Manufacturers and distributors with a presence at trade shows often face the challenge of determining which trade show solutions they need for success. Exhibiting at trade shows is a complicated proposition, one that requires brands to perform a variety of tasks, such as event planning, lead gathering and capture, and closing sales.

Because there are many aspects to being successful at trade shows, there are a variety of trade show solutions that companies may need to leverage for success. In this post we’ll discuss the trade show solutions that your business should consider.

Top 3 Trade Show Solutions Your Brand Can’t Live Without

1. Trade Show Solutions for Event Planning

Much of your company’s success at a trade show will be a result of the work that went into planning for it. Choosing the right shows, putting the elements in place to create a successful presence at those shows, and then measuring results are challenging and complex tasks.

For years, many marketing managers have carried out all these tasks using cobbled-together solutions that relied on the creation of multiple spreadsheets. The more tech-savvy among them might try to manage their trade show presence with project management tools like Google Calendar, Basecamp, or Asana.

In recent years, however, a small but growing number of trade show solution providers have stepped in to create a more streamlined approach.

Trade show solutions geared toward the exhibitor need to provide functionality in several areas. Calendar and scheduling tools let you coordinate important meetings and appointments during what can be an overwhelming event. Inventory management and asset tracking software guarantee necessary stock and exhibition tools are available when they’re needed. A document management tool is also key to provide the right marketing pieces, collateral, forms, and contracts. And finally, budgeting and reporting tools are also necessary to track trade show costs and measure results.

There are very few “all-in-one” event planning solutions specifically targeted for trade show exhibitors. Most event planning software is geared more towards producers of tradeshows and events. However, one trade show solution provider that offers an all-in-one application to handle the logistics and planning involved in exhibiting at trade shows is ShowGo, which offers a mobile app that received ExhibitorOnline’s 2013 Buyer’s Choice Award.

2. Trade Show Solutions for Lead Gathering

The trade show industry has changed over the last decade. Ten years ago, it was common for trade show exhibitors to gather all the business cards they could find; they or an assistant would enter information from those cards into an Excel spreadsheet or database by hand for further follow-up. Sometimes they would use a fishbowl to collect cards, entering those cards into a drawing to receive some kind of prize.

While prizes and giveaways are still a staple of trade show lead capture, sales reps everywhere are grateful that hand-entering contact information off of hundreds of business cards is starting to be a thing of the past. Today, mobile devices allow leads gathered at trade shows to be captured much more efficiently without manual data entry. A variety of lead capture applications, including QuickTap and iCapture, allow booth staff and attendees themselves to enter contact information quickly right on the trade show floor.

Other methods of online lead capture and inbound marketing also make this process much easier and can reduce lines in the booth. Many companies create event-specific landing pages where customers can enter contests and giveaways, entering their own contact information from their own computers or devices. This option allows brands to begin capturing leads even before the trade show doors open, and to continue to capture leads from an event even after the event ends.

3. Trade Show Solutions for Managing Orders

Once you arrive at the trade show, it’s time to start making deals and taking orders. Unlike the event planning side, there are quite a few solution providers that are vying for exhibitors’ business in this areaincluding Handshake.

So how does one decide between all the options available? Think about it in terms of your trade show objectives. Your goal at the trade show is twofold: show off your products, and enter orders. So you need an application that helps you do both of these things well.

Consider the limitations you’ll be dealing with at the trade show. Space is limited, time is short, and your booth staff will be very busy. Sometimes your booth is so crowded that people can’t see what you have to offer. Worse, long lines can deter potential customers from placing orders even if they’re interested in your product.

To mitigate these issues, you need a trade show solution for order management that is quick and easy to use.

It should provide access to a digital catalog, an easy-to-use order writing interface, a place to rapidly enter and access customer contact information, order history, and more. This will enable you to write orders more quickly and reduce wait times and lines at the booth.

You also can’t guarantee that your team will have access to a reliable internet connection, so your trade show solution for order management should be one that works whether you’re on or offline. Unfortunately, many sales order management solutions only function with a reliable internet connection. And if you’re planning to upload orders wirelessly, those wireless data costs can really add up.

A trade show solution with online and offline capabilities is the best way to allow reps to enter orders while keeping data costs to a minimum. Booth staff can enter orders offline and sync once they return to an area (such as a hotel room, business center, or office) that has an internet connection.

Choosing and implementing the right trade show solutions for event planning, lead capture, and order management will contribute to a more profitable trade show. It will allow your booth sales staff to capture more leads and enter more orders in less time, leaving more time to meet with existing and new customers. Finally,it will help you process and fulfill your trade show orders more quickly and accurately when the show is over, making the most of your trade show marketing dollars.