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Marketing Your Products
8 Secrets to a Profitable Trade Show
April, 2007

By Larry Baltz

You couldn't contain your excitement and eagerly reserved exhibit space at the upcoming regional trade show. I know what you were thinking...­"The traffic at this show will be fantastic and I'll get more leads than I ever imagined."

And when the show was over, you got nothing for all your hard work.

So what happened? Why didn't your $600 booth space, $400 for collateral materials, and two grueling days on the show floor produce any meaningful results?

You got nothing because you had no valid method to address the two most critical trade show issues. First, is the show a reasonable marketing vehicle for you, and second, if so, how can you best use it to attract prospects. Without any thought, most business owners assume that a trade show in their industry is a smart decision and they plunk down big dollars with little consideration to other important details. There are many factors to consider though.

Trade shows can be one of the most productive and profitable means for promoting your company and your products. But you must know the secrets and follow a process or it's a waste of your time and money.

1. Request information from Show Management

Don't commit to any trade show without first requesting information from show management. What are the profiles of the attendees? How many attended last year? How are they marketing the show? These are important issues you must consider before making a commitment.

2. Create a plan - don't just show up with a booth

Consider your goal of the show and then establish a plan. You have much more at your disposal than a table and booth: show theme, decor, signage, giveaways, literature, staffing, lead retrieval, and more. Each of these can be critical to your success.

3. Consider pre-marketing

Data is available that clearly indicates that pre-show marketing significantly increases booth attendance. A mailer or two in advance might be an appropriate component.

4. Give attendees a compelling reason to visit your booth

I have walked many trade show floors and time after time have seen booth personnel standing out front like rigid toy soldiers, with the standard stack of company brochures and business cards lined up on the table. Is there any wonder no one was interested in any of them? You don't have to hire a clown, but do something to attract attention and let the attendees know the value you offer them.

5. Educate and train booth personnel

Your people are your greatest asset. Professionalism, knowledge, attentiveness and a big smile are always appreciated.

6. Use a system to record individual lead information

If a card-scanning lead retrieval system is not available, then create lead sheets for collecting information, or if nothing else, write on the backs of business cards. Nothing is more frustrating than to create a lot of show leads and not know what your prospects' needs are when you follow-up with them.

7. Follow-up promptly with prospects

You've invested your time and money, why not maximize your results? Leads left unattended will quickly grow cold. Set a specific date and be certain all leads are contacted before then.

8. Evaluate your show ROI

Track your leads and sales for each show so you know whether or not to consider that individual one again in future years.

Profitable trade shows require much more than managing a booth space. Create an organized and systematic marketing plan and you'll have the tools and processes you need to achieve your goals.

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