Industry trade shows provide big opportunities for a lot of companies. In order to have a successful trade show, it is important to step back and look at the opportunity from all angles. For this month’s eTip, we interviewed Jennifer Castelino, CEO of Panorama Communications in Austin, Texas on maximizing your trade show opportunities.
BMC: How long have you been working in marketing communications and how did you get started?
Castelino: I’ve been working in marketing communications for over 11 years. I started at a large consulting firm in Atlanta where I worked in their marketing consulting group. I then moved to Austin, TX and worked at AMD, where I worked in several marketing groups from corporate marketing services to business unit groups. I had the opportunity at AMD to do several global product launches, manage both domestic and international events, develop product messaging and positioning and do emerging market product research for new initiatives. I now have my own marketing communications consulting company, Panorama Communications, where I have been able to take the best practices of what I learned in my previous positions to help my clients with their marketing communications, whether it is marketing planning, events, product announcements, messaging or PR.
BMC: What should a company do before an industry trade show?
Castelino: As event budgets get tighter and events sometimes grow or shrink, it is really important to evaluate each event each year on a strategic level. One of the key things I try to do with my clients is determine the level of participation that is really necessary at an event. I have found that sometimes it is better to keep the booth small but do some key paid sponsorships around the event. I have also found that sometimes it is not necessary to have a booth at all and to just do customer meetings and promotions. It can really vary from year to year so it is important to evaluate the event each year to make sure you are not spending too much or too little in order to meet your goals.
BMC: What should a company do after an industry trade show?
Castelino: What has worked well for me in doing industry trade shows is to have a wrap-up meeting with the team that both planned and attended the event. It is at this point that the team can decide how the event went, if it is a worthwhile event to continue doing, if the level of participation is appropriate (i.e. maybe the booth needs to be bigger or smaller) and so on. I normally have a list of questions that I ask the team during the meeting. It is from this input that you can begin to build your plan for the following year. Conducting this meeting and setting the strategy for the event can save you both time and money as you plan for the following year.
BMC: What are the three most common mistakes you have seen companies make when it comes to industry trade shows?
Castelino: The three most common mistakes I see in industry trade show planning are: first, not evaluating the show, second, not planning early enough and third, not following up.
Companies do the same events year after year many times without thinking about if it still makes sense to be going to that event. Often event plans from the previous year get executed the following year with little consideration if there needs to be changes, which can lead to wasted budget and lost opportunities. Companies should take the time to really look at an event each year to determine whether the show attendance dropped, whether the audience demographic changed, and ask what did our partners and competitors do last year? Taking the time to determine some of these factors can help to set the goals and strategy for the event to ensure that the company is getting out of it what it wants.
The second mistake I see companies make is not planning early enough for the event. The success of most events lies in the detailed planning that takes place months before the event. Getting the core team together early to discuss what the goals and objectives are for the event helps to ensure that these priorities are met. I find having these early meetings can uncover potential opportunities for promotion at the event. For example, if a product launch or major announcement can be coordinated around an event there is more of an opportunity for press coverage or building customer awareness.
Finally, do not forget to follow-up with the contacts you make. Try to plan prior to the event how leads are going to be gathered and followed-up on. This is where companies often miss an opportunity to nurture leads gathered at events to build their customer databases.
BMC: Last words of wisdom in regard to industry trade shows
Castelino: The key to a successful tradeshow is in the details. Successful tradeshows can take a tremendous amount of time and effort to do well. It takes early planning and communication with the stakeholders to make sure that the event plan is meeting the team’s objectives. Tradeshows can be an invaluable marketing tool for brand building and lead generation. That said, they are expensive, so set your objectives and strategy early, focus on the planning details and don’t forget to follow-up on all those leads. The show doesn’t end at the event, it ends with the sale.
Jennifer Castelino is CEO of Panorama Communications (www.panoramacommunications.com), a marketing consulting firm. She has worked in marketing communications in the High-Tech sector for more than 11 years, helping to develop and implement over 40 global product launches, product branding and marketing communications plans and many domestic and international events. Panorama Communications focuses on all aspects of marketing communications, providing clients a virtual marketing resource that enables clients to tap into Panorama’s knowledge and expertise to achieve superior results.