There are many benefits to participating in trade shows, even in the Internet age we live in. Obtaining high quality leads, increasing brand awareness, and physical presence in front of prospects are just a few of these rewards. However, none of these benefits are attainable without a diligent amount of strategy and effort planned in advance of the show. If your business has never participated in a trade show and is interested in exploring opportunities – or if you’ve attended shows for decades and are simply looking for a better return on the investment – here are some best practices to maximize your trade show presence.
- Do your research. Before you consider sponsoring or exhibiting at a trade show, you need to research your opportunities and attend a few shows prior to registering as an exhibitor. Trade shows are a major production, and understanding what exactly they entail requires in-person attendance. Take note of the audience and what seems to draw a crowd. Are their TV displays, presentations, or contests? These observations will help in planning your own booth and participation.
- Consider sponsorship opportunities. Elevate your trade show participation by considering thought leadership sponsorship and speaking opportunities. Be seen as a thought leader and take advantage of your most readily available resource, in-house experts, to promote your brand and credibility in front of other influential decision makers. Panel discussions and small group breakout sessions are just a few possibilities. Get in touch with the show coordinators in advance to learn more.
- Reach out to attendees. Prior to the show, request a list of attendees and begin prospecting by researching the list on LinkedIn. Take these efforts to the next level by executing a LinkedIn InMail campaign and inviting your strongest prospects to a VIP breakfast or event. At TribalVision, we also encourage building excitement through contests, swag items, and free show tickets if a prospect pre-orders.
- Promote your exhibit. Prior to the show, promote your booth by posting on your blog and social media to create buzz. Save product or service launches for the show so clients and prospects anticipate the reveal at the event. This tactic also allows your marketing team to submit a newsworthy press release to publications which will spearhead both show and product promotion efforts.
- Schedule meetings. Don’t wait for a potential customer to visit your booth. Begin prospecting before the show and plan prospect appointments. Encourage your team to set their own prospect meetings and goals in advance of the show, and make sure everyone brings specific samples or literature for those individuals – the extra touch won’t go unnoticed.
- Create buzz. Use a great video or how-to presentation to create buzz and draw attention to your booth. Create an experience for attendees by providing memorable interactions that go above and beyond your competition. Product demonstrations, contests, and samples are just a few tactics to keep in mind.
- Monitor your booth staff. Take advantage of the early mornings by checking in with your team. Everyone should have a responsibility and can take a divide-and-conquer approach. Some members should be responsible for upselling current customers, while others should be responsible for new sales. Continue to remind the team of their roles, and talking points. Some sales teams fall into the trap of thinking that the show is like a vacation. Curb these attitudes by reminding your team of their sales goals and rewards for turning leads into prospects and prospects into accounts.
- Plan your follow-up. Do not make the mistake of letting the leads go cold by waiting too long to reach out. Input your leads and prospects into your CRM system right away. Divide your team to tackle large promising prospects and even the smaller leads. At TribalVision we recommend taking your outreach to the next level by engaging large prospects via direct mail, email campaigns, or multi-touch point campaigns. For example, one TribalVision client followed up with leather iPad cases, handwritten notes, and a webinar invitation. Integrated marketing at its finest!
- Debrief your staff. Take time to get feedback from your team and begin planning for the next year. Bring all good and bad experiences to the table. What was successful? What should be reconsidered? Even consider conducting an internal survey. Your booth, successful lead generation, and future shows will depend on this feedback.
It’s certainly quite a feat to pull off a successful show, especially on a large scale, and the improvements above may not all be feasible for you before your next show. However, if you can commit to adopting these practices, your trade show experience will be smooth and on track to generate worthwhile qualified leads.