February was a busy month for our marketing team here at Top Floor. It included sponsorships at two major tradeshows in the Greater-Milwaukee area: the Woman Up Conference, as well as WMEP's Manufacturing Matters. Trade shows are a very important part of business and can be ideal venues to unveil new products, network and connect with potential partners.
Participating in events like these takes a pretty significant amount of planning and organization between departments to be a success. We're sharing a few of our secrets for success in planning a positive trade show exhibit.
Plan in advance.
Make sure you are organized; research trade shows in your industry and decide what makes sense for your company. Many of these shows begin planning and registration months in advance and if you plan on exhibiting, the best spaces fill up quickly. Additionally, there are often early bird deadlines than can really help with the expensive cost of registration.
Plan an outreach strategy.
As an exhibitor you often have access to the list of attendees. Take the time to comb through this list, target those companies you would like to connect with during the show and organize a plan for outreach. A good strategy is sending an email of introduction, where you'll be located at the show and what you can offer. It has to be something unique to you, that is a true value-add to their company.
Prepare your booth and products.
There's nothing worse than a trade show product demo that fails or that doesn't capture visitors' interest. You are the expert in your field and it's your job to make your booth as attractive as possible. Make sure you have all of the collateral pieces and any materials you need for your booth far in advance. Here's a quick checklist:
- Business cards and name tags
- Branded table cloth
- Banners or signage
- AV equipment
- Brochures or examples of your work (case studies, white papers)
- A way to track booth visitors (a gift basket with a fishbowl for entries - you can also collect business cards easily this way as well!)
Even after the show is over, your job is definitely not. Most likely, you left the show with a ton of business cards, and great possibility of new clients or partnerships. But don't forget, people have many interactions at trade shows. As much as you want to believe that yours were different, it's tough to remember everyone's name and product after the show. Don't be afraid of reaching out too quickly, because the longer you wait, the longer they have to forget who you are what you said.
Connect with other vendors or sponsors.
Other vendors are typically targeting a similar audience as you. We're not saying approach your direct competitors, but rather, find companies you might be able to learn from and partner with. It might be an easy way to gain even more leads and possible strategic partners for the future.
Promote your attendance on social media.
Do your research and see if the show has a hash tag or social channels and use them to your advantage. Attendees and vendors are often participating in person AND virtually so join in the conversation and you might attract some people to your booth.
If you haven't caught on yet - I think the best advice to prepare for a big trade show is to be organized and get ready well ahead of the show. There are a lot of moving pieces and parts to pulling off an event like this, so having a solid strategy is key.