Guest post by Sheila Kloefkorn, CEO of KEO Marketing.
Trade Show Success: Before and After Event Marketing & Sales Checklist
For decades, companies have been relying on trade shows to showcase solutions, engage face-to-face with customers, and network with industry professionals. Today, trade shows still offer one of the most effective ways to:
- Generate qualified leads in one location quickly
- Increase or create brand awareness
- Launch new products and services
- Gather critical market data
In fact, business to business (B2B) technology marketers continue to rate trade shows as one of their most effective marketing channels. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 B2B Content Marketing Trends, 68% of marketers use in-person events such as trade shows. The study also ranked event marketing in the top five tactics most critical to marketing success.
In the U.S., trade shows remain one of the most profitable business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategies. A 2015 survey found 72% of respondents said their company would increase (28%) or maintain (44%) trade show participations in 2016. These findings show marketers still value trade shows as part of the marketing mix.
How Much Should You Budget for a Trade Show?
If you’ve ever been to a trade show, you know the energy these events can generate. But trade show participation requires a significant budget. You incur costs for exhibit space, booth development, booth services, shipping, collateral production, publicity, and giveaways, along with travel, hotel, and meals for attendees. These costs can add up fast.
EXHIBITOR Magazine suggests you multiply the cost of your exhibit space by three to estimate your total costs. So, if your space rental equals $10,000, your ballpark budget should be about $30,000. This figure does not include the cost to purchase a trade show booth, only the display expense.
You can arrive at your display cost by estimating how many years you will use your purchased display, how many shows you will attend each year, and graphic production costs. Five years represents the typical lifespan of a purchased display. Graphics typically last one year. Instead of purchasing, you can also rent trade show booths.
Getting the Best Return on Your Event Marketing Investment
Trade shows deliver many benefits, but at a price. So how can you ensure the time and money spent is worth it?
In a nutshell, planning in advance offers the key to your trade show success. To get the results you need, use this event marketing checklist to facilitate your pre-show, during-show and post-show planning:
Planning Your Year in Events
- Review the previous year’s results
- Evaluate future show prospects
- Decide which events to attend
- Select the optimum booth location and reserve your exhibit space
- Submit all required contracts and paperwork
- Define the goals for each participation
- Establish your budget for each show
- Determine whether you purchase or rent your booth
- Identify your display needs for each event
- Highlight and prepare for speaking and promotional opportunities
- Create a schedule highlighting important deadlines
Six Months Before Each Trade Show
- Understand how the show management will market the trade show
- Revisit and adjust, as needed, your goals, schedule, and budget
- Decide what products and services to showcase
- Start building buzz for your event using email marketing, social media, content marketing, and other communication channels
- Begin using the official trade show or industry hashtag
- Book a block of hotel rooms for attendees
- Order promotional items
- Outline a plan for marketing material and graphic production
Three Months Before the Trade Show
- Select trade show attendees and define roles
- Choose and order booth staff attire
- Make travel arrangements for attendees
- Develop your lead capturing system and process
- Create booth sales presentations and scripts
- Decide how you will attract and entertain booth visitors
- Train show attendees on booth demos, lead systems, and proper show behavior
- Finalize marketing and display materials
- Finalize the sales communication strategy before, during and after the event
One Month Before the Show
- Prepare your booth and materials shipment
- Conduct final meetings with your show team
- Run through your sales communications strategy including demos, presentations, entertainment, and lead gathering processes to ensure everyone is prepared and technology works
- Make sure each team member is comfortable with booth responsibilities
- Decide what connections you and your team need to make
- Schedule meetings with important prospects, customers, media, and industry professionals
- Update and distribute a trade show survival guide, including goals, solution cheat sheets, sales scripts, lead management, guidelines, schedules, and other valuable information for your team to have on-hand
At the Show
- Make as many connections as possible
- Capture as many leads as possible with as much detail as possible
- Distribute your marketing and promotional materials
- Visit your competitors and gather marketing intelligence
- Attend appropriate conference sessions
- Conduct the meetings you scheduled before and during the show
After the Show
- Organize leads generated at the show and distribute to your sales team
- Follow-up with connections via social media, email and sales calls
- Make sure salespeople call the hottest hot prospects right away
- Get back to prospects who had questions you could not answer at the show
- Compare your actual costs to your budget
- Analyze event results and determine your return on investment
- Decide if you will go back to this show next year
- Highlight what you need to do differently for future shows
Planning a trade show can be overwhelming. But if planned in advance, these marketing channels can be very rewarding. With a clearly defined set of goals, a timeline, and a detailed checklist, you can help conduct a successful event and earn a good return on your investment.
Sheila Kloefkorn is the President & CEO of KEO Marketing Inc. The Phoenix Business Journal recognized Sheila as one of the Top 10 Business Leaders of the Year. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.