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Getting the Most Out of Trade Shows by Jim Starkey

As spring arrives, so does the beginning of the trade show season and we execute on our annual event calendar.  Each show represents a unique opportunity to introduce ourselves to new customers, nurture existing ones and learn more about the competitive landscape. 

We acquire insights from every show and use that data to improve our tradeshow processes.  We adjust what needs fixing and enhance what went well.  Tradeshows can be rewarding but they require thorough and careful planning combined with various types of “behind the scenes” activities to ensure success.

Prior to every major show we use the following guidelines:

 

As spring arrives, so does the beginning of the trade show season and we execute on our annual event calendar.  Each show represents a unique opportunity to introduce ourselves to new customers, nurture existing ones and learn more about the competitive landscape. 

We acquire insights from every show and use that data to improve our tradeshow processes.  We adjust what needs fixing and enhance what went well.  Tradeshows can be rewarding but they require thorough and careful planning combined with various types of “behind the scenes” activities to ensure success.

Prior to every major show we use the following guidelines:

Predefined Goals, Positioning and Scheduling: By defining the landscape, we can make the proper choices to determine how many shows are necessary and the proper industries to be targeted.   Every week there are many shows around the world and unless we are strategic and intentional as we build our schedule, we can stretch our resources and reduce our impact.   

Do your research, strategically choose the shows and properly manage headcount and budget.

Pre/Post Show Publicity: A lot of people will show up to your party when they see you have one, but so many more will arrive when you invite them.   Pre show publicity is a good way to let our reps, distributors, dealers and potential customers know about our events ahead of time while targeting specific products.   It creates a dialogue that starts before the show, continues during and hopefully sustains long after.

Just as important is an internal team member post-show follow-up, highlighting the show’s success as well as weaknesses and establishing next steps as we follow-up with the leads that were obtained.

The event begins long before and ends long after the actual dates of the show.  Follow-through is essential to success.

Booth presence: Our booth is our home away from Carpentersville.  It’s our “out of town” footprint that represents our company and the quality of our products.  How we look and how our customers feel when they walk into our space truly matters.   Investing in a structure that leaves an impression helps our visitors remember their time with us, our hospitality, our products and our brand.  Clutter and disorganization impacts visitors emotionally.  That is why we strive to keep our OTTO booth clean, carefully laid out and free of excess.  Our products and collateral are clearly and deliberately displayed so that our customers can see and touch the merchandise and leave with the proper information. The longer our customers linger, the more time we have to share insights and establish a bond.

We need to impress our audience with our hospitality, knowledge, quality and product superiority.

Goals and objectives: If we don’t know why we’re at a show, neither will our customers. Having clear predetermined goals can definitely enhance our success.  We ask ourselves:

  • What products do we want to highlight through displays, banners, ads and brochures?
  • What meetings have we set up and are we prepared for each unique encounter?
  • What is a reasonable lead goal?
  • Are there any challenges we need to address?
  • Who do we want to meet with while we are there?
  • Social Media Plans

Tradeshows are an investment and we expect a significant return on our investment through increased sales and revenue.   Without proper goals, we cannot measure our success.  Therefore, we make every attempt to be strategic and intentional in our show planning.

Message and Product Focus: For bigger shows, it is important that all show staff attend the pre-show meeting to learn about the products and understand the show’s goals, message and focus. At this meeting we also have the opportunity to clearly state:

  • Show hours and booth location
  • Badge information
  • Hotel details
  • Staffing schedule
  • Primary roles and responsibilities
  • Product training
  • Give-a-ways
  • Meeting schedules
  • Show uniform/attire
  • Contact information

Product Training: It is not expected that every attendee is an expert on every product; however basic product knowledge is important for everyone.  Pre show training provides a complete product overview with talking points and directions for finding the subject matter expert when necessary.   At the show, we may reach a point in the conversation where we’ve reached our knowledge limit.  That’s OK, a smooth transition to a more knowledgeable sales person can make our guest feel honored as we seek a valid OTTO solution to their particular challenge.

Lead Generation and Follow-up: One of the key goals of a show is to obtain new business opportunities.  These frequently are gathered in the form of leads generated at the show.   The actual number of leads generated does not necessarily represent success however.  There are a few things that should be considered:

  • The quality of the lead – i.e. the % of leads deemed valuable after being scrubbed by sales
  • The total cost per lead – i.e. the show campaign cost/the quantity of quality leads
  • The actual business brought in by a particular show to determine its return on investment

Leaving an impression: Tradeshows can provide benefits if implemented properly.  It should represent a relatively small percentage of a salespersons effort.   But done well they can provide value. Proper execution and follow-up is essential to obtaining the return on the investment in the form of increased sales, stronger relationships and insights into products and services that may not have been found in other ways.

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