Trade Shows and Expos

Trade shows and expos can be a great way to promote your business, generate new leads, network to build relationships with other businesses in your field, and make more money

However, since such shows can often involve a significant investment in terms of both organizing a stand and booking space, it is important to ensure that you have the right approach to maximize the potential return.

Prepare a Standout Stand

Your stand or display will need to be visually appealing and attractive if it is to stand out and prompt passerby to stop and engage with you. Therefore, choose a display that is eye-catching and clear in its message from as great a distance as possible.

Really put yourself in the shoes of someone browsing a busy trade show and think: what would you need to see across an exhibition room to go across and actually visit your stand?

Plan the Inquiry Process

You should plan out a process for dealing with inquiries at your stand from show visitors. For example, arrange whether you will be registering their details directly into a computer system on a laptop or tablet, or recording them via a hard copy list or ‘request for info’ form.

Either way, you need to decide before the show and have a definite, convenient system in place for dealing with all worthwhile in-show inquiries.

Invite Your VIP Contacts and Existing Clients

Very often when doing a trade show people are so focused on the aim of generating new business that they forget how beneficial such shows can be for engaging with and strengthening relationships with existing clients or customers. Ask them to come, advertising the benefits. Will you be handing out a snack? Offering demonstrations of a new product? Giving away a valuable coupon?

Making Your Materials Work for You

While you will need some hard copy marketing materials such as a simple flyer or business card, it is not advisable to make your full brochure or prospectus freely available without you first obtaining inquirers’ details.

Instead, your registration process should be designed so that people have an initial chat with you and then register their details in order to be sent the full pack of information. This way you will reduce printing costs and qualify new inquiries more effectively.

Run a Special Offer or Promotion

You may want to create a special offer or promotion for show attendees to further entice inquiries and also highlight the relevance of your company’s products or services to the show’s market.

This could be a discount for orders or purchases made on the day, or a voucher (physical hard copy or voucher code) offering a similar discount if used to place an order within a certain time period after the event, for example, 10, 14, or 30 days.

On The Day of The Show

You will already have planned your display but still need to make sure when you arrive and set up that it works in a practical sense within the space itself.

Check whether there are any environmental issues relating to the space that may reduce the effectiveness of your display or the inquiry process. For example, the position and size of supplied furniture, the lighting, or even the proximity to event facilities and the features of neighboring displays can affect the way that guests at the show are able to access your area.

Similarly, while a bowl of candy or a plate of cookies can be a nice way to bring visitors to your stand, you and your representatives should avoid actually eating lunch or snacks in your display area. Not only does it look unprofessional, but it can also be messy, and strong-smelling foods could be very off-putting.

The goal is a welcoming, attractive stand that appears approachable and in no way threatening, intimidating or claustrophobic.

Be Friendly and Sociable

Make sure that you and anyone working on your stand are friendly and approachable. This means being confident and looking positive, so there is no better way of ensuring this then simply smiling as much as possible and certainly at anyone who makes eye contact with you.

However, while you are there to meet new and old clients, do not forget to be sociable and make contact with other companies who are also exhibiting at the show. This may be a chance to forge new business relationships, give and gain referrals, or even to gauge how successful the show has been for others.

It is also advisable to talk to competitors since it is nearly always better to know your enemy than to simply imagine who they are and what they do. You may discover useful information about how your company’s pitch and offering compare.

After The Show: Follow Up

If your show has been a success, you will have gathered a number of new prospective leads to contact. Whether these have been recorded electronically or in hard copy, they will now need to be organized so that you can follow up on each one.

Ideally, each new prospect should be called a day or so after the event, as well as sent any materials they requested with a unique cover letter or email relevant to the products and/or services that they inquired about. This should be done as soon as possible since people can forget very quickly about a single conversation they had at a busy show, so you want to capitalize on the interest they showed whilst they are still ‘hot’.

It is also useful to complete an overall review of the show’s effectiveness as a marketing exercise. Areas of performance to consider are the number of new prospects generated, existing client relationships strengthened, new contacts made, and follow-up sales or orders that can be linked directly to the show.

In this way, you can assess whether to attend the same show again in the future or to target other similar shows to achieve similar results.

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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