Sponsoring tradeshows are a part of a lot of company’s marketing plans for great reasons- they are perfect places to meet new people, network with others in your industry, generate new leads, increase brand awareness, and drive more sales.According to the Event Marketing Institute’s Event Track 2015:Events drive purchases: 87% of event attendees said they purchased the product or service promoted at the eventEvents improve brand perception: after the event 74% of the participants have a more positive opinion about the company, brand, product or service being promoted.Events create powerful word of mouth: 96% of consumers that tell a friend or family member about their experience mention the company or brand running the event.Sponsoring events is beneficial. Just showing up with some company swag is not.To ensure your sponsorship is successful, it all comes down to preparation – and I’m not talking about preparing a month beforehand. Planning for a trade show can take anywhere from 6 months to a year if you want to do it well and strategically. Here are some tips I have found help ensure you are fully prepared so you can get the most out of your sponsorship:1. Goals:Before you even sign up to sponsor the show, think about the outcomes you want from sponsoring to create your goals. Then make sure those goals fit in with your overall marketing objectives to determine if the event will help you get there.Are you getting in front of the right audience?Do you have something unique or specific to promote that differentiates you from other sponsors?Why are you doing the show in the first place (to network? spread brand awareness? generate new business)?Come up with specific goals for the event that you can measure afterwards – things like: “We want to gather 300 leads, set-up 75 meetings, do 25 product demos, which will lead to seven opportunities, with a pipeline of $1 million.”2. Decide on messaging:I mentioned above that you should start planning early, but planning for a tradeshow entails way more than creating logistical checklist (although this is part of it)! Once you’ve determined that this event is in line with your marketing objective and you’ve created your goals – decide what your strategy and messaging is for the event so you make sure it relates back to your goals and will help you meet them.What products are you going to sell?Which services are you going to make sure to highlight?What does this say about your brand?3. Create An Event Strategy Brief:With the messaging in hand, our marketing team then sits down and discusses what our theme is for the show, how everything ties together and what needs to be done ahead of time. We create an event strategy brief that really helps keep everything together, organized, and aligned with our goals. This is then easy to email out to everyone attending the conference from our company so they can be aligned with what we’re trying to accomplish.4. Invest in Booth Design:The goal of your tradeshow booth should be to get peoples’ attention. You don’t need to explain every single thing your company does on the booth itself. Come up with a clear, concise, and memorable message and theme so when someone walks by they will immediately know what your company is about and want to stop and talk to you.The biggest tip I have here is to invest in a design expert to help with booth design. Your booth is your brand at the event and you don’t want it to end up looking like a middle school science fair exhibit. We use a design firm to create a booth design that has modern, eye catching, and professional visuals.Our design firm’s founder, Lee Salisbury recently shared his inisght with Inc. saying,we’re all attracted to great design, whether we know it or not. At trade shows and conventions, it’s easy to have everything blend together visually. Make sure you have a booth that stands apart from the competition – using design as a differentiator. Hire a group whose work you love and doesn’t specialize in exhibit design to get the best results.The location of where your booth is located is also key. Try to get near an entrance so people are forced to walk by. Or get next to the bar or food stations.5. Do Event Premarketing:Let prospects know you will be there and what you have to offer beforehand- use social media, send out emails to your customers, and have your Sales Reps spread the word. You can’t expect people to line up to see you at your booth if you haven’t let them know you will be there and what you’re offering.6. Prep Your Staff:You can have a great looking booth, awesome giveaways, and thoughtful premarketing, but if your staff is not prepared, all of that is a waste. Your staff needs to be informed about your overall goals and strategy for the event, any special offers you are giving out, and what your messaging is.They also need to know how to work the booth:Conversation Initiators: We always create a “list of pick-up lines” which is basically some ideas to help booth staffers initiate conversation. We also have a few pre-event meetings to ensure everyone attending the event understands what is expected of them.Engagement Techniques: Once you’re at the event- make sure your staff is engaging, outgoing and ready to talk to people and draw them into the booth. Remember:ALWAYS make eye contact as someone walks by the booth.Stand up! Nothing is sadder than someone sitting at the booth on their laptop- if you have work to do, don’t do it on the show floor.Make sure everyone writes notes on business cards (and be prepared for people who don’t have cards- we have blank notecards at our boothsWhat To Wear: How you present yourself and what you wear is a direct reflection for the company you work for and you want to look put together and professional. Your employees working the booth become part of the booth and build the brand image you are trying to communicate. Tips for attire dos and don’ts here.7. Use Social Media:Most events make it easy to connect with customers, colleagues, and leads online by using whatever hashtag they set up. People love talking about what they’re doing and the things they’re learning at conferences. The conversation is already happening, so make sure to get involved in it. Share pictures. Give tips. Answer questions when they come up. Make sure to monitor the hashtag before the actual event as well because people will be looking when they’re registering, when they’re picking sessions and when they are prepping too.8. Don’t Forget about Follow-up:You come back from a tradeshow with a pile of leads…. now what? Don’t be tempted to start mass emailing these leads with generic messages. Take some time to think through how you want to follow-up. Here are some tips:Timing: You could have many promising conversations at the tradeshow, but those will mean nothing if you don’t follow up on your leads quickly. Prompt response to show leads is critical! To ensure you are able to follow-up in a timely manner, plan your follow-up before the event takes place so you’re ready to go immediately afterwards.Call to Actions Are Crucial: Include a tangible Call-To-Action that has a lasting impact- something that brings people back after the tradeshow and after the excitement of the event has worn off. It may be a special discount for your product or an exclusive item or offering for those who came by the booth.Personalize Your Messages: Go through your leads and organize them- divide your stack into hot prospects, those that seemed interested but there wasn’t an immediate need, and cold prospects (you know the type- the ones who just came by your booth to get the cool stuff you’re giving away). Then ensure you are following up appropriately (and differently) with each type. Make sure to talk to whoever was manning the booth and capture additional notes about the leads. For those hot prospects, personalize your emails. A lot of companies give the hot prospects right to sales, so ensure you have a good way to pass along notes to whoever is working the lead.Continue the Relationship After the Event: Don’t just focus on the hot leads and forget about everyone else; consider a lead nurturing campaign to stay relevant with the other leads you obtained during the event. You have a good start at a relationship with these leads, but you want to continue to build it by giving them content they need. Set up a series of emails that will provide resources for them and will help you communicate with them throughout the sales cycle—addressing the gap in time between when they first interacted with you at the event and when they are ready to purchase.We have several trade shows coming up, including Qonnections, Birst Forward and CalGIS.At Qonnections, Analytics8 and QlikMaps will be presenting sessions, demoing our products and answering questions at our booth, and getting meet as many people as we can. If you’re planning on attending Qonnections, here are some tips to help you make the most of the conference.