What you need to know about trade shows

John F. Kallmeyer, director, Visual Marketing, Skoda Minotti Strategic Marketing

If you’re committing resources to a trade show, don’t expect to spend a lot of time on the golf course, poolside or in a casino.

“Once you’ve chosen a show and established a budget, the most important thing to know is that it’s not a vacation,” says John F. Kallmeyer, director, Visual Marketing, Skoda Minotti Strategic Marketing. “There’s a perception out there that you go to these trade events and it’s a big party. But the reality is that if you’re spending the money to go to a trade show, you better go in with a plan and proper training beforehand.”

Kallmeyer says an EXPO Magazine survey of business-to-business marketers showed average spending on trade shows was about 20 percent of a company’s overall marketing budget.

Smart Business spoke with Kallmeyer about preparing for trade shows, the benefits of being an exhibitor and things you might not know about industry events.

If your industry has a trade show, do you have to participate?

It isn’t mandatory, but one of the top reasons companies do trade show marketing is to increase brand awareness — to be seen by all of the major players in the industry, whether your clients, your prospects or even your competition. So in that sense it’s good to go to shows if you want to be a player in your industry.

From a business development standpoint, it’s important to note the top-cited reason attendees go to trade shows is to see new products and services. They like to stay up on industry trends and issues, so if you have something new to offer to the industry you should be at the trade shows and putting the information out there.

What do you need to know before operating a booth?

Make sure you match your message to the audience, the particular attendees going to the show, and not only know how you’re going to promote that to get people to your booth, but also have a very specific plan to follow up with anyone you talk to and capitalize on that.

Pre-show marketing strategy is very important. Promote that you’re going to be there — for example, include that information on your website, promote your participation on social media sites, send out mailings to invite people to stop by, and send emails and newsletters and include that information. The more people see your name, logo and message, the greater the chance that when they’re wandering around that 80,000-square-foot exhibition hall, they’re going to seek you out or stop if they see you.

Also, create a concise message that matches the audience and then have properly trained booth staff to get everyone on the same page, looking toward the same goal and delivering the same message.

How is the sales environment different?

The trade show environment presents a very rich, yet challenging selling atmosphere. In a very hectic, crowded environment, you have to make eye contact with a potential buyer, engage them long enough to pre-qualify them and convert them to a viable sales lead — all in under just a few minutes.

Attendees generally want to see the entire show, so you have a limited time to make an impression. That is why pre-show planning and staff training are so important.

What are some important strategies for following through on sales leads after the show?

It’s critical to have a post-show marketing strategy in place before the show. As soon as you get back you should begin to follow up on show leads — for example, send a promotional item or an email follow-up or make phone calls. Additionally, it’s imperative to identify and track show leads so you can calculate meaningful ROI from attending the show.

John F. Kallmeyer is director of Visual Marketing with Skoda Minotti Strategic Marketing. Reach him at (440) 449-6800 or [email protected]

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