8 Tips to Maximize Your Success at Trade Shows
So many trade shows, so little time.
If you feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of trade shows to consider attending every year, you’re not alone. Many companies struggle to decide which shows are worth their investment, and which are a waste of time and money.
We all know trade shows can be valuable for generating new sales leads and building greater brand awareness – particularly if you’re trying to break into a new market or unveil a new product. They can also be effective for strengthening existing customer relationships – but only if you’re able to draw potential customers into your booth, a feat that can prove challenging depending on your strategy and tactics.
When selecting which trade shows to target over the coming months and deciding how to best promote your business at these events, consider the following suggestions to help maximize your trade show success.
- Consult with your dealers and customers: It’s always a good idea to ask your customers and dealers which shows they attend, and then make a point of travelling to those shows to walk the floor and determine if it’s a good fit for your business. Are your competitors and target audience there? It’s much more cost effective to do this type of research BEFORE investing in a booth and sending a whole sales team to work the show.
- Do pre-show marketing: Don’t wait for the show to start before enticing people to visit your booth. Send out postcards, direct email, and run advertisements in the weeks leading up to the show. Give potential and existing customers in the region a reason to stop by your booth. Promote a show special, a new product launch, or a special invite-only dinner event you’ll host during the show.
- Sharpen your show sales strategy: Plan two or three questions or conversation starters to immediately engage potential customers who approach your booth. The end goal is to capture as much relevant information as possible from each person (including contact info) within the first two minutes. While generating sales leads is a priority, trade shows are also a great place to gather valuable market research about your target audience – such as details about their farming operations, or which print and digital tools they use when seeking information about new products and industry news.
- Follow up on leads: Make notes about each conversation with potential customers and file that information daily. Assign someone to organize sales follow-up calls soon after the show to ensure leads are pursued before they grow cold.
- Maximize your visibility: Find out if the show is offering a speakers’ stage and book a spot. Speak about a topic on which your company has expertise. Focus your presentation on current market or industry trends and offer a fresh perspective that adds value for your customers.
- Get social: Ask for the show’s Twitter hashtag and include it in daily tweets during the show that invite attendees to your booth and promote your speakers’ stage presentation, your show specials, and any new product featured at your booth.
- Stop them in their tracks: You only have a few seconds to convince people to stop at your booth. Think about what attracts you at trade shows and incorporate those elements into your booth. We recommend an open booth design with your product featured prominently for people to see and touch, engaging staff, product videos on big-screen TVs, and well-lit signage that can be seen far down the aisle. Your signs should promote clear key messages that emphasize your product benefits using as few words as possible. Don’t make people guess what you’re selling. And avoid low-traffic locations.
- Measure success: Start by deciding what metric you’ll use to measure success and set clear goals. Then compare that to your show costs by carefully tracking expenses. Be consistent about which costs you’ll include, such as booth fees, freight, accommodations, meals and special events. Sales are the most obvious metric to measure success but sales leads generated at a show often don’t become final until long after the show is over. Tracking your closing rate on leads year-round is helpful. If your average closing rate is 1:25 (one sale per 25 leads) for large transactions generating $50,000 of margin, and your team generates 50 leads at a show, then the likely outcome will be two sales and $100,000 of gross margin. If your show costs are less than that, you’ll have a positive ROI and a clear idea which shows are a smart investment.
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