10 Top tips for getting the most from your trade show

Next week the largest annual trade show of embedded hardware and software will be held in Nuremberg. Component manufacturers and distributors, software tools and OS vendors, design houses and more, from all over the world, will be exhibiting at Embedded World.

The show is massive and demands a hefty percentage of any marketing budget. For the corporations especially, the position and the size of the stand are important, walls of compelling images and messages must be created, trees of collateral printed and handed out, products displayed, competitions run, mini seminar sessions presented and just in case, scantily clad or painted models hired, all to attract visitors and keep them on the stands long enough to see if they are a genuine prospect.

That all sounds expensive, but then there are the people needed to man the stands and CEOs and Directors to attend pre-arranged meetings with top customers and strategic partners. And all flown in and put in hotels for three or four nights. There are also the hours of preparation leading up to the event.

A trade show like Embedded World is undoubtedly an important event to show the latest products but also to hold many important meetings over the course of three days that would normally take far longer and much more travelling to achieve. The return from these meetings should be easy to measure.

But the return in general for the stand, the preparation, the people on stand duty, the cost of keeping them there and the cost to the business of their absence is much harder to measure and many companies don’t even bother. Larger companies will argue that they have to be there because their competitors are, but all companies, no matter their size, should aim to get the biggest possible return for the cost and effort and impact on the business that attending these shows has.

Here are 10 top tips for getting the most out of your trade show…

Have a coherent overall strategy – Plan in advance what you and your teams need to achieve and how you will achieve it. Go through the strategic planning process so you set the right goals, means for achieving them and the systems for monitoring and reviewing the results.

  1. Have a strong marketing strategy – Match your value propositions to your ideal prospects and promote the forthcoming event to them. Don’t simply do a scattergun approach and tell the world you’re going to be at the event. Know who you want visiting your stand and create targeted messages to attract them.
  2. Have compelling messages – Scantily clad models are all very well but visitors need to know why they should visit your stand. Some visitors will know that they’re interested in your processor or operating system and make a bee-line for you but others won’t. They won’t necessarily know what the best solution is for them and your messages could make the difference between a design win and losing an opportunity to a competitor.
  3. Identify your ideal prospects – This links to tip 2; to set the right messages you need to know exactly who you want to attract and speak to. Who are these prospects, what are they likely to be interested in and what can you show that will get them to your stand and keep them there long enough to know if there is an opportunity?
  4. Prepare for stand duty – Make sure those on “stand duty” know who they ideally want to attract and what they are going to discuss. Make sure they are comfortable in initiating these conversations and getting to a result as soon as possible without seeming to rush or pressure the visitor. For large companies it is worth having a front-line of people who can ask enough questions to filter those visitors with a potential opportunity and a need versus those just data gathering. Still take their details to follow up but don’t waste the time of your managers and engineers on the stand.
  5. Have an effective system – As well-as getting the basic visitor information and the key points from conversations make sure you have an effective central system that you can use over the weeks and months to follow-up and measure the return from each visitor and from the show as a whole.
  6. Review the results at the end of each day – Having set daily goals, make sure the results of the day are collated. Were targets for the number of visitors, number of prospects, opportunities identified, deals closed and so on met? If targets are being missed discuss with the relevant members of the team what could be improved the next day.
  7. Have a team meeting where each person on stand duty presents who the top visitors they spoke to were and what their follow-up actions are. Make sure that this information is centrally collated so business cards and forms aren’t lost or conversations forgotten. Waiting until you’re all back in the office is a bit late and a missed opportunity to get the most from the show.
  8. Get feedback – get your visitors to give you feedback. You don’t want them filling in reams but need to understand why they came to the stand (for example; was it a pre-show message that resonated, they already knew they were going to come or they just stumbled upon you), if found what they were looking, if their questions were answered and what if anything would have made the experience a better one. (Are we back to the models?)
  9. Trade show review – Review the show overall against important metrics. Did you hit your goals? What worked well and what didn’t? Did you get the foot fall you were after? Was the location right? Were your value propositions understood? What attracted visitors? What put them off? Did you have enough people? Did you attract enough ideal prospects? How many were converted to design wins? What could you have done better? What did the press say about you? And so.
  10. Have a long term view – You’ll have a number of visitors who on the surface aren’t a prospect with potential business. But after the show, do check out the companies they work for, the applications they develop and markets they play in. They visited your stand for a reason and might well be a potential prospect that needs nurturing over a longer period.

Get the most out of the trade shows you exhibit at. Always have a strategy in place well in advance, set goals, get your messages right for ideal prospects, monitor progress, review findings and get the best return you can.

If you need help preparing a strategy that gives you the best return for your trade show exhibit then give contact me to discuss how I can help.

Image courtesy of ibtimes.com