I’m always surprised and disappointed when stand managers disclose they’re in charge of a stand at a trade show almost under duress.
Comments like “I didn’t want to do this’ or “I drew the short straw’ are disappointing to hear. They also make me think that success is very likely to be hindered by this attitude.
Why the dread?
Generally, the feeling arises because trade shows are outside of the typical day-to-day role of the people who manage stands. And when you aren’t entirely sure of what you are doing, you worry about screwing-up.
Look instead at all of the opportunities for getting things right
Here are ten reasons (I could give you more) for “short-straw” marketeers about why they should be excited instead of fearful about their event assignments.
1. Awaken those dormant clients
Reignite sales with companies that haven’t re-purchased from you in the past 12 months or more. Let those sleeping clients know about the things that have changed since you last did business together. Offer them incentives to re-order linked to the show.
Your company’s participation in an exhibition provides an excellent reason to get in contact again. Offer your past clients appointment slots. Make them feel special because there is probably a vast amount of untapped sales value lying within your recent client list.
Prove this to yourself by asking your accounts department to run off a dormant clients report. Then get excited.
2. Create a focus for your direct marketing
Having a valid reason to contact clients, past clients, and prospects often stumps the best marketers. What you want to avoid is bland mass communication messaging. A trade show provides a strong and valid focus for direct marketing via email, direct mail, phone calls and SMS messaging, webinars and social media.
3. Meet with your current clients
Your current clients are the people that you should inform first about your participation. They deserve your best attention because they are spending money with your business now. If your company does a good or excellent job, they will continue to buy from your business way into the future too.
Invite current clients warmly to the show. Give them excellent reasons to attend. That means telling them what’s in it for them at the whole event and not just your stand.
Is there a conference programme? Highlight subjects that are allied to the field in which you work. Feature areas? Do the same. Most of all, let them know about things of interest that you are promoting on your stand and why it will be an excellent use of their time to drop by and see you.
4. Meet REAL people
Trade shows offer the opportunity to meet with real, live people. Sometimes it comes as a surprise, even a shock to find out what the real opinions of people are about a subject. Especially when those views are different from the story written within our marketing materials.
Don’t let fear and trepidation affect your marketing antenna. Hear what people in the market are telling you good or bad. Make notes so that you can improve or fine-tune your marketing across all channels.
5. Test sales propositions
The most successful businesses have marketing messages that resonate with the people who buy from them.
You can test opening phrases used to greet visitors and see which works most effectively. You can check slogans and straplines by showing them to stand visitors and asking them to rate each for resonance. And if you’re stuck, ask visitors “What’s the biggest problem that you’re facing in your business now.” Note those answers.
6. Develop your prospect list
Want to grow or improve your sales database and the data within it quickly? Take part in a trade show. But, be very careful and organised about how you collect your data.
Piles of business cards by themselves aren’t going to take you far. Make notes, physically or digitally and import your lead data from the show’s registration supplier into your database. Ensure everyone is followed-up. Keep in contact with relevant messages to all who don’t become clients in the short-term.
7. Events are a focus for Content Marketing
If you’ve been wondering how you can make more of the content floating around your company, look no further. Incorporate some or all into your trade show marketing.
Use those reports and articles to explain how your business eradicates the problems your market faces. Videos and webinars can build awareness too. Encourage prospective show visitors to sign-up for updates. Provide links to other resources that have affinity with your subject. Demonstrate wherever possible, your company’s expertise and leadership.
8. Test new markets
Are you looking for a low-cost way to test a new market? Take a small stand at a trade show. Years ago, I read how giants like General Electric who frequently exhibit on large stands, use this tactic to check whether a new show or market will work for them. You can do the same thing. And if the event works, you can scale-up next time.
9. Find new applications for existing products or services
Finding new applications for a product or service that is bog-standard to your business is often a happy by-product of exhibiting. It occurs when visitors from industries or companies you haven’t dealt with previously, see an application in what you offer that could work for them.
In my days organising shows, new application success stories were told to me many times. It’s one of the exciting things that can happen when you exhibit.
10. Look good to your boss
Hey, everyone has a right to get promoted and to progress in their career.
Nail the business of exhibiting and of generating new sales and new clients using the tactics described above, and you just might get promoted. At the very least, your reputation as a generator of new business will grow.