Five Ways to Maximize Your Trade Show Investment!
By Matt Spaulding
From June 14-16 I attended the NeoCon World’s Trade Fair in Chicago, one of the largest trade shows for the commercial interiors design and product market.
Although this year marks my eighth year attending NeoCon, I have never been disappointed by the inspiring products and educational seminars available for attendees of this venerable industry show. I am, however, often surprised by how many companies don’t realize how much more they can do – for very little cost – to truly maximize their presence at this show.
With this in mind, below is a checklist of five low-cost, high-value tactics companies can do at trade shows (not just NeoCon) to maximize their investment and make the most use of their time in front of their customers and other key audiences.
- Media Meetings – If you’re a company introducing a new product or service, or if you have new personnel key to your organization, you need to be communicating this news with the media. Media attending trade shows are there to see and learn about the latest and greatest happenings, so they are typically very approachable to coming by your booth to hear what you have going on. Plus, developing friendly relationships with the media at trade shows can often help when you have news to share later on.
- Competitor Review – It’s a given that organizations keep an eye on their competition. But trade shows provide an easy way to see most, if not all of your competitors in one spot. Over the course of a trade show, you can easily find out about your competitors new products and services, their new marketing approaches and their new collateral pieces, etc. You can also gauge how much traffic they had at their booth and what their customers think. I always recommend our clients to pull all this information into a very simple competitive matrix document that can be reviewed after the show to determine where the competition is going.
- Award Pursuit – Many media outlets like to announce winners of their awards in conjunction with trade shows. This helps them create a big splash at the show. Companies would do well to monitor their industry’s key media and their editorial calendars to find out what awards might be available and when the entry deadline is due. Winning an award and being recognized by the media at a trade show provides third-party validation of your product or service and creates greater awareness and recognition.
- Customer Sensing – Trade shows attract an interested customer audience. Yes, customers will come by your exhibit (or at least you hope so J!). They will see your products, meet with sales reps and ask a few questions. But are you using this time to really ask them what they want from you and how you’re meeting (or not meeting) their needs? Creating a formal or even semi-formal way to gather customer information at a trade show can provide great insight and ideas for how to better service your customer needs.
- Interact – Trade show participants are very active in social media channels such as Foursquare and Twitter. Find out the Twitter hashtag for the conference and send out regular tweets about your organization, the conference, your observations on trends, etc. In addition, retweet and respond to other participant’s comments. You might even consider hosting a tweet up or at the very least having someone on your team attending one.
Trade shows can be one of the most expensive items in any marketing director’s budget. Yet they are vital to meeting an organization’s business and brand goals. So, if you’re investing in trade shows as part of your marketing strategy, why not maximize your time and resources to get as must out of your investment as possible? A strategic communications partner with industry expertise can help any company execute the activities above, which can provide immediate short-term and long-term value.
What do you think? Are there other cost-effective things companies could do a trade shows to maximize their investment?