Exhibiting Excellence - Making trade shows profitable
Investing your time, energy and resources into a trade show takes real commitment and often times, some big bucks. You need to approach trade shows with the same degree of diligence and care you would with any other aspect of your business. Here's some tips to help you get things off on the right foot and hopefully provide a real return on your investment.
Choose your trade shows carefully. There are hundreds of them so research shows carefully. Talk to last year’s attendees, talk to government partners in the area. The Trade Commissioners Service is a great support for Canadian businesses abroad and their CanExport program is an offering every company needs to fully explore. You should also check with your provincial government trade agencies to see what assistance they can offer.
Start by building your core message. Think about your booth from the perspective of someone walking by. What is the one thing you want them to take away from seeing your booth? Have a well understood plan to engage with visitors and make sure your message comes across loud and clear.
Have a goal for the trade show. Going to a trade show just to show off is not good return on investment. Are you looking for sales? Launching a new product? Looking for suppliers/distributors? Know before you go what you want to accomplish so you can measure the success of the show.
Video is now king. Static pull up banners still have a place to create a visually appealing booth, but video helps deliver your core message in a compelling way. You’ve only got seconds to capture people’s attention and video can show off your company like nothing else.
Reach out to all your customers and contacts in the area; tell them you are attending the show. If you have customers in the market it’s a great way to connect and make sure to invite them to come see you…and bring their friends! But all your contacts should know you are actively engaged and promoting your company.
Leverage government and business association contacts in the area. Make sure all these folks also know you are coming; they can help promote your business and may bring new customers to you.
Reaching out early also gives you the chance to share your core messaging, tease the launch of a new product/service, or introduce anything new you want to feature at the show. It‘s about building excitement so don’t hold back.
Have a way to track visitors to your booth. Many companies will have a draw for something, this can work but is getting tired. Don’t be shy to ask people for their business cards if you are talking with them. You need to know who comes by, to be able to follow up with them and build your contacts.
Look for ways to be a speaker at the show or build an education session/demo session at your booth. Getting in front of people gets you noticed and gives you a platform to pull people to your company.
Have a follow up strategy. Connect with people you met at the show as soon as you can. Deliver what you promised to them, thank them for coming to see you and give them something compelling to act on to follow up in return. Special pricing, volume discounts, product add-ons, etc. are all great options to encourage a purchase.