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Fooddude Tradeshow Checklist

You've made the decision. You've made the investment. You're going to exhibit your food products at one of the industry trade shows. Now what?

Getting the most out of your trade show investment involves a lot more than just showing up with a booth. Attending a trade show can be quite expensive—not just in the out-of-pocket expenses, but also in time away from the office. The good news is that with a little planning, having a great show can be as easy as 1 – 2 – 3!

1. Before the Show

a.  File contracts and make travel plans early for maximum savings - Your show package will list available show properties that offer special discounts and amenities. There is usually an official show travel agency that can help with booking flights or ground transportation. Like any business travel, though, the longer you wait, the higher the premium you're likely to pay.

b.  Plan a pre-show mailing to customers and pre-registered guests to drive traffic to your booth - Tradeshow coordinators love to have you help drive traffic to their event. Often, you can obtain a list of last year's registered attendees at no cost. Merge and purge with your own in-house database to get the broadest coverage possible. Don't rely on others to make sure you have a great show.

c.  Budget advertising that will promote your attendance and show specials in appropriate trade publications - Even though you may not have a large advertising budget, there are lots of opportunities around shows. Look for things like New Product Showcases, door hanger programs where you can add your literature of ad specialty, on-site banners, literature racks. You may even consider hiring someone to walk the aisles and pass out literature for you. Think out-of-the-booth!

d.  Find out if there is a pressroom available and make up some PR kits - These don't have to be fancy, just provide legitimate newsworthy information about new products, employee promotions, awards, hiring decisions, and don't forget to offer details on your show specials.

e.  Get advance shipping destination/dates for booth and samples - This information will be found in your show packet, and adhering to deadlines can save you a small fortune in freight.

f.  Make sure your booth operates as it should and looks its best - You don't want to find out that parts are missing or in poor repair after you've arrived.

g.  Set specific goals so you can measure your success - Is success measured in dollars, number of leads, number of orders, or by some other metric? What ever your standards, know what constitutes a successful show before you step out of the office.

2. At the Show

a.  Get set up early, just in case something is missing or damaged in transit - You'll have time to find replacement parts, hire a contractor, or replace some broken light bulbs before the action begins.

b.  Distribute your press kits to the pressroom - Find the pressroom, and drop off your kits. Usually 25 or so will be plenty.

c.  Stay upbeat. People like dealing with ‘winners’ not whiners - We've all walked pass a booth with someone sitting on a chair, scowling, and trying not to make eye contact. Why spend so much money to be unpleasant or un-engaging? Have fun! Stay 'up.'

d.  Have a good follow up system (scanners, laptop, cards) - Your show may offer electronic scanners to collect information on people who visit your booth. I get no kickback from these people, but I think it's a valuable show add on. The detail of information you get from one of these scanners is tremendous. However, I would still keep handwritten notes if you talk about specific items for follow up.

e.  Treat your leads like gold—they are what you came for!

f.  Read the show dailies and walk the show. Your competition is doing the same thing to learn about you.

3. After the Show

a.  FOLLOW UP WITH YOUR LEADS! (It’s staggering the number of companies with a box full of un-worked leads in their offices.) The sooner you get back to your leads, the greater will be your returns. Hot leads go cold fast. Rekindle the excitement they felt at the show and keep that experience alive.

b.  Send out a follow up mailing to your pre-show list. In direct mail, once is NOT enough. It's another way to extend the power of your attendance.

c.  Measure your performance against your pre-show goals - Based on your pre-show list, how did you do?

d.  Calculate your ROI for the show. Was it worth it? Do you attend next year? You may well decide that the show you just attended isn't worth the investment. Next year, maybe your advertising or direct mail budget should be increased by that amount.

Trade shows represent a significant investment of your marketing resources, but also carry the promise of great potential returns. If just attending the show will use your whole marketing budget, maybe it’s not the best choice for you at this time. Make sure you can allocate resources for marketing activities Before the Show, At the Show, and After the Show for greatest benefit.

If you'd like help in planning or implementing a tradeshow strategy, contact us for more information.