Statistically one of the biggest mistakes made when exhibiting is lack of, or bad marketing, in the run-up to the show.

And whilst it’s not an exact science, the actual timing of your pre-show marketing is important to get the best value out of your investment.

It’s easy to get ahead of yourself when it comes to your trade show budget. We always recommend exhibitors use a free template or ask their exhibition stand contractors where to spend their money.

Of course, your first task is to find talented exhibition stand designers and work with them developing your exhibition stand design. Try to get this out of way, done and dusted, around 6-9 months before the date of your show.

The key is to allocate your pre-trade show marketing budget by % amounts. This will not only ensure you achieve the best value from your pre-show marketing, it will also time your campaign to best effect.

Pre-show marketing is the critical piece that is going to get visitors to the show and more importantly to your stand.

A lot of companies I work with put a good percentage of their marketing budget into promotional activities too early in their timeline. They then find they lack budget at the critical time in the run up to the show.

The infographic here is a guideline as to what percentage of your pre-show marketing budget should be spent at various stages leading up to the show. For ideas and real-life examples, download a pre-show marketing calendar.

In this day and age, people, like your show’s visitors, are busy and don’t tend to plan their visit to a show too early. So it’s important to be marketing to them at the right time…

3 Months Out: (10% of Budget)

General Ad Campaign – At this stage, we should be starting to put the show logo and our stand number on all printed ads we are doing and keep this consistency until the show itself.

This strengthens our brand image of being a progressive and dynamic company who are not afraid to meet our clients face to face.

2 Months Out: (15% of Budget)

Aside from the consistency of our printed ads, we should also begin to introduce our presence at the show through our direct mail campaigns.

This is especially useful if we are launching a new product and want to make visitors and our audience aware of what’s to come.

At the 2-month stage we should be looking at starting our ticket campaign to any international visitors we are looking to target.

We further back this campaign up with the start of a social media push. At this time, it’s important to begin putting our stand details on our email signature and keep this consistent across all members of the company.

If we are looking at promotional giveaways they should be organised and budgeted at this stage.

1 Month Out: (25% of Budget)

The one-month campaign should see us specifically advertising what we will be showing at the event itself.

This is our first real reason to visit for our national visitors and begins the interest in visiting.

At the one month mark we should have our full potential visitor database together and a targeted ticket campaign directly to these people.

This is also a good time to utilize social media more (free) and start introducing more specifically what we will be showcasing at the event.

A one Month Out ezine to our Database should be done at this stage to reinforce our marketing and include a link to request additional tickets.

2 Weeks Out: (30% of Budget)

With 2 weeks out we should be investing our budget in targeted social media ads through the key social media channels and radio if possible.

It’s important at this point to be doing personal phone calls and drop-ins to key clients or potential clients to encourage them to visit us at the show.

With the personal approach, not only does this encourage visiting, it encourages them to visit us.

If you have any invitation tickets left at this stage, they should be sent out now.

1 Week Out: (15% of Budget)

With one week to go we should be investing more in our social media ads and spending budget on reminding potential visitors of the exclusive things we are exhibiting or indeed any special offers at the show.

Reminder phone calls or visits to our top 20 clients should be done at this stage to back up the advertising campaign to date and to reinforce your stand at the show.

2-3 Days Out: (5% of Budget)

In the last 2-3 days I would always recommend a company to keep a small part of their marketing budget (5%) for a last-minute marketing push. Special offers from social media, print or radio ads very often come at great value last-minute.

As a little tool to help…. Use this table to fill in the marketing activity you are doing to really help your stand and marketing effort. You should be looking to have something however small in each box!

Planning your pre-show marketing budget is not an exact science, but over the past 25 years, this is what I’ve seen work best. Remember, we have two resources to help you establish a trade show budget and pre-show marketing strategy.

The Exhibition Guy- Stephen Murtagh

Guest Contributor for Quadrant2Design