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There are a number of phases to planning your tradeshow appearances and for many, this begins way in advance of the actual event. From planning your strategy through to organising your team on the day, there’s always something to be done and organised. To help make the process smooth, we’ve put together a typical timeline for planning tradeshow attendance.
The first stage of planning a tradeshow should always be identifying and deciding the role of trade shows in your overall marketing plan. Is it going to be your main marketing activity for the year or are you using it as extra brand awareness activity? Once you’ve decided what role tradeshows and events will play its time to allocate budgets.
Once you’ve picked which event(s) you’re planning on attending it’s worth setting specific event objectives early. These can include event sales; lead generation; or publicity secured and will help focus your message and planning.
In this early planning phase, you should begin thinking about booth needs, exhibitor resources and the marketing collateral that will need designing and producing. If you are completely stuck, employing an expert (like us!) who understands tradeshow requirements may be of use.
While you are in planning mode, now is the time to start developing your tradeshow marketing plan. What methods are you going to use to reach those on your prospect lists? Top tip: divide your plan into three: 1. Pre-show activity; 2. At the event activity and, finally 3. Post-show follow-up activity.
As you get closer to the show, it’s worth cementing your event messaging. Your messaging needs to get all the key points across without taking too long to communicate. You and your staff will need to be confident it does what it’s intended to do – sell you and your business.
The 6-9 months phase is when you need to finalise exhibit layouts and designs and get graphics into production. You don’t want to be rushing this at the last minute, so giving yourself plenty of time will reduce stress as you get closer to the day. Hiring experts can make this process much easier as they will handle the design and build requirements – get in touch if you’d like help designing and building your stand.
Now is when you should begin to brainstorm high impact and eye-catching tradeshow giveaways and promotional strategies and determine what your stand literature should be – don’t forget that you need to factor in design and print times so it’s worth getting started early.
Get collateral ordered! Now is the time to order stand literature, event giveaways and any extras that you’ll need for the day. This allows for possible delays and changes to be made without it becoming too last minute. Continuing to work with your tradeshow installation experts will help you keep on track and ensure a smooth handover process.
Whilst you have some time, determine your staffing requirements, develop booth schedules and staff training timetables. You’ll want to know exactly who you’ll have available and that they are fully prepared for the show.
Finally, the 4th phase is the best time to launch your pre-show marketing initiatives! Get your attendance out there and make people aware early, it’ll increase the chance of people coming to talk to you on the day.
It’s not long until the show and it’s time to begin planning your follow-up activity, you will want to be quick out of the blocks post the event. Beating your competition to re-engage prospects could be the difference between securing further talks and sales or not. Don’t forget if you have contacts, prospects or distributors attending that you’d like to see, now is the time to plan talks, dinners, and meetings – get into people’s diaries early!
In the final week before the show, you should be completing staff training and confirming the delivery and installation of the booth and collateral.
Top tip: run back through this list and check that everything has been addressed.
So, the event has happened, and now is your time to analyse the leads and send out follow-up communications. Connect on LinkedIn, send a “thank you for chatting” email or whatever works for your business and prospects. Getting back in the minds of those you want to work with needs to happen fast if you want it to positively influence their decisions.
Once the show has been and gone, and follow up communications have been sent, we’d recommend evaluating success rates, compare with previous events and your original plans. Measuring event ROI will help you establish whether it’s a show to attend again or whether it’s unlikely to deliver the desired results in the future. Here’s how we measure event success.
If you’d like help working through your tradeshow plan, please get in touch with our team of experts here.