Online seminars, virtual trade shows and direct to customer events have emerged in recent years, but they simply can’t compare to the power of face-to-face marketing found at traditional trade shows. While the pure number of trade shows has decreased in recent years, newer and improved shows along with consolidated events are popping up year after year. Some failing shows have revamped and changed the game to stay relevant in today’s marketplace and hoping for new and improved attendance numbers. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of trade shows for the least expense.
Identify Goals – Determine your purpose for participating in a specific trade show or circuit of shows. A “contract” event involves selling product at the show, while a “contact” event includes networking and forming new relationships. Contact events are usually more successful for small businesses because it’s an ideal opportunity to meet people in-person then follow-up after the show. Always remember that lead generation is the first priority.
Take Your Time – Trade shows can be large and overwhelming, so try not to do everything in one day. Rotate demonstrations and theater presentations, if possible. Take your business development objectives seriously, but remember that a slow and steady strategy can be a real winner. If a show is running multiple days make sure you have enough information, giveaways and prospect offerings to last until the end of the event.
Look Before You Leap – Get an overview of the trade show layout before it begins so you know which booths and events deserve your time. Focus your efforts by talking to the event manager in advance and requesting lists of past attendees and pre-registrants. Know your neighbors and focus any sponsorship opportunities to maximize the financial benefits.
Make Appointments for The Event – Once you know who will be attending, set up times to meet key people to ensure you have the opportunity to network with them. Direct the entire sales and business development team to do the same and maximize your meeting times. Show appointments can sometimes be unpredictable, but an appointment assures that you’ll meet the people you want. Follow up before and after the show with prospects in a timely fashion to keep the opportunity fresh.
Meet with Show Management for Opportunities and Exposure – Trade Shows are all about networking so don’t forget to network with show managers to get the latest news, updates and learn about new sales opportunities. In addition, managers of trade shows often talk to the press about new exhibitors as a way to generate coverage. If the manager can mention your company, you may be exposed to exhibitors and attendees that you didn’t have the opportunity to meet prior.
Save By Partnering – Reduce the expense of trade shows by sharing a booth with a company that complements your business, but is not a direct competitor. Partner pavilions or smaller opportunities are often a great way to get on the show floor, generate interest and turn a small investment into a larger opportunity. Reach out to your industry partners and suppliers to ask about exhibiting opportunities.
Keeps Signs Simple – People will pass your booth in a matter of seconds, so you want something that grabs their attention but doesn’t overwhelm with information. Limit your signs to a catchy phrase that describes what you do, and compelling trade show booth graphics. Some technical graphics are often required for attendees so make sure those graphics are placed in high visibility locations to catch the eye of a technical thinker.
Follow-Up Immediately – At the end of each show day, send e-mails to every lead your team meets. This takes time and dedication, but is often a key to the success of your investment. It’s ok to have a form letter, as long as you add a personal line that mentions your meeting. It’s a small gesture that makes a big impression. If there are specific notes included on the lead, make mention of those items with a promise to follow up in a timely manner.
Trade shows can have enormous value and lead to countless opportunities. Take the time to develop a trade show strategy that allows you to network with the people you want, promote your company and seek new opportunities. Formulating a solid plan of attack can open doors and create new business opportunities that are key in a face to face environment.