Trade shows are a great way to network and get your business name out there. But if you’ve never attended one before, you might be clueless about where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 10 ways to help make your next trade show a success.
Pick the right event
Try to get into the brains of your customers. What trade show would they likely attend? If you’re targeting homeowners, a Home and Garden show would be a great fit. If you’re looking for developers, you might attend Gnomedex. Go where you think your target market will be. That's the perfect place to start!
Most professional conferences provide a list of companies represented (or a nice shiny pie chart with demographics). If you’re lucky, you might get contacts from the show organizer. Offer a pre-show promotion three months ahead of time. You might even offer to give them a free __________ (fill in the blank - it could be a free demo, consultation, or even a bobblehead...just make sure it’s enticing) if they visit your booth.
Define your goal
Before you even go, it’s important that your team agrees on the overall goal of the trade show. It could be anything from obtaining leads to educating people about your company or product. Others might attend simply to support an industry or event. Whatever the reason, your goal will help determine your strategy, so make sure you determine which is (or are) the most important to you.
Develop a timeline leading up to the event to make sure you have ample time to prepare for everything you want to feature. If you need a fun new video to play, it will take time to produce. And those slick, new brochures likely won’t design or print themselves. Build in time to make your plans become a reality.
The cost of your booth is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to total price of the event. Plan a budget for travel, hotels, signage, swag, raffle items, staffing, food, etc. The more priority you place on something, obviously the more money you will put toward it. Although some things, like travel, aren’t necessarily negotiable.
Who doesn’t love free stuff? Offer an easy-to-carry, memorable, useful piece of swag with your logo on it. If you’re at a exhibit in Hawaii (Lucky you!), hand out suntan lotion, flip flops, or water bottle. Your swag doesn't even necessarily have to have anything to do with your product. We here at SpinWeb love to hand out water bottles with our logo on it, but that doesn't necessarily have much to do with web-based marketing, other than the fact that we drink a lot of it while we're hard at work.
The more people you can bring to your booth, the better. Consider a raffle. Obviously, the more valuable the prize, the more of a crowd it will bring. (If someone was giving away a free iPad, I’d definitely put my business card in the fishbowl!) If you can’t afford a big-ticket item, you might consider a Spin the Wheel type game with smaller prizes. The goal here is to create enough buzz around your booth that people will be drawn to it like bees to honey.
There will hopefully be lots of people swarming your booth. Take a few moments and jot down a word or phrase on the back of the business card for each person you meet as soon as you finish the conversation. You might mention a physical characteristic (“Gorgeous redhead”) or something you connected about (“allergic to shellfish”). Whatever it is, it will help jog your memory when you go to follow up with them later.
Do something awesome
If everyone else is doing the same thing, why not do something different? Chances are, every other exhibit booth will have the standard signage, pens, and demos. Consider making your booth stand out by turning it into a "consulting station" or some other type of resource for attendees. Bring a bunch of power strips, snacks, and drinks and make your booth an oasis for people to sit down, recharge their phones, and have a drink. If you provide value to the conference attendees, your booth will be one of the most popular.
Then you obviously want to follow up with your new list of potential customers. Add them as friends of your company on Facebook and connect with them on LinkedIn. Naturally, you’ll want to thank them for stopping by. You might even want to extend any discounts or promotions you offered during the show for an additional 10 days. If there were clients you especially want to target, write them a handwritten note. The personal touch will go a long way.
Trade shows can be great opportunities for networking (not to mention people watching)! What other tips do you have for those considering visiting one for the first time? Comment below!