Whether new to exhibiting at a trade show or been doing them for years, everyone is looking to answer the question, "How can my company achieve success at the show?"
As the COO of a tradeshow marketing company, I've been personally asked this question hundreds of times. My answer is always the same. "Take full advantage of this opportunity to be better than your competitor." Those that took it to heart, saw results. Those that didn't... well, we don't see much from them anymore.
Follow these 7 simple steps to help ensure success at your next show:
Step 1: Create a Realistic (and Comprehensive) Budget
I know... that booth space was really expensive. The hotels are all charging premium rates. There a thirty forms for everything from electricity drops to vacuuming a dirty booth every night. These are non-negotiables when your company exhibits at a show. The key is to develop a comprehensive show budget understanding every variable and sticking to it. There are hundreds of ways to save money... but you have to be realistic about your total budget before you can decide on where you can save.
Step 2: Lead the Charge!
This show is your chance to build business... to refresh your lead database... to stand next to your competitor and show off... Lead the charge in your organization by putting these thoughts into your entire team's head. "This is our chance!" to present your company any way you want your prospects and clients to see it. There's nothing more successful than new ideas and a fresh perspective. Give your team the opportunity to bring new ideas and thoughts and build a specific campaign for the show. Otherwise, "It's the same old show."
Step 3: Make a Sales Plan Specifically for the Show
Oh, where can I go with this one?! The show floor is an opportunity for immediate success. Yet, over and over again I'll walk a show and... look over there, it's a salesperson in a daze, sitting at a table, wondering, "Why am I here. I could be home right now." Make a sales plan with a schedule and goals. Incentivize your sales and marketing teams to succeed at the show. Role play before the show. Make sure they're moving around... engaging your prospects and collecting leads. If you don't care about this step... they won't either.
Step 4: Attract Visitors to your Booth
You've invested money, created an amazing campaign, trained your staff to be gurus at the show and then... you're stuck in the corner by an emergency exit and you have no traffic. Don't just sit there and complain... do something about it. If you know you are in a less-than-primary booth space ahead of time, be smart. Use social media to invite prospects to your booth. Up the budget and create buzz around your booth by hiring talent or a personality to sign autographs... whatever it takes to get people to walk over (and they will for something "different".) Also, make sure you are using the space above your booth if you can rig a sign and catch people from other aisles. Hedge all of your bets so you can have the most possible traffic possible.
Step 5: Give Away Things that Support Your Business Image
Cheap giveaways are cheap. We give them to our kids. We throw them out. Spend the time to research with your promotion company the RIGHT give-away for your company. Think about your target client. What would they do with the item? Will it lead them to you? Does it create the right impression for your company? Go back to the budget and add in enough for premium items for key clients and prospects attending the show. If you're going to give something away, make sure it fits with your brand and image.
Step 6: Create a Unique Presence at the Show
Is anyone ever interested in last year's car? There's nothing that says "Don't walk over here" like the dated booth with old graphics. Freshen it up. Look for a designer that specializes in large format trade show graphics to give your brand a new life. Or, if you have the budget, consider a custom trade show booth rental for the show. There's nothing more impressive to your prospects and clients than that larger-than-life presence on the trade show floor. Think about your own experience walking a trade show... those new and exciting booths with cool products...that's why you're there.
Step 7: Work the Leads.
In the end, you should be flying home with leads. Make sure you know what you're going to do with them. Don't forget... that prospect would not have given you their info if they didn't have some sort of interest in your product. But, they also may have given their name to many other companies, too. A lack of response is not a lack of interest, so build your follow-up campaigns with calls, emails, social media and keep working the leads. Ten years ago I went to a show and found two companies that were selling the exact product I was looking for. I told them, "You are just what I've been looking for. Here's my contact information because I have limited time and need to walk the whole show today. Please call me in two days." One company called me and got our account (which is still going strong today). The other company called me five years later to ask why we weren't doing business. It's that simple.