One suggestion is to walk a trade show floor prior to committing to exhibiting. It’s far less expensive and ensures that the show is one you do wish to invest in.
If you are exhibiting at a tradeshow, following are some tips to greater ensure success (and I welcome your comments below for tips and tricks that you have learned that you can share!). The below tips are based on B2B tradeshows (some of the tips also apply to B2C).
1. Participate in trade show promotions, when possible. Each show has its own promotions menu from which to select. Some examples follow.
- New products can sometimes participate in a new product pavilion which is a great way to get “in front” of buyers.
- Show programs, usually “free” as part of your tradeshow exhibit fee, include your company name and booth space so buyers know where to find you. If you plan ahead and know which shows you are attending, then your company will have a place in the show program. (You are planning for 2014 already, right, so you can budget accordingly?!).
- Place an advertorial in the pre-program booklet, if you can afford it. Buyers look at these in advance of the show and often use them to map out who they will be visiting at the show itself so it’s to your benefit to get on their radar in advance.
- I have yet to sponsor anything (i.e. lanyards, meals, show events). They are usually quite expensive. If you have a sponsorship success story to share, please do so below.
2. Usually two weeks before the show date, you often can receive an attendees list. It usually does NOT contain email addresses but it does include attendees names, their companies, and mailing addresses. You can opt to send them a mailing pre-show to encourage them to contact you for a meeting at the show or to stop by your booth. At this point, you should have your booth # and this direct mail piece can be pre-printed so all you have to do is to add mailing labels.
3. Set up meetings ahead of time. Where possible, try to set up meetings in advance with your current and potentially new retailers.
4. Pre and post show, evaluate your ROI and set goals in advance of the show so you know what you are trying to accomplish. Your goals should align with your overall marketing strategies. Evaluate in advance how many accounts and/or how many units you will need to sell to see a positive ROI. Do you want to land a certain # of national and/or international accounts? Land a certain # of press features? Find investors? Will you offer show only deals (price discounts, free POPs, free shipping) to help land the deal and/or participate/invest in some of the above suggested show promotional vehicles? Post show, did you meet your goals? Post show evaluation will help to determine if you attend this show again, and also learn from what you may have done well or not so well so you can make improvements to your approach to other shows.
5. Network – with a mindset of “give, give, get”. This is an opportunity to make new connections – people (fellow exhibitors as well as attendees-retailers, distributors, press) who can help you in the future. Like with all networking, the approach should always be “give, give, get”. True relationship building happens when you are in a mindset of giving rather than taking/receiving – and overtime, it pays off and becomes a win/win for all.
6. Convert orders. As advised in #5 above, you want to network and build relationships. The orders may not come right away. But, overtime, you just never know what deals may come through for you because of the conversation you had with your buddy in the booth next to you. Or, with the buyer who seemed reluctant at first. Sometimes it is just one press feature, one new account, or one special connection that could pay for your time/out of pocket expenses to attend the show. However, always evaluate the ROI post show because you can’t bank of the “what if” these things happen – they need to actually happen. It’s important to have realistic expectations for what your take-aways will be from your show – and it’s a delicate balance of #5 and #6. Some ways to convert orders:
- Show specials – pricing, free POPs, free shipping.
- Booth give aways – a lot of people draw people to their booth by giving away something.
- Good networking (see #5 above) – people like to do business with people they like.
- See #7 below – rent the badge scanner and follow up!
7. Invest the $250 or whatever it costs to rent the badge scanner. This will help you to quickly and efficiently scan badges of those whom you meet. Use the notes section of this device to take electronic notes (what was discussed during your conversation so you remember who is who and what is what; it is almost impossible to remember otherwise when you are meeting so many people). Hopefully you will have at least one other person with you to attend the show who can scan the badges and take these notes for you – so YOU can do the talking, selling and relationship building. The scanner is also a great post-show tool because you can download all the data into an Excel spreadsheet which you can use for sending follow up emails/correspondence – helping you to achieve your tradeshow goals. It’s important to follow up, and then follow up again.
8. As mentioned above, you want to have your goals pre-established prior to attending the show so you can prepare and measure your success. If your goal is to land a certain # of international distributors then your efforts should be placed here (i.e. get the pre-show attendee list two weeks in advance and mail just those international distributors a mailer with a special show offer to entice them to come and meet with you at the show; or, if your goal is to land some press features, get in touch with the tradeshow PR contact and see if there is a press bag where you can contribute free product and/or promote your product directly to them).