It is hard to believe that spring is just around the corner and that means tradeshow season is underway! From spring conventions and mid-year meetings to fall and year-end banquets, you are likely challenged with a lot of options.  It is never too early to begin planning and by doing so, you can avoid the common headaches of last minute stress. With this in mind, we reached out to our long-time friend and industry guru, Andy Martin, Director of Marketing, New Business Development at Best PumpWorks / PumpWorks 610, to share some tips on how to stay on track with your tradeshow planning.

First, why should you participate? It is simple – tradeshows provide exposure for your firm, great networking opportunities, and a chance to build new relationships and catch-up with other like minds in a laid back setting. Once you’ve chosen the events you will participate in, having a solid plan is crucial. Your strategy and planning should start 12 months in advance, which will ensure you stay on track along the way.

Begin by identifying how you will use trade shows as part of your overall marketing and sales strategy. Develop a budget and your projected return on investment (ROI) to help with your selections. Research and identify which events you will attend based on target reach and opportunity, and request information from event sponsors including past attendee counts and vendor participation.

Next, at around 9 months in advance, set specific objectives (ROI) for your show such as number of product sales, leads generated, publicity secured, etc. Identify your space needs and the type of exhibit, display and promotional items you will need and get registered to reserve your space. It is important at this point to obtain a full list of details and requirements from the event planner for your booth, materials and remaining planning. Then, you can begin to develop a trade show marketing plan divided into three sections: 1. Pre-Show Marketing, 2. At-Show Marketing, and 3. Post-Show Marketing.

Approximately, six to nine months before the show, develop a compelling sales message that gets across the key points you want to communicate at your exhibit in 30 seconds or (preferably) less. You and your staff will need to rehearse this message and use it confidently at your booth to maximize your effectiveness. Select vendors and begin design work for your display booth, banners, accessories, literature racks, and other exhibit items you will need. Identify promotions and/or giveaways you will use to attract visitors to your booth, and determine the literature and marketing materials you will need at the show – and begin design and printing work.

Three to six months before the event, you should begin ordering your giveaways or promotional items. Continue working with vendors on your display booth, exhibit items, and marketing materials, and confirm delivery dates. During this stage of planning, you will need to organize your staffing requirements, develop booth schedules, and plan training sessions. Plan how you will ship your display and other items to the show, and begin making travel arrangements. Now is the time to launch your pre-show marketing initiatives and don’t forget to push the information on all social media channels!

Once you get to this point, you are close to the home stretch. About one to three months ahead of time, you can start putting together follow-up packets to send immediately after the show to your leads. This step will be a tremendous help to have completed ahead of time to ensure you follow through with any leads. All travel arrangements should be finalized and you can begin scheduling staff training. It doesn’t hurt to reach back out to your event sponsor for any last minutes details. Also, finalize production of booth display, promotional items, and marketing materials and confirm shipping dates. And, finally a fun one, schedule dinners or other meetings to be held at the show with prospects, distributors and/or customers.

With the finish line in sight, now you can go back through your strategic plan to make sure all items are complete or in the works. Make any last minute plans or finishing touches to your marketing materials or staff training and get ready to enjoy the upcoming event! Don’t forget along the way to keep motivating your staff about your participation and keep them included in the planning stages. If you follow this outline for your next tradeshow, I guarantee you will be ready to go and organized so you can focus on the task at hand – building more business for your firm!

Share your tradeshow prepping tips and what works for you. We’d love to hear from you!