According to the Center for Exhibition Research (CEIR), trade show exhibitions come in second only to direct sales in generating new and repeat sales for most companies.
If you are like most small business owners, you are looking to make your marketing dollars work harder, especially with current decrease in corporate spending that has allied itself with the downturn in the economy. Everyone is looking to improve their return on investment, and for some, unfortunately, that may mean cutting the huge expense of trade show marketing out of their budgets. Trade shows are a great marketing tool for those who take advantage of the benefits. So what are some ways to make trade show marketing work better for your company? Here are 9 trade show marketing tips.
Tip #1: Pick the Right Trade Shows
Obviously, you need to start with the basics – who will be attending and who else is exhibiting? But you can dig much deeper than that. Start asking the trade show organizers questions like where do attendees spend most of their time, what specific product categories are they most interested in, and how the event compares to competing trade shows. Just knowing that there will be 5000 attendees may not help you if few are interested in your product category.
Tip #2: Choose One Trade Show Marketing Objective
Pick an objective and stick with it. “But I’m here to get leads”, you say. Absolutely, but trade shows can also help you do a number of other things like getting feedback and generating buzz for new products, educating potential customers on the benefits of your current products, finding new distributors and meeting people in other industries, and promoting your brand.
Tip #3: Start With Pre-Show Advertising
Make sure your current customers and industry members know you are going to be at a particular trade show. You can do this by sending out teaser postcards with your booth number or advertising in trade magazines. If you are going to launch a product, gradually leak information about it in pre-trade show materials. Create a website that hints at what it may be and include the url in your teaser promotions. If you’re having a contest for free tickets to an event, let people know they need to come to your booth to sign up for the drawing. The more pre-show buzz you can create, the more popular your booth is going to be.
Tip #4: Make Your Booth Stand Out
Having a really nice booth can definitely attract traffic and media attention. You only have a couple of seconds to grab someone’s attention, and anything that may set you apart from the other booths will drastically help. Think of it this way. Having a creative setup for your booth means you’ve thought quite a bit about the event and put a lot of time and effort into making it happen. This enthusiasm will transfer to your booth staff as they talk to visitors. The more “into it” your staff is, the more leads you are going to generate.
Tip #5: Ask For Feedback
You have a huge pool of customers and potential customers available to you. Do some market research. Ask them what they think of your booth and presence at the trade show, your product, whether your sales staff has been helpful, and any other questions you’ve been dying to learn from your customers. Ask for feedback before you give them your promotional goodies, or give those people that have filled out the survey something better than what you hand out ordinarily.
Tip #6: Monitor What Your Competitors Are Doing
Another major benefit of trade shows is that your competitors are there as well. Now you can check up on what they are doing, who their business partners are, and what kinds of visitors they are getting. You can also pick up some of their corporate literature to compare to your own.
Tip #7: Give the Press a Story
Trade shows provide excellent opportunities to meet and interact with key industry journalists. If you can, set up a time to chat with them to let them in on how your company is innovating the industry or the success of events you’ve done. If you can, volunteer to be a speaker or panelist at the trade show to gain further media exposure. You may also look to sponsor a speaker or panel. While you’re at it, make sure you keep copies of your press kit in your booth, as you never know when members of the press might drop in.
Tip #8:Meet As Many People As You Can
Face to face interaction can really improve sales. Make sure your staff is well trained in answering questions about your product or service.
You should also do some networking yourself. You can meet a lot of people at a trade show just by checking out other booths and talking to their staff. Some of your contacts may become potential business partners. Some may bring new customer leads. And it doesn’t hurt to expand your working network in case other opportunities may arise in the future.
Tip #9: Measure Your Return On Investment
At the end of the day, you want to make sure your costs were justified. Did you generate enough leads to justify the cost? How did your numbers compare to previous years or other trade shows you’ve done? Why did people visit your booth – because you had a pretty booth design and promotional giveaways or out of interest for your product? How effective were your sales staff – what did visitors think when they walked away?