Evaluating Your Trade Show Strategy

The frank Agency Branding
Winter 2018

According to Incisal Edge, around 170 dental trade shows are hosted every year in the United States alone. That’s 170 opportunities to showcase new products... to gain more brand exposure... and to boost your sales.

Yet, without a strategic approach to which shows you attend and how you promote yourself, these opportunities may dissolve into nothing more than a time and money sinkhole.

How do you know that trade show attendance is truly an effective strategy for your business? It may be time to step back and assess exactly what you are doing to optimize the value of your trade show plan.

The Underlying Question

the-underlying-questionsBefore you can develop a trade show strategy, you need to ask yourself the question: Why are trade shows part of my marketing mix?

Many in the industry tell us they attend and exhibit at several shows due to intangible factors like historical precedent and the old adage of “being where my competition is.” However, given the costs and resources required to attend and exhibit, tangible return on investment should and likely will become a larger part of these decisions in years to come.

And there are several great reasons why trade shows should remain a vital part of your marketing plan – the opportunity for in-person meetings with hundreds of potential customers in a focused environment and being an ideal venue for new product launches being atop the list.

But if you’re unsure of exactly how profitable these events are for your business, developing a strategic approach defined by goal-specific outcomes will help your organization understand how to make the most of these key opportunities.

Instead of just going to trade shows because you’ve always gone, develop a strategic, goal-centered approach so you can evaluate your return on investment.

Building a Better Strategy

You know you need a more tactical method – but the difficulty is often in knowing where to begin. We’ve broken the process down into three steps to show you how to organize and develop your plan of attack.


Every strategy begins at the end. Ask yourself what the goal is that you’re trying to reach through trade show participation. For many smaller or developing companies, the overall goal is exposure and building brand awareness. For others, the goal may be lead generation or reaching a certain sales quota. For most, it will be a combination of all of these.

Write up hard, detailed targets that you hope to hit, and then craft a marketing strategy surrounding these goals. Your objectives will not only determine your tactics and approach, but also help you define success so you know if your trade show attendance is paying off.

Step 2: Develop Your Engagement Plan

With your target firmly in mind, it’s time to create a marketing plan to generate interest and drive traffic to your booth.

Why should dental professionals come by your booth? What incentives or information are important to them? Are different things important to different groups (i.e., does an endodontist come by your booth for the same reason the president of a DSO does?). Customize messaging for each audience you want to attract, segment your list and pave the way to your booth with emails to prospective and current clients, giving them the option to set up a meeting with you.

Social media will also be instrumental in creating this initial awareness – organic posts that will be seen by your current followers should always be accompanied by digital advertising to help increase your reach and reinforce your message.

Once at the show, leverage social media to capture visitors during their unplanned time, as they walk the floor. Using live posting and tweeting, you can drive “in the moment” traffic to your booth for product demonstrations, live-session speakers and hands-on interactions with your products.marketing-is-trackable

Make sure your trade show marketing is trackable. This allows you to easily measure against your KPIs and know whether you’re meeting your goals.

It’s particularly important to note that your trade show marketing should, from beginning to end, be:

Trackable. Create trackable methods for potential customers to set up meeting times at your booth or simply sign up for information with their email addresses. One way to do this is quick and simple landing pages linked off emails and retargeting ads.

This allows you to generate leads in a digital setting, where you can track several KPIs more easily.

Valuable. In exchange for appointments or information, you can offer a freebie or some other incentive at your booth – something that is valuable to your audience and gives a sense of urgency, as it will only be available during the show. Key in this is remembering that different things are important and valuable to different audiences.


Multi-Channel. Trade shows are in-person events, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have digital aspects. Your trade show collateral should consist of physical takehome fliers/brochures and interactive segments, but also be an opportunity to show video presentations and promote your social media platforms. Livestreaming video on your social outlets (product demos, launch events, etc.) is a great way to create buzz and drive more traffic to your booth.

Relevant. Again, when distributing your marketing, segment your audience so they receive material that is immediately relevant to their situation. Potential customers who have never bought from you may need more in-depth information than someone who is already familiar with your brand, or has purchased from you in the past.

Reinforced. The most important marketing you do for trade shows, outside of set up, is follow up. Send email offers that continue conversations and offer further information, free demos or consultations. This allows you to stay topof- mind while still offering something of value.

But once the activity has died down, there’s still one last step in the process.

Step 3: Assess and Optimize

The only way to improve your future performance is by evaluating your outcomes. Once it’s all over, spend time comparing your initial goals to the results you received. This is where using digital methods comes in handy – they provide you with valuable metrics so you can see accurate figures on leads generated, sales converted, and so on. You’ll also see which channels were effective in providing the desired results, and which were a “bust” and could be scaled back.

In performing this type of analysis, you not only stand to deliver better results on your next event, but you also ensure your marketing budget is spent in the most efficient way possible and delivers better ROI.

evaluating-your-tradeshow-strategyTaking a Step Back. From here, you can now further optimize your trade show strategy by looking at the bigger picture. Based on how much revenue you generated versus how much you spent, how profitable was the event?

With hard numbers on your performance, these questions become easier to answer and you can develop a strategy that is based on real results – not hypothetical expectations or assumptions. Armed with these results and a mind to continuously test and optimize, your trade show attendance becomes an efficient tool, rather than a costly gamble.

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