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Trade Shows: The Optimum Planning Timeline

Planning a successful tradeshow exhibition requires quite a bit from a business: time, energy, and financial resources, careful planning, ingenuity, and grit. For a first-time exhibitionist, this can feel overwhelming as you work to prepare your business, brand, and team. Trade Shows are a great way to capture leads and increase your brand awareness.

However, by carefully following our Trade Show Planning Timeline, brands can prepare with confidence, knowing each and every detail has been accounted for.

12+ Months Prior:

So you’re ready to begin planning for your trade show. Before you go any farther, determine the role exhibition will serve to craft your overarching marketing and sales plan. Once you’ve identified this, obtain buy-in within your organization, then develop a detailed trade show budget and estimate your ROI (return on investment).

9 – 12 Months Prior:

With less than a year to prepare, begin setting specific objectives for your show, such as product sales, leads generated, and publicity secured. Identify your booth space requirements, as well as exhibition resources for booth banners, marketing assets, equipment, and promotional needs. Register and reserve your booth space with the event sponsor and request full details on exhibit requirements.

Work with your team to develop a three-tier trade show marketing plan that comprises a mix of marketing methods to reach prospective customers, then divide your plan into three sections: 1) Pre-Show Marketing, 2) At-Show Marketing, and 3) Post-Show Marketing. Generating a buzz before the trade show, then following up with a post-show marketing strategy, will help your brand maintain relevance in the marketplace and generate long-term interest and growth.

Click here for five easy tips to help your brand craft a killer marketing plan.

6 – 9 Months Prior:

As the date draws nearer, shift your focus from outside marketing to inside sales training. Write an impactful sales message that communicates your key points in 30 seconds or less, then rehearse with your staff to ensure confidence in delivery and maximum effectiveness at your booth. Identify impactful trade show giveaway and promotional strategies used to attract visitors to your booth, and begin the design and printing of any literature or marketing materials needed.

Next, you’ll need to determine your exhibit layout and any graphic design needs. You can hire a trade show display company to oversee design and production, or employ an online exhibition-design software to craft your booth’s look on your own before handing it over to an exhibit producer. Most importantly, take your time choosing an exhibit firm that meets your capabilities, design talent, cost, and production needs.

Consider your lighting requirements as well. Lighting can play an integral role in garnering attention or complementing the image you want to project while promoting your brand’s product or service. A lighting truss may add more drama and focus to your booth area, while a spotlight can highlight a specific product.

3 Months Prior:

To ensure yourself plenty of time, order any giveaway or promotional items now. Continue working with vendors and exhibit producers on your display booth, exhibit materials, and marketing assets. Decide how your display and other items will be shipped to the show, and make any necessary plans to ensure delivery dates adhere to your trade show plan.

Consider staffing needs, develop a booth schedule, and plan additional training sessions, if necessary. You should also begin making travel arrangements, including airfare, hotel, and car rental reservations to ensure availability.

Most importantly, launch your pre-show marketing initiatives. With less than ninety days to go, the anticipation is growing as you prepare for this year’s trade show exhibition.

1 – 3 Months Prior:

With the show rapidly approaching, continue pre-show marketing initiatives while also pulling together follow-up packets to send immediately to leads after the show’s end, then schedule staff training to ensure your employees are prepared. Contact your event sponsor regarding any last-minute details and finalize the production of your booth display, promotional items, and marketing assets, and any shipping dates accordingly.

At this time, it’s also helpful to make and finalize all travel arrangements and schedule dinners or meetings to be held before, at, or following the show with prospects, distributors, or customers.

1 Week Prior:

Now is the time to confirm plans and adjust for any last-minute changes. Complete staff training so your employees are confident, informative, and well-versed in your sales message. Double-check shipping arrival dates for your booth display, any giveaway or promotional items, and marketing assets, then take a second look at your timeline. Have all your action steps been completed? If so, you’re almost ready for the show.

Following the Show:

Congratulations! You’ve just completed a successful trade show. As you begin to examine the results of your exhibition, analyze any leads, send follow-up packets, and make appropriate contact as soon as possible.

Consider the success of your actual trade show participation compared to the objectives from your trade show plan; was it a success? Did it meet the objectives determined previously? Was your ROI satisfactory?

Most importantly, make a recommendation now regarding participation in the same trade show next year. Are there any changes or enhancements you would like to implement, or other trade shows you would like to attend? With this in mind, begin to prepare for next year’s exhibition while wrapping up your post-show marketing plan.

 

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Posted by perianrogers