So, you've signed up to exhibit at an upcoming trade show because you know that there is no substitute for face-to-face marketing. But, being an exhibitor can be stressful. After all, exhibiting at a trade show can be an expensive proposition, so you need to bring your "A" game to the show.
Whether this is your first trade show or your tenth, here are some easy marketing best practices to help you make the most of the opportunity.
- Build buzz, before the show. Let your existing clients know you'll be at the show, and take full advantage of your social media channels to spread the news. Have a new product or service offering coming out soon? Use the show to debut it, and build some hype ahead of time.
- Send outgoing, marketing types. You will have the most success by sending people to represent you who are outgoing, energetic and can easily engage attendees. If that's not you, recognize and embrace your limits and skills, and then invite your best marketing folks to join you. You need to put your best face forward, so make sure you are sending people who can be assertive and persuasive, without being aggressive or too "salesy".
- Schedule appointments. Yes, you want the people visiting your booth to make appointments with you, but you should also schedule appointments ahead of time, so you are meeting with clients and prospects during the show.
- Make the most of your space. Whether you have the best booth or table in the venue or drew the proverbial short straw and think you got the worst spot, make the most of it. Have colorful, eye-grabbing materials prepared ahead of time to help draw folks in. Treat your signage like a billboard. Some exhibitors find that fun giveaways with your logo work well, while others ply attendees with chocolate or other treats. Whatever you do, make sure you are maximizing the space you have.
- Sponsor a gathering, and speak up! Consider whether it makes sense to sponsor a breakfast or cocktail hour and take the opportunity to speak about your products/services and get your marketing materials into attendees' hands.
- Anticipate questions. Know what types of questions are bound to come up by people visiting your booth or table, and prepare your answers ahead of time. This will help you avoid the inevitable jitters that come up when you're exhibiting, but will also help you demonstrate that you know your stuff. Then, don't forget to train others who will be attending the show with you so that you are all on the same page with your responses.
- Speak plainly. Don't assume that everyone who visits your booth understands industry mumbo-jumbo. Your product or service may be amazing, but if your prospects don't understand what you are saying, they're not likely to become your clients.
- Huddle and debrief. Don't wait until the trade show is over to assess its effectiveness. Evaluate what's working and what's not working during the show, and adjust accordingly. Make sure to debrief with your team after the show while the event is fresh in your memory. Make notes for yourself so your next trade show exhibit can build on your successes.
- Follow up. So, you got some leads during the trade show. Great! Don't make the mistake of sitting on those leads and hoping they will contact you because of the great sales pitch and handouts you provided. Reach out to them while they still remember your conversation, and build on the momentum you started at the trade show. If you wait weeks or months to call or email your new prospects, your chances of engaging a new client will be much lower than a timely follow-up.
There's never any guarantee that any type of marketing activity will generate new business, but these tips can help you make the most of trade show exhibition opportunities.