Trade Show Marketing
and conferences can be an ideal way to meet prospective customers. Almost
every industry has at least one trade association that has an annual conference
with exhibits. There are few other venues that bring together as many
people from a single industry. If your product or service is attractive
to those in that industry, you should consider exhibiting at a trade show.
While trade shows
bring together potential customers, being effective in marketing to those
people requires some thought ahead of time and hard work at the show.
Here are some tips to consider.
Choose the right
Before deciding to exhibit make sure the audience is the one you want
to reach. Show sponsors target their efforts to get attendees at the show.
Look at their material and decide whether it would be interesting to your
audience. Try to choose shows that attract decision-makers. Even if you
would end up selling to a lower level person, the CEO or decision-maker
will probably be involved in the process.
Make sure there will
be a large enough number of attendees to justify your costs. If a show
sponsor says there will be 500 attendees, ask how many of that group will
be other exhibitors. Sponsors are trying to sell you on exhibiting and
may try to pump up the numbers.
Get a list of attendees
before the show
Most sponsors will make lists of attendees available, but often at some
cost. Getting the list is usually worth the cost. You can identify existing
customers and likely prospects. You may even want to make special arrangements
with a good customer for dinner or at least a discussion. You may want
to mail a letter or brochure to attendees before the show. Most attendees
go to trade shows to learn and if you can get their attention before the
show they will be more likely to search out your exhibit.
Make sure your
exhibit tells your story
At almost any trade show there will be exhibits that are extravagant (and
expensive). Unless you have a very large budget just for your exhibit,
you are unlikely to attract attendees just because your exhibit is appealing.
The key is to make sure as people walk past your exhibit, they understand
what you are offering. There may be dozens or hundreds of exhibits and
your message should be clear. Simple graphics with minimal text can work
very well if it conveys your message.
Meet your most
Another challenge is getting your most likely prospects who visit your
exhibit to have a conversation. Many exhibitors use drawings for prizes
or trinket give-aways. If you are having a drawing, make sure your prize
would be well received. Electronics, food baskets and golf equipment are
common prizes. To initiate conversations with those registering for a
drawing, you may want to have some type of "challenge" associated
with the prize. Ask how many golf balls are in a bucket or the value of
a jar of coins. This will get attendees to spend a few more minutes at
your exhibit and you may be better able to start a conversation.
Materials to have
Most exhibitors will have a supply of brochures and written materials
for attendees to take. Avoid the temptation to overspend on large packets
of materials for everyone. A lot of trade show materials get tossed in
hotel wastebaskets without ever being read. A better idea is to have a
simple handout for most people that just appear to be looking while having
a more complete packet for serious prospects.
Follow up, follow
up and follow up
Just like any sales process, following up is critical. Be sure to keep
good notes about which prospects deserve special attention. Remembering
which prospect said what could be difficult especially if the show lasts
for several days. Most attendees are relatively free with their business
cards and you may want to make notes on the back of them. Be sure to ask
good prospects how they would like you to follow up. Then do it.
Trade shows can be effective marketing tools. However, they can also be
hard work and frustrating. Be sure to be prepared, use your best sales
techniques and be well rested.