Maximize Your Trade Show Marketing ROI: Pre and Post Show Planning

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Trade show marketing roi pre post show planning

There’s no doubt that trade show marketing took a hard hit in 2020. Since so many large events were canceled or pivoted into virtual conventions, lots of businesses decided to reel back on their investment. But now that large gatherings are allowed to operate safely, we can see that face-to-face trade show marketing is making a huge comeback.

Already, business professionals are expected to attend far more trade shows than in 2020, when attendance numbers dropped significantly. This opens doors for lots of opportunities – but there is also a lot of pressure to justify the spending. On average, a company will allocate nearly one-third of its entire marketing budget towards its trade show attendance.

Here are some ways that your team can ensure that you maximize the ROI of your trade show marketing spending before, during, and after the event.

1. Pre-Planning for the Event

Pre-planning event

You have probably heard the saying: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Unfortunately, this couldn’t be more true when it comes to trade show marketing preparation.

It is safe to say that most marketing teams will start planning for a trade show a month or two before it begins. The fact of the matter is that there is no “ideal” time period when the planning should begin. What matters is the strategy of how and what you plan.

You need to approach your trade show marketing strategy with the same vigor as any other advertising campaign. This includes utilizing all the resources possible to support your strategy with data for a more effective outcome.

Consider Your Audience

One of the greatest things about trade shows is that it allows you to connect with specific audience segments. Most trade shows are focused on specific topics and attract very narrow niches within the industry. Plus, the people attending the conference are highly engaged. They are there looking for a new business to partner with or products to buy.

Take the time to develop a custom analysis of the audience you will be interacting with. Take a look at the businesses sponsoring and attending and do a deep dive into important metrics. Information like key demographics, identifying the who’s who of decision-makers, and learning facts about attendants can be quite useful.

Set a Realistic Budget

Setting a realistic budget is necessary if you want to calculate the expected ROI. It is easiest to break down the various costs rather than setting a lump sum budget for the entire project. This includes:

  • Booth space (depending on the size)
  • Booth purchase or rental cost
  • Promotional items to give out
  • Event advertising
  • Employee payments, including accommodations, meals, travel, etc.

It is always best to estimate higher for each of these things, so you have wiggle room. You can also look for opportunities to save a few dollars here and there. For instance, if you only attend a few trade shows a year, it could be a better financial decision to rent a custom booth instead of build one.

Use Cost-Benefit Analysis

As your team brainstorms ideas, it is important to keep the cost versus benefit in mind. Sure, handing out huge gift bags full of swag sounds fun – but will attendants want all that merch? Again, you can base this on strategies you’ve tried in the past. What was well received and what seemed to be a miss? Is the extra work required for some strategies worth it in the end?

2. Prepare for the Day of the Event

Prepare for the day of the event

As the trade show day comes closer, you’ll want to nail down all the loose ends and focus on your presentation. Be sure to keep the main goal at the forefront of all planning, whether to increase leads, hit a set sales number, or build brand awareness.

Starting several weeks before the trade show, your marketing team should start spending more time planning and preparation.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Be sure to run through your promotions and talking points multiple times with each team member. Running through FAQs and polishing up your sales pitches can calm your team’s nerves and ensure that things go smoothly the day of.

Knowing exactly what you are going to say and how to guide conversations towards your pitch can help you reach your goals. In addition, by perfecting your conversational skills, you’ll be able to close a lot more deals on the day.

Promote Your Booth

Building excitement and awareness about your booth can help drive traffic, especially if your booth isn’t in the prime real estate area of the show. You’ll need to do some legwork ahead of time to get people interested in checking you out.

This includes emailing attendees with an invitation to check out your booth and promoting your setup on social media. You can even spread the word about the event by creating a guide for attendees with helpful information like:

  • Layout maps
  • Speaker bios
  • Breakout session information
  • What to expect
  • Speaker schedules
  • Important event info (parking, lunch recommendations, etc.)

