Volume 16, Issue 6 - August/September 2015


Trade Show ROI
Prepare, Execute, Follow Up
by Rosalie Leone

Trade shows have stood the test of time, and they are still a primary event for doing business.

They’re cost-effective and make good business sense for industry trade professionals to gather in one place, at one time, and reconnect with their peers while viewing new products and enhancing business relationships.

To ensure a return on investment at a trade show, there are three simple rules; 1) be prepared prior to the show; 2) execute your plan during the show; and 3) most importantly, follow up with customers after the show— leave a lasting impression.

Do Your Homework

The decision to attend, or exhibit, will be up to your needs and goals. To ensure your return on investment (ROI), be prepared prior to attending a show. When making your decision about which trade show to attend, do your homework. Find the one that is focused on your business. Determine if key decision makers are attending the show and whether industry professionals and major manufacturers are supporting it. Is the official program balanced to present numerous events to meet those key decision makers? In other words, don’t limit yourself to the exhibit hall. Find out if social events, business meetings, focus groups and educations sessions present opportunities to meet potential customers.

Prepare to Execute Your Plan

Now that you’ve decided on the trade show you want to attend, it’s time to set a plan in motion. What do you want to accomplish? In an ideal world, we expect new customers to fall in our lap. However, the reality is that some trade shows can be overwhelming. The biggest pitfall is thinking you will arrive and “wing it.” It’s time to plan ahead.

• Make a target list of those you would like to meet. Do your research prior to show—map out not only a plan of which exhibit booths to visit, but also what products and services would benefit your business.

• Visit the trade show website to get an overview of the program so you can prepare your own agenda. Many times there are optional social events—invite a customer as your guest.

• Set up appointments and dinners with customers and potential customers ahead of time.

• Someone you want to meet? Haven’t been able to make the connection? Ask people in the organization to introduce you at a scheduled event.

• Register and reserve your hotel room well ahead of time. Many trade shows have affiliated hotels that give attendees special discounts. Find out about the organization and if membership is a fit for your company. Organizations offer savings to members. Plus, staying at the host hotels offers great opportunities for networking.

During the show, take advantage of what’s being offered. Be social! Many business relationships have started with a simple connection at a trade show, whether it was on the exhibition floor, in the host hotel or at an educational presentation.

You’re Home—Now What?

Follow-up is essential. You might have made some positive business connections, but that’s just the beginning. Start by getting all the business cards you received scanned into your handheld device or computer. Reach out immediately, whether by telephone, email or an invite to your social media accounts.

Association trade shows can certainly be beneficial to you and your business with the information you gain and the new connections you make at the show. Finding the right one is important, but being prepared, executing a plan and post-show follow-up provide the ROI for your company.

Rosalie Leone is the chief executive officer of the World Millwork Alliance


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