By Austin Rowlands
Exhibiting at a trade show is an exceptional marketing opportunity for your business to gain a huge number of high-quality leads for your business in just a few days.
According to The Centre for Exhibition Industry Research, 83% of exhibition attendees have buying authority and 79% use these events to make big purchase decisions about their business. This means trade shows have the potential to help transform your SME into a leading company in your industry.
But as well as significant financial investments, exhibiting requires more strategy and organisation than ever before to ensure you stand out from the crowd in the busy exhibition hall.
With so much pressure on you to get every detail right, it can be very easy to overlook those final essential things that could potentially damage your chances of going home with a good ROI for your show.
Once you have booked your space in the exhibition hall and found the right exhibition company to create the eye-catching exhibition stand that will drive traffic to you, what are the other crucial elements of exhibiting that you need to consider?
Those details that might seem small but can make a huge impact on the success of your ROI for your show.
Using a trade show checklist for the final stages of your event preparation is an invaluable way to ensure everything you need to do for your exhibition is properly handled.
To help you remember those often-overlooked details of exhibiting, we’ve put together this last-minute “must-do” trade show checklist . . .
Create a Buzz on Social Media
Pre-show marketing really should be one of the very first things you do, rather than “last minute” but it is surprising the number of businesses who think all they have to do is turn up to a trade show and let the rest take care of itself. According to Trade Shows Network, over 70% of visitors arrive at an exhibition or trade with a list of exhibitions they plan to visit.
Social media is one of the easiest ways to promote your exhibition presence, so make sure you create a buzz to build up momentum several weeks before your show. If you haven’t already, create a hashtag campaign that is consistent with the sales message at your trade show.
Also, be sure to use the same hashtag across all your social media platforms so your followers can keep easily track of you.
But what kind of content should you be posting on social media to promote your event?
“Behind the scenes” content leading up to your show can be a highly effective strategy as it makes your followers feel like they are part of your story, rather than targeted potential customers.
Book accommodation for you and your team
You might not yet know exactly which members of your staff you want to take to your exhibition, but you should at least have some idea about the numbers.
As soon as you possibly can book your hotel rooms so you ensure you get the best prices (before last– minute price hikes) and one that is located close to the venue.
Even if you’re not entirely sure how many rooms you need, book them anyway. Most chain hotels will allow you to cancel without any cost. This means if you have to alter your plans, you won’t have lost out.
Finalise Your Exhibition Stand Logistics
If your exhibition stand provider isn’t going to be managing your project, and we highly recommend using one that does, then you need to arrange all the logistics of your exhibition.
How are you going to transport the stand to the show? Are you going to use professional installers to build it up and dismantle it at the end? If you’re going to be doing repeat exhibitions where will you store the stand?
If you don’t have the facilities for storage yourself then one option is to consider “big box” furniture companies that offer free shipping, so they can transport your stand for free directly to your shows.
But working all of these logistic details are time-consuming, and in many cases, expensive. Choosing an exhibition that can prove every logistical detail for your exhibition is, by far, the most stress-free and cost effective way to exhibit.
Leading exhibition designers and supplier, Quadrant2Design, state that “any good exhibition company will take care of all aspects of your exhibition stand process, without any risky sub-contracting to outsiders”.
This not only means you don’t get charged an unexpected mark-up on prices, but also guarantees quality control for your exhibition.
Another tip is to use an exhibition company that will pre-build your stand before your event. This necessary quality control check will make sure any potential issues are fully resolved and everything is in order well before your stand is installed at your exhibition show.
Send out your press release
In this social media age, it can be easy to neglect other more traditional forms of public relations. But disregarding media coverage would be a wasted opportunity to gain free publicity for your event.
Produce a list of media publications you want to contact about your exhibition, then create a press release to send out to them.
Sounds easier said than done? Even if you don’t have in-house content writers or PR staff to write your press release, don’t worry. Nobody is expecting you to write “War and Peace”. Press releases should be written in basic layman’s English and are surprisingly very short – no more than 500 words.
In fact, the fewer words you have the better. A press release needs to get straight to the point and communicate who you are, what you’re doing and when, where and, most importantly . . . why.
Also, if you can find an engaging story angle to throw in the mix (such as your business has won awards for its products) this will increase your chances of getting published.
Commence your email campaign
Whatever the size of your business, you should have a mailing list of clients. This means you have the potential to reach hundreds or even thousands of people to let them know about your show.
But did you know you can ask your exhibition show organisers for an email list for all the attendees to the trade show? After all, these are the main group of people you want to be targeting.
Once you have your mailing list, you don’t want to simply bombard people with lots of emails or message them sporadically. Create an email marketing calendar to plan when you message your contacts and what information you message them about. Leave sufficient time between emails to avoid overwhelming your audience with information – this will prove counter-productive.
Put together your exhibition team and sales pitch
With so much planning to consider, it is important not to overlook one of the most important details for your show: your exhibition team.
Choose which members of your staff will be representing your business at the event and what their role will be.
Of course, you want to pick people who are knowledgeable of your services or products. But expertise doesn’t always equate to customer service skills.
Walk around any trade show and the chances are you will come across exhibition salespeople at stands playing on phones, eating sandwiches or engaged in conversation with their colleagues.
Many businesses who exhibit forget that most trade show visitors are not going to be confident enough to approach staff on the stand and will simply linger as they try to work out what each business does. This is the time to engage them, and to do this you need to have a team of friendly people who can make the attendees feel comfortable.
Come up with a welcoming sales pitch for your staff to use when approaching visitors and make sure they rehearse this to perfection. The greeting visitors receive from the people manning your stand is what will stay in the minds of visitors after the show.
Make Your Travel Arrangements
Although you can book your hotels early, you should wait until you know exactly which staff are going to the event before making your travel arrangements. Is it going to be more cost-effective for your group to travel by train, plane or car to your destination?
As soon as you have your team in place, book your transport ticket, or work out the best journey if you are going by car. If your team aren’t going to be travelling to the show together, make sure you have everyone’s phone number so they can be contacted if they get lost or encounter any problems.
Complete your lead follow-up plan
One of the primary reasons you exhibit is to generate leads. If your exhibition has gone according to plan you will have a long list of strong leads at the end of it. But this is not the time to get complacent.
Surprisingly, most businesses don’t even have a lead follow-up plan for their trade show. They leave it too late to make contact then can’t work out why they lose most of them in the process.
Don’t be that business. Plan in advance how you are going to reach out to your leads after your event. Decide what you are going to say to them and how you are going to say it (e.g. a phone call, email etc.). Allocate the people who will have the responsibility for following up your leads, so you can start this process as soon as your show has finished.
Don’t forget the small details . . .
- Get plenty of business cards printed for the event
- Arrange insurance for your staff
- Test any AV equipment you might need to use
- Produce marketing literature
- Supply giveaways for your stand
- Take along a first aid box
Making sure you get a good ROI for your trade show requires a lot of planning. But don’t worry too much if you get everything absolutely right. As long as you follow the steps on this checklist you’ll be on the right track.
Austin Rowlands is a content writer at Quadrant2Design, with extensive experience in the exhibition industry.