Thinking about exhibiting in a trade show this fall?   Now is a great time to start planning.  All too often clients wait until the show is almost upon them to start planning.  In the rush to be ready, mistakes get made and somethings just can’t be done in time. So this year, give yourself plenty of time to do it right.

Small Business Trade Show Tips

Before the Show – Measurable Objectives

Before you reserve your space, and write the check be sure you know what you want to accomplish. Have specific objectives in mind, and measure the results! For example:

  • Number of people who came to booth
  • Number of leads
  • Sales within a specific period of time after the event
  • Investment per leads

Create a strategy to support your objectives.  If you want more traffic, be sure to invest in pre-show promotion.  If leads is your goal invest in a more interesting offer to encourage people to fill out the lead card.   If you believe you can turn leads into sales be sure you map our your post show strategy as well.
Not All Trade Shows are Equal – Neither Are All Locations at the Show

Small business owners with limited budgets have to make tough choices when it comes to deciding which trade shows to attend.  As you compare trade show opportunities consider asking organizers about total attendance, attendee demographics and exhibitor turnover.  Consider also that your cost to attend the show goes well beyond just the admission fees.   Hotel rooms, shipping fees and union set up costs in cities like Chicago and New York dramatically impact your cost structure.   Be sure when you total everything, the show is still a good investment for you.

If it is the right show, be sure to carefully select your space. Avoid columns, stairs, obstacles or locations too close to the food station. If you have strategic partners, who typically refer business to you, consider getting booth spaces side by side.

PreShow Promotion?

Once you have your space, be sure to let people know where to find you. If you have access to an attendee list consider direct mail, targeted faxes and emails.  You don’t have to send something to every attendee.  Be selective and focus on those you really want to talk to.  Internet promotion, press releases and conference sponsorships help you stand out from the pack, letting prospects and clients know about your show participation.

Cut through the Clutter and Be Sure to Say Hello

As you design your booth – think simple! A well-designed exhibit delivers your message and creates a memorable impression, Your graphics should be large and eye catching. Like a billboard, people passing by should be able to grasp the key message in the few seconds it takes them to walk by.

But if you can’t stop them, you can’t qualify them.  And all the money you spent on booth space, staff, travel expenses and accommodations is wasted if you don’t have a conversation. Your mission – get up from the chair, and move into the aisles, like a barker at a carnival say hello to the people walking by and give them a reason to stop and talk to you.


After the Show!

This is the most important part of your trade show planning. Before you  attend the show you must have a plan in place to follow up when you come home!  Create follow-up packets before you leave. Then all that will be required is a label before you drop them in the mail.  While your competitors are still trying to figure out what to send, your prospects will be reviewing your information and expecting your follow up phone call.