can be quickly and easily understand by a new prospect.

5. The Benefits of Rating Your Potential Customers

What is an “A” lead and how can I quickly rate booth visitors? 

As prospects come to your booth, your staff should be prepared to ask them a few qualifying questions about their needs, which can help determine if the person is a good candidate for what you offer. 

For prime candidates, make sure to collect contact information for follow-up, preferably through an automated lead retrieval system, and then document information about the conversation for future reference. 

The 80/20 rule may apply. If you get a lot of booth traffic, don’t try to collect everyone’s information.  Focus on those who show real interest and who fit your criteria of a strong prospective customer.

One common mistake is to think that handing out marketing materials is enough. The fact is that most literature given out at trade shows is never read.  It may be more prudent to provide a one-page flyer or to offer to send the literature via email or mail.  Even better, ask if you can hand-deliver the brochure after the show in a meeting to discuss the prospect’s needs in more detail.  Regardless, limit the amount of literature you hand out at shows.

Determine in advance how you are going to follow up on all leads. Will you send out literature, call each person, or a combination of the two?  For your best leads, it is critical to contact each qualified prospect and arrange a follow-up call or meeting within a week of the show while they have your exhibit fresh in their minds.

6. The Value of Surveying Your Staff

Was this show worth the time and money?

Before you move on to the next show, take the time to figure out what worked and what didn’t at each show. Survey everyone who participated in the show and ask for their recommendations on how to improve results in future trade shows. Once you have compiled the evaluations from your staff, be sure to report back on your overall results. By measuring your trade show marketing efforts, everyone will see how they have contributed to your company’s success and how they can be even more effective next time. 

  measuring trade show efforts



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