Trade shows can be a critical means of boosting brand awareness, generating new leads, and meeting with current and potential customers. But you can’t just reserve your space, set up your booth, and hope for the best.
The most successful exhibitors avoid costly event marketing mistakes by carefully vetting each and every trade show they sign up for, strategically designing their booth, and planning their marketing campaign months in advance.
To help you compete, we’ve outlined 18 questions you should ask before exhibiting at a trade show.
Questions to ask the trade show organizers about the event
1. How much does it cost to exhibit at the show?
You’ll need to know exactly how much it costs to rent a space at the event center so you can factor the cost into your overall budget. The average cost of renting space at a trade show or convention is currently about $100 to $150 per square foot. For the 400 frequent exhibitors surveyed by Exhibitor Online, this cost equaled about 35% of their budget.
The amount you’ll pay could be more or less than the industry average depending on the size and popularity of the show. Be sure to ask if there are any discounts for signing up early or for speaking at the event.
2. Are there opportunities to speak at the show?
The thought of speaking at an event can be intimidating, but the results are worth it for those who can muster up the courage. When you speak at a trade show, you get the chance to share your products, services, messaging, and brand with an entire audience of potential leads. The more niche the trade show, the more qualified your audience will be.
Prospects who hear your speech will be more likely to keep your brand top of mind. Once you’ve established that initial connection, they’ll feel compelled to stop by your booth, interact with you, and learn more about what your company can do for them.
There may be other benefits as well, such as free lunches or discounted rental space fees. Plus, you’ll get free advertising from the trade show organizers. Any time they promote your speaking session, they’ll be promoting your brand by proxy.
3. Are there opportunities to become a sponsor of the event?
There are plenty of reasons to consider sponsoring an event. A few of the top reasons include:
Increased brand visibility – Sponsorships give you the opportunity to showcase your brand in front of a larger audience. You may also get increased visibility in the form of free advertisements, radio spots, and social media mentions.
Increased customer engagement – Sponsored events tend to attract high-quality leads. As a sponsor of a niche event, you’ll gain opportunities to engage with interested prospects and buyers one-on-one.
Enhanced reputation – According to a 2016 survey from the Event Marketing Institute, 74% of consumers believe that engaging with branded event marketing experiences makes them more likely to buy the products being promoted. When you sponsor a high-profile event, your prospects will see you as more professional, more reputable, and more reliable.
However, there may be a significant cost investment required on your end. Be sure to gather as many details from the event organizers as you can. Then weigh the pros and cons against your business goals and objectives.
4. Can you provide us with the floor plan from previous years?
Trade show floor plans don’t tend to change much from year to year. If you can get ahold of the floor plans from the last few years, you can be more strategic about your booth location.
5. Will you provide us with a list of attendees before the show?
Snagging a list of trade show attendees before the show means planning exactly who you want to interact with during the event. You can also reach out to attendees by phone, mail, or email to let them know you’ll be in attendance and to share the benefits of stopping by your booth.
You should also consider setting up appointments with interested prospects to take place during the show.
6. How will you help us succeed?
Trade show event organizers want you to keep coming back each year, which means they want to help you succeed.
This help could come in the form of news release templates and other PR-related templates to help you get the word out about your involvement in the show. It could mean opportunities for you to showcase your products and services via workshops and presentations. It could even mean discounted booth space for frequent exhibitors or complimentary trade show tickets for your prospects.
So be sure to ask how your event organizers plan to help you succeed so you can make the most of their knowledge and resources.
Questions to ask yourself about the trade show you plan to attend
7. Is this the best trade show for us?
It’s not enough to have the biggest, flashiest trade show display if you’re exhibiting at the wrong event for your products and business goals. Did you research all relevant trade shows before you chose the one you plan to attend?
Ask yourself the following questions for your chosen trade show. If you don’t like the answers, it may be best to move on to the next one.
Is the trade show well established within our industry?
Has it attracted a decent number of attendees in years past?
Do our competitors attend the show? (If yes, will we be able to set ourselves apart?)
Do we expect our target audience to be in attendance?
Are the sessions, workshops, and speakers relevant?
8. What are our goals for this trade show?
It’s important that each member of your staff know why they’re attending the show in the first place. What is your company hoping to get out of it? How will you know if you’re successful?
