You must not approach trade shows haphazardly. While this may sound intuitive to event marketing veterans like myself, it’s astonishing how many people neglect the fundamentals. Meticulously preparing for an event entails careful planning, savvy promotion, effective qualification of leads and flawless follow up.

The success you’ll enjoy from trade shows is driven by the level of action you take before, during and after the show. Today, I’ll describe 3 mistakes that business owners commonly make when preparing for trade shows and leveraging the event afterwards.

Mistake #1: Not Setting Concrete Goals

Setting goals for what you’d like to accomplish from the event is more complicated than many people realize. “Make money” is not an effective goal. You need to design a plan that includes measurable targets. For example, you should have a goal for the number of qualified leads that you collect during the event. You should quantify how many customers your staff will contact before the show as well as the number of media sources (if appropriate). If you’re selling products at the show, your list of goals should include sales targets (including the number of items sold, revenue generated, or both).

Mistake #2: Failing To Prepare Your Employees

Your staff needs to be prepared for the event. They represent your company’s image, service attitude and overall professionalism. Not only must your employees be able to approach and talk easily with attendees, but you must also train them to qualify leads quickly. This includes encouraging visitors to discuss their business needs, budget and level of authority in making purchase decisions. Also, your booth staff should be able to identify “high priority” customers at the show. Educate your staff regarding how far along these customers are in the buying cycle and how to discuss solutions with them.

Mistake #3: Ignoring The Follow Up

Most of your efforts before and during the trade show will be focused on qualifying and collecting leads. While you may sell products during the show, successful event marketing nearly always involves following up with qualified prospects who visited your booth. This is the key that has allowed me to experience substantial success from trade shows. Yet, many exhibitors fail to follow up with their leads after the event (or they wait too long before doing so, allowing the leads to “go cold”).

Depending upon your sales process, begin following up with prospects within a few days of the event. Use the phone, email, physical newsletters and personally written notes to keep them warm and moving closer toward making a buying decision. If you’ve sent them home from the show with your message, your follow up will be a valuable reminder of the solutions your company offers.

Trade show marketing isn’t complicated once you understand which strategies are most effective. Then, it’s simply a matter of taking action on those strategies. That means setting measurable goals, preparing your staff and diligently following up. Believe it or not, if you do those things, you will already be ahead of most of the competition.