How to Maximize Your Next Trade Show: Five Tips for Success

By: Marie Cacciato

If you are a consumer products marketer – especially in the housewares, tabletop, electronics, hardware and toy categories – chances are you’re in the midst of planning for your next trade show. Sure, you already have your exhibit space booked and are designing your booth. New product development is in its final stages and your sales team is ramping up to meet their goals for the show. But, what are your plans to maximize your overall trade show experience? What strategies do you have in place to build momentum before, during and after the show? According to eMarketer, integrating trade shows into a wider communications and marketing cadence is essential. There is a single relationship between a brand and its customers and all communications touch-points should be cohesive and continuously tell your brand story. In other words, your trade show doesn’t end the moment you break down your booth. Following are five approaches to trade show success:

1.     Build your trade show strategy, keeping in mind that your show activation is an integral part of your overall marketing puzzle. Think about how to leverage media relations at the show. What news will you be announcing? Will there be an opportunity for interviews? How will you attract media to visit your booth and see your new product collections? Developing a strong social strategy is equally important. How can you utilize social media best practices to tease and inspire attendees to come find you at the show? Use an event hashtag in your social tweets and posts and consider creating a branded Snapchat filter for the event. Ultimately remember, your trade show strategy should align with your overall PR, social media, digital marketing and any content that your brand puts out.

2.     Develop a memorable experience for your attendees. Trade shows offer the ultimate opportunity to build relationships, influence prospects and share industry thought leadership. The overall goal is to accelerate the sales pipeline and drive revenue through experiences that nurture attendees. Any retail buyers and industry professionals that visit your booth should walk away understanding your brand values, mission and product. Nancy Michael – Senior Manager, Business Development for the International Housewares Association (IHA) – explains that while the physical presentation of an exhibitor’s booth can have the most impact, it is highly important that there is a cohesive message in the branding and product. This extends to the booth staff – as a representation of the brand’s identity, it is up to the staffers to ensure a positive experience for all attendees. In addition, a clever and useful giveaway that ties into the in-booth experience can go a long way in making a positive, long-lasting impression for anyone that visits your booth.

3.     Take advantage of the marketing opportunities offered by the trade show organizers. It’s important to carefully review the show’s marketing kit to decide what you’d like to leverage as part of your overall show strategy. IHA, for example, provides its International Home + Housewares Show exhibitors with marketing, promotion and public relations services to help them be successful in attracting buyers to their booth and media attention for their products. “The general thought process is that it’s the trade show’s responsibility to get buyers to the venue and the exhibitor’s responsibility to get the buyer to their booth,” states IHA’s Nancy Michael.

4.     Have a strategic post-show action plan in place. Your trade show doesn’t end the moment you start breaking down your booth. Many companies fail at properly following up from their show leads. It’s integral to keep the conversations going with sales leads and extend your trade show messaging into other marketing touch points, such as e-newsletters, social media, and of course, the tried and true personal outreach. The same goes for media contacts – put your PR hat on and follow the best practices for successful follow-up. No matter what, don’t wait more than 48 hours to reach out to hot leads. And, again, leverage tools and mobile apps that are offered by the trade show organizers, such as Housewares Connect 365.

5.     Learn from your show experience. What was the overall reaction of your attendees? Were they receptive to your brand story? Did they walk away from your booth satisfied? Collect and evaluate your attendees’ feedback to hone your overall messaging and storytelling. After all, the customer may actually always be right!

Best of luck as you gear up for your trade show season! If you have any other tips, please share in the comments below.

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