As winter approaches, so do many industry trade shows. For both exhibitors and attendees, planning and setting goals can mean trade show success.

Follow these 5 steps to help ensure the success of your next trade show exhibit.

Step 1: Set Goals

As you begin planning, set overall goals for the trade show. Do you want to generate new leads? If so, how many and who is the target audience? How many demonstrations are you trying to conduct? Setting goals is a key first step before moving forward with planning the specifics of your exhibit.

Step 2: Define Your Budget

Aligning the budget to the goals your dealership has set for the trade show will help determine how much money to allocate to each area. Consider booth fees, display materials, promotional items, giveaways and staffing costs.

Step 3: Develop Your Message

It’s important to have a welcoming and engaging display to draw potential customers into your booth. “In designing the booth display, it starts with the messaging,” says Lisa Bocklage, director at Osborn Barr, an agriculture-focused full-service marketing agency.

Bocklage suggests asking, “What is the main message I want the show attendees to walk away with from my exhibit?” From that core message, seek to align your exhibit marketing materials, signage, products and/or demonstrations.

Step 4: Promote Before the Show

Connect with your audience prior to the show to drive more traffic to your exhibit. Through direct mail, e-blasts, social media and pre-show advertising, you can get your message in front of attendees before the show begins.

For example, include information about your exhibit in ads leading up to the show or send an email to your current customers about your exhibit and encourage them (and possibly reward them) to bring a friend to your booth.

Step 5: Align the Team

“Before the show begins, ensure your dealership’s employees and trade show staff are aligned with the goals,” says Bocklage. A simple walk-through of the exhibit before the show can make a huge difference in the success of your exhibit.

This also provides a chance to review key messages, identify the actions from the attendees you are trying to drive, identify where materials are located and confirm staff responsibilities. Keep in mind that attendees will enter booths that look interesting and engaging. Regardless of how busy or slow the show is, remind your team members not to congregate at the back of the booth or be on their phones looking uninterested in the show and the attendees.

Step 6: Continue the Momentum

At the conclusion of the show, following up with potential new customers is a must. If your dealership captured any lead information, be sure to follow up promptly after the show. Whether this is a direct mail piece, an email or another form of communication, reaching potential customers within a few weeks after the show keeps your dealership’s products and services top-of-mind.

Attendees Can Prepare, Too

As an attendee, you also have the opportunity to make the most of trade shows by conducting research and planning before the show.

A list of exhibitors is typically available online at least a month before the show. Some trade shows provide online interactive maps to indicate booth locations. Use these resources to determine which exhibits to visit.

Depending on the size of the trade show, it may not be easy to visit each company’s exhibit, so a plan can help you make the most of the time you have available.

Pre-show planning doesn’t stop with the map. Research the new products or services that companies may be introducing. Visiting a company’s website or searching the Internet for pre-show news releases may yield information on equipment being showcased. Researching exhibits you want to visit will also assist in developing questions you may have about new products and services.