If planning your exhibit strategy looks a lot like a blank sheet of butchers paper. Read on, my friend.

Not everyone loves planning their trade shows as much as we do. I think mostly because the word “strategy” seems to complicate things, meaning something different to everyone.

This post is all about simplifying that exhibit planning process so trade show domination is on the cards for you too!

If you want more detailed help and prefer to watch rather than read, I’ve created some video resources that have some key concepts in them. You can watch them here.

Step 1/ Have clear business goals

You know what? You’d be surprised how just how common it is for people not to link their exhibit strategy to their overall business goals. Many people slap a “brand awareness” label over their trade shows and just focus on what their stand looks like. (No apologies for having no filter).

In my experience, I’ve found that clearer you are about what you want in business (forget the expo for now) the more likely you will be to use each show as a vehicle to propel you business forward.

The key here is to be really be specific about what you want to achieve in the year ahead: What type of growth you want? In which areas/products? And by how much?

By pinning these key points down you are then able to come up with a much more realistic and clear exhibition strategy. Your exhibitions should help you achieve your overall goals and support your overall marketing strategy.

By knowing what a successful show would look like, you’ll actively take action towards how you go about achieving it.

And most importantly clear goals make it easier to track results and your success rate!

Step 2/ Review your target audience profiles

If you found that last year your marketing messages weren’t bringing the results that you wanted, maybe it’s time to look at your audience profiles.

Make sure that you are taking the time to research your ideal customer and get clear on who your customers are. You want to make sure that your message is targeted and clear so it speaks directly to your ideal customer and what is important to them.

Don’t think that broadstroke marketing will save time and money because ultimately it will cost you both when they don’t work.

Here are a few key questions to get you started:

Who is your customer?

How do they buy from you?

How can you make that process easier? How can you find more people like them?

When it comes to your exhibition strategy think about:

Who do you hope to meet?

How will this ‘ideal client’ interact with you?

How can you attract them to the stand?

What is going to make you stand out from the competition?

Step 3/ What worked before?

Sometimes we need to rip up the rulebook and start all over in order to keep our tactics fresh and impactful. However looking back at what has worked before can be SUPER helpful to planning the year ahead.

Look at all of your results you can from last year – What trade shows did you attend? What stand tactics did you try? What campaigns did you run? What response did you receive with them? Any last minute ideas that worked well?

Sometimes it isn’t about reinventing the wheel, but tweaking a campaign. It can become something you are known for. The challenge lies in staying fresh so people don’t make assumptions about what you do and overlook your stand, choosing not to talk to you.

If you haven’t got any data from last year then you really need to a) have a word with yourself and b) get super focused on tracking your results. After all how do you know your marketing is working if you are not tracking it in some form?

Step 4/ Create hype!

70% of attendees plan a list of exhibitors they want to visit before they attend trade shows (Inc.com) so it is vital that you get them all pumped up to see your stand.

The aim is for them to include you in their list.

Make sure that your pre-event marketing is well planned out using multiple channels to let people know where you will be. Social media is perfect for building up suspense – Why not post a photo of part of your stand? Or a sneak peek at a new campaign you are launching at the show?

Don’t discount personally inviting clients to the show in conversations. You will find they value a personal invite more than an EDM. Of course, print or online channels are still a good way to promote yourself.

Before you yell at me for suggesting you invite your own clients… It’s actually a huge benefit having them on the booth. Aside from making them feel special, it helps create a great atmosphere that others will want to be a part of, but it’s an excellent opportunity to meet your clients face to face and strengthen your relationship.

Step 5/ Brief your team

From your overall business goals to your marketing and exhibition strategy, it’s vital that every person on your team knows what you’re trying to achieve. Explain why you’re doing things a certain way and ask for input.

When everyone knows what the goal is and is on board with the overall approach, you will be a force to be reckoned with.

Make sure that people have clear roles and play to each team members strengths. Do you have people who are better at grabbing the attention of passers-by? Do you have experts who can take over on quality leads? Who is managing your team, and ensuring people take breaks etc?

“The people you choose for your booth represent your business,” Timothy Carter, writing for MarketingProfs. “Make sure they’re knowledgeable about the product or service, and friendly and engaging.”

Step 6/ Don’t forget to follow your leads

I know, I know we are starting to repeat ourselves!

But please do not leave the follow-up process until after the event. Make your lead management part of your overall marketing strategy and not just something you think of as an afterthought once you kick off your shoes and the end of the expo.

Consider the following in developing your follow up plan:

  • How and when you are going to make contact with your leads
  • What you are going to say to them
  • How often you will reach out to them
  • Who is responsible for delivering this

Want help switching up your marketing strategy for exhibitions? Give us a call and let’s see how we can help you.

Yours in Exhibiting,