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Getting a Return from Trade Shows

By Kelly Farrell | March 30, 2015

Trade Show ROI

Getting a return from trade shows and conferences can be a stress-filled job. Over the years we have helped many of our clients prepare for trade shows and conferences. We can help relieve some of that stress.

I have always felt the pressure of the marketing managers that we have worked with. Since we started doing our own trade shows last year, I feel even more empathy. We have identified a vertical market that we want to go deep into and trade shows and conferences seem to be a great way to get in front of these folks. Now I am feeling the same pressure to make sure that the investment we make is going to get us a return.

So what do I think the return should be from a National Conference with 4,000 people in attendance? You’re never going to attract everyone, so I will refine our attention to 500-800 attendees or less and focus our efforts to land 25 qualified leads. My goal from narrowing our focus (using “what’s causing you pain?” questions to make sure we are really a fit) is to set six or eight appointments with very qualified, interested prospects. Here’s our plan:

Pre-Show Communication:

  • Pre Show Touch – Invite prospects to our booth to win a Fitbit Flex™ 
  • Pre Show Email (if we have an email list) inviting them to our booth to win
  • Pre Show Calls to set up dinners, lunches or special entertaining

During the show:

  • Draw people into the booth with a daily Fitbit Flex™ giveaway
  • Prepare a list of questions for visitors to find fit and get a decision, even if it’s “no”
  • Prepare a script and a protocol for booth staff
  • Limit our time with unqualified visitors
  • Identify if a prospect is worthy of scheduling an appointment
  • If we set an appointment, follow up with a ready-to-go email when we get back to our rooms
  • Close the show with 25 qualified leads and 6-8 appointments
  • Create a follow-up plan for post-show

More for during the show:

  • How will we act in our booth during the show – no sitting, no idle chat, no jumping on visitors, stick to a friendly pre-set list of questions, share success stories and find out about fit
  • Take the time to visit if the prospect is really in pain or at least having serious concerns
  • If they are not a fit now, ask them if its ok if we put them on our mailing and email list
  • Identify if the person we are talking to will set an appointment and have calendar dates available for a follow-up meeting
  • Immediately after we schedule a meeting, send prospects a meeting invite and agenda to secure time, date and purpose
  • Immediately send them a hand-written note that says we are looking forward to meeting them on the agreed upon day

After the show:

  • Debrief back at the office with all staff
  • Customize and personalize post show correspondence for hot prospects
  • Send an email to all attendees, except hot prospects
  • Hot prospects receive a more personalized communication
  • Gather some live interviews on iPad and send those out, talking about what happened at the show
  • A touch plan will continue long after the show and will include video, maybe a microsite and our e-newsletters
  • Appointment prospects will get something very special upon our return and then be included in video touch, microsite touch, e-newsletters, etc.

And the really important part – we will be able to report on ROI at the beginning of June. So stay tuned!


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Kelly Farrell

Kelly has a unique talent for uncovering what's special about her clients. It’s her specialty, and the heart of how designRoom approaches branding. Kelly learned design and branding while working in advertising as an Art Director, Designer, and Account Representative for several national/regional brands; Cellular One/Ohio, Northfield Park, National City Bank, and Mr. Hero. Her future, however, included a more passionate approach to the work and more direct engagement with her clients. In 1990 designRoom was born. One room. One designer. And lots of room to grow. Today, under Kelly’s leadership, designRoom is a national, award-winning branding and design firm. With her innate ability to see the right solution and her passion for helping clients reach their goals, Kelly is a fierce brand advocate for behavioral health organizations across the U.S. Her unique approach makes her a sought after national speaker on the importance of branding in behavioral health. Kelly focuses on how branding can unify an organization internally, amplify their unique market position, and help them move in a positive, sustainable direction.

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