Trade shows are solid venues for networking with other industry professionals, scoping out current B2B sales and marketing trends, promoting your own products or solutions, and — most importantly — lead generation.
And they’re pretty effective too. 52% of business leaders say event and trade show marketing drives more ROI than any other marketing channel.
While registering and gathering supplies are among the biggest planning tasks, there are a few small proactive measures that, if exercised properly, will boost the success rate of your trade show appearance even further.
In her years as a program manager for TSL’s B2B companies, Lauren Langer has helped our clients overcome many hurdles associated with trade show planning.
Here, she divulges some planning tips that will ensure you’re at the right trade show, with the right audience, armed with the personnel and materials you need to attract and secure potential buyers.
1. Be Where Your Customers Are
What kind of event will attract your company’s target persona?
A top mistake Langer sees B2B marketers make is choosing to attend trade shows that attract too broad of an audience. It’s best, she said, to look for a venue that will cater to the specific interests of your target persona.
Langer used a quality software company as an example.
“If you are a quality software product aimed at automotive, then you’re better off going to an automotive trade show versus a quality show,” she said. “You’re going to have all your target audience there.”
While trade show-hopping may seem like the quickest way to gain exposure, it doesn’t always work out in a company’s favor. Instead, Langer said, they get lost in a sea of industry leaders and competition, desperate to stand out among the majority.
“They will have to heavily compete to attract patrons because they are one of multiple different companies, and sometimes their competitors are better known,” Langer said. “Choosing a venue that caters to a broader industry and not your specialization will result in very little foot traffic at your booth.”
2. Curtail the Competition
Who else is going to be there?
Langer also encourages her B2B marketing clients to be in the know when it comes to the trade show guest list.
“Sometimes companies think about the prospective audience but don’t think about who else is going to have a booth or be attending,” she said. “Taking this into consideration could prevent attending a trade show where you have more competitors present than target audience.”
The list of vendors who will attend a trade show is not typically a gated document, Langer said. Organizers of the event will often share with potential registrants the names of companies planning to attend.
Request this information before you commit, she said.
“Who else is likely, booth-wise, to attend the event? Are there going to be tons of competitors there or are you going to be able to stand out?”
Trade show marketing can get expensive, Langer added, so you want to make the most of the investment.
3. Make a Spectacle of Yourself
What will attract trade show attendees to your booth?
In a large venue with hundreds of booths, how can you stop passersby in their tracks and draw them to your informative setup?
Langer has a few suggestions:
- A visual that will catch attendees’ eyes (company mascot, large product display)
- A video demo of your product
- Free stuff (branded merchandise)
- A game in which trade show attendees can win a cool giveaway
Tip: Make sure the venue has the internet connection, as well as all the outlets, that your display requires. While you may assume that Wi-Fi and power to your booth are a given, Langer suggests double-checking, because you may need to request it or pay for it in advance.
Need help with your B2B trade show/event marketing efforts?
Yet another way to toot your own horn during a B2B marketing event is through sponsorships. Sponsorships can tightly associate your company’s name with a much-anticipated event. Trade shows will often offer opportunities for participants to feature their logo or company names on event brochures, ads, or even name tag lanyards.
And the wrap-up of a trade show shouldn’t be considered closing time for companies.
“After-hours of a trade show, those are working hours,” she said. “Even though the trade show ends at 5 p.m., there are always networking events after the fact, which are great places to be able to speak with prospective customers."
Consider sponsoring a happy hour event after the trade show, Langer suggested.
4. Give Them an Expert Opinion
Do you have the right people to answer the questions you may encounter?
Aside from networking and entertainment, attendees of a trade show are also there to seek out information. Many will be business leaders who are researching products and services to meet their operational needs.
While salespeople are excellent at expressing the pain points your company can solve and giving cost estimates, many trade show attendees will want to delve further into the technical aspect and potential use cases. Langer suggests having a good mix of personnel manning your booth: those with sales flair and those with technical know-how.
“In some cases, you want to have your specialists there as well,” she said. “A patron might want to have an in-depth conversation with a solution engineer about the inner workings of your product.
“If there is not someone at your booth who can have a technical discussion with a technical-based attendee, you are not giving them a first impression that instills confidence in your brand.”
Did you know that adding trade shows to your marketing mix could help you achieve greater than 20% revenue growth? Find out more here.