Exhibiting at a trade show can help you get new leads, sell your products or services and even meet potential partners. It’s a great way to showcase new product launches, find new channels of distribution and meet important industry players.
Sure, exhibiting at trade shows is a big investment of time, money and effort. To make the most of that investment, here are seven ways to make trade shows work for you:
1. Set measurable goals
It’s not enough to say, “I want to meet new customers and sell products.” Your goals should be specific and measurable. For instance, do you want to get 25 orders per day for your new product, or generate 40 qualified leads per day? How many potential partners or new distribution channels are you looking for?
2. Select the “right” show
Before committing to a show, make sure the attendees are the people and businesses you want to market to. Ask the trade show promoters how many attendees are expected, the demographics of those attendees and their job responsibilities. If you’re trying to sell products, you want to make sure buyers are attending; if you’re looking for potential partners, you need an audience of CEOs.
3. Plan in advance and organize your deadlines
Study the list of exhibitors, speakers, and breakout sessions. Determine who you’d like to connect with and contact them in advance via email or social media to set up a meeting.
Don’t miss any important deadlines, such as being included in the marketing materials or trade show publications. Several months before the show, start promoting your attendance to prospects and customers.
4. Get strategic with your booth
Book your booth early so you can get a prime spot. A booth near the entrance ensures attendees will be fresh and energized when they pass by. Make sure you know the booth size and if the promoter has any display restrictions, so there are no last-minute surprises. Some shows don’t provide Wi-Fi or charge a fortune for access.
Don’t block your booth entrance with a long table—instead, put tables in the back and make the booth a welcoming space where visitors can come in, sit down, and chat. Who doesn’t welcome a chance to rest their feet at a trade show? Speaking of aching feet, don’t underestimate the power of a carpet and carpet pad on the floor. If you don’t have your own, you can usually rent them from the trade show logistics operator. They might be expensive, but touches like these can really be worth it for the added comfort they lend to your booth for visitors and staff alike.
Lighting, audio, video, colorful signs, banners, and posters are all great ways to attract attention and boost your professional image.
Make sure your booth is attended at all times and that you have enough staff so people can take a quick bathroom or lunch break. Ideally, you want a minimum of two people in the booth at all times.
Think about what could go wrong and make sure you have pens, extension cords, scissors, tape, hand sanitizer and bottled water readily available.
5. Bring your marketing materials
Have flyers, brochures, spec sheets, media kits or whatever the audience calls for, in your booth. Bring twice as many business cards as you think you can use. Promotional items, such as pens, tote bags, etc. (as well as candy) also draw people to your booth.
It’s important to get booth visitors’ contact info. You can hold a business card drawing or ask visitors to share their name and email in return for information, such as a free eBook or white paper.
6. Network everywhere
Be friendly—and not just on the trade show floor. The person you meet on the elevator could be your next big customer. People at trade shows expect to talk, so don’t worry about starting a conversation.
7. Follow up promptly
Within two weeks of the show, reach out to everyone you met to move the relationship ahead. Invite them to connect on LinkedIn, plan a lunch meeting or share some info about your business–whatever it takes to build on the connection established at the show.