tradeshow

Trade Show Strategy – Tips on How to Make Your Next Trade Show Attendance a Success

Trade shows – no matter how you feel about them, they are here to stay. While we traditionally think of trade shows from an exhibitor’s viewpoint, with increasing costs and resources required, many small businesses choose to “walk” a trade show rather than exhibit at one.

If you plan on attending a trade show for business development reasons, you’ll need a trade show strategy and I’ve outlined below my tips on how to get the most from attending a trade show.

Set Goals
Make a list of the goals you want to achieve by visiting the show. This may include a list of ‘must see’ booths and ‘want to see’ booths as well as how many leads you want to achieve. Consider your internal resources when determining the number of leads to make sure you can follow up on the number of leads you may get.

Do Your Research
Spend time researching all of the ‘must see’ booths, so that you’ll have a clear idea of who you need to see, and what you need to learn about them. Contact the company prior to the event to find out if the person you want to speak to e.g. the Director of Purchasing, is going to be attending the show. If they are attending, set up an appointment with them at the show, and if they are not attending, leave your personalized sales package addressed to them at the booth.

Assess Time Commitment
Decide how much time you want to spend at the show, and then allot an appropriate amount to each booth, making sure to schedule the ‘must see’ booths first.  It is always a good idea to get a map of the show floor and prioritize your route prior to getting to the show. Weave into this any appointments your have made with those exhibitors you planned to meet with. If co-workers are attending the show with you, divide your targeted list into sections.

Take Notes
When talking to or meeting with a potential prospect, just like you would in a business meeting, take as many notes as you can. Sometimes this is not possible if you are standing at a booth, so feel free to record the conversation, with their permission, or make it a practice to quickly make note of the key points that were discussed for your later reference.

Gather Competitor Intel
Trade shows are the ideal opportunity to gather information about what your competitors are doing. It’s often the first glimpse you’ll get of new product releases, special programs, or fresh marketing initiatives. Pick up a few examples of their marketing collateral from their booths, and ask them a few carefully-worded questions about technical specs.

Organize Your Information
Depending on how long the conference is, you may need to sort your information at the end of each day. You might want to create a spreadsheet template for this information and then simple plug in the information based on each tab. For example, name of the lead, person you spoke with, their title, their email, and key products/services they might be interested in. You will also need a tab for a few personal notes to help jog your memory after you’ve returned from the show as well as a call to action e.g. call when you return back to the office or email them a sales sheet on one of your products/services.

Also, take a moment at the end of the day to track any information on your competitors, including exhibits or displays that you thought were particularly effective. Create a spreadsheet of what you thought was effective, and any marketing approaches you felt stood out e.g. videos, brochures, trade show imagery, etc. Make note of any that you might consider implementing in your own company’s marketing.

There is no doubt about it, having a clear plan of action will make sure that the time you spend at the show is a worthwhile investment.

If you are exhibiting at a trade show, read my blog on trade show strategy for an exhibitor.

Tradeshow Strategy – Tips on How to Make Your Next Tradeshow a Success

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.53.18 AMYou have 4 seconds to engage someone that’s walking by, and distractions are everywhere – what do you do to grab their attention first?

Tradeshow Tips

Write a Strategy

Before reserving a booth at an industry tradeshow, ask yourself and your team, “What are we trying to accomplish by going to this tradeshow?” Tradeshows can be rewarding and can demonstrate true ROI if you do it right and are clear about what you want out of it.

Attempting to attract an audience to your booth can prove to be challenging and we all know tradeshows can be extremely expensive, so set tangible objectives, that can measured as outcomes. Without objectives, how else will you know if the tradeshow was successful? Whether your desired outcome is to generate buzz, increase brand awareness, build customer relationships, share industry knowledge, network, or gain leads, relying on random traffic in the room is not the wisest strategy (especially when most tradeshow attendees already have an idea of which booths they plan to visit before they get to the show). If you don’t set out measureable objectives, you wont have a clear understanding of how your booth performed.

It’s important to be intentional and create a booth that attracts the right people, so you can more easily reach your tradeshow goals. I recommend you try some, or all, of the following:

Preshow Outreach

Contact your regular customers, local contacts and existing prospects, and, if you can get access to the list of registered show attendees, contact them too! Make appointments by reaching out through direct mail, email, or the phone.

Stand Up

Most exhibitor staff sit behind tables. Don’t do that! Get up, and engage with people – that’s what you’re there for. Either push the table against a wall or leave chairs out of your booth set up.

Stand Out

Tradeshows are an investment of money and time. If you’re making the investment, try to grab a good location (the better locations will be more expensive), and brand your booth. Your actual booth itself is a silent salesperson – it speaks for you and your brand when you’re not able to, so it pays to have a pretty booth in a great location. TV screens, or interactive touch screens are a great way to grab attention and share your key messages!

Signage

Something else to consider is having a benefit-oriented sign that can be seen from down an aisle on the showroom floor. It should have verbiage that gives prospective clients a reason to stop and showcases a solution to a customer problem. Your signage should also answer the question all potential customers will be asking themselves – “What’s in it for me?” Don’t be afraid to be specific – it will weed out anyone who isn’t your target.

Offer Incentive

In order to attract the right people, you have to know your attendees. Make sure your incentive speaks to your target market and offers them something they want so they have a reason to come to your booth. Promotional items will impact how show attendees perceive you. Investing in promotional items that are as unique and high quality as your offering will pay off. Whether its swag, a game, a discount, or free services, special gifts say “thank you for coming by.”

Social Media Live Feeds

Tradeshows are an “in-person” event, but social media should still play a part. Let your clients and prospective clients know where your booth is and what you’re up to over social media. Being active on social media during the show will help you connect with attendees and those who couldn’t make it to the event.

It’s common for events to have their own Twitter hashtag, so participants can communicate with one another from the showroom floor.

Promote the Tradeshow Like It’s Your Own Event

Every year tradeshows drive thousands of people to different events. Exhibitors can pay for passes to give to great customers, prospective customers, or media, to join you. The show organizers will be promoting the event themselves (which in turn promotes you by association), so give back to your partner by promoting them.

Follow Up AFTER the Show

You need to respond to leads really quickly! Key in business cards right at the show, and follow up either later that day, or early the next morning.

If a lead calls you first, do NOT wait – call them back immediately!

Do you create a strategy for your tradeshows? Do you have the same strategy every year? How do you measure the success of your tradeshows? Do you have any tips you would like to share? Please feel free to leave questions or comments in the comment section – I’d love to hear your stories!