Did you know that the world's first trade show was called The Great Exhibition and made its debut in England in 1851? Queen Victoria hosted this event to show off new products from around the world, including moving machines, microscopes, and surgical equipment. There were more than 100,000 exhibits and about 6 million visitors. Talk about exposure for a new product launch!
Today, trade shows are making a comeback after taking a hit during the pandemic. Experts predict most trade show markets, including the USA, will reach two-thirds of 2019 revenue by the first half of 2023. Despite the downturn in attendance due to COVID, surveys show that trade shows are still a lucrative marketing strategy for building a brand through awareness and sales. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research reports that 82% of trade show attendees can purchase for their company. Also, another survey shows that 77% of executives who attend trade shows contract with at least one new vendor at the event.
If you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to place your brand in front of these influential prospects, now is the time to plan for your company’s 2023 trade show participation. But where to start? Here’s a checklist.
Plan Your Trade Show Strategy
Start by setting your goals and KPIs for the trade show. Why are you attending this particular event? Is it for lead generation, direct sales, or launching a new product? Building brand awareness? Addressing new competition? Decide how you will know if you've accomplished these objectives. These decisions will dictate your strategy for the event. For example, if you are prospecting for new customers, your strategy could include offering a show discount or free trial of your product at your booth. If your objective is thought leadership, you may want to offer your services as a speaker or PR source for the event. Having clear and measurable objectives before you start planning will make the job easier and the event more successful.
Planning should also include setting a budget for exhibit space, booth structure, marketing, and contents, promotional items, staffing, travel, accommodations, sponsorships and marketing opportunities, shipping, and other expenses. Be generous in your budgeting to cover unplanned or unknown expenses, especially if this is a new trade show for you and your company.
Create Your Trade Show Campaign
Your trade show campaign is the marketing strategy you build to meet your goals and objectives. The campaign will include everything attendees see and experience about your brand at the show. Your booth is your primary marketing tactic for the campaign. But most trade shows offer opportunities to promote your brand in other ways. For example, you may be able to purchase banners or signage in the venue, sponsor a keynote or panel discussion at which you can promote your brand, or sponsor a meal. You can give away branded items in your booth or print your logo on a swag bag. You can do your own promotion via social media, direct mail, email, or PR. All of these activities should be a part of your overall trade show marketing campaign and reflect your goals.
Phase 3 worked with OneDigital on their brand takeover of the Hilton Atlanta Downtown during Summit22, an annual conference of more than 1,200 employees and partners. Although not a trade show per se, you can see how Phase 3 provided a fully immersive marketing campaign at an event that left a lasting, positive brand image in attendees' minds, even after the event was over. You can do something similar at an upcoming trade show.
Building or Refreshing Your Booth
74% of trade show attendees say that when they interact with exhibitors, they become more likely to buy from them. So, your exhibit booth is critical. It is the primary place attendees will experience your products and services, ask questions, find product information, interact with your salespeople, and hopefully become engaged with your brand. As always, everything that happens in your booth should support one of the objectives you set. For example, if your goal is to generate sales or leads, create an area in your booth where attendees can try your product. Or include a seating area to have one-on-one conversations with existing customers to address their product questions or concerns and to build deeper relationships.
Foot traffic is critical to the success of your booth. If you've exhibited at trade shows before, review the results from the last events and tweak your booth marketing strategy. Brainstorm new ideas to grab attention and draw people into your booth. Perhaps an overhead sign or a standalone banner placed outside your booth would be eye-catching? Also, don't forget to update your branding to reflect your current visual identity and messaging.
Our event team has experience creating, designing, building, and installing unique brand experiences for trade show exhibits of all sizes. We can help you increase that critical foot traffic to your booth and meet your overall visitor engagement goals.
Promotional Items for Guests
To be competitive, handing out branded promotional items is almost a necessity at a trade show. But it's very often worth it. Event Marketing reports that 30% of attendees say they will use or wear the promotional item they picked up at a trade show. Better yet, 80% of people can recall the messaging after receiving a branded item. Unaided brand recall can be critical to becoming a leader in your sector.
Because promotional items are so successful, competition is brutal for finding good items to give away. While hand sanitizer, pens, and notebooks are useful, many exhibitors give those out. Also, the best promotional products do more than just promote a brand's name on an everyday item. They say something about that brand that is unique. So what can you give out that is both memorable and useful?
At the promotional industry’s summer trade show, the most popular new promotional items are:
- Sustainably sourced and produced items like t-shirts made from recycled materials
- High-value items like Bluetooth speakers
- Drinkware as a lifestyle accessory, like the Yeti
- Casual apparel that is not so "businessy," like flannels
Our promotional products team will work with you to find the perfect item that delivers your brand message clearly and effectively. You can check this important task off your trade show planning checklist.
Event Marketing and Media
Just showing up for a trade show will not get you the desired results. To succeed, you need to let your prospects and target audiences know you will be there. 75% of event attendees have already decided which booths they will visit before they get there. How do you make sure you are on their must-see list?
Our marketing experts can create a standalone brand activation or event that elevates your trade show exhibit and sets you apart outside the expo floor. But no good marketing strategy occurs over one day. Your marketing should start well before the event, continue at the event, and then be used as follow-up after the event. Elevate your event marketing campaign to include email, social media, web landing pages, direct mail, phone calls, press conferences, media stunts, or event sponsorships. The Phase 3 team will help you develop an integrated and strategic approach to your event marketing. We have the experience and strategies to keep your brand in front of attendees' minds and a full-circle view that involves pre-event planning and post-event follow-up.
Trade shows are back. As they say in show biz, the show must go on. If you plan to participate in the 2023 trade show season, now is the time to start making your plans. Phase 3 event experts have built exceptional experiences for brands of all sizes, creating leads, sales, brand equity, and valuable earned media for our clients. Contact us today to get started on your trade show planning.