How to prepare for a successful trade show.

Trade shows are an excellent opportunity to make sales, build relationships and collect qualified leads. To prepare for your successful participation, you should consider following these steps:

1. Set specific goals.

Have a plan outlined with measurable goals. Are you introducing a new product or announcing an improved service? Are you prospecting for new business? Set your objectives, then track the results.

2. Develop a follow-up plan.

Make sure you have a lead fulfillment system already in place. You might prepare a follow-up package ready to mail after the trade show. Include a letter that can be personalized with a hand written note referencing your initial conversation at the show. Industry statistics reveal that 89 percent of exhibitors go with the intention of gathering leads, but only 21 percent of the leads are followed up on. Prepare ahead!

3. Build pre-show interest.

Know your audience. Request a registration list from the event organizer and try to identify suitable prospects. Create buzz about your participation prior to the show by sending a mail piece to targeted prospects. Include a simple card that can be redeemed at your booth for something of value.

4. Use public relations.

Many organizations will publish a guide for attendees that includes exhibitor profiles. Contact the event organizer well in advance of the show to see how you might be featured. Learn the editor’s name and forward a news release focusing on what’s new about your products and services. Be sure to follow up with the editor to offer additional information if needed.

5. Choose your staff.

Your enthusiastic staff should be easily identifiable through dress and present a professional image. Use your top salespeople. Encourage personal goals and have rewards and recognition for a job well done.

6. Select printed materials.

Determine the amount of business cards, brochures and flyers you want to have on hand. Save your high quality brochures that show off your capabilities for qualified leads or a follow-up mailing. Provide compelling reasons for future contact.

7. Choose premiums.

Some shows are marketed with a specific theme. You can tie into the overall theme or create your own. Your giveaways should be memorable and complement your marketing message. It’s best if they are used as a “thank you” for participating in a demonstration or survey.

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