There’s no doubt about it – exhibiting at a trade show is a serious investment. Whether you elect to go with a plain 10 X 10 space furnished with a simple table and chairs or have a 20 X 20 booth custom-made for traveling from show to show, the cost can account for a significant portion of your marketing expenses. Yet trade shows provide unique opportunities to build your business that are simply not available via other venues. That’s why so many expert marketers recommend that you make trade show exhibits part of your annual budget. Here are just five of the ways exhibiting at a trade show can benefit your business with some tips to help you take full advantage of them:
Exhibiting at a trade show builds awareness among your prime market.
Whatever your product or service, you can find a trade show where the majority of attendees are in the top tier of your target audience. If you’re new to the market place or are still building your brand, having a booth will put you in the best possible spot to reach the people most likely to support your business. You’ll also be able to build awareness among vendors and potential partners who can provide you with services and information about market trends in industries that may affect yours.
Tip: Boost your success by connecting with as many attendees and other exhibitors as you can before the show.
Create a marketing campaign to draw visitors to your booth that can include direct mail, social media, print ads and promotions. Perhaps you can run a lottery for a desirable prize and make a visit to the booth a mandatory condition for winning. Or advertise some form of entertainment, activity or giveaway at the booth appropriate for your brand.
If you publicize your booth to your prime market, even if they don’t attend the event, it is still a brand-building exercise. For example, run an ad in a trade paper that you think show attendees are likely to read. Do a mass mailing through the post to your target market that tells them about your company as well as your booth. Some trade show operators send out an email for you with news about your booth. You should also send personalized invitations on your own to prospects you’ve already approached as well as your current customers. Again, even if they don’t attend or visit your booth, you’ve still gotten your name in front of them. In addition, you can post about your exhibit on Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social media venues you use.
2. Exhibiting at a trade show can generate future leads and enhance current customer relationships.
Of course, every business participates in a trade show in the hope of developing new leads and generating new sales from current customers. Whether you’re introducing a new product, displaying the breadth of your line or presenting general information about your company, no other marketing format allows you to connect person-to-person with some many likely buyers.
Tip: Trade shows can open a sale but it’s following up that closes them.
Now that you’ve met new prospects and reconnected with old customers at the show, the next step is to set up meetings that will turn contacts into contracts. Send everyone an email when you get back to the office (if you can do it from the show – so much the better! In fact, sending a quick text or email within an hour of meeting people is BEST!) Tell them you, or someone from your company, will be back in touch soon. Call the hot prospects first to set up one-on-one calls and/or visits to talk about how your product or service can meet their needs. Then consider who’s most likely to place an order within three months and call them next. Finally, contact everyone else.
Keep emailing and calling these contacts periodically – about every 6 weeks – to keep your name in front of them. Remember, they are your prime audience. If they didn’t have some level of interest, they wouldn’t have been at the show or visited your booth in the first place. Take the time and trouble to research their company before placing the call so they know you know who they are. Ask what they thought about the show, what interested them most about your product, what their challenges are and how they’d like to resolve them. Forward on articles that might be of interest to them. Give them news about sales. Treat the call as the next step in developing a long-term relationship, because that’s exactly what it is.
3. Exhibiting at a trade show is an easy way to research your competitors.
If this show is good for your business it stands to reason your competitors will be there, too. Make time to observe their booth and sales force. Discretely, listen in on the conversations they have with their visitors. Then introduce yourself and invite them to visit your booth, too. If this sounds counter-intuitive, consider that they may have some insights that would benefit you. Furthermore, while some of your products may be in direct competition with theirs, others may be things you can’t offer and vice versa. In that case, if customers need those products, making a suggestion on who can solve their problem will only help you. It identifies you as: (1) an expert in the field and (2) concerned about filling the customer’s needs as you are about making a sale. Presumably, your rival company will do the same for you.
Tip: Studying how competitors treat customers can let you see what to emulate and what to avoid.
What ultimately determines the success of any brand isn’t so much what you’re selling as the the service you provide before, during and after the sale. Compare the service you offer to that of your competitors. If you’re not successfully competing with them now, consider what you can do to meet or exceed them in satisfying customers.
4. Exhibiting at a trade show can help you get company news published in trade periodicals.
If you’ve been trying to get press releases published in your favorite industry journals, attending a trade show could be your key to success. These events are covered by the industry press so if you’re not approached by the press in your booth, try to find out who they are, introduce yourself and invite them over. Ask what they think about the show and if they’ve noticed any differences between this year or last. Discover what they especially like to feature in their publication – news of new developments in the industry, the inside story of company changes, community relations efforts, etc. In short, learn as much as you can from them while developing a friendly acquaintanceship.
Tip: Use this information to develop press releases that best fit the interests and priorities of the magazine.
Public relations experts know that the surest way to be published in any periodical is to submit press releases that are in keeping with the magazine or newspaper’s editorial preferences. When you do, they’ll be more inclined to reserve space for your news instead of someone else’s.
5. Exhibiting at a trade show can help you find and explore partnership opportunities.
Making friends and influencing people is a major benefit to any event involving industry peers including trade shows. Before you go, review you company’s goals and share them with the staff who will be at the show. Review the exhibitor list and examine the profiles that are on the list with partnerships in mind. If any seem like especially good prospects, do some deeper research about them online and through your network.
Tip: Set up meetings with likely potential partners before the event.
Once you have a good sense of who will be attending, email or call them to ask if you can meet at the show. Make it a social occasion – lunch perhaps, or even just drinks before dinner. This is just a preliminary get to know you meeting after all. However, your simultaneous attendance at the show makes it easy to connect without making any obvious overtures. If you want to pursue the relationship further, you’re on your way. And if you want to drop it, there should be no hard feelings from unrealized expectations.
As you can see, there are many ways to use a trade show to forward your company’s goals well beyond the obvious “to make a sale.” With a little foresight, effort and training, you can help everyone in your booth and your company make the most of your trade show investment.
Hope you found this helpful.
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