It’s that time of year again when businesses are in the throes of Trade Show season. Trade Shows are great networking opportunities as you exhibit, walk the floor, attend break-out sessions or just go to peruse and meet new business partners. All are ways to stay on top of your industry and worth the effort. Here are the two main ways to participate in a show:
1. Buy an exhibit hall pass, or
2. Purchase a booth
Let’s start with the less expensive option which is to purchase an exhibit hall pass:
• If the event is local, invite your colleagues, clients, prospects to meet you there. Trade shows are a very social environment and there is always an area with tables where snacks and coffee are offered so you have a place to sit down and talk away from the hustle and bustle of the main floor area.
• If you are traveling to the event then do your homework ahead of time to pinpoint companies you want to meet and call them and invite them to lunch somewhere near the show. They’ll be impressed you thought ahead and may be going anyway, so it’s not an inconvenience for them.
• In either case, be sure you are well supplied with any marketing materials you have including your business cards, brochures, flyers, etc.
• Consider creating an offer especially for the event such as “Show Special – Save 15%.”
Now, for the more expensive option of purchasing a booth:
• Don’t try to save money and do it yourself. This is an impossible task and you will undoubtedly make every mistake there is. This is too important and should be left to professionals. For help in creating banners, signage and other booth materials contact several printing companies for advice and pricing. Contact Affordable Marketing Solutions for help.
• Be sure to put a big splash on your website telling visitors that you will be exhibiting at the show along with the show’s dates and your booth location and number.
• Put a tag at the end of your emails about a month or so ahead of time so that everyone who receives your emails will see the Trade Show event announcement.
• Event companies will often offer exhibitors a number of FREE passes to distribute, so be sure to ask. Then, mail these passes to those prospects and customers you think will most benefit and attend.
• If possible, link your trade show splash to a FREE pass PDF that visitors can download from your website.
• Every large event has its own website. Be sure you get a link from there to your own website.
• Many event companies will send out pre-show attendee lists. If you get one, make the most of it by creating an email campaign announcing who you are and why they should stop by. Again, making a strong offer always helps.
• If you didn’t get the best floor location consider doing some out of box marketing such as having balloons (visible from far away), or having someone with you at the show to walk around handing invitations out to come to your booth, etc. Be creative so you can make the most of this investment.
• Ask the show’s event management company if there are any sponsorships available. For example, oftentimes exhibitors can sponsor a seminar for not that much more money. This will get you on the show’s website homepage which usually means a link back to your site.
• Once onsite at the show plan to collect business cards by asking for them “Would you like to drop in your business card?” If it makes sense for your business, create a raffle and have prospects enter to win something. If not, then ask if they’d like to receive company material such as a newsletter.
• Make your booth as friendly and approachable as possible. I learned this the hard way by not doing this. Don’t block entry with a table as a barrier. Consider a tall table with bar stools so there’s a place to sit and talk with prospects.
Here are some easy, affordable ways to make the most out of leads you will get from the trade show (that cost a lot of money, time and organizational effort to obtain):
• Plan to staff the booth with only your best employees or representatives. If possible, have back up with you as this frees you up to walk the floor, conduct meetings and network. Too I often over the years, I’ve seen staff text messaging, reading and NOT paying attention to or greeting people who came by their booth. If you are going to spend $10,000 or more to have a booth then be sure to have your BEST employees along with you to represent you. If you don’t have employees, then bring a trusted friend who has your best interests at heart.
• Quickly follow up. Within 2 weeks a phone call, email or other form of communication should take place. Don’t spend too much time over thinking what to say, how it should look, etc. Just reach out with a sincere “it was nice to meet you” message. Send an email newsletter saying thank you for stopping by and include an offer. Short, sweet and very effective.
• Be sure to strategize before you go. Have a plan in place to handle the leads. Depending upon the size of your organization, the follow up task should either be turned over to sales/marketing or an administrative support person who will get it done.
• Do not underestimate the power of perception. If you are selling an expensive Business to Business solution, your organization’s reputation is very much on the line and the way you handle your leads is an indication of how a potential new client relationship will be handled. Believe me, decision makers absolutely notice these things. A short phone call is the best way to show your appreciation and is an easy and affordable follow up method.
Trade shows can be lucrative for small businesses, so look up your local trade show venues and start making sales!