By David Manzer
Sponsored Post

Many B2B companies here in Austin look to trade shows as a way to grow their business and brand awareness. They are not alone. The average B2B company annually invests more in trade shows — nearly 40% — than any other single marketing initiative.

What many B2B companies may not realize, however, is that NOT being properly prepared for a trade show can be costly to a brand, both in terms of brand perception and lead flow.

In our latest white paper, “Your Roadmap to B2B Trade Show Success,” we provide a blueprint for B2B companies looking to make their next trade show the most successful one ever.

A brief sneak peek follows but I encourage you to download the whole white paper:

Research the trade show
Make sure you research which trade shows are right for you. Should you go to the biggest and most expensive one or something more affordable and closer to home? The answer depends upon your appetite for risk and available budget.

Money matters
First off set up a budget for your trade show initiative or you may find yourself spending your way into a hole. Your budget should be realistic and factor in current cost for booth design and build, 3rd party vendor assistance, travel and lodging, client entertainment, marketing collateral, etc.

Project manager is key
An important part of your trade show initiative is the person in charge. Immediately assign a project manager to steer the initiative and ensure the resources from key stakeholders are in alignment with the overall brand strategy. A good PM will make sure the project finishes on time and under budget while also achieving the company’s strategic objectives.

Booth staffing
Trade shows are almost a 24/7 endeavor so be sure to staff your booth with employees who can operate on little sleep, lots of caffeine and plenty of chaos. Your booth staffers need to be able to schmooze with key customers after hours over dinner and drinks without losing their professionalism. The last thing you want is a sales person getting schnockered after a couple glasses of wine and alienating your biggest sales prospect.

Your B2B trade show marketing collateral is what customers and prospects will take home with them so make sure it looks good and toes the corporate brand strategy line. Planning on showing a live demo? Bring enough product sheets for the product(s) on hand. Also be sure the demo is staffed by a competent technical expert to ensure it works seamlessly.

Social media
Twitter and LinkedIn are the main social media platforms for B2B companies and trade shows are no exception. Twitter is perfect for capturing moments of the trade show and engaging directly with customers, prospects and influencers. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with attendees prior to the show. LinkedIn Pulse can help you gain some thought leadership with well-timed posts to keep the buzz going after the trade show ends.

PR is effective
Getting articles written about your company and latest product innovations is one of the most powerful ways to establish your brand’s credibility and drive traffic to your booth. Be sure to plan your PR strategy 2 months in advance. It’s wise to contact key journalists who are planning to attend the event a couple of weeks in advance. Try to set up face-to-face meetings with executives at your booth so they can talk to about your product or service initiatives. Can’t book any in-person booth media meetings? Try and grab coffee with one or two reporters to start developing a relationship that could blossom over time.

Enter every business card you pick up should be entered into your CRM on a daily basis. If it’s a hot lead, then make sure the lead is assigned to sales for immediate follow-up. Unqualified leads should be assigned to your drip marketing program to begin nurturing them and moving them down the sales funnel.

This is a sponsored post by Dave Manzer, president of Manzer Communications. With offices in Austin, Denver and now Houston, Manzer Communications is a marketing communications and PR agency serving technology startups and fast-growth enterprises. Dave founded PR over Coffee, is a mentor at Startup Aggieland and just launched Startup over Coffee, a crowdsourced map for startups and startup professionals in Austin.