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Don't Forget The Trade Show Goodies For The Kids.

There are two key reasons trade shows are so important. One is that people who attend do so primarily to find out what’s new in the areas that interest them, and some are even ready to buy. The other is that with so many competitors and industry relatives all in one place, it is the best time for you to be checking up on them.

So as an exhibitor, your job is to
answer questions,
obtain qualified sales leads,
sell what you can of produc\servicet then and there
check out and mingle within your industry and competition.

As with all business activities, go in with a clear purpose in mind, and plan to get the most out of it.

First off, set measurable goals for yourself. Set aside time and schedule times to sell product, obtain qualified leads, meet suppliers, attend customer events. Work also to promote and strengthen your brand, work on scripts and what exactly you ask of and say to customers. You might select the shows you want exposure at and those you simply want to attend and network through. Some companies find hosting via a hotel suite at a conference hotel is cheaper and more effective than a booth. Guerilla marketing attendees distribute materials strategically and discreetly to other attendees.

For those you want to rent a booth at the exhibit, look at their past results. There are several good Internet sites that provide this type of information. See who attended, how many, who exhibited, how is it promoted, how many exhibitors came back, sales success etc. A well respected well attended show is good. Find out about venue, booth location, costs, and logistical considerations. Once you've got all your options laid out, let your overall budget guide your decision. Remember to ensure you have enough staff to do everything effectively. Generally speaking, you get better results from a strong presence at one important and expensive show than a less than optimal impact at several lesser shows.

If you cannot afford to exhibit, look for a strategic partner selling a complementary product to your market and see if you can piggyback or share. Alternatively, go as an attendee and do some guerrilla marketing. Wear corporate logos, talk to other attendees, hand out business cards, and if you can, compact materials. Careful though, trade show organizers frown on brazen attempts to use their venue without having paid for it, so do respect their business model. In fact, you can harness it by speaking at the show. Experts are always welcome if they can add value to the show, and they're approached by attendees. You'd have the credibility that turns audience members into customers.

Before going, prepare a handful of open ended questions that stimulate thought and discussion and allow you to qualify prospects and compel them to spend some time with you. These invariably start with who, what, where, when, why and how and relate to industry circumstances and products. They should also lead to and highlight the benefits your product provides. For example, "what concerns do you have regarding "X", and "what are your most important needs when you "X", are both good questions that should start a good conversation that will lead to benefit statements.

Also, develop methods and incentives for people to leave you with their contact information It could be as simple as collecting business cards, which, incidentally are the most reliable source of information about the company, the individual, their position, the spelling of names, and contact information. Design an appropriate lead form that captures specific qualifying and follow-up information and categorizes A, B and C prospects. Also create a system to manage these leads. What is the follow up routine, who is responsible, what gets reported when and to whom?

Develop a budget. For each show, you'll have several expenses such as booth rental and set-up, travel, food and lodging, shipping costs of all show items, marketing materials, wages, samples, promotional items etc. Resulting sales can also be estimated. How many visitors do you expect to have at your booth? How many leads do you expect to generate? How many of them do you expect to close? What is your sales target? Use the information to determine your estimated and eventual actual cost per lead and sale, closing ratio, and the return on your trade show investment.

Be sure to create the right first impression. Your booth’s look, your materials, your people, and your activities are the only real variables you can work with. Your objective here is to create interest and enthusiasm in your products and services amongst attendees. The job of the booth is to attract the attention of the crowd and project an appropriate image for your company. Make sure it provides a quick glimpse of what you offer, is well organized, well lit, and visually attractive. Consider wearing your corporate logo because images provide lasting impression and a continuous reminder to your audience you are there to talk about our product. It is not always appropriate, but if it enhances the overall image and positioning of your booth, do it. Otherwise, wear comfortable clothing and shoes because you will be standing for hours on end.

In creating your space, remember creativity need not be expensive but it must bring people in. Remember also that too much traffic is as un-productive as one with too little, so do not go for gathering throngs of people. If you use freebies, choose them carefully. Make them useful. I always liked providing bags with logos because show goers need to carry their goodies away. Whatever you choose, it should relate to what you offer and you should ensure it will in fact be used.

Most people who come to your booth will be tire-kickers looking to evaluate new products, make new contacts, get solutions to specific problems, and make purchasing decisions….so qualify early. Give the pure tire kickers brochures and freebies, and they’ll be happy. When you get a qualified lead, get the necessary contact information, ensure you provide them with quality information, and discuss the follow up.

Remember to listen effectively and make sure you learn as you go. See how people respond to what you offer. Do they like it? Do they understand it quickly? How effective are you at explaining it? What do they think about the price versus the value of the benefits?

While you’re not busy with potential customers, walk around and keep your eyes open. Trade shows and exhibitions provide a great opportunity to learn about the competition and how they sell their products. Collect their literature, talk to them about their products, and even ask them about your own. Even if they know you as a competitor, more often than not, as long as you respect their traffic, they’ll be cooperative.

Gather information from other exhibitors as well, paying particular attention to suppliers, distributors, new development etc. Take materials for later study of not only content but presentation techniques. Sign up for complimentary offerings, especially trade publications. Talk to the trade press and try to interest them in a story. Remember everyone does it and preference is given to advertisers, so you need a strong hook and story to receive consideration. It is more likely the result will be another name on your contact list, but that’s OK too. You will likely find the trade press useful, and they are looking for stories year round.

And it doesn’t hurt to gather all those freebies either. They can make great gifts for the kids.

© 2015 John B Voorpostel

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