How to Milk a Trade Show
Two things make or break your trade
show success more than any other factors. They are universal and
inexpensive yet have the most amazing impact on your success – or lack of it.
you are considering exhibiting at a trade show you invariably open a Pandora’s Box of sure-fire success
strategies from no end of persuasive people. Some examples…
The Show Organiser’s
sales people are emphatic that you HAVE to book NOW to get a great spot. Big is better and a corner stand is
a must as they usually have a price loading.
Stand builders vie for
your dollar to make you the most memorable stand to magically entice fat-walleted buyers to clamour for your
Noisy people such as
demonstrators and clowns are quite sure that you need THEM to draw a crowd – YOUR target market to a man and
Advertisers assure you
that you’ll fail miserably unless you advertise in the Show Feature – and that you HAVE to keep that
advertisement going at least four times for that essential “recognition”.
there is some truth in all (well, some) of this, the greatest truth is that it WILL devour budget and time in
seriously large slabs. When results cannot be perceived, well – you
got BRANDING - which is often very hard to measure.
first and most critical “thing” is to set appropriate Objectives. But hold on - doesn’t everyone?
all! Studies show that only around 45% of exhibitors actually HAVE appropriate Objectives. Perhaps even more
interesting is that of those that do, 25% will ignore them when on the show floor. It’s hard NOT to forget your
Objectives in the mind-numbing hum and bustle of the show as streams of people pass your stand.
Objectives are the key to every part of your trade show experience. They determine which show(s) you participate
in. They may determine the location of your stand, your stand message and activities, collateral (brochures,
samples and giveaways), lead collection and post-show activities. They determine your pre-show promotions and
will likely determine your staffing needs and focus too. In short
your Objectives are central to everything you do.
right at the beginning know exactly what you seek to achieve – and then focus everything you do on those
Objectives can easily change from show to show. For any given show it is critical to write them down and
constantly remind yourself and your Team exactly what you’re there for.
more Objectives you have the harder it is to stick with them so limit your number of “active” Objectives.
Objectives are things that your Team must actively focus on while on the stand. Gathering leads or selling a
particular product are examples. You can have more active Objectives by allocating them to different staff but
DO keep a lid on them!
are also passive Objectives. An example of a passive Objective is branding. These are reflected by your stand,
sponsorships and the like and don’t have to be focus for staff – but they DO in your planning and
Objectives must be…
“We will sell our new striped milk”. “We will collect leads”. (What leads? Resellers,
distributors, consumers?). “We will strengthen our brand” These are examples of specific Objectives and need
to be written down and shared with your Team.
Place numbers on your Objectives. How MUCH striped milk will you sell? Or maybe how MANY new
Customers will you sign up? How MANY leads will you collect, perhaps broken down into Target Markets such as
resellers, distributors, consumers. How MUCH will you strengthen your brand and how will you quantify that?
Now THERE is a great subject for another day…
Ensure that you goals are realistic – not so high that your Team don’t even try to reach them.
And not too low either – as that is wasteful. Break them down into sensible “bites” such as leads per hour,
dollar or unit sales per period (hour, day). Remember to take into account the flow of the show as almost all
shows have peaks and lows and communicate this to your Team.
Exactly who is responsible for achieving your Objectives? Each Team Member must have
individual targets appropriate to them – and someone (you?) must be ultimately responsible for your specific,
measurable and realistic success.
truly amazing easy it is to plan and implement your trade shows - and how much more effective every show you
ever do is - when you take a little time to follow these really simple rules. It costs nothing except that little donation of time – which you will recover
many times over!
Team will greatly appreciate your – and their- direction and focus – and their individual successes
few shows you’ll have an easy template to help you with shows anywhere – but DO reflect that your Objectives
will almost certainly be different at every show you do.
Finish What You Start
One of the most neglected – yet profitable - areas of
exhibiting at Trade Shows is post-show conclusion.
They say that the job’s not done until the paperwork is complete and it would be hard to find
an more perfect example of this fact than at trade shows.
