Trade shows aren’t right for every business but generally, if used properly, they can be an excellent way to generate awareness about your company, build leads, and nurture existing customer relationships.

If you are a new business planning your first trade show, know that all of your event planning tasks should flow as follows: Inform, Interact, Inspire, Invite. I like to use those terms over pre-show, at-show, and follow-up because it clearly lists what you’re going to be doing in each stage.

Step 1: Inform

When you start planning for an event it’s very easy to think others are as aware of the trade show as you are but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. You have to let others know about the event, that you’ll be there, and remind them.

The best marketing channels to build awareness for your trade show event are: social media, direct mail marketing, and email marketing using a targeted list, and your blog.

  1. Direct Mail: save-the-dates to current clients, community members, leads
  2. Email your list and add to it, any additional business leaders located in the region the event will be held. This step allows you to introduce yourself, your company and how to learn more.
  3. Social Media: generate awareness, invite your audience, use hashtags with the event name
  4. Blog about the event and takeaway

Keep an eye on your email opens, unsubscribes, and social media shares. As the event nears, follow up with anyone who interacted with your announcements but haven’t yet committed to showing up.

Step 2: Interact

There are two parts to Interact at this stage:

1. Before the trade show
2. At the trade show

Before the trade show, be sure to take time from your other planning activities to respond to social media and blog engagements. Building relationships starts here. Also, you may consider reaching out by phone to your list of existing customers or potential customers in the region of your event. Again, build those relationships.

Then, interact at the show. Be sure to build in opportunities to make this possible. Events can be chaotic so figure out how you will interact with your booth guests in a way that’s fun for them and supports your takeaway.

Step 3: Inspire

This stage is all about the experience booth guests will have during the event. Give them something that they can take with them once they leave. Memorable experiences inspire. Creating an opportunity for a solid takeaway inspires. What will create this experience that is specific to your company?

Step 4: Invite

 Please don’t forget to re-invite your guests to engage with your business and complete the sale. It will be important to keep a list of who stopped at your booth and create a targeted follow-up list. During your follow-up, refer to the great event and remind them of the experience they had.

It’s very easy for this powerful experience you give guests, to rest as an isolated event. By inviting your guests to interact with your company post event, it lets them know you are there for them for the long haul.

Good luck with your event!

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