A trade show can help you meet several marketing goals all at once. But it’s important to know how to approach the event strategically.

Begin by inviting your customers and prospects to visit your booth in advance of the show. Make the announcements in your newsletters and ads, or via email and phone calls.

Don’t Overstuff Your Booth

When business owners are planning for a trade show, they often think about how they want their booth to look. But they should also define their goals for the event. If they’re hoping to generate new leads, for example, that should be the focus of their planning.

Overcrowded booths turn off prospective attendees and make it hard to communicate the reasons why they should visit. Stick to a single message in terms of graphic presentations and use bigger, simpler images to convey it.

People attend trade shows to find out what they want — whether that’s new products, services, or ways to save money. The more specific you can be in identifying their needs, the easier it will be to close them on your product or service.

Don’t Overcomplicate Your Message

Every element of your booth, from the signage to the graphics on your table, sends a message to attendees. It’s important to keep the messaging clear and concise so that your audience can easily grasp what you’re promoting.

Focus on your company’s unique selling points and make them prominent in your booth graphics. Avoid generic selling points and stale cliches, which are boring to your audience and will quickly become lost in the crowd.

You can also offer downloadable brochures on your website and provide them to attendees when they drop off their business cards or contact information. This is an excellent way to follow up with leads after the event is over. Just remember that you don’t want to send emails before the trade show ends or weeks after, which might make them forget about your company.

Don’t Overstuff Your Marketing Materials

Trying to satisfy multiple objectives by attending a trade show can dilute the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. If you want to keep customers informed of service problems and future product plans, for example, it may be better to invest in regular marketing communication rather than relying on events like trade shows.

Likewise, distributing too many brochures or other handouts might result in attendees dumping them in the nearest trash bin without reading them. Plan ahead and get professionally prepared fliers or other materials printed in quantity, so booth personnel can distribute them efficiently.

For leads and contacts you gathered at the show, follow up promptly to prevent them from losing interest or taking their business elsewhere. This simple step will also help you demonstrate your commitment to customer service.

Don’t Overstuff Your Staff

Having the right number of booth staffers is crucial. A team that is too large can overwhelm attendees, making them less likely to interact with your brand. In contrast, a team that is too small can feel like they’re being neglected by your company.

Booth staffers should avoid sitting while talking to visitors, if at all possible. Doing so puts them below attendee eye level, which can make them look unwelcoming. It’s also difficult for attendees to approach staffers who are seated.

If attendees see your staff dozing in their chairs, their interest in your brand will take a nosedive. Instead, your team should be energetic and excited to engage with attendees. This can be achieved by encouraging employees to laugh and smile frequently.

Don’t Overstuff Your Customers

Attendees come to a trade show to connect at a professional and personal level. It’s important for a brand to be able to translate this connection into sales and conversion.

Rather than hand out brochures to every person who stops by, set up a landing page on your website where these can be downloaded. This way, visitors can still get the information they want without carrying it around and cluttering their bags with brochures that will ultimately end up in the trash.

Managers must decide how well trade shows fit with other aspects of their marketing communications programs, such as corporate image maintenance or market research. Then, they must plan accordingly. A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than five percent on nonselling functions at a trade show.

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