A friend approached me in church. “I have a trade show in a few weeks and I need help! Can you?” I am. (Completing his website as we speak.) As I met with him and discussed some ideas and tips, I remembered I penned this in December, 2010. Please allow me to dust it off and share it with you.

Trade Show CartoonOur staff absolutely rocked the trade shows this fall! 15 trade shows, expos or events in August, September and October! We had the updated booth display. Some newly printed materials. And some ‘trinkets and trash.’ But did we have the absolute best trade show marketing plan including pre- and post-event strategies? Even us experienced trade show marketers need a refresher from time to time! The top five trade show marketing strategies (or tips):

1. Prepare 3 to 6 engaging questions before the show. I failed at this one! I tend to lean too heavily on my ‘gift of gab’ and think I can just wing it. A couple of times I could have used some prepared questions – questions that stimulate thought and encourage conversation. Open ended questions – who, what, where, when, why or how. Avoid the trite questions though – “Can I help you?”, “How are you doing today?” or “Are you enjoying the show?”

2. Initiate pre-show promotions. Nearly every attendee list is available ahead of the show. Go ahead and purchase the list and spend the money on a postcard announcing you will be there. Provide an incentive for people to visit the booth and leave contact information. I-pads were the hot item this year but one booth gave out a $25 gift card to Macy’s. It doesn’t always have to be flashy!

3. Set measurable goals for the show. How many leads do you reasonably think you can come back with? “Hot lead” or “cold lead?” Think you can get an RFP? Ours – right or wrong – again was exposure, exposure and the attendee list so we could come back, populate the database and work the list. We were pleasantly surprised to get RFPs, site visits and a booked piece of business from a show!

4. The Don’ts! Don’t sit, read, eat or drink in the booth. Don’t use the telephone while visitors are around. Don’t leave the booth unattended. Don’t use inappropriate language or complain about the show or about being at the show. Don’t wear new shoes or high heels.

5. The Booth Survival Kit. Aspirin, eye drops, antacid, breath mints, water and bandages. Most shows have a lot of noise and you’ll likely get a headache. Dust flies about and the carpet shag can wear on your eyes (especially if you wear contacts like I do!) Expo hall food sucks and you’ll need the antacid. Breath mints and water really don’t need an explanation and bandages are in every survival kit!

Finally, there’s always an 80/20 rule and there’s one for trade shows – listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time!

What tip would you add to the list? Feel free to leave your comment below. Here’s to successful trade show marketing!

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