A staggering 80% of leads are never ever followed up after a trade show. In fact the generally
accepted number is slightly more – 83%. What does that say to enthusiastic buyers waiting for contact? How
important and valued would you think they feel? Not very!
The reason for this strange situation comes down to planning. If yours is a small organisation
and your show Team also have to follow up the leads, how realistic is that? Once back at the office there are
accumulated emails, telephone calls, paperwork and the like – all screaming for attention.
So what is attended to first? That needs to be planned and
accommodated so setting the rules BEFORE the show is imperative.
It may be easier in larger organisations in that leads may go to telemarketing teams. But in
reality the same people that were on the stand frequently need to be involved while they too have much
“catch-up” to do.
Here’s a simple suggested solution. Add “show time” to the end of the show. For example, if
the show was for three days, add another three days (or whatever number if appropriate) after the show and in
that time ONLY work on show work, especially following up leads.
Even if you don’t seemingly HAVE formal leads to follow up (that is not always an Objective)
you almost certainly met important industry contacts that you need to follow through on. Do it quickly –
strike while the iron is smoking HOT!
There is a HUGE upside to this too. The statistics are on YOUR SIDE in that your competitors
statistically will fail in this critical area – or follow up so late that they should be pink-faced with
embarrassment. Of course that’s not guaranteed – they may be quick too (especially if they are reading this
article). So when YOU follow up and THEY don’t, how good do you look?
Go back over your Objectives – how did you go? This is immensely valuable information for the
next time you exhibit creating benchmarks and controls that you will strive to beat at every show. Create
your own statistics to make future planning and implementation MUCH more accurate.
How many samples did you give away? What sales did that yield? How many people came to your
stand as a result of your promotions? What WERE those promotions? What went right? What went wrong? Were
there unexpected costs? Did buyers “get” your message? What did the press say about the show? What did fellow
exhibitors say? How do YOU and your Team feel about it? What opportunities did you see that you could adopt
What competition was there? What was NOT there? What does that tell you? What were they doing?
Does this give you any hint of their plans? You can do the same for “complementary companies” too. You make
bread – they make butter. Can you spot synergies that you might home in on?
Go back and look at the show’s stated demographics – who they said would be there. Did that
seem to be reflected in your experience? Why was that? Did they promote as they said they would? Did they
draw YOUR Target Market?
There are a plethora of questions to be asked and answered – some objective, some subjective –
all important. The passage of time WILL dull your memory and
beside, don’t YOU want to progress and leave a great planning legacy to whoever replaces you as you rise to
The End Is the Beginning
The end of the show is really the beginning of the next one. Did you miss out on some
opportunity because you booked too late? Now’s your chance for next time! Can you snare that coveted
“speaking slot” for the next show?
What design changes did you note for your stand? It helps greatly when you can SEE things for
real rather than need to imagine or work with a drawing. You just completed the show so what did you decide
that you needed to improve? Start work on that NOW! Write it down. Sketch the design. Commit to
paper. Sure – you have a LOT to catch up on but this will take
moments and be a wonderful basis as soon as you can get to it.
Your participation in trade shows everywhere can be vastly improved simply by taking care of
the “ends” of the show. Planning and Mop-up. Neither cost almost
anything either in monetary or time terms yet that tiny investment and simple, careful planning easily make
or break your show.
On the basis that the end of the show is the beginning of the next these invaluable yet mostly
overlooked tools totally complement each other – and hold your entire show framework together.
Now – what will YOU be doing on the plane as you fly home from your next trade
Colin Green is a Certified Trade Show Marketer (CTSM – www.ctsm.com) who trains exhibitors across Australia and New Zealand to excel when exhibiting across the
nations or across the world.
He has written
ebooks on exhibiting and has authored an exhibiting DVD – available at
Colin is the owner and Managing Director of Best of Show and lives in Sydney. You can contact
Colin via the Contact Us Page
Copyright 2010 Best
of Show P/L, Sydney, Australia