Trade Shows are still a great place to generate new leads and awareness for your brand. In recent years they’ve earned a bad rap for being too expensive and counter productive. I’d argue that it might be your approach that is proving to be inefficient.
CES, one of the largest trade shows in the world, had record breaking numbers last year with 160,498 attendees. There were also 20,000+ new product announcements. This amount of interest and competition is pretty common across most trade shows. Obviously not always at this level. Here are a few sales and marketing strategies to get the most out of your next trade show:
- Have a game plan: Most of the focus for brands pre-trade show is on getting the booth together and booking travel. These are important, but they are also big distractions. Sit down with your team and come up with a game plan as to how you are going to work the show. If there are break out sessions that are educational, divide and conquer, and network at these sessions. Devise a small list of talking points that are key to your brands new product or services that you’re promoting. The list goes on, but have a plan- because let’s face it, if you’re not careful this whole trip is just an excuse to be out of the office and have a good time.
- Have a unique call to action: Remember you are at this trade show to obtain new leads for your company. Of the people passing by your booth you will only capture a very small percentage of them if you’re not strategic with your call to action. Let the core sales staff handle the genuinely interested parties while the support staff focuses on drawing in people. This doesn’t have to be cheesy, nor does it have to require candy. I was at the OR Show a year or so back and someone was handing out a single sock in the middle of the show floor with card that had a booth number on it to go get the other sock. It became a game to me to go find that booth. Once I found it I was congratulated by friendly staff, entered my name quickly on a iPad, and got the other sock.
- Consider not exhibiting at all: I’m serious. If you haven’t been to the show this is especially a good idea. Spend some of the budget on a unique place to stay that can be used as meeting space. Use that space to meet with your core customers and invite strong leads to it while you’re at the show. For example, use Airbnb to rent a yacht from the nearby harbor in Boston if you’re at a show there. Or rent an airstream trailer and deck it out complete with a outside entertaining area in the parking lot nearby. Then send your team out to invite qualified leads to the space. Everyone enjoys some off the floor time and free food.
- Do something with your leads: We are all guilty of this as it is too common for you to return to the office after a trade show and only follow up with the top 5 leads. What about the 40 other people that you were able to have a quick conversation with and get their card? What about the 150 names you captured from your email database? Use marketing automation software to begin to follow up with these people. Have a dedicated landing page that you send them to from an email campaign.
- Be real. This is an easy way to stand out at a trade show. Think about it. All buyers are doing is going from booth to booth getting pitched. Slow your roll if you can. Stop and ask that person what brought them to the show and what they’re hoping to accomplish for their business as a result of them coming. You’ll be surprised how much you learn.
A good trade show marketing plan includes a unique booth and some candy to hand out, a great one actually increases sales, through a proactive and assertive strategy. I’ve walked trade shows as a buyer, seller, and press so I’m happy to help your strategy from any angle.