Trade shows have the potential to connect you with great leads and customers you wouldn’t normally have access to, but it takes a lot of time and preparation to meet that success. If you’ve ever experienced a messy, disorganized booth without passion or focus, you know how much difference each approach makes.
While every trade show is a little different, there are some rules to follow that will help you get the most of your investment of time and money. These tips not only save you money but give you the tools to attract and keep quality customers without extra effort.
Planning in Advance
Advanced planning and solid schedules will be the heart of your trade show operations. Those who are prepared benefit from lower travel, accommodation and rental costs, as well as a clear vision of the company’s mission.
Here’s a checklist for 6-9 months in advance of your show:
- Determine the goal of your exhibit. Your goal could be any number of things, from selling a certain number of units to making a set number of professional contacts. Make sure the entire team is behind this goal and knows its importance.
- Start building a strategy around your goal(s), including where your display will be located, the tone of your demonstrations, how your booth and staff appear, and the nature of your handouts. Every contingency in which you are in control should be decided based on your goal.
- Plane tickets, accommodations, floor space rental, meetings, events, banner printing and everything else that requires you to make appointments with other businesses needs to be done as early as possible. Not only do you save money on hotel and trade show costs, but it ensures there are no last-minute emergencies.
A Better Booth
Although I am a strong believer in organization and preparation, having the right booth matters. You’re going to be at a show literally full of ’em, and you need an assertive, eye-catching way to break away from the crowd.
If you don’t own one already, it’s time to rent a trade show booth you think will be the best face of your company. It has to be bold and expressive, able to relay your company’s message from 20 feet away, while still being appealing enough to make people want to visit. Remember, nothing’s more depressing than a robin egg blue, 10’x10′ cell that smells of fresh printer ink.
Location is also important, including which exhibits are around you. Don’t be afraid to make inquiries like this when securing your space, as it can determine your success despite your best efforts. Booths by busy entrances, even the bathrooms, are always a plus, sharing equal success with corner booths. Failing those, booths at the center of the room are usually preferential to booths along the perimeter.
Focusing on Your Customer
Yes, this is a trade show, but the attendees still don’t want to be sold to. They want to feel like they’re perusing and chatting with like-minded individuals, either personally or professionally depending on the type of show. Lucky for you, many companies are so desperate to make the most of their exhibit that they forget this, hard-selling their way out of sales and leads.
Be an oasis in the desert by focusing on your customer and their needs. While you may only have a few seconds with most attendees, those who agree to talk to you should not feel like they’re watching an in-person commercial. Ask them questions about their needs, develop a rapport, then respond with your solutions.
Keep business cards at the ready and ask for those of others. Plan ahead of time what you will do with the business cards you acquire at the show and how to best follow up.
Trade shows are a unique experience and it can be difficult to feel important inside those large halls full of industry professionals. The reward for success, however, is a huge boost in exposure for your company, and the opportunity to learn and grow yourself. Good luck at your next trade show!