Trade shows continue to grow, even in the internet age of online research to find solutions for business problems. Why? One reason is convenience. Getting an entire industry in the same building makes if very convenient to meet with partners and customers, and to look for new leads. That said, trade shows are expensive and the right preparation can ensure a positive return on investment. Here are tips to make your trade show investment worthwhile.
- Start early. The best way to get high-quality traffic to your booth is to start reaching out to attendees well before the event. Some 70 percent of trade show attendees plan their schedule before the show, according to the Center for Exhibitor Research. Get on their schedule by emailing attendees well beforehand. Most shows will give you access to the contact information of attendees that have opted into receiving information from exhibitors. Others will allow you to rent the list, which is worth the cost. Send a message inviting participants to your booth and invite them to schedule an appointment or demo in advance. It can also be helpful to offer a premium give for attendees that schedule an appointment in advance.
- Personalize communications. One way to delight people in marketing is to show that you know them. Make sure your emails include a personalized salutation and demonstrate some knowledge of your industry and of the show itself. Talk about local attractions or other relevant information. By all means, be very specific about the kinds of solutions you offer and what kind of companies they are designed to help. Many people go to trade shows to find a solution for a specific problem. You’re far more likely to get a response from a business in your target audience if they really understand what you offer. Exaggerated claims of being “perfect” for “everyone” will be forgotten.
- Make your website as visible as your company name. While it is obvious that your company name should be very visible from the aisle, it’s less obvious that your web address should be too. Many people follow up to learn more about companies after the show. If they remember your web address, they’ll be more likely to do so. This is especially important when your web address is “your company name dot com.” Make sure your web address is also on anything you plan to give away.
- Speaking of giveaways, give people something valuable. If you help someone, you build immediate trust. City maps can be helpful, as can water bottles, healthy snacks, umbrellas in rainy areas, or handheld fans in hot cities. Charging stations for phones can be a big hit, as convention centers get clogged with cell traffic and drain phones looking for connections. Tchotchke collectors love toys to take home to the kids–balls, frisbees, etc.–that’s not where you want your giveaway to end up!
- Use last year’s leads. If you attend the same show year after year, review the previous year’s list of leads from the show and identify highly qualified prospects. Send them an invitation with wording that indicates that you enjoyed talking with them last year and would love to catch up. Exclude these people from any general email blast because otherwise, they will get an email that doesn’t recognize that you spoke with them last year.
- Send your sales team out. At most trade shows, some of the other exhibitors are also potential customers for your business. Make sure your salespeople have time to go out and introduce themselves to these businesses. It’s best to do this on the last day of the show, as traffic is lighter and you are less likely distract them from their own customers.
While we all want to have hundreds of people visit our booths at shows, it’s really about quality, not quantity. As with your website, you want to attract traffic, but you really want to attract the right traffic that will win business as efficiently as possible.