This tradeshow article is a guest post written by Allie Magyar, CEO, and founder of Hubb

Are you a regular exhibitor at industry tradeshows? Are you getting back into the game or wondering why the ROI of your tradeshow experience seems to be dropping? Here are some tips on how to prepare to exhibit at an industry tradeshow to maximize your investment of time and money!

  1. Measure the TRUE cost of tradeshows

When you are identifying which tradeshows to attend and how much budget to allocate, it’s important to be aware of all costs associated with exhibitor marketing. Measuring ROI gets much harder when you don’t factor in the hidden costs that come along with tradeshows. If it’s been a few years since you’ve participated in a tradeshow, don’t forget that costs associated with the event include more than just travel, lodging, and the sponsorship price.

Shipping costs for your booth and any marketing collateral you take along can be substantial, so get estimates from the shipping vendors associated with the tradeshow, as well as a few independent shippers. If you are setting up a booth, some shows provide backdrops, chairs, tables, carpet, etc., but others require you rent these items and those costs can add up. Many shows also charge for lead retrieval, electrical outlets, internet access, trash bins, etc.

Finally, identify how many of your staff you would like to attend, and then find out how many event registrations are included with your exhibitor package. Add the cost of any extra registration fees, and don’t forget to include per diem costs for staff expenses outside of the show!

  1. Build a relationship with the event organizers

Once you’ve selected which tradeshows you’d like to attend, start building relationships with those event organizers now. Many event organizers are looking to build partnerships, rather than transactional relationships. Considering that companies are moving away from the traditional 10-by-10-booth approach to exhibiting, event organizers now offer many creative opportunities for exhibitors and sponsors to get their brand in front of potential customers: sponsored cocktails at happy hour, sponsored charging stations, sponsored wellness zones, etc.

If you connect with the event organizers and follow up with them after the event, especially in the off-season, you may be first to get offered unique opportunities for exclusive access to attendees of next year’s event. This relationship will pay dividends when next year comes and you want to exhibit again.

  1. Fill out your company and exhibitor profiles

When it comes time to submit your exhibitor profile, fill it out completely and carefully. Upload a high-resolution logo and images to their sponsor portal. Then go into the event app (if there is no app, your event has a problem) and fill out your exhibitor profile.

Use your real name. People connect with people, not brands. They care about the faces that represent your company so put it out there!

  1. Check out who else is attending

Comb the event app community and see who you know. Say hi and send them a message!

Will your competitors be there? Yes? Well, that’s a good signal that you’ve chosen the right trade show. It also means it’s that much more important to be 10X better than the competition in your presentation and interactions with potential customers.

Now, look at the profiles of attendees. Do any of them match your buyer personas? If so, make a note. If you can introduce yourself through the app, do it. Let them know that you (YOU, not your company) are excited to attend the event, and you’d love to hear more about what THEY are doing. Make it about them.

  1. Use tradeshow email lists…but use them carefully

If your exhibitor package includes access to the attendee email list, take advantage of it! Please note, though, that you should tread carefully when it comes to sending marketing emails to these lists. Review the terms of service for your email service provider or marketing automation platform, many of which do not allow the upload of rented or purchased lists.

Pre-show: You can, however, compare this email list against your current database and reach out to existing prospects to set up an opportunity to meet while you’re at the show. You can also use the email list for super-targeted social media marketing, to promote a fun giveaway or other enticing offers that attract attendees to visit you at the tradeshow.

Post-show: Sending personalized emails to prospects your team connected with on the tradeshow floor is a great way to show them that you valued their time and you are interested in their needs and concerns. Consider sending surveys to prospects that visited you at your event to find out how your booth and staff might improve, and use this data to strengthen your future tradeshow marketing campaigns.

  1. Mention the tradeshow on social media

Pop over to the show’s Twitter account and figure out what the official hashtag is for the show. If the hashtag isn’t listed on the event homepage (it really should be these days), the official Twitter handle is probably using it.

Before the event, identify key conference attendees to follow on social media about a month out from the conference start date. Start sharing attendee and influencer content, as well as posts and content from the event organizers. People LOVE it when you support their social media marketing efforts, and they may respond in kind, by retweeting and reposting your updates to their followers.

Work with your marketing team to plan space in the content calendar to support promotional efforts. Work with someone at company headquarters who can monitor show-related social media activity, while on-site teams can focus on promoting content that is happening at the event.

Did you spend 20 minutes talking to another exhibitor? Mention them on social, too! Tell the world how you just had a good experience with their team. That good karma will come back to you.

  1. Arrive early and tell your story

Get set up early and then walk around and chat with other exhibitors. Notice a trend? That’s right: Exhibiting at tradeshows is all about relationship-building! Go forth and make friends.

Everything you do should display your professional and approachable personality. Don’t wait for folks to come to your booth; get out and start actively asking them if they would like to learn about how your company or service can ease their pain points.

Make sure your team’s attire is coordinated, with clean, pressed comfortable clothes and—super important—comfortable shoes because staff members are going to be on their feet all day!

Everything your team does should be part of an effort to be memorable to the attendees they meet. Clothing, giveaways, brochures, etc. Tradeshow attendees are visiting hundreds (maybe even thousands) of other booths, so consider carefully what you’re going to do to stand out.

  1. Don’t skip the post-event reception

Congratulations! Your team has successfully made it to the end of the event! Your booth is packed up, and you’ve collected a bunch of leads. You handed out tons of swag (and maybe even a prize or two).

Although you may want to relax and grab a drink in a quiet bar after the show, you should take full advantage of the post-event reception. Attendees are still out there mingling. If exhibitors are invited, don’t miss this final opportunity to make connections with your new leads. They are having a glass of wine and getting chatty.

So head on in, grab a drink, put on your party smile, and start asking friendly questions—this is a time to listen, not pitch. You are there to lend a sympathetic ear when they complain about their current providers. All that information they share, the reasons they are considering switching from a provider or service that isn’t meeting their needs, that is PURE GOLD. Not only for your relationship with that lead but if you compile that information and look for patterns, you may just find the concept for your next big marketing campaign.

So, there you have it. You now have some easy tactics to make the most out of your exhibiting experience at the next industry tradeshow. Go forth and make happy customers!

This article was written by Allie Magyar, CEO, and founder of Hubb, an event content management platform that automates the complex workflows and tasks required to collect, manage and market content for conferences and meetings.