Mar 19, 2012

So You Plan on Exhibiting? Plan Ahead to Reap the Most ROI.

What do you want to get out of it? How many attendees do you want to stop at your booth How many leads do you hope to generate? How many products do you want to sell? Are you focusing on promotion or hoping to launch a new product?

Set Clear Goals
You can have more than one goal, of course, but the point is that you need to be clear about what your participation in the trade show is going to achieve. Determine what your ROI would be – if one new customer helps you justify you being at the event, then focus on getting that customer.

You need to choose the trade shows that will give your business the best ROI in terms of your goals. If your goal is on-site sales, exhibiting at that big splashy trade show where your booth is among dozens that sell similar products may not be the best choice.

Research is Key
You want to choose a trade show that best targets the audience that you want to reach, and best suits your participation goals. Find out what the particular trade show's objectives are, and investigate and evaluate the show's audience.

Find out everything you can about your space, including:

  • Location on the trade show floor
  • Other exhibits nearby
  • Whether it's a high traffic or low traffic area
  • Physical conditions of the booth space, such as lighting
  • If you are targeting multiple audiences, make sure you have appropriate information to meet the needs of each.

Know Your Audience and Plan Ahead 
Put the word out that you're participating in a particular trade show by inviting your clients, customers, suppliers, and other contacts to attend the show. Be sure you give them all the details, such as your booth number. Be sure to advertise your coming trade show attendance on your website as well.

Some shows allow exhibitors to purchase pre-registered attendees list. The list will contain attendee’s name, company, and address (typically they do not provide phone numbers or e-mails). Usually they email you the list or send you the labels.

Spread the Word - in Advance
Now you're ready to attend the trade show – not quite. Below are tips for putting together a trade show display that wows your audience and draws a crowd.

Pull a crowd to your trade show booth.
Use an interactive display, such as a quiz or game on a computer, a contest draw, or a scheduled demonstration. It doesn't need to be fancy to draw people's interest and get them to cluster around your trade show display rather than others.

Use a prize draw or contest.
Having some kind of prize drawing or contest is a great way to collect contact information from booth visitors. You can give away promotional items to encourage people to participate.

Have a stock of promotion items that you can use as giveaways at your booth.
Small items that people can take away and use (while being reminded about your business) are best. Be sure you place these items in a location where people will have to walk into or through your trade show display to get them.

Actively engage trade booth visitors.
Give people who approach your trade show display a friendly greeting and welcome their questions. Be sure that your body language is friendly. Don't stand there with your arms crossed over your chest, for instance. Chat with booth visitors, and find out what aspect of your business they're most interested in. Be prepared to offer specific solutions to their questions. The trick is to draw them in without intimidating or overwhelming them.

Make sure you have plenty of promotional literature on hand.
You'll want to have a good supply of color fliers and brochures as well as order forms, price sheets and business cards that you can hand out to booth visitors. Make it easy for them to find the information on your business later.

Have your trade show booth manned at all times by knowledgeable person.
Someone has to be there to greet browsers, engage them in conversation, and take their questions. If you can't be there every minute the trade show is open, you'll need to have at least one other person to help man your booth.

Many companies will send their "rookies" to tradeshows. Sending new staff people is not always the wisest decision, however, as they may not have all the answers about your products or services. If you do send a new staff member, be sure include an experienced employee as well. That way, newer staff will be able to watch and learn.

Get out from behind your booth and get off your phone/computer.
Often, exhibitors sit behind their tables while attendees stand looking down at them - get up and engage! Also, get off your phone or computer. Nothing is worse than watching one of our exhibitors miss valuable exhibitor time because he or she is one the phone. There are typically periods of down time during any conference to follow up on voicemail or emails.

Follow up promptly
Follow up with contacts and leads you made during the trade show as soon as possible. The faster you send them out, the more your business will stand out from the rest.

Do you have an example of a challenge you were able to overcome because you planned ahead? We would love to hear from you below...

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