Companies in the wholesale distribution business attend tradeshows to generate leads, learn what is happening in their industries, gain brand recognition, and sell products. Without a strong trade show marketing strategy, however, the success of these efforts is not guaranteed.

So how can companies improve their trade show marketing strategies to ensure success? Here are some of the best practices you should consider when developing your winning strategy.

7 Best Practices for Your Trade Show Marketing Strategy

1) Decide on your why.

Marketing guru Simon Sinek says that the biggest question that every company needs to answer in order to be successful is: Why are we doing what we’re doing? According to Sinek, your “Why?” is all about your purpose, and purpose determines everything else. The answer to your company’s “why?” should drive every other decision you make.

Sinek’s model for decision-making recommends that companies start with asking why they do what they do, answer questions about how they will do it, and then determine what it is that they will do. Working outwards, start with the general purpose of your actions or decisions, and then work towards the specifics that will help you achieve those goals.

Adopting this model for tradeshow planning, you might come up with the following:

  • WHY do we attend tradeshows? To gather leads that will eventually help us sell more widgets to customers in the gadget industry.
  • HOW will we gather those leads and convert them into paying customers? By gathering email addresses for potential buyers in the gadget industry that we can then follow up with and market to via email or other means.
  • WHAT is our plan? What specifically are we doing? We are attending tradeshows directed at the gadget industry. We will offer a giveaway to entice prospects to leave their business card or give us their email address. We will follow up with those leads with an email campaign, and then follow up by phone if they reach a certain level of engagement.

This is just one simple example. Your “Why?” may be something totally different, but using this process will help to ensure that your tradeshow strategy and associated tactics and goals make sense in the context of why you are attending in the first place. Just be sure to involve all of your stakeholders, to ensure that everyone agrees on the goals for your tradeshow presence.

2) Set up appointments in advance.

Tradeshows aren’t just about gathering new leads. They can be a great opportunity to keep in touch with customers or meet with people who can be influential for your business. To ensure your trade show investment will be as effective as possible, establish meetings ahead of time. Doing this during low traffic times can be a great way to make sure that your time is spent wisely.

3) Establish a clear call to action.

In order to track your success, you need a clear call to action and a metric that will help you determine whether your efforts are successful. These tactics are often focused on lead generation, and they can be easily tracked. Here are a few examples:

  1. Set up a landing page on your website that you will promote in your booth. Encourage people to visit and download information.
  2. Run a contest in the booth, and encourage attendees to enter to win.
  3. Create a hashtag for use on social media and encourage people to use it.

4) Put the right people in the booth.

If lead generation is your “WHY,” consider putting a marketing person in the booth, in addition to customer service or salespeople. Keep in mind that the priorities and skillsets of salespeople (cultivating prospects and converting them to customers), and those of marketing people (generating leads) are often quite different. Having multiple skillsets available allows you to better manage your booth traffic. Marketing people can focus on gathering leads, customer service or salespeople can focus on qualifying prospects, and salespeople can work with customers who are ready to buy.

5) Follow up promptly.

Strike while the iron is hot. The sooner you are able to follow up with leads after a show, the better. This ensures that they still remember you, and are likely to respond more favorably to your follow-up offer. Many companies do this by uploading customer lists to the home office at the end of each day and sending a follow up email to thank visitors for stopping by. If same-day follow up isn’t possible, then be sure to follow up within 5 days.

6) Limit giveaways.

Limit giveaways to those who give you their contact information. In other words, try to avoid giving marketing collateral to unqualified leads. More generally, it’s important to quickly qualify any attendees coming into your booth, so you can spend your time wisely.

7) Do a Post-Mortem.

At the end of the show, go over the show results with the entire team. What worked well, what didn’t, and what should be done differently next time? Will you attend again in the future? Document this information, and use it when creating your tradeshow strategies for next year.

What trade show marketing strategies have brought you success? We want to hear about them in the comments below.