Trade shows serve as an effective way to connect not only with your potential customers (whether they are distributors, brokers or retailers), but also with existing ones.
The average trade show attendee will visit approximately 26 exhibitors with as many as 75% of visits pre-planned, and you will want to make sure you are one of the visits. We also know that less than 20% of exhibitors utilize targeted pre-show marketing campaigns, which means there are a lot of opportunities for your company.
Let’s divide your trade show experience into three categories: before, during and after the show. All three are important in making your show investment successful.
First let’s look at what communication you should have with potential customers before the show.
You can get a list of attendees to the upcoming show from the management of the convention. Use that list to see who plans to attend, and determine which attendees fit your demographic. These attendees can then be divided into different categories. Some will be people who it would be nice to talk with – perhaps small accounts that could potentially be good but not incredibly lucrative customers. Other attendees may be really hot prospects. These are the companies that would be high on your list of potential customers. The third group is your existing customers. Connecting with them at the show could mean more future business. If you don’t see existing customers on the list, this is a good time to invite them to attend to see what you will be sharing with the industry.
Once your lists are together, think about all of the ways you would like to reach out to these people before the trade show. Here are a few ideas:
- Print up stickers with your booth number and the name, date, and city of the trade show. Affix the stickers to all your communications – invoices, mailings, shipments or anything else you may be sending as a hard copy.
- Create an electronic ad or tagline that can be dropped into your website, e-newsletters or individual emails.
- Promote your participation at the trade show in advertising in trade media.
- Send a coupon, puzzle piece or key that can be redeemed for a gift at your booth. Narrow your target for this promotion to attendees who are likely to convert to qualified leads.
- Develop a series of contacts using all the media options available to you: letter, postcard, phone, email, and personal visit from a sales rep.
Really Work the Show
Trade shows are often one of your greatest opportunities of the year to see your customers. Make sure you take advantage of every minute. Schedule breakfast and dinners in the evenings. These networking opportunities are a great way to thank your biggest customer and renew that relationship.
It is important that attendees are well educated on the company, your products and the benefits that you offer over your competitor. While you are busy meeting customers, you may want to have a spokesperson whose job is to connect with the media attending the show, to make sure you get publicity not only at the show, but afterward as well.
Your booth should have materials that visitors can pick up that will remind them who you are when they go home. Consider offering bags, cooking a recipe with your product to attract attention, or have a fishbowl for business cards that will be used for drawings. Ask to connect with your visitors online and offer ways to capture their social media information. And most important, always have someone manning your booth, standing and ready to engage in conversation with visitors. A staff person seated behind a table reading is a strong invitation to visitors to ignore you and move on.
Don’t ignore the digital side. During the show, social media becomes very active. Give someone the responsibility to continually connect digitally through hashtags and high profile attendees. Twitter and LinkedIn are important ways of spreading the word at the show itself as well as connecting with non-attendees. Live tweeting gives you the chance to build web content after the event and gain followers. Remember to use Instagram to post stories- these can be short videos and photos of your team at the show.
After the Show
The first week is a very important time for follow-up. Communication to your hot prospects should be personalized and timely. Send them answers to their previous questions and acknowledgement. Set a new time to talk and a way for them to try your products. Work them diligently now to take them from prospect to customer.
If you developed an electronic list at the show, have an email blast ready to go. Or at the very least, send something to the whole list you developed before the show.
Trade shows are a great opportunity to excel. For help with your next trade show, contact Oster and Associates, we can help you make it the best one yet.