Tradeshows present a great opportunity to gain brand exposure, meet with customers and partners, and learn what’s new in the industry. Unfortunately, people often take for granted or are unaware of these benefits and therefore don’t follow tradeshow best practices. Three signs you might want to reconsider your tradeshow strategy are:
- You treat tradeshows as a vacation.
- You avoid shows that you think not enough potential customers will attend.
- You’re not sure why you’re there in the first place.
Here’s how to tell if you’re guilty of one or more of these mindsets, and what to do about it.
1. The Vacationer
You’re one if: You spend more time planning your sightseeing trips and social gatherings than you do planning tradeshow activities.
Consider this: We love a good post-conference Happy Hour as much as the next person, but during the show, business comes first. Whether we’re teaching a course, discussing marketing assessment results, or visiting customers who are exhibiting, we keep our goals in mind and work toward achieving them. Some tips for staying focused:
- Make a list of activities or goals for the show, such as meeting with potential or current customers and generating X number of leads. Our one-page Tradeshow Trip Tracker can help you define these objectives.
- Train your booth staff in tradeshow etiquette and best practices. If you don’t take yourselves and your company seriously, how will anyone else?
- If you do attend a Happy Hour or other social event, treat it as a networking opportunity. Often companies will host events for fellow conference participants, such as our annual Happy Hour after SPIE Optics+Photonics, which we co-host with ASE Optics.
2. The Myopic
You’re one if: Think that the only reason to visit shows is to be discovered by potential customers.
Consider this: There’s more to do at a tradeshow than stay glued to your booth, especially if more than one person from your company is attending. For example:
- Meet with current customers or partners. As much as you should be looking to grow your reach, it’s just as important to nurture the relationships you’ve already built. Whether it’s a brief visit to a customer’s booth or a pre-arranged meeting to discuss their changing needs, making the effort to talk to current customers and partners shows that you value their business and are invested in their success.
- Meet with the media. Buyers and sellers aren’t the only people who attend tradeshows. Representatives of industry-related magazines and journals will often visit shows, not only to cover the event but also to learn about new technology, research, business developments, etc. Have something exciting in the works? Pitch a story to an editor ahead of time, and invite them to meet you at the show to talk further.
- If it’s a show you know a lot of potential customers will attend, be proactive about making those connections ahead of the event. Send at least two people to the show, one to tend to the booth and one to walk the floor, attend educational events, and conduct meetings. If you have some specific potential customers in mind, send them some preliminary information and an invitation to set a time to meet or visit your booth at the show.
- Attend a paper presentation, panel discussion, or technical or business seminar. For high tech or highly scientific industries, tradeshows are often where experts converge to share their latest work and insights, and where the newest and most innovative products are revealed. Take advantage of this chance to learn a new technique or get caught up on developments in your field.
3. The Aimless
You’re one if: You don’t know how being at the show helps your company.
Consider this: One of the keys to an effective tradeshow strategy is metrics. Rather than judging by a hunch or a feeling, you should have a way to quantitatively evaluate tradeshow success. Variables you can measure include:
- Leads or qualified leads obtained
- RFQs generated
- Meetings with customers or potential customers
- Blog subscribers, webinar sign-ups, social media likes, etc. (for the technically-savvy exhibitor who comes prepared with a laptop or tablet and a specific ask right there at the booth)
Set a numerical goal before the show, and then see how your results match up. Need a benchmark? Look at your results from past shows, talk to others who’ve attended the show, or read our post on tradeshow ROI to get an idea of what to expect.
There are exceptions to the metrics rule. If the show you’re attending has exceptional educational value, you can make learning your main goal. Walk the floor, interview exhibitors, attend technical sessions; and even if there are no numbers to track, keep a written log of what you saw and learned, and consider how you might apply it to your business.
For better tradeshow planning, download our Tradeshow Trip Tracker template. It's an easy way to outline your objectives for an upcoming show.