Business owners that utilize them understand that trade shows represent unparalleled opportunity. Being able to have an Exhibit at the right trade show can & usually leads to press coverage, buyers, investments, and — perhaps most importantly — a buzz around your company that establishes your brand as the next must-have product or service. Trade Shows can make or break a company. Being prepared is most important. It takes a lot of preparation to ensure that your trade show trip is worth it.
The costs to exhibit, transportation and hotel accommodations makes a trade show booth a significant investment This is especially for up-and-coming brands. To make sure you receive a healthy return on your investment, you need a carefully crafted trade show strategy that ensures you get in front of the right people. If you’re going to invest in trade shows ensure that you get the most on your ROI.
Determine what you want to get and do the Homework.
Before you start, or attempt to make any commitments to attend a trade show, you want to determine what you want to get out of the event as a whole. Are you looking for buyers? Investors? Press coverage? Impressions? Reach? Whatever categories you come up with make a list of goals. Get very specific about what defines success for you and your business. Understand that success reached way beyond income. An example of what you would want to annotate is if one of your goals is to gain press coverage, and what that would mean for your business. Are you aiming for an article on a major publication’s website or an interview with a local news outlet? This is very acceptable if your business has a location because this would extend your reach drastically. If you’re looking for buyers or are hoping for purchase orders from retailers then this could be ideal for you if you are trying to extend your reach and allow people to see your product away from where you are established. Do you want purchases from individual customers, or both — and how many? Again, do the homework and know your audience.
Then, ask yourself if you are ready and able to receive these outcomes. Do you have the inventory you need to fulfill purchase orders? Do you have talking points prepared in case you speak to the press? If you are unsure of what you need, ask experts and peers so you can prepare for the big day.
Make a List
Based on the desired outcomes you outlined, create a target list of people you’d like to meet at the event. If you’re not sure who’s coming to the show, take a look at the event prospectus, website and previous attendee lists. If you’re already in conversation with some of the people you’d like to do business with, add those names to the list as well.
Don’t be afraid to get some Help.
Contact the show organizer to talk through your goals and target list. Talk to other vendors that may have been to one or plan to go. Ask the coordinator if he or she can cross-reference your target list with the event’s internal registration list. Are any of your targets already confirmed? Are they on the show’s radar? If not, ask your contact if he or she could offer any benefits (e.g., free tickets, private events, matchmaking, etc.) that would offer value to and give some incentive to your contacts if you were to invite them. Most show organizers are happy to reach out to invite your contacts and will make sure they are properly registered, so you can focus on getting ready for the event. This also makes sure the event has volume. Organizers know that this is vital to its success.
Your show contacts likely have relationships with the people you want to get in front of, so if you make them aware of your goals, they can direct the right people your way on show day. Make sure you are ready for interaction because you don’t want to burn or embarrass your contacts.
Reach Out to as Many People as you can.
Too often, exhibitors arrive at trade shows hopeful but unprepared. In many cases, they haven’t put in the effort to make sure their target contacts will be at the show. They haven’t done the homework. They assumed that the trade show would produce the customer. They haven’t set up meetings, haven’t done any outreach and haven’t gotten their name out there as a must-see exhibitor.
There are several quick and easy ways to promote your participation at the show and set your company up for success. First, use all your external communications to your advantage — social media, email signatures and email newsletters are just the beginning. USPS is an option. Make sure to spend some time extending personal invites to your network (or even new contacts) through calls or emails. Make the show yours by going big on outreach to set meetings before, during or after the show. Make the event about your business or product as much as you can. Get enough people looking for you and create a buzz. With so many interactions and impressions within the show, you could create a word-of-mouth effect within the show itself.
Step your Energy way up.
People like doing business with people they like. They want to know that they can grow to trust your business relationship. The more energized you are during the show, the more you will attract attention and goodwill from your target contacts. That means talk to everyone, everywhere, all the time. Elevators, meals, walking to and from the event space. Make sure people see and hear you.
Also, don’t overlook interactions with other exhibitors, show organizers and staff. Collaborating with them will only increase your changes of honing in on your list of targets. Lots of companies insist that trade shows are hit or miss. This could be true if you aren’t using it to your advantage. With the right strategy and well-defined goals, you can maximize your return on investment and turn every trade show into a success.