5 Steps to a killer Trade Show Strategy

If you’ve ever been part of the magical world of developing a trade show strategy for your own business or a client, then you know how much work goes into one. If you haven’t, you are in for a treat, my friends. While it can be a lot of work, creating trade show strategies can also be incredibly rewarding, especially when you stand in front of the final masterpiece. I’ve been with Melamed Riley for five years, and have had the opportunity to be a part of developing trade show strategies twice a year for our client, FMC Professional Solutions, a division of FMC Corporation.

There are so many pieces-parts, planning and logistics that go into developing a successful trade show strategy that I like to compare it to planning a wedding. Except that instead of just one day of fun, it can extend over a few days. And there’s no “Electric Slide.”

This blog post outlines five key steps for developing and executing a killer trade show strategy, though you may have more or less depending on your own situation. These key steps include: Designing the booth structure, developing booth graphics, integrating creative booth promotions, exploring media or sponsorship opportunities and leveraging the trade show through social media platforms.
Designing a Trade Show Booth Structure: Obviously, the first thing you need is a booth. Some businesses own one, but often the booth has to be rented. Generally speaking, each trade show publishes a list of preferred booth rental companies that are assigned to the show. If you are looking into renting a booth, the first step in your trade show strategy is to design a booth structure.

In my opinion, working with a rented booth has more advantages than working with one that is already built as it gives you the opportunity to refresh your booth year after year and offers more flexibility when it comes to customization. Rental booth companies have a large collection of booths that they have previously developed from which you can pull bits and pieces. Let’s say you really like a high-top desk you see in one booth, but prefer the overall structural layout of another — no problem. And if they don’t have something you are envisioning, they will build it for you!

From a design standpoint, it’s important to keep in mind the flow of the overall space when creating a booth structure. There’s nothing worse than being saddled with a booth that’s cluttered or cramped. If there’s enough room for show attendees to move around freely, they’re bound to stay longer!
Developing Booth Graphics: The second phase of a trade show strategy takes place after there is an approved booth structure. This is where the magic happens, as your creative team begins developing the booth graphics, as well as any copy that will be incorporated. The structure comes to life during this phase, and everyone’s vision starts to become a reality. Please note: When developing the booth copy and graphics it’s important to keep it SIMPLE. Rarely will a show attendee read more than a few key copy points, and there’s limited real estate within the booth anyway. Therefore, you may want to develop collateral materials as part of this phase. Collateral is an effective way for show attendees to leave your booth with important information, especially if they weren’t able to interact with a booth representative.
Integrating Creative Trade Show Promotions: Unfortunately, designing an eye-catching booth just isn’t enough for a trade show. Which brings me to the third key element for developing a trade show strategy: Coming up with creative ways to attract show attendees to your booth. Unique trade show promotions or giveaways are often part of a trade show, but the effective ones generally tie in with the theme of the booth or are truly unique. Distributing pens or pads of paper with a company logo really isn’t all that appealing. Think of this as the creative team’s opportunity to come up with something fun, exciting and out-of-the-box!
Exploring Trade Show Advertising or Sponsorship Opportunities: The fourth step in your trade show strategy is all about trade show advertising and sponsorship opportunities. While trade shows generally offer the typical signage throughout the show floor or the inclusion of a company’s logo within the show guide, many will collaborate if you have something compelling in mind. Sponsorships can be a big investment, so it’s important to make sure your sponsorship is effective, exciting and worth the money.

If sponsorships are out of the question, there may be other trade show advertising opportunities available, such as advertising within a magazine that is distributed specifically at the show. If you are looking for trade show advertising that consists of non-traditional means, working with the trade show organizer to see if they would be willing to sell the addresses and/or email addresses of show attendees could be an option. If they are selling this information, perhaps you send show attendees a custom e-mail blast or direct mailer encouraging them to stop by your booth while they are at the show.
Leveraging Booth Attendance through Social Media: The last key element for developing a killer trade show strategy is the integration of social media. Obviously, this is only applicable if your business is active on at least one social media platform. Social media is a fantastic tool to leverage your presence at a trade show. Posting before, during and after the show is critical for letting your Facebook fans or Twitter followers know you will be at a trade show, and what they can expect to see there. Social media is also a great way to get a little creative, such as utilizing your platforms to execute a scavenger hunt. For example, you could develop a specific hashtag for your scavenger hunt and provide clues using your hashtag that direct participants to places on the trade show floor for the next clue or prize.

And don’t forget about your blog! If your business has one, blogging is an excellent way to inform show attendees what they will see at your booth before the trade show. It is also a great way to recap what happened after the show is over.

While developing an attractive, informational trade show booth is important, it isn’t the only element in developing a successful trade show strategy. There is a lot more involved in making sure it’s a well thought out strategy with many components.

Do you have more steps that you would suggest adding when developing a trade show strategy based on your experience? Or do you have any success stories based on what you have done at trade show? If so, we would love to hear them! Just include them in the comment box below.

Published on: October 3, 2013 – Melamed Riley – Idea Center