It's the time of year when companies are forming their marketing strategies, and there's never been more competition for marketing dollars. Website investments, mobile strategies, social media, SEO, print, PR, podcasting, blogging, and book-writing are just some of the competing strategies.

81% of trade show attendees have buying authority and purchasing power. Yet surprisingly, 70% of exhibitors set no specific objectives or strategies for their trade show participation. Instead, they wing it.

92% of trade show attendees go to learn about new products; however only 13% of exhibitors introduce their new products or services at trade shows. 

Knowing that the majority of attendees have purchasing power and are looking for something new and exciting, there are steps your company can take, and investments you can make, to ensure your reps capture leads that are ready to sign on the dotted line.

Invest in Prime Real Estate on the Floor.

Grab the best location possible. We have all walked the trade show floors, only to stop and turn around before we get to the last aisles. Invest in a corner booth, a booth near the main entrances, or near the best refreshments. Foot traffic is key at a trade show. 

Invest in a Great Giveaway.

Give people a reason to turn over their card to you. Invest in one or two high end giveaways that set you apart from everyone else, rather than several giveaways that are available everywhere. In addition, give away a small item that everyone can use that will keep you top of mind. Items such as portable chargers, first-aid kits, hand sanitizers, and decent pens are some possibilities. 

Invest in a Strong Marketing Staff.

Staff your booth with a team that really wants to be there - the most outgoing extroverts that can best represent your company. Trade shows are for marketing first, and selling second, so ensure a strong handoff between those that generate leads and those that will follow up to close.

Invest in Pre-Show Marketing.

Spread the word to the right people that you will be at the show. Never assume that your top customers will simply stop by the booth. Extend them personal invitations so that they know they are a top priority. Set up one-on-one meetings with attendees or partners before you get to the show. Include information on your website, include your plan in customer emails or newsletters, and share your attendance plans via social media. 

If your budget allows, arrange for an invite-only event, such as a happy hour or dinner, and provide lots of advance notice and promotion of the exclusive event. 

Invest Your Time and Money in A Strong Follow Up System.

Invest in a system to capture and digitize attendee information immediately. Collecting business cards is great but they are useless if there is no follow-up. Assume your competitors are using a digitized process to capture lead information, and will be setting follow-up appointments while they are still at the show. Assign follow-up to specific trade show workers so no leads fall through the cracks.

Avoid These Mistakes. 

  • Stay off your devices. Be present. 
  • Don't stay chained to your booth - but have back-up. Never leave your booth unattended. 
  • Don't give away anything without capturing attendee information.
  • Don't display a product that isn't market-ready.

Trade shows are great investments for companies that are prepared to invest wisely in their pre-show, show, and post-show marketing. Follow these guidelines and you will enjoy the ROI almost as much as the show!