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Friday, June 7, 2013

How to Make the Most of Trade Shows

Do you or your company attend trade shows to exhibit your products and/or services? If so, you know it’s a great way to showcase what you’re selling to a large group of people who have chosen to attend in an effort to learn more about a specific group of products/services. Depending on the location and size of the trade show, registration fees can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars. So, it’s in your best interest to get the biggest bang for your buck.

How to make the most of trade shows

I’ve broken the list of tips up into three categories to help manage the sometimes extensive trade show process from beginning to end.

Pre-Trade Show Preparation

  • Pick a strategic booth location – near the front doors, bathrooms, or at the end of isles are the best. Try to avoid a booth next to a direct competitor as well; the tension might make visitors uncomfortable.
  • Depending on the show size, decide how many people will attend and if there should be a dress code. You’ll need at least two so the booth is never unattended. Having at least two also means that one can man the booth while the other stands in the aisle to drum up more visitors.
  • Decide on a message and create supporting marketing materials. Enlist the help of your marketing department to help and ALWAYS proofread the materials before printing!
  • Order giveaways – Remi uses a variety of products like pens, golf tees, and stress pigs. If a raffle is allowed, determine the prize within the allotted dollar amount.
  • Acquire an attendee list and mail them a postcard with booth and raffle information.
  • Use social media to make trade show announcements. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great resources, so use them to their full advantage!
  • Be over-prepared and pack just-in-case supplies, like pens, sharpie, tape, paper clips, rubber bands, extra business cards, all-in-one screwdriver, headache medicine, and anything else you can think of that’s not easily accessible at the show. Don’t forget to pack comfortable shoes too because you’ll be on your feet all day.
  • Ship booth, marketing materials, giveaways, etc. to the hotel/venue with enough time to allot for any possible minor snafus.

At the Trade Show

  • When setting up your booth, don’t put all your giveaways out at once. Make it a general rule that visitors have to engage in a conversation first before getting the coveted trinket.
  • Have inviting body language and booth – smile, keep your arms uncrossed, and stand up; have fun and providing free food/drinks/candy always helps. Read Trade Show Booth Etiquette for more tips.
  • Take lots of photos and upload to Facebook and Twitter while at the show. Use appropriate hashtags and captions like “Live at XYZ Trade Show.”
  • Start a conversation, not a sales pitch. People do business with people they know, like, and trust [Bog Burg]. So, ask lots of questions and let them do the talking. Afterwards, get a business card and make notes for your follow-up.
  • Hold the raffle towards the end of the trade show. Visitors can enter by giving you their business card, handing in the post card they received, or filling out a new postcard.
  • Remember the cliché – quality over quantity! It’s better to have a handful of solid conversations than it is to hand out all the giveaways to any passerby.

Post Trade Show

  • Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! Contact all the visitors who gave you their business card, entered the raffle, or had a great conversation. This is where a possible sale can be made!
  • Make notes about the trade show in general so you remember what to expect next year.
  • Post additional photos and/or closing remarks on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
  • Write a press release on the trade show and use the photos you took while there.

The list of tips is extensive and even more can be added. As a regular exhibitor at trade shows, Remi had to learn some of these things the hard way and we’d like to help others not make the same mistakes we have in the past. Do you have any tips to add to help others avoid some common trade show pitfalls? Feel free to leave a comment and share the blog!