‘Tis the season… Fall and Spring host a lot of Tradeshows. They may seem old-fashioned but it’s still a great way to get in front of a specific group of people. However, many companies spend pots of money to participate, but miss the key ingredients to making the entire investment a success. Yes, it increases your overall cost, but you’re much more likely to get a return on investment if you do these five things.
Top Five Tradeshow Tips
1) Have a professional looking booth:
If you throw a sheet over a card table and pop up bristol boards with information on them, it will look like a grammar school science fair. You are asking people to take your company and product/service seriously, and you can aid that tremendously by having a professional looking booth. If you plan to do a lot of shows, or even the one is particularly important, you can get a fantastic looking pop-up booth for a few thousand dollars or less (plus creative). Just don’t put anything time-sensitive on it so it’ll last a few years. Or, have it designed so one or two panels can be easily replaced with event-specific information.
However, if you’re just trying it out you can have a couple roll-up banner stands made for much less money and multiple uses, like decorating your reception area or conference room when not needed. Then, maybe add to the booth space by having something creative like comfy furniture to sit on and an espresso bar.
2) Employ Booth Babes:
Okay, I’m kidding. Maybe not hot women but knowledgeable, enthusiastic booth people.
Have you ever walked by a booth and the person there just sits and stares at you? Company owners and engineers may have the most knowledge, but you need real extroverts to draw people in, booth staff who won’t just sit there waiting to be approached, but are friendly and willing to engage people walking by. Give them training on the product/service and maybe have someone with even deeper knowledge to pass them off to, or make that the personal follow-up.
So your super-friendly booth person has drawn in a crowd and currently trying to converse with several at once. It shouldn’t take long to read your booth so what else is going to keep them there? Depending on your industry you could have samples of your product, a demo of your service, or some kind of presentation. We’ve done looping flash presentations that just play over and over on a monitor. These may be things that can run themselves while your booth staff is otherwise occupied or pull in tire-kickers AND provide an opportunity for the booth staff to engage people in deeper conversations.
This can be a simple brochure, a fancy folder with sell sheets or some very cool swag* with your logo and website on it. The point is they will be seeing dozens of other booths so how can you ensure they remember you? Provide something with at least your contact information, but better with some information about your company, product or service and a call-to-action. Many sales are not made at the tradeshow – it’s an information gathering expedition. But, you have an opportunity to create a special offer related to the tradeshow. Beware of swag items that are creative or interesting on their own but have no relevance to your company (think really cool commercials where you have no idea what they’re selling). And make sure at least your URL is on it!
*Swag = branded gift, a.k.a. trinkets and trash
5) Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up:
Make sure you collect visitor contact info. There are many ways to do this: collect business cards to draw for a prize, many tradeshows provide a device to scan in visitors and later provide the list or ask people to register for a freebie or preview of something. Then, have something planned in advance to follow-up. I think company reps who’ve had meaningful conversations with visitors should follow-up personally, but otherwise have a newsletter or whitepapers – a note like ‘Thank you for visiting us at Big Tradeshow,’ something of value and a call-to-action. Something you can send immediately after. Memories are short and they’ll have visited lots of other booths too.
Lots of companies make what I would call half-hearted attempts at tradeshows thinking they’ll just test the waters. They get a not-so-great response and feel it’s not worth it, they’ll never do it again. They may be missing out on some great opportunities. If you’re going to try it, follow these five steps. Do so as professionally as possible, it’ll make the pay-off on the overall investment much higher.