Trade Show Marketing: 18 Questions to Ask Before You Go

Trade shows and industry conferences can be valuable settings for marketing your company's products and services. They are places where your customers and prospects come together. They also provide a venue for networking with industry counterparts.

However, trade shows can be expensive mistakes if you don't prepare to make the most of the opportunities.

Here are 18 questions to ask to help ensure you make a trade show experience (and expense) worthwhile:

  1. Is the trade show an event that will attract the kind of customers you want?
  2. Will the event be held in a desirable location that will attract the type of customers you sell to?
  3. Will the agenda draw people in and keep them interested? Are the sessions, workshops, receptions, speakers, etc. relevant?
  4. Is there a discount for signing up early?
  5. Are there opportunities to be a speaker at the event? What are the benefits?
  6. Should you invest in being a sponsor? What are the pros and cons? Depending on the event, you may be able to sponsor a keycard, lunch, golf outing, etc.
  7. Will you need to rent any equipment or services? How difficult will it be to transport or ship your booth to the location?
  8. Will a list of attendees be available before the show? If so, consider mailing or emailing the attendees to let them know you will be there. Take a look at the list and see who you would like to meet up with at the event. Set up appointments prior to the conference to take place at the event.
  9. Is the welcome reception all about fun and food or will there be business opportunities?
  10. Does your booth or exhibit provide a compelling reason to stop by? You want to stand apart from other exhibitors. Keep the text and graphics easy to read. Don't try to cram too much information into a small space.
  11. Will you offer low-cost freebies with your logo on them or hold a drawing for a larger item, such as a tablet computer?
  12. Do you have adequate marketing materials for those attending? Some companies have a simple brochure for all attendees and a more extensive packet for prospects that show serious interest. (Keep in mind that many people attending trade shows may gather material from many exhibitors and then throw much of it out.)
  13. Will all of the employees staffing your booth or exhibit be wearing shirts with your logo on them? You want to create a cohesive image and make it clear who prospects can go to with questions.
  14. Will your booth or exhibit have some kind of special attraction? For example, some companies rent a promotion prize wheel that attendees spin for the chance to win a prize. Free food can also be a popular enticement.
  15. Will you be able to keep your booth or exhibit staffed at all times? You may want employees to work in shifts so they can attend some of the sessions themselves and mingle with other attendees.
  16. Can you ask other vendors to introduce you to target prospects if you aren't familiar with them?
  17. Do you have a system for collecting contact information from prospects? This might be done by collecting business cards, filling out a form or gathering information on a computer.
  18. Do you have a plan for following up with attendees after the show? Contact should be made with prospects by phone, email or regular mail as soon as possible. (Of course, you should give them time to get settled back in their offices and caught up.) You should also add them to your marketing database.

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