A few common goals of trade show exhibitors include:
Showcasing a new product or service
Boosting brand awareness
Generating new leads
Finding new partners and investors
9. Can we expect a solid return on investment (ROI) or return on objectives (ROO) from this trade show?
It’s vital that you consider how you’ll measure the success of your trade show attendance (preferably while you’re still in the planning stages before the show). After all, you’ll want to know if all the time, money, and energy you poured into your campaign was successful and whether you should attend the same show again next year.
Success looks different for every company. Some teams use return on investment (ROI) to track their success. Other companies are more focused on measuring brand exposure through return on objectives (ROO). Objectives could include measurements such as number of booth attendees or number of social media mentions.
No matter what success means for you, make sure you have a way to determine whether or not you’ve hit your goals. That way, you’ll be able to adjust and optimize your strategy for the next trade show.
Questions to ask yourself about your trade show booth
10. What is our budget?
Be strategic about the money you plan to put forth for your trade show exhibition. Know exactly how much you have to spend and allocate different portions of that fund to your various expenses.
12. How can we create a visually appealing booth that showcases our products and brand?
When you attend a trade show, you’ll be competing with companies that have more money, more staff, and a larger customer base. That means you have to be strategic and create a visually appealing booth that captures and keeps attendees’ attention.
Some elements to consider include:
Colorful banners and other signage
If you choose to go the custom route, your trade show exhibit design company will help you develop each of these elements, from the overall concept down to the smallest detail.
13. Where is the best spot for our booth on the trade show floor?
Before you lock in your event rental space, be sure to consider where on the trade show floor is the best spot for your booth. Where will you have the most visibility?
Consider where the high foot traffic areas are, such as front and center or close to a restroom or restaurant. Ask event management which companies have rented the space nearest your preferred spot to make sure your booth doesn’t get swallowed up by those bigger and more elaborate than yours.
Finally, make sure there are no columns or obstructions that could keep attendees from being able to see you.
Questions to ask yourself about your marketing & lead generation tactics
14. What kinds of pre-show marketing tactics should we try?
It’s not enough to set up your trade show display and hope for the best. You need a solid pre-show marketing plan to compete with your booth neighbors and all other exhibitors. After all, 85% of corporate exhibit managers use at least one pre-show marketing tactic.
Some ideas for marketing tactics include:
Emailing existing customers and newsletter subscribers to let them know about your presence at the upcoming show (provide incentives for them to visit your booth, such as product demos, workshops, and giveaways)
Contacting relevant bloggers and trade publications to distribute your press release
Announcing your attendance on social media
15. How will we attract a crowd to our trade show exhibit?
Do you have a plan to host interactive activities at your booth such as touch screens, games, contests, giveaways, surveys, and quizzes? How about an educational workshop or a planned product demonstration?
Trade shows are typically crowded and every booth is competing for attention. While this doesn’t mean you have to have the flashiest trade show display, it does mean you have to be creative and think outside the box.
“You’ll need the right mix of marketing, sales and technical staff at your booth,” she says. “We all spend a fortune on sales training, but everyone forgets that working an exhibition is very different than going out on a typical sales call.”
To ensure your staff is prepared to work your booth, make sure you can answer “Yes” to all of the following questions:
Are all staff members well versed in our products and services?
Are all staff members able to recite their sales pitch or lead generation script from memory?
Are all staff members able to articulate our unique value proposition?
Are all staff members aware of our goals for the show?
Are all staff members aware of our uniform and guidelines for personal appearance?
Are all staff members versed in what we expect of their trade show decorum? (i.e. no personal calls, no sitting down or eating at the booth, etc.)
17. Do we have a system for gathering prospects’ contact information?
You know you want to generate leads, but do you have a system for capturing your prospects’ contact info and organizing it both during and after the show? If the answer is no, be sure to check out these 5 innovative apps for capturing your leads’ information at your next trade show.
18. Do we have an established workflow for following up with new leads after the show?
Make sure you have a system for prioritizing new leads and reaching out to prospects as soon as possible. The quicker you reach out, the fresher your brand will still be in their mind.
You can ask yourself the following questions about your lead workflow:
Do we have a trade show follow-up email template?
Do we know how soon after the event we plan to follow up with leads?
Do we have a plan for immediately following up with hot leads?
Do we have a plan for following up with leads who didn’t open the first follow-up email (and those who opened but didn’t click)?
Do we have a plan for social retargeting ads for those leads that didn’t convert?