Can you remember back to that time, perhaps not so long ago, when you had an amazing trade show booth opportunity to showcase your company and for whatever reason you did not capitalize on it? Perhaps you were an exhibitor and did not prepare, or you were an attendee and did not block out enough time to speak with key vendors or industry experts. Maybe you did everything right, but your marketing colleagues dropped the ball and follow-up happened months later. Whatever the reason, opportunities fizzled away. The company invested a lot of time and money, and for what?
Make that your last poorly executed event, and read on for ways to leverage this opportunity into a strategic opportunity finder.
Many mid-market technology and distribution companies exhibit at trade shows for 3 key reasons:
1) An industry show brings together the latest ideas, tools, and products
2) An industry event like a trade show is a great way to be “many-to-one” in meeting up with buyers and existing customers
3) There is still no replacement for seeing and interacting with people in person (and there never will be)
In one single event you can learn to stay on the cutting edge, and you can connect to many dozens of potential buyers (or hundreds in the case of bigger shows) among all of the people coming through. Shaking someone’s hand, exchanging smiles and laughs with clients you may not have yet met, and standing in front of a buyer to look them in the eyes with assurances are things you cannot do by video chat, email, or a phone conversation.
It is not as simple to do pre-work and follow-up for trade show booths as one might think. You really have to plan ahead, get tasks put onto your calendar and then execute many small tasks which will all together make success happen. If you are lucky enough to have a marketing team, you can delegate a lot of the pre- and post-work.
Recently I participated in a webinar all about the little things you can do to greatly increase your chances of success when exhibiting at a trade show. The session, called 63 Must Do’s That Will Maximize the ROI of your Booth Investment was fast-paced and fun. Here are some of the tips that I shared. They are all based on experience – positive experience and way too much negative experience. I’m one of those who have hung my head weeks after a big trade show knowing we didn’t capitalize on the opportunity.
Break up the tasks around your trade show marketing into three parts:
Tasks you must do before your trade show event
Tasks and the mental mindset you must have during your trade show
Tasks for follow-up after the trade show
Now that you have three buckets to work from, use the first one – the “before the show” to organize the goals of exhibiting at this particular show. Understand why you will be there, and who your buyer is.
Plan out a mind map or create a spreadsheet of every task that needs to be done, and who each is assigned to.
Work to include a social selling strategy to promote that you’re at the show.
Tie in video – self made, 2 minutes or less about the event, your products, and more.
Invite existing customers as well as any prospects and strategic partners that are in the geographic area of your event.
Have a plan to capture information of those you engage with. Bigger shows have technology to do this. A very important part of your role at the event is in making notes and associating them with specific people so that you will remember them after the event.
During the show, be present. This is not the time to sit and make phone calls or handle email all day – do that during breaks. Today’s tradeshow booths are littered with people who simply sit and stare at their smart phone – you appear unapproachable and disinterested when you do that.
If you are sending out tweets or communication about the show, do it in small doses.
In the next post we’ll focus on how to follow-up after the show for maximum success.
What tips do you have from working a trade show booth?
How much prep time does your company put in?
Do you have marketing support or is it up to sales to make it happen?
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.
Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips.