Attending carefully selected trade shows is a marketing and sales opportunity that cannot be replicated in any other channel. Participating in a trade show is an expensive investment but the return is worth it if you are selective in which ones you attend. And only if you do it right.
The benefits are two-fold, both as a participant and as a visitor. A trade show gives you the opportunity to:
- Promote new product lines
- Generate leads
- Make contacts
- Connect with current customers
- Learn about industry trends and your competitors
And all of this in the same place within the span of a day or two!
It’s all in the preparation!
Design your trade show exhibit! Define your goal(s) for the event – e.g. unveiling a new product – and design your booth to tell a story around the brand.
– Customize your booth with displays, and signage. Signs and displays should ‘tell the story’ about who will benefit from your product and how.
– If you have the space, consider dividing it into direct selling and relationship building areas.
– Explore solutions on how to capture visitor data to generate viable leads. If no digital options are available, a low tech collection of business cards will do.
– Consider free give aways. If you decide to invest in gifts, these should be useful, clearly branded and draw visitors. Like good booth design, the right gift highlights your brand. However, your investment should be a function of the trade show you are attending. At general trade shows, there is no point in giving away gifts to unqualified visitors. You can selectively thank a prospect with a gift discreetly. Specialized trade shows, on the other hand, are perfect to give well-branded gifts to visitors.
Team: don’t go it alone.
You need at least two people to staff your trade show exhibit. One to manage people-flow at your exhibit, while the other ‘walks’ the floor, scopes out the competition, meets with top prospects and works on leads. Consider this formula for staffing a trade show exhibit: one person for 50 square feet of space, plus perhaps an extra person for the peak times of the day.
If possible, select a mix of technical, sales and leadership to represent at your booth.
Prior to the trade show, research the list of exhibitors and evaluate if they are a competitor or a potential contact. Make a shortlist of trade show exhibits you want to see. Schedule appointments if possible with your top 3 to 5 must-see exhibitors. Invite prospects by making appointments in advance. Consider adding a promotional gift to the invitation to excite prospects and current customers. Prepare a media packet and if you want industry press coverage, arrange for meetings prior to the event. At least 1-3 months before the event, send out announcements to customers and prospects advertising your presence at the trade show.
- Maximize your time by plotting out your route around the convention center. Focus on the trade show exhibits according to the priorities established when you were preparing. Remember, you are there to generate leads and make contacts so don’t get sidelined by exhibits that may not offer any potential. Manage your time wisely.
- Visit your targeted trade show exhibits, including competitors. Only take key information, including business cards and samples, and take brief notes (on the back of the business card, for example) that you can refer to when following up with the contact.
- Follow up with the key contacts made upon your return from the show with a personal email or phone call.