Successful Tradeshow Strategies
Understand your objectives and plan well in advance
With the tradeshow season on us again this year, the innumerable intricacies and variables involved in exhibiting successfully dictate careful planning and a well thought out plan months in advance of the show. In order to ensure a positive return on investment, you should give careful consideration to the following.
One of the main benefits of exhibiting at a tradeshow is the ability to interact directly and face-to-face with your target audience. Be sure you have a well thought out plan regarding what products and promotions you will feature at the show. You will have a very small window of time to engage your audience, so keep your interactions brief and focus on the benefits, not the features, of your offering. Most deals do not happen on the show floor. The selling process has many phases and the tradeshow can shorten the existing selling cycle by delivering qualified prospects sooner rather than later.
Get Started Early
Don’t procrastinate. We are all busy, but you must plan early. At a minimum, the planning process should start 6 months before the show date. Take this time to identify goals and objectives for the event and share them with the team. The list should be an overview and includes things like what items to feature, handouts, giveaways, and booth duties. If possible, gain input from all of your departments including sales, management, and marketing. Plan your preshow communication to inform prospective clients that you will be at the event. This communication can take the form of an e-mail blast that articulates the products and services you will be highlighting during the show. Offer them an incentive to stop by your booth, such as entering a drawing to win a new iPad or tablet.
Target Your Audience
Based on prior business, sales, and tradeshow attendance experience, you can establish a relative goal by considering how many attendees are likely to purchase in the next 6 months. The beauty of a tradeshow is its ability to deliver a wide range of participants, everyone from attendees who have no desire or interest in your products and services to those ready to purchase immediately. By setting realistic, targeted attendee profiles, you will be more likely to attract, meet, and discuss products with a high level of pre-qualified prospects
Take Stock of Your Current Booth
Is your current booth relevant to today’s market conditions and trends or is it communicating the wrong message? Much like people who surf the Internet, today’s consumers will decide in a matter of seconds, based upon your booth design and layout, whether to stop and engage or keep on walking. Much like technology has impacted the dental laboratory, new technology has made booths lighter, more functional, and less expensive. This should be an area of investment for your laboratory. Design a booth that is able to communicate from the aisle. Your exhibit’s signs and graphics should be consistent with your other marketing activities. The headline and body copy should be seen from the aisle and effectively communicate product benefits—the kind encouraging targeted prospects to enter the booth and talk with someone.
The Right People
Just like you run your business operation, ensuring that you have the right people in place, the staffing of your booth requires the same approach. Make sure you have knowledgeable staff working the booth that have the core knowledge of all your products, can properly articulate your business vision, and be comfortable in a fast-paced environment. Treat the show like a football game—conduct a pre-show meeting the night before. This is an excellent opportunity for the sales force, operations, and management to review the relevant value of all products you will be showing. Conduct a meeting after the first day and compare exhibit performance notes, review sales leads, and make any necessary adjustments.
Quality Sales Leads
This is the area that will make or break your return on investment. Be sure to use some type of sales lead card that helps capture the individual’s area of interest. This will be critical in ensuring the proper follow-up necessary to keep the lead moving along in the sales process, and ultimately leading to the close and a new customer. After the show, these lead cards are invaluable, assuming of course, that they are filled out completely with the correct information. The booth staff needs to be versed in the selling process, with each individual practiced in the sales process of listening and recording a prospect’s answers, concerns, and expectations. The leads should then be rated and prioritized for the follow-up process.
Prepare follow-up materials well in advance when possible. Before attending the tradeshow, define and prepare the literature you will use to follow up and facilitate the close. It is important to have everything printed and assembled in advance, thus allowing the follow-up to happen within a day or two after the show. It is inconceivable to spend money to exhibit at a tradeshow and not have an effective follow-up system in place. Equally important is making contact with the prospective customer to confirm receipt of the information, as well as offering any additional materials that might prove helpful.
Terry Fine is the president of AMG Creative in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Following the game plan outlined below will help ensure you maximize your tradeshow investment:
Before the Show
• Send out e-blasts to tell attendees your booth number and to make individual appointments/meetings with contacts.
• Announce that you will be attending the show on your social media accounts and website.
• Give visitors an incentive to come to your booth. This could be a prize or contest of some kind or special show discounts. This is also a great way to collect contact information from show attendees to use for post-show follow-ups.
• Compose your elevator pitch (short sales spiel). A clear, concise message is key to reaching prospective customers.
During the Show
• Have your business cards easily accessible and ready to hand out to prospective customers.
• Post pictures and status updates about the show on your social media pages and website.
• Make sure to have marketing materials that support your overall branding. These need to be professionally created with clean, eye-catching graphics. This could include tradeshow booth panels, table drapes, retractable banners, or tabletop signs.
• You can continue this branding with swag (free little handouts such as pens, mints, etc). These should also have your branding/logo to help show attendees remember your company. Try to make sure these are placed further in your booth to discourage “grazers” (these are folks that only interested in getting free stuff). You only want to give these out to those you truly want to do business with.
• You need to make sure that once visitors come into your booth you give them a reason to want to stay, so make sure to be extremely friendly, outgoing, and engaging.
• Create a quick video or presentation and display on a tablet or large computer monitor.