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By Nicole Altavilla
Trade shows and industry events offer companies the opportunity to gain exposure and connect with existing and new buyers and clients under the same roof. Cost- and time-efficient, trade shows and events also allow companies to stay up to date on the market competition. In order to get the most out of a trade show or event, companies should prepare their strategy well ahead of time. Follow these helpful tips to successfully market your company on the road:
Develop a trade show strategy.
Prior to every trade show or event, companies should make a clear plan that includes their goals and how they intend to achieve them. One of first things to do to maximize your success is to spread the word about your company even before the event begins, so be sure to share information with existing clients about the show.
Also, “take advantage of the marketing opportunities that the show organizers offer to their exhibitors,” says Nicole Peck, executive director of integrated marketing at Questex Media Group, which owns and operates trade shows and events for a broad range of industries and markets. An enhanced listing on the event’s mobile app, directory or show map can also draw attention to your booth. Be sure to provide company and product information to the show organizers as well, as many of them reach out to the press for exposure. “Submit, pay attention and participate,” Peck says. “It may or may not be included in the show organizers’ pitch to the press, but unless you submit, you won’t stand a chance to be included.”
Check costs and booth package deals.
Know what your booth package consists of in order to avoid unnecessary added costs. For example, find out if carpeting, cleaning, and tables and chairs are included. According to Peck, it’s important for companies to be aware that shipping and drayage (material handling) costs can be expensive if not researched ahead of time. “An exhibitor at an event that I worked on wanted to create a beautiful landscape within the booth, so they shipped 60 pounds of real boulders and sod,” she says. “That same effect could have easily been achieved with spray-painted Styrofoam and faux grass. The client lost it when their drayage bill came in.”
Hire personable staff members.
Choose motivated staff members to work at the booth who are clear on the business’ event goals and are educated on the company and its products. If you are launching new products at the show, train the staff to be able to offer live demonstrations so attendees can see firsthand how the product works and what it does. When possible, hand out product samples or offer giveaways to booth guests to pique their interest and help them remember the company and product long after the show is over.
Utilize technology tools to boost business.
According to John Krisko, director of exhibitions at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), current trade show technology trends involve using mobile apps, tablets, social media and other digital tools that enhance the attendees’ experience without being too overpowering. “The very nature of an event is to develop relationships, so technology should quietly support creating connections and not become a distraction,” he says. Customized apps are a popular option, for example, as they can be downloaded by attendees and accessed and used after the show. Also, digital badge scanners and lead-retrieval technology that capture and store data such as attendee contact information can be used post-show to help improve return on investment (ROI). “The key is to have a lead-management strategy that will be relevant for both the sales force and the customer,” he says.
Tap into mobile technology.
In addition to being a convenient way for companies to connect with attendees before, during and after the event, mobile technology can be used to inexpensively promote your booth and products on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Smartphones can also be used as a cash register for clients who wish to purchase products or services on the spot with apps like Square and uSwipe, an ideal solution for businesses in categories such as apparel and textiles; electronics; medical equipment; engineering and manufacturing; health, beauty and wellness; and hospitality. “Businesses who sell products and services and want to leave an impression on attendees and continue the relationship will benefit from investing in technology,” says Krisko. “These technologies, coupled with a thoughtful lead-management and follow-up program, add up to a successful show.”
"Marketing Your Business at Trade Shows and Events "