Trade Show Tips: Increase Event ROI with Effective Preparation and Follow-up

It’s trade show season and many of you will be making the most of the opportunity to showcase your products or services, reconnect with colleagues, and make new connections. As exhilarating as the experience may be, if you’re a seasoned exhibitor, you know how much work and preparation goes into it. The more you plan ahead, the better chances you’ll give yourself to make the most of the event – while you’re there and also when you return to work. So how can you get the best ROI from your next trade show and maximise your presence before, during, and after? Read on for my trade show tips.

Before and during your next trade show

Create the ‘right’ experience for your goals 

  • Be clear on your goals. What are the main reasons for you exhibiting at the show? Are you trying to expand your network by connecting with potential customers, suppliers, distributors, or partners? Or is your main objective to increase your brand visibility in your industry? Whatever your goals, if you want to make the right impression and be noticed by relevant people, you’ll want to create a memorable presence to enhance your reputation and raise brand recognition.
  • Research your audience. Start with some research into your target audience. Who’s going to be attending the trade show? What type of information will they be looking for? And how can you best tailor the booth design and messaging to appeal to them? One of the main advantages of being at a show is that you get to showcase your latest products, services, and innovations to a highly-targeted and primed audience. People are interested in being there and genuinely want to see what’s new. So don’t miss the opportunity to demonstrate your company’s strengths, your competitive advantage, or your products’ unique features and benefits.

If you’d like to dive deeper into this topic, here’s an article by life sciences marketer Joachim Eeckhout all about how to unleash your booth mojo.

Prepare your marketing material – physical and digital

Before the show, make sure you have all your marketing material in place. Here are a few things for you to consider:

  • Physical marketing material. Do you have all the banners, business cards, leaflets, flyers, brochures, and samples that you’re going to need? Check lead times for producing (and translating) marketing materials to ensure you have everything ready with plenty of time to spare. Also, make sure your branding and design are consistent throughout. Are you using attractive graphics, clear signage, and appealing colours that capture people’s attention and showcase the brand effectively?
  • Digital marketing material. In a world that’s increasingly more digital and connected through various platforms, you may think about polishing your website or increasing your social media presence. For example, is the information and copy on your website up-to-date? Do you have social media accounts that you can direct your new leads to? And is the branding consistent? Do you have an active email list and a way to keep in touch with your contacts regularly?
  • Embrace technology. Think outside the box and use the technology you have available to you to create an engaging and memorable experience for anyone visiting your booth at the event. Perhaps you could set up a giveaway as a fun way to collect email addresses. Instead of gathering information with pen and paper, you could use a tablet and send your prospects straight to a dedicated sales or landing page where they can enter their email addresses. If applicable to your brand, you could even incorporate interactive displays and product demos.
A top trade show tip for your stand is to create an interactive display. This example shows different hop varieties.
Interactive displays attract the most visitors

Don’t forget pre-show marketing activities

  • Reach out to your contacts in advance. Making the most of your trade show presence also means letting everyone know about the fact you’re going to be there! You have a great opportunity to gain valuable feedback and insight, better understand current market trends, identify customer preferences, and gain valuable knowledge to help refine your strategies. So don’t waste it! Reach out to existing customers, suppliers, partners, and other industry professionals in advance. Tell them where you’ll be and personally invite them to come and visit your booth. You could even take the opportunity to schedule some meetings while you’re at the expo.
  • Brush up your social media presence. If you have active business social media accounts, now’s the time to use them! Create content to build anticipation and generate a buzz. After all, a busy booth will also attract more people on the day. And this is an easy way to maximise your chances of generating valuable leads for future business opportunities.

On the day, make the most of it!

  • Run demos and workshops. If applicable to your business, you could run educational sessions, workshops, or live demonstrations on the day. This is a fun and entertaining way to help you stand out from the crowd and position your brand as an industry leader. Sharing knowledge and expertise will help you establish credibility and gain the trust of the people attending. So offer valuable insights and practical tips. Make it engaging and informative for the people who are interested in your field. Doing this will act as a natural icebreaker for initiating those important conversations and building connections with the international audience you’ve come to connect with.

Of course, this may also require additional training and preparation. After all, you’ll want to ensure you have the right staff on the day to effectively communicate your values and proposition. You’ll want someone who’s knowledgeable, approachable, and enthusiastic. And that might mean you need extra training material for your staff and perhaps even handouts for your audience. So have those in your back pocket!

  • Network, network, network. During the show, bring the energy! You’ve invested plenty of time and resources to be at the event, so actively engage with your visitors. Initiate conversations, and always collect contact information to follow up with potential leads. If you play your cards right, these could turn into valuable business opportunities.

Tips for after the trade show

Even after the most successful trade show, you’ll probably return to the office feeling relieved it’s all over (until next time) and utterly exhausted. But the work isn’t over – you knew that, right? Now’s the perfect time to follow up with everyone and make sure you maximise all those fantastic opportunities that you cleverly engineered at the expo. Here are some strategies for you to mull over.

Welcome new contacts into your world

Your trade show experience probably felt like a whirlwind of conversations and business card exchanges – physical and virtual. How do you keep track of all those interactions?

