Many have pronounced tradeshow marketing dead. But with the right strategy, hard work, and flawless execution, tradeshows can still be a productive part of your marketing plan.

Here are 12 ways to breathe new life into your tradeshows.

1. Start planning early

Maybe you have received a call from a tradeshow sales rep offering an unbelievable discount to replace an exhibitor that just backed out two or three weeks before the tradeshow. But getting into a tradeshow at the last minute is almost never a good idea. It shows you are being reactive with a major investment of time and money, and that is never a good sign.

If you start planning well in advance, however, you have the opportunity to obtain a quality booth space, get on the speaking agenda, secure adequate sales engagement, and plan appropriate pre- and post-show promotion. Your chances of having a positive experience are much higher.

Remember that most of the tradeshow cost is T&E (travel and entertainment), collateral and sign production, drayage, labor, rentals, etc.—so a last-minute deal on the exhibit cost is not really much of a deal.

2. Make sure the audience is a good fit

Most shows will publish a Web page for attendees that includes a "who should attend" description. Read it to determine whether the show is a good match for your target market.

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Bob Hebeisen is a Boston-based marketing professional with over 20 years of experience as a practitioner and team manager in B2B technology marketing. Reach him via LinkedIn and his blog.