Another tip is to sponsor the trade show in exchange for your logo to be displayed on event marketing materials. Most trade shows will showcase their list of sponsors online and on lots of other marketing materials. So, a little sponsorship investment could go a long way in terms of visibility.

Make Sure Your Booth Catches the Eye

Exhibit rentals - phone picture

Arguably the most important thing to work on is the layout and display of your trade show booth. Most conventions are pretty large, and there are lots of booths vying for the attendees’ attention – so you need to make your booth stand out.

Custom booths with hanging signage, video screens, and unique displays are something to consider if you want to stand out. Adding in little branded elements along with large, eye-catching designs will help you attract food traffic.

In the weeks leading up to your event, you need to be nailing down the exact details of your booth layout. Be sure to utilize the amount of space you are working with as much as you can. If space is limited, consider a linear exhibit or even a double-decker display to maximize your area. If you’ve got a larger rental, you can create a mini storefront with a peninsula or island booth display.

Remember, you want to make your booth inviting. Open concepts are ideal, so people can enter from multiple spots and not feel like they’re “trapped” inside.

3. What to Do at the Event

What to do at the event

Nerves will likely be running high on the day of the event. While practicing and planning can help, you never know what the day may bring. However, there are some key things to keep in mind when it comes to trade show marketing.

Focus on Relationships and Connection

Although you might sell some products and close deals on the day of, the chances are that most of your conversations aren’t going to end in a transaction. Instead, keep your focus on building rapport and connection. Their interactions with your team are a key part of their CX (customer experience) – so you need to do your best to make them feel welcomed and important.

Collect Information for a Follow-Up

Be sure to open lots of opportunities for connections throughout your booth. Remember, you will want to follow up with them after the event wraps. So make sure it’s easy for them to give you their contact information. This could be as simple as having a box to drop business cards in or tablets set up with contact forms.

4. After the Trade Show Wraps

Focus on relationship and connection

The funny thing about trade shows is that so much effort and planning go into the event – but once it wraps, most marketing teams move on to the next project. However, the weeks following the event are when you will make your return from the investment. So, you’ve got to have a solid strategy in place for your post-trade show marketing plan.

Follow-Up Quickly

Most marketers will recommend that you follow up with leads a day or two after the event wraps. But remember that people may be traveling or diving back into work those days. Your email could easily get lost in their inbox. So expect to send out a couple of messages before you hear anything and adjust your follow-up messaging based on their actions.

This means that you should have several email templates:

  • Initial follow up
  • Reminder follow up
  • Follow up for responders
  • Follow up for non-responders
  • Final attempt

Reach Out Through Social Media

Social media and paid ads budget increased in 2020

While email will likely be the bulk of your correspondence, remember that other marketing outlets are important. According to Sprout’s Social Index report, 57% of consumers turn to social media as a primary source for brand discovery. Plus, 91% of people will visit a brand’s website after following it on social media.

You may need to make the first move here, so be sure to follow the brands and people you’ve interacted with at the trade show. This can help to drive traffic back to your website and open the door for more conversations.

Remember ROI Takes Time

It’s quite difficult to fully measure the ROI from trade show marketing since some of the returns are invaluable. But you should do your best to gather data on some metrics that show results. For instance, track the changes in numbers like:

  • Social media followers and engagement
  • Online traffic
  • Email responses
  • Newsletter signups

While none of these metrics are directly related to revenue, they are still a return.

Over to You

Trade show marketing can be extremely successful or a total waste of time, money, and effort. It all comes down to how well the marketing team plans for the event. Overall, one of the best ways to ensure a higher ROI is to attract more people to your booth. Therefore, having a unique, eye-catching setup is crucial. And that’s where Art & Display can help.

We offer custom booths, displays, and rental setups that will help you stand out from the crowd. Contact our team today to learn more about what we have to offer so we can create something incredible together!