There’s no denying that trade shows can be a potent marketing avenue for many small businesses. Expos provide a perfect opportunity to meet potential new customers face-to-face, to raise your profile and perfect your pitch.
That said, exhibiting at a trade show is not without its risks. The cost of a booth at popular expos can be prohibitive, so it’s critical that you rinse every dollar of value possible out of the experience.
If you’re considering your first trade show the following tips will help you do just that…
While a solid tradeshow will see tens of thousands of potential customers visiting, it’s also important to understand that you’re competing against a lot of other companies. In a big venue, packed with hundreds of booths, its surprisingly easy to wonder straight past a booth without even noticing them. Opportunity lost.
The first step in trade show success is therefore to attract attention. You want people to approach your booth like bees to honey.
Fortunately, there are a whole host of techniques that can be used to accomplish this.
Firstly, pre-show marketing can kick-start the process. Consider firing off a mailshot to your existing customer database encouraging them to come and meet you in person. Speak to suppliers and particularly hopeful leads in person, inviting them to come and see you at the show. Remember that a quiet booth can be intimidating for visitors who don’t want to be first, so having some visitors pre-planned into your schedule can help to eliminate this problem.
Secondly, your booth itself can help to attract attention. A professionally-designed and eye-catching exhibition display is a solid start, but this appeal can be extended further through a range of other activities. Some businesses use showmanship to draw attention, from having live demonstrations to interactive experiences, from acrobats on trampolines to competitions for valuable prizes.
Of course, the key is to tailor these activities to your ideal customer, so take the time to consider what you can do to immediately draw in the crowds to your stand. The truth is that once you start to draw in leads, the flow is only likely to grow over time.
One final benefit of properly attracting attention is that of course it helps to draw it away from any competitors who may also be exhibiting at the tradeshow – making for a double win.
So you have their curiosity, but sadly this doesn’t put money in the bank. Once your trade stand is buzzing with atmosphere the next step is to connect with these individuals. You want to leverage every single visitor you receive. The primary goal should be turning first-time visitors into long-term leads that can be marketed to time and again.
When done well, the technique can be so effective as to fill your pipeline with leads for months into the future. I know of a number of companies who do enough business from just a few tradeshows each year that they barely need to worry about marketing throughout the rest of the year.
In order to attract leads there are a number of techniques which can be used. Competitions can work well, whereby visitors provide their details in exchange for the opportunity of winning an impressive prize.
Alternatively some “free gift” may be offered to people leaving their details with you. This may be in the form of a free magazine, booklet, piece of software or discount voucher.
A smart idea is to survey your existing customers before attending the trade show. Doing this allows you to ascertain two critical things. Firstly, you can get a better understanding of what promotions or freebies your customers feel are most valuable. Secondly you can examine the lifetime value of your existing customers, and the sign-up rate for your sales team, in order to decide how much to spend on your incentive.
Sell – Gently
While it is normally easier to use tradeshows as a mechanism for gathering leads for future promotional activity this isn’t to say that you won’t sell anything at all.
Recruit the best members of your sales team to man your trade stand with a view to gently selling once a lead has been generated. Exhibitions provide a perfect platform for this, allowing you to meet potential customers face-to-face, pass out samples and really connect with leads.
Such benefits can make closing sales on the day considerably easier than selling online or via mail order.
Even if your sales are mainly done from a distance a trade show is the perfect opportunity to ask questions to visitors, and use these as direction for improving every aspect of your business.
From your marketing materials to your packaging, from pricing to customer concerns, be sure to ask visitors lots of questions about your company. Ask questions about competitors, too, in order to ascertain why your prospects may choose other companies, and what you could do to win their trade.
Trade shows can be hectic so try to record your findings regularly throughout the day. By the time you leave you should have an extensive list of ideas, suggestions and improvements to help drive your business forward in the coming months.
It’s well-known that very few leads convert on their first experience with a company. Many individuals require multiple experiences before they move from lead to customer.
The leads that you gather at the trade show can be worth their weight in gold if only you’re willing to follow up with them on a regular basis. Whether you send physical mailshots, utilize opt-in emails, or just pick up the phone to connect in person, be sure to follow up on multiple occasions after the show.
This article was provided by Nomadic Display, one of the world’s best-known designers and manufacturers of exhibition display stands.
Image Credit: Phil Sexton