We’ve all heard the phrase before: fail to plan, plan to fail. There may be no place that rings more true than in the pre-show phase of the trade show development process. Virtually every decision you make in the pre-show phase can (and likely will) impact your trade show budget and influence your event results. To get the most out of your trade show budget, it’s important to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success in the pre-show phase.

Here are our five most important tips:

  • Begin by establishing clear, measurable objectives. At Exhibitpro, we believe that every trade show should begin by establishing realistic objectives. We counsel clients to remember that, when setting objectives, the focus should be on quality, not quantity. Like any other marketing solution, trade shows shouldn’t be relied upon as the sole solution for all your marketing challenges; but, they can solve a few challenges extremely well. In order to maximize your budget and realize the most significant results, work with your teams to identify no more than 3-5 objectives that your trade show should help you accomplish – and then make them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-oriented).
  • Develop a well-rounded, strategic foundation that considers everything from booth design and attendee engagement, to lead retrieval and logistics. By establishing a strategy that incorporates the role and goal of all aspects of your exhibit prior to work start, you’ll not only create a better experience for your attendees, but you’ll have also done all the homework necessary to accomplish effective and efficient decision making as you progress through the process. In the early stages of trade show planning, it’s easy to get caught up in the logistics – what has to happen by when. But, it’s actually more important to remain focused on the big picture – what are we trying to accomplish, how will we do it, and why does it matter. This will guide your design team to more creative and purposeful engagements, realizing higher impact for your investments in the long run.
  • Be present at the right shows. It’s a pretty simple equation: great product + wrong audience ≠ successful results. One of the best ways to maximize your trade show spend – whether you’re new to the industry or a seasoned pro – is by assessing your trade show schedule to make sure you’re exhibiting at the right shows. Ask yourself (and your exhibit partner) tough questions to ensure you’ve got the right show mix. Dig deep into understanding why the selected shows are on the schedule. To have a show on your schedule, it should meet the following criteria: it’s in the right location, has the right mix of prospects and clients, and has the ability to serve as a tool to help accomplish your objectives. The easiest solution is to simply do what you’ve always done; but, to be successful, you must be willing to change your approach based on what’s necessary to deliver on your business and marketing objectives.
  • Create a holistic exhibit experience. To deliver the most successful and efficient event experience, anchor all elements – design, messaging, and engagement – around the single most important message that you want your customers and prospects to take from your booth. Remember, attendees are being inundated with brands, products, and messages from booth-to-booth. In order to stand out, you must be memorable. To best resonate with your attendees, connect your messaging, visuals, and engagements; and focus them on how your product/service will solve challenges. Then, look for a creative way to reinforce that message with an engagement that lets them experience the selling points in real-life. By linking all elements together under the most important message, you’ll not only create a better engagement for attendees, but you’ll deliver a more memorable and unforgettable experience that will lead to better return on your investment.
  • Plan for what you’ll do when you return. When you’re in the midst of planning for the trade show, it’s easy to get caught up in your miles long to-do list and lose sight of why you’re going to the trade show in the first place – to grow business with existing clients and secure new business from prospects. One of the best ways to do that is by having a well-designed lead retrieval plan that begins before the show – and continues long after the doors close. One of the most efficient ways to maximize your total spend is to outline your post-show lead retrieval plan during your pre-show efforts – identify what resources and tools you need to develop to be successful. That way, when you’re back in the office after a few long days on the show floor, you’ll have everything you need to put your plan in motion.

What’s Next in Budget Matters?

Stay tuned for our next Budget Matters feature in September where we take an in-depth look at ways to maximize the at-show phase of the trade show process.

Something specific you want us to cover? EMAIL us or share with us on our social media pages — FACEBOOK and @THEEXHIBITPRO – using #GiveMeTheExhibitingEdge.

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