Are you thinking about entering a trade show exhibit for the first time? If so, there are many things to consider. Putting up a display and manning the booth are only one piece of the puzzle. Like anything that is successful, there must be a plan and structure that is if you want to realize a solid return on your investment in event. Just one successful trade show event will light the fire for many more, because they work! In fact, every well-rounded marketing plan should include events that gain plenty of face-to-face exposure for the company.
Here is one way to add structure and a cohesive plan to your trade show experience. The following 6 steps are not only a good way to plan and execute your exhibit booth, but such steps can be the foundation for any successful endeavor:
1. Know Your Motives Your plans and expected results should always begin with an exploration of motives. Why are you entering the show? Marketing? Exposure? Branding? Sales? Contacts? New clients and customers? Other reasons? What message will you convey with your trade show display? Company pillars? A specific promotion? New mandates? Company/Corporate mission? Do you have or can you imagine specific goals or objectives for the show? How much and how many are you seeking (what are your general targets)?
2. Preparation Although you need not have a specific plan at this point, there are several items of preparation for consideration. Does the selected show contain enough of your target market? Has the show host had other similar or past events? Is their reputation a sound one? How large is the venue? Is the location right? How many booth spaces are there? What other companies are entered in the show? Are any of your competitors attending? Do you have a map or layout of the show? Do you have a trade show exhibit booth location strategy in mind? Can you justify the investment of time and money in exchange for your expected/projected return? In your company, which of your staff members could be involved? What roles might they play in planning and execution? Are you considering doing any pre-marketing in advance of the show? Do you need to speak with a trade show consultant to help prepare?
3. Goals Exploration It is a solid idea to explore and record your goals and objectives over a series of days, or even weeks. This should be a workshop, not a quick list invented in one session. What and who are your exact targets? Based upon expected traffic volumes at the show, how many prospects can you gather? How many new/potential clients or customers? How many direct sales? How many new contacts? Because you have only 3 seconds to attract people to your display, what is the message that your display will convey? How will that message be conveyed? Do you have an idea for your graphics? How large of a display booth space do you need? If a space is already selected, how can you maximize the impact of your booth location? What sorts of other displays will be in proximity of your display? Based upon your expected return from the event, what is your budget guideline for the actual display and the display accessories that add fullness to the booth? Do you need banners, counters, kiosks, lighting, and flooring? Remember there are no 2nd chances to get it right. Are you going to give away freebies? Will you do a raffle? Will you give away marketing collateral? What are the essential and extraneous materials you will need for the show? Which people will man the booth during the show? What training will you do with your selected staff? Will you do role playing and sales training? Do your goals include estimated schedules for everything? How long will it take to set up and take down your display? Do you have enough people? Try to imagine as many aspects as of planning as you can with regard to setting goals.
4. The Master Action Plan Once your motives are decided, and the preparation and goal setting have been started, it is now time to start writing down the master plan and fine-tuning the overall picture. Have you made use of planning resources or trade show experts? Do you have your goal-setting materials ready to assemble into a plan? Are your key players involved in writing the master plan? Are adequate meetings scheduled to discuss and write the overall plan? As far as you can see, are all your bases covered? Have you re-visited the master plan a few times to scrutinize and edit?
5. Consistent Action As we all know, nothing happens without action. But it is consistent action that makes all action effective forward momentum is what it takes for success. Break down the master plan into small pieces. Your Master Action Plan is your MAP, and your mini-plans or smaller tasks are your Consistent Action Plans (CAPS). Use your MAP and CAPS. Delegate as often as possible so that nobody is overwhelmed. Task-out everyone involved. Work by a set schedule (with accountability) for each person. Know your deadlines. Keep everyone on track, including your vendors and support people. Avoid stalling the project for any length of time.
6. Flexibility The glue that holds any good plan together is flexibility. Make nothing written in stone . In other words, view all pieces of the trade show project as flexible. Allow for the human element of all plans. Roll with the punches on setbacks Continually revise and reconstruct as necessary Listen to ideas, comments, and other feedback
Of course there are many ways to go about nearly anything we do. The above 6 steps are merely some (incomplete) suggestions to add structure and planning to your trade show exhibit project. Please feel free to reinvent and revise any or all of these suggestions. The hope is that you will find this helpful, overall.