I love talking to the owners of small and newish businesses when they are preparing to do their first trade show.
They are so excited and so full of enthusiasm. Bubbly is a good description.
They are excited about getting their businesses better known and of course, about making sales.
They see the potential that a trade show offers.
If that’s you, great! Keep hold of that feeling. Enthusiasm is infectious. Better still, it will help to make you and your business memorable when you meet people at the show.
Your enthusiasm + show know-how = a winning combination
Most small business owners and most exhibitors are not full-time event organisers.
And why would they be? They have their day (and sometimes night) jobs to keep them occupied.
So, if this is your first event here are some things that could be useful to know and take care of before the show.
Have something to show visitors
What’s going to cover your stand walls? Products? Graphics? A combination of both?
Don’t be so focused on your products that you forget your graphics.
Work on the design and production for these in plenty of time. Rush jobs don’t always deliver the look and messaging that you would like. And graphics on digital screens still need to be produced too.
Have something to give visitors
Being memorable after a trade show is really important when you are trying to close a deal with a company that you know is really right for what you offer.
What can you give a stand visitor at a show that will help make you more memorable?
One enterprising client offered visitors custom cup cakes when she and her team handed over postcards at the show.
In follow-up emails and calls her business was the “marketing service with those funny cupcakes.” Everyone she and her team spoke to remembered their stand and the conversation at the show.
Don’t forget to promote the fact that you will be exhibiting at the show
If you are new to exhibiting you may not think about promoting your presence in advance of the show.
In your mind’s eye, you see hundreds or thousands of people pouring into an exhibition hall. All you have to do is talk to lots and lots of people. Right?
Well yes and no.
There will be lots of people and many of them will be interested in what you have to offer. But not all of them.
One of the big opportunities that trade shows offer apart from meeting new potential clients for your business is the opportunity to reconnect with old clients too.
And if you don’t have many past clients to connect with you because you are so new, what about all the people who nearly became clients. Businesses that asked you to provide a quote or contacted you for samples or with whom you had some kind of sales conversation.
Go back to them. Get in contact and get back on their radar. Give them good reasons to come and see you at the event. Tell them why it will be good for their business if you do so.
Organise your follow-up work in advance of the show
This tip often puzzles event newbies. They are so focused on the show itself that they forget about the sales job to be done afterward.
If the calendar in your diary just has the open dates of the show and part of the day before booked-out, add the day following the show as a busy day.
Why? Because that’s when you need to be analysing what happened, collating sales notes, booking follow-up calls and visits… Generally being on top of your sales game.
You need to strike while the show and your business are both still fresh in the minds of exhibitors.
You can make your post show day even more productive if you write the structure for your follow-up messages to visitors in advance too.
Time, as they say, is of the essence. There will be lots of other fellow exhibitors following-up too. Make sure you stay ahead of your competition. Get your follow-up messages in first.
Reflect: What did you just learn?
Making time in your calendar for following up work is as already mentioned, very important when it comes to closing sales after a show.
Booking-in time to reflect on what happened and what you learned from the market should also be a priority.
How were your products or services received?
What feedback did you get and what can learn from?
Did you meet people from the type of companies you expected? Did you meet any of your top new sales priority targets?
What about clients? Did you meet any of those? If yes, what did they say?
Record all successes, failures, tips, and ideas that will naturally present themselves as a result of exhibiting. Learn and apply lessons not just about better exhibiting but about improved sales and marketing too.
Go to it!
Put your enthusiasm into action and be prepared to do that over the whole day or days of the event. Shows can be tiring (and remember those comfortable shoes too).
Listen closely to what you hear from your stand visitors. See how other companies promote themselves. Check out your competition. Keep positive whatever happens.
Most of all, sell your socks off. At the show, afterward and always.