  • Follow up. First thing first, get back to all your contacts while you still remember how and when you met them, and what you talked about. The longer you leave it, the more it’ll all feel like a blurry haze. Following up is key, so make sure that (where appropriate) you send personalised emails or even arrange phone or video calls with any of the leads and potential contacts you met at the show. This is great for nurturing those new, budding relationships and initiating further discussions.
  • Send a welcome sequence via email. My tip here is to gather all your new connections in one place and implement a short email welcome series. Reaching out to your new contacts in this way will serve as a refresher of the conversation, introduce your new contacts to your business, and put you front of mind. What will you cover in your email? Tell them what they need to know about you. For example:
    • What are the most important aspects of your company?
    • What’s the broader range of services you offer?
    • How can you help them, or (if you’re looking for contacts or connections) how can they help you?

By the time you get to have a more in-depth sales conversation, your client will be better informed and familiar with your products and services so you can dive straight into business. And if you’re new to newsletters, don’t let this stop you! You could even create a customisable template that you can tweak and reuse after each show. It’ll save you a considerable amount of time while still allowing you to share relevant and up-to-date information.

Running in beautiful scenery rather than on a treadmill to represent making the most of marketing opportunities
Make the most of every (marketing) opportunity

Keep in touch with your new and current clients 

A newsletter is an excellent channel to keep in touch, be front-of-mind, and provide value to your audience. It’s also the perfect place for you to send news and upcoming opportunities for collaboration. If you don’t have one already (or would like to re-vamp your existing one), this is what you could use it for:

  • Help your new contacts get to know you and your team. Did you send a welcome sequence to your new contacts? Great! Now don’t stop there. You can send out regular emails to familiarise new and existing contacts with your team, company culture, aims, and core beliefs. Share success stories, case studies, and insights that showcase your expertise and the value you provide.
  • Strengthen engagement with your existing contacts. Keep your regular clients informed about your services and go the extra mile by offering in-depth insights into your business. Provide valuable information and actionable tips related to industry trends, upcoming opportunities, and collaboration possibilities. This reminds your clients of who you are as a company and positions you as a thought leader within your industry.
  • Launch new products and gain market feedback. Leverage your newsletter as a platform to announce new products or services. Encourage your audience to provide their feedback and opinions, making them feel involved in your business decisions. This generates engagement, builds trust, and can help you refine your offerings to align with customer preferences.

Optimise your show for greater efficiency and long-term impact

Expanding your reach beyond the confines of trade shows and other local or international events is essential for attracting a broader audience and potential clients. I strongly recommend finding ways to optimise your online presence and producing regular content. This allows you to establish a powerful inbound marketing strategy that works across time zones, even while you sleep!

A newsletter isn’t the only way to do this, so here are some more ideas on how you can achieve this:

  • Enhance SEO opportunities through regular content. Consistently publishing valuable content on your website helps improve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). In other words, by incorporating relevant keywords and topics into your articles, blog posts, and even podcasts, you increase the likelihood of people finding you on the Internet. And that translates to attracting more potential leads. The goal is to engage your audience consistently. Provide them with valuable and relevant information that reinforces your brand and builds lasting connections. International clients you met at the show are more likely to remain connected with your business online, so make yourself visible!
  • Repurpose content for multilingual audiences. Don’t let language barriers hinder your global reach. If you have a podcast or video content in German, consider using freely available software to generate transcriptions that can then be translated into English. Or simply by adding great-quality English subtitles to a German video or repurposing audio content into written articles, you can cater to an international audience.
  • Leverage external publications and journals. If you have publications featured in journals that you can’t republish on your own site, don’t waste the opportunity to leverage this content. You can share content about these publications or provide summaries in English, linking them to the original source in German. Even better, if you want to capitalise on building credibility and visibility, get the content translated into English. Don’t lose all that gold!

Measure and evaluate

And last but not least, before the next show, assess the success of your experience by analysing any key metrics. For example, what were your lead conversions like? Did you gather visitor feedback? What did attendees at the expo think about your booth? What’s your overall return on investment (ROI) from the event? And what changes can you make going forward to make the experience worth your while? Once you have a good idea about how this show worked for you, you can make informed decisions for your next exhibition.

Would you like my help with your next trade show?

Trade shows and exhibitions can be overwhelming. But with the right preparation and follow-up strategies, you can maximise your networking opportunities, increase your ROI, and transform the connections made into fruitful long-term relationships. By regularly embracing these trade show tips, you’ll see your event experience become a key driver of growth and success in your business.

But it’s a lot of work to do on your own, especially if you need your marketing material (physical and digital) translated into English. Perhaps you changed your website copy, and now it needs to be translated. Maybe you put together additional resources (product brochures or flyers) or training material and presentations. And now you want an English version too. You may even need help with translating your welcome sequence, your newsletter or blog posts, or re-purposing your podcast episodes into articles.

If you would like any support before or after your next trade show, I’d be happy to create a bespoke Tradeshow Package to cover your translation needs and take some of the pressure off you. If you’d like to discuss a specific situation and how we can optimise your set-up for an international audience, please email [email protected].

Good luck with your next event. Here’s wishing you lots of fruitful conversations!