Don’t Just Sit There – Market!

Trade show and exhibition marketing is not always handled in the optimal way by exhibitors. Despite that fact that there is enormous value through participation, many companies fail in the follow through. There are so many ways to maximize involvement beyond just the booth space. The most effective companies understand that exhibiting is not just a real estate transaction, but also a relationship one. Trade shows are a great place to forge all kinds of partnerships. This includes customers, potential customers and other exhibitors.

Yes, 2009 was a tough year in the exhibition market. What we saw was that companies are running leaner and sending fewer attendees. Still, interest was high and the attendees were very focused. This meant they were paying attention and learning – especially from those vendors who reached out. Face-to-face is still the medium for bringing B-to-B buyers and sellers together. Sign up for your sponsorship early – you’ll get a better placement on the floor, and you will have the benefit of the event marketing done by the host. Exhibitors should plan pre- during- and post-marketing campaigns. Have the host send relevant electronic and printed materials to the attendee list prior and post the show. Post information on your sponsorship on your website – preferably on the home page. Send a press release to the media on your sponsorship and include any announcements you will be making.

You know you have a worthwhile product and you want to showcase it. Consider ancillary promotional activities to get yourself noticed. Look at the options offered by the host. These could include sponsoring a meal where you can speak before the entire attendee community. You may be able to have a separate lunch or dinner event where you can decide whom to invite – a subset of the attendee list that best fits your target market. Or perhaps you want to host the golf event and have your golfing staff network while playing a round of golf. Hosting a Winners Reception can show your winning strategy. Host time at the internet café, include a beverage service and have your staff there with targeted marketing materials. If you don’t see a sponsorship that you believe would work for you, by all means, ask!

Measurement of success in exhibiting often relies on number of leads scored but ignores the importance of face-to-face branding. Getting your brand in front of prospective customers who will remember you in the future is very influential. There may be an incubation period before there’s a touch point. So, don’t just sit at the booth and wait – get your products and services noticed. When you are at the booth you are on stage representing your company. Look happy to be there to interact with attendees. Don’t get distracted by other work or your email. And by the way, follow up on those leads. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) states that 60 to 80 percent of exhibitors don’t follow up on leads!

The effective use of time, by reducing travel and the cost of sales makes exhibition marketing a valuable tool. Use it wisely.

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