Spring is fast approaching, and it brings with it a season of local and national trade shows for businesses like yours and ours. Trade shows often serve as a launch pad for new business enterprises and the proverbial “bread and butter” for existing enterprises to grow. However, trade show participation often come at high costs for registration fees, promotional items, travel, labor and other expenses. This might put some small businesses at risk of not getting a good return on investment (ROI).
We are excited to offer you the top ten researched-backed trade show tactics to help you get the best ROI from trade show participation. Let’s begin with the most obvious:
Nail First Impressions
Studies show that your first impression has a high impact on the actual long-term status of your relationship.[i] First impressions are even more important at trade shows because attendees are flooded with information about dozens of companies and its crucial that you and your business stand out.
In reality, you only have about 10 seconds to capture the attention of people passing by before they become uninterested in what you’re selling. — Rachael Sprung, HubSpot
To draw people in to your booth make sure your exhibit visually stands out, even if you have a limited budget. Utilize colors, large signs, banners, and make the most of your branded materials or incorporate inventive technology to make your set up more appealing and interesting. It is also important to create unique and interesting content to draw people in and then have that content lead to a sale. Finally, refine your elevator pitch; make sure it communicates who you are, what you do, and what makes you unique quickly and effectively.
Engage Employees in All Aspects of the Show
Employees are part of your brand, so it is wise to utilize them as marketing tools for your business throughout the show. Some creative ways to include employees into your trade show display would be to have them disguised as show attendees interacting with your booth, creating an internal sales competition, and having an employee be a featured speaker.
- Have employees dressed as show attendees and surround your booth to create the illusion of a crowd to draw other attendees. This works because social proof generates trust. When onlookers see others interacting with your brand they will wonder what the buzz is about and want to find out for themselves. If you utilize employees in this way be sure that you have sufficient employees working the booth to engage onlookers.
- Create an internal sales competition. Have your best sales people on the floor and make it a competition among them as to who can generate the most leads or close the most deals. This will motivate employees to put in extra effort and make the most of the show.
- Have a team member speak at the show. This proves that your presence has been vetted by the event planning committee in charge of the tradeshow.[ii] Having an employee speak at the show gives your brand visibility and validity with show attendee. Nothing builds trust faster than teaching something of value without asking for anything in return. Attendees with have a favorable view of your business if they gain something beneficial from your organization without having to give anything for it.
Extend Your Reach With Inventive Promotional Items
Promotional items are extensions of your brand. Having promotional giveaways that are easily visible are simple ways to get people talking about your booth. Go beyond a branded stress ball and create unique promotional items to stand out from other businesses. Another way to maximize the benefit of promotional items is to turn it into a game. For example, those who wear items or sign up for your mailing list have a chance to win something big at the end. Creating a game gets people interested in your booth and excited at the change of winning something, while promoting your brand and generating warm sales leads.
Identify Companies That Will Be In Attendance and Leverage Your Research
Go through the attendee list in advance and identify potential customers and prospects. If the event is more intimate, you can conduct a competitive analysis on the attending companies competitors so that you have the ability to, on a more personal level, show companies how they will be able to use your product to compete with their competitors.[iii] For example, Hubspot has a free tool, ‘Marketing Grader’, which can be used to grade the marketing programs of companies that will be in attendance. A leaderboard can be created to show top-ranked companies and be displayed on a screen at the event booth.
This allows you to make targeted communications and have prepared information to be more effective in communicating the ways you can improve the business of prospective clients.
Schedule Pre-Show Booth Meetings with Potential Customers
Reach out to attendees 4-6 weeks prior to the show and set up meetings at your booth before the show starts. Reach out with personalized messages for each potential client.
Make it about networking, not selling. Learn about what they do, do not make it about what you do. The focus in these meetings should be to create relationships, not sell products. Creating a personal relationship with potential clients before trying to make a sale will make an eventual deal go more smoothly.
Utilize the Experience and Resources of Other Companies
Your biggest resource before and at a trade show is other companies. There is much to learn from companies that have been successful and those that have failed. Trade leads and contact information with brands selling different products and services with the same target market as you. This is a way to instantly double sales opportunities; this gives you the most ability to affect your ROI for the show.
Before creating booth materials and while planning for the show, research successful trade show leaders and adjust your strategy. Take time to look into tips and tricks from organizations that have been very successful at trade shows. Explore other trade show booths and learn how they are marketing their products and services and ask or observe to determine if they are effective or not.
Have Interactive Elements
Adding unconventional elements to your booth will generate interest and give attendees a better understanding of your value proposition. Anything that distances your booth from traditional trade show booths will benefit your businesses performance at the show. Incorporating touch screens is a helpful tool to increase engagement because it gives those interacting with your booth more to do than listen to your employees sales pitch.
Bring Your Best Clients to the Show
Create repeat business by buying a ticket for some of your best clients. It is easier to get more business from an established client than it is to obtain a new customer, so inviting existing clients to the show is a way to maintain your relationship. A strong relationship with a prior client will make them an additional evangelist of your brand to help you secure new business as well.
Stop Selling, Focus on Networking
Creating relationships first, before trying to make a sale, will be better for your business in the long run. Having an established relationship will make finalizing a deal later on much easier.
Ask questions about others first before attempting to sell your product or service. It is more natural flowing when you ask someone about their company and where they come from first, because they will likely ask about you in return.
Build relationships; ask questions about their business and themselves. Find common interests. Networking is more beneficial to your business than giving a sales pitch to every show attendee you interact with. Creating relationships will lead to more business long-term and leave attendees with a more favorable view of your company.
Follow Up ASAP
After the show, contact leads as soon as possible so they do not forget about you. Typically, wait one day after the show to follow up with prospects. Follow up with any items you told customers or prospects you would send them upon return to the office.
Following up soon after the show is important because once prospects get back to ‘real life’ they will begin to forget the impression you made on them at the show and the conversations you had.
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[i] Gibson, J. C. (n.d.). 15 Trade Show Booth Success Tips. Retrieved February 09, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-c-gibson/19-trade-show-booth-succe_b_10066960.html
[ii] Sprung, R. (2012, March 12). 6 Tactics for Turning Trade Show Interactions Into On-Site Sales. Retrieved February 09, 2017, from https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/31690/6-Tactics-for-Turning-Trade-Show-Interactions-Into-On-Site-Sales.aspx#sm.0000vph4sv19rxdtku03lu8l7tus0
[iii] Gleeson, B. (2013, September 05). 7 Tricks For Tradeshow Domination. Retrieved February 09, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2013/09/04/7-tricks-for-tradeshow-domination/#516298e64a1e