Time, they say, flies really fast. The summer that we all so longed for, after a brutally long winter, will slowly be on its way out. And with it, the wheels of trade show season will begin to turn. Do you need tips for a successful trade show presence?
Trade shows are widely perceived as money-wasting marketing extravaganzas. However, if leverage well, trade shows are very effective as a marketing channel. As small and medium businesses, participating in the right trade show in a planned manner will most definitely add to your sales funnel.
So I thought this was an appropriate time to put together a list of tips that would help small and medium businesses plan for and reap the benefits of, what is undoubtedly, a powerful medium for sales.
- Pick the right show: Don’t participate in a show just because “it is the main event of your industry”. Picking events to participate in is not an easy task and there is no formula for doing so. But, as you will find in this checklist, your decision can be centered around your need. Take time to evaluate your decision from the point of view of your product management, sales, marketing and PR exposure and financial benefits. Make the event organizer work for your money. Ask a lot of leading questions to ensure that you validate the data they put in front of you. Challenge the attendee profile they show you and convince yourself that this is not fictional.
- Get the right space: Do not scrounge on space. Yes, booth rentals can be prohibitive but don’t let that be the dominant driver of your decision. Take enough space at the show to allow the visitors to your booth to feel welcome and less cramped. Also, very often, the bigger the size of your booth the more likely you are to get a better spot on the floor – a spot that would allow you generate a lot of footfalls. For small businesses who are participating for the first time, try to get a booth next to a big participant and benefit from their booth traffic.
- Have a great booth: Spend a lot of time planning your booth, if you have to make the best use of the time of your visitors and the personnel that represent you at the show. Remember, when you participate in a trade show you are actively illustrating that your brand in trustworthy. Everything that you display in the booth and how your booth is designed is reflective of your business and how you operate. Use the space to highlight your brand by selecting fabric and decorative objects that align with your brand colours. Do not clutter your booth. Doing so will ensure that your visitors – read, prospects – are not distracted from your brand message. Choose the right display systems (we can definitely help you here) that are reflective of your brand / business personality. Have great signage that highlights your message without putting out too much to confuse the visitor.
- Use social media: Leverage the power of social media to drive traffic to your booth even before the show has begun. If you do not have a social media presence, start now. If you already have a presence ensure your social media sites are updated. A stale social media site will send your visitor the wrong message. Most event organizers create an event hashtag to promote their event. Use this hashtag to actively announce your presence at the show, much before the show starts.
— In My Area (@inmyarea) August 5, 2014
During the show, drive people to your booth by regularly sending messages on your social media platforms. And, last, ensure that your social media properties are mentioned in all your marketing material so that people can go and visit them.
- Send your best people: As a small and medium business owner it is very probable that you will be the key driver of your trade show events. But remember, there can be three reasons to participate in a trade show – to sell, to learn and to schmooze.
Ensure you have adequate team members to engage all your visitors in a fruitful conversation. These team members MUST be knowledgeable about your business to answer all possible questions. They must have a pleasing demeanour and should be fully involved in the show and not their smartphones.
Nominate one member of your team to designate time to attend the learning sessions at the trade show. This member should also just walk around the show area and take in what the competition is offering.
As dodgy as it sounds, schmoozing is an important factor in trade shows. As a small and medium business, your budget may not allow you to have a hospitality suite. But as the business owner you should take it upon yourself to connect with the movers and shakers in your industry during such an event. Take up a speaking opportunity if you can, have breakfast and lunch meetings with key constituents of your business, meet with the media who cover the event and brief them about your business and do all you can to keep your strong prospects engaged in your brand.
- Give away great SWAG: People love SWAG and freebie items. But don’t get caught up being cheesy and go for the cheapest. While the cheapest may save you some money, it will not have any recall value with your prospects. Think differently. Get creative. Your SWAG need not be expensive but should be clever and memorable – something that your recipient will appreciate and use in the long run. Be judicious about giving away SWAG. Hand them out only to people who have spent time with your team, expressed some form of interest and, most important, provided some data about themselves. In collecting information, make sure that the form the visitors fill in are simple and do not ask too many questions.
- Don’t hold contests: – In a bid to attract more footfalls, do not have any contests that promise high value give aways as a prize. This will only ensure that people interested in getting the prize enter your trade booth and these may not prove to be a good prospect – thus wasting time and effort on your end.
- Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up: Always thank your visitors as they leave your booth. Avoid the weakest part of a trade show – going back to your office and not following up with the people you spoke to and who gave you their information. Make it a part of the process and, as business owner, monitor it personally. Diligent follow-up with the prospects you met, will yield great benefit in the long run.
So, TRUST ME, even as a small or medium business owner you can ROCK at a trade show. Trade shows are not antiquated get-togethers that many consider a waste of time and effort. Planned and executed well, they can be a great source of filling your sales funnel. Have confidence in your business and your brand and your trade show experience will on target to reward you with sales.
If you need any help with your trade show, feel free to call us on 905-282-0208 or, better still, visit our store.