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by Cathy Houston Cathy Houston on February 28, 2014

Your Quick Guide to Last-Minute Trade Show Planning

Last minute trade show? Don't panic. Here are the important pieces to remember.

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It happens every trade show season: a client calls in a panic and needs to order trade show display graphics, promotional products or marketing collateral without having planned for the show in advance.

Typically, the trade show is driven by a sales manager, who pitches the idea to the decision maker, who tells the marketing person that it’s their job to prepare for the trade show—and it’s only weeks away. YIKES! The marketer has a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time.

Trade shows are a huge investment of time, people and money—all precious resources to a business. But there’s no need to panic. By jumping into action with some quick trade show planning strategies, you can still get the most out of your trade show investment.

Here are 8 basics for quickly planning a trade show:

1. Set Goals.

Your trade show goals should be realistic, attainable, and measurable; for example, “I want to get contact information for 100 qualified leads.” Trade shows are great opportunities for promoting your brand and educating people about your company, but if you’re not walking away with measurable results, you’re not getting the best return on your investment.

2. Decide who’s attending and what they’re going to say.
Your trade show staff should be knowledgeable, friendly and outgoing. They should be willing to walk right up to people and say hello instead of waiting for prospects to ask them a direct question. They need to fully understand your products, goods and services and be able to explain them to other people.

3. Review your display and plan the logistics.

Are your trade show graphics up to date? Are your trade show displays in good condition? Do you still sell the products that your banners and pop-ups are advertising? Review your current booth setup and decide if you need to order new display elements. Remember, the main purpose of your display is to tell attendees who you are, what you do, and how you can help them. Don’t forget to plan how you’ll be transporting your equipment to the show!

4. Take stock of marketing collateral and business cards.

Trade show attendees will expect you to have product information they can take with them. Be sure you have enough marketing collateral—think product brochures, whitepapers, data sheets, price lists, and catalogs. Bring twice as many business cards as you think you’ll need. If you’re doing your job correctly, you’ll still run out by the end of the event. Consider adding QR codes to your collateral display. People will quickly and easily be able to use their smartphones to learn more information about your products, and you’ll be driving people to your website.

5. Order promotional products and logo apparel.

The sooner you identify and order promotional products, the more successful they’ll be at the show. Choose unique trade show giveaways that represent your company and are items people want to have. Ask for contact information in return for swag. And don’t forget to consider what your team will be wearing in the booth. Use corporate logo apparel to create a professional, cohesive appearance.

6. Tell the world you’re going to the trade show.

You have the chance to drive people to your booth and connect with trade show visitors before the event even starts. Use social media and email to inform your contacts that you’ll be at the show, host a webinar to discuss some of the products you’ll be displaying, publish a blog article about what you’re most excited for at the show. Make sure you give people a reason to visit you. Are you launching a new product at the show? Performing a don’t-miss demonstration? Let people know about it.

7. Prepare your strategy for marketing and selling during the event.

Prepare a sales strategy before the show so that everyone at your booth knows what to say and when to say it. The most important part of your trade show strategy should be capturing leads and contacts. Be sure you have a way for people to easily give you their information.

8. Create your post-event strategy.

Just because the trade show is over doesn’t mean your work is done. You need a lead nurturing campaign for all those people you spoke to at the show. Send an email to the contacts you made thanking them for visiting your booth. Publish post-show content on your blog and social media channels. Most importantly, measure the results of your efforts. How many of your trade show leads became customers, and what’s a new customer worth to your company?

Planning a successful trade show strategy takes time and pays real dividends. Even in a pinch, you can plan and execute an effective trade show that generates leads for your business.

Trade Show Planning Guide
Cathy Houston

Written by Cathy Houston

As an innovative forward-thinker who looks beyond traditional promotional products, Cathy takes pride in finding unique products that meet her clients’ needs while integrating seamlessly with each aspect of their marketing strategy.

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