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How trade shows can help you convert dream clients into real ones

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Posted by , 29th November 2016

Convert dream clients into real ones. Exhibitors Only shows how

It’s rare a thing to meet the owner of a small business who doesn’t know the name or names of their dream clients.

Dream clients mean that we are talking about the companies that they would most like to be doing business with.

Expressed another way, dream clients are the “high 5” wins that a sales team lives to close.

If they win an order from one of these businesses, they will celebrate mightily, however small the initial contract may be.

In all the years that I sold exhibition participation to exhibitors, I was never once asked if companies like these attended the shows I was selling.  Yet, I was in all modesty, hugely successful at my job.

I always asked who the “high 5” companies were for each of my clients. When I showed would-be exhibitors, the people that attended our event from their dream businesses and others like them … I always made a sale.  How does this help you?

Ask the organiser specific questions about the attendance to their show

Showing meant; highlighting the names of people; highlighting job titles; quantifying the numbers attending from each individual target (dream) company.

Doing this made the attendance real to my prospective exhibitors. They weren’t just looking at bland stats anymore. Suddenly, the thousands of attendees our brochures trumpeted were seen as real, living and breathing individuals and not some amorphous, group. 

Instead, the attendance became people that could be reached, pitched and sold to if that is, the two parties got together at the show. And you can get the same information if you ask for it. 

Do trade shows hatch new beings?

This brings me to the importance of pre-show marketing when it comes to engineering big sales breakthroughs and, a curious mindset among some exhibitors I have met.

In their eyes, it was as though trade show organisers had the ability to hatch completely new beings. Brand new, never seen on earth before people were visitors to the shows we mysteriously ran.

It can be the only reason that stopped those normally proactive marketeers from taking promotional action pre-show. The very time they should have been contacting their clients, past clients, and prospective clients, they did little or nothing to promote their presence.

They weren’t thinking clearly about how to use events as a means for interaction with their list of prospective customers.

Worse still, they weren’t telling existing clients either. And that’s a big sales-building own goal because there is huge value in alerting people already known to you about your presence at a show.

Where this is the case, a company’s marketing plan and their exhibiting plan seem to be only very loosely connected. This must be one of the reasons why some exhibitors undertake so little advance promotion. It’s also why they don’t make any real progress in closing deals with companies that could transform their sales. Don’t make the same mistake.

The reasons most commonly given for this lack of pre-show activity;

“It’s the organiser’s job” or… “We just didn’t think it was necessary. We will be meeting lots of people at the show.”

Yes, you will meet people, but you don’t have to wait until the show opens to start the conversation.

Those “brand new” specimens have already been hatched. They are already out there in the world and that includes those mystical “high 5’s” you’ve been dreaming about.

Your prospects are the show’s prospects too

Trade shows are a simple business. They are platforms that generate huge amounts of publicity in advance of opening.

Organisers invest heavily to attract the best possible attendance to their events because the attendance is their product.

Pre-show messages from organisers to would-be visitors can be both direct or indirect.

Indirect messaging, like ads in a trade magazine, are designed to create awareness of the show.  These messages are designed to highlight themes and reasons for attendance.

Direct invitations are issued when organisers contact their database of past visitors and inquirers. And of course, many exhibitors send direct invitations into the market as well.

All of this activity creates an interest wave you can ride and use to your advantage. Not utilising all of this market interest, means that you will be missing a huge opportunity to set-up meetings and interactions at the show.

What is certain is that people from live and active businesses will be attending. 

And it’s likely that there will be attendees from the companies you most want to meet and sell to.

So, alert them to your presence and tell them why they should take the time to visit your stand at the show. They will be probably be going anyway and they will want to make the best use of their time during their visit. 

What’s the key to highly effective exhibiting? Read this post to find out 

What is my client doing on their stand?

I’ve had many conversations with exhibitors who have expressed shock and dismay when seeing a client engaged on a competitor’s stand. Or, they have seen people from known, new business prospects, walking the halls, who haven’t visited them. Usually, neither group has been invited to the show by the dismayed exhibitor.

When you take part in a trade show, you will certainly meet people and businesses that your company has never met or dealt with before. This is one of the big attractions of shows for exhibitors when it comes to developing new business.

But, you also have the opportunity and an excellent reason to;

  • contact your current clients
  • re-ignite dormant clients
  • get closer to your hot prospects
  • speed-up your slower-burn leads
  • meet your would-be distributors
  • cultivate those important media contacts and  journalists

And the many other people that your business has invested time and money in influencing.

This straightforward piece of trade show marketing is often overlooked and neglected. It will cost you sales if you don’t take the opportunity to alert people to your presence.

Trade shows and databases – they work so well together

If you are a start-up, new in the market, a trade show is going help you build a database of prospective and confirmed clients quickly.

I know many exhibitors who use trade shows as the only form of marketing to build their enterprises.

They have never advertised, run email or telemarketing campaigns, have done very little with social media but, their businesses have thrived none the less.

Has your business has been trading for some years and you already have an extensive list of clients?  The names and details that you collect at a trade show will keep your database, your sales building block, up to date.

People move jobs. They may join other companies or get promoted, their job titles change.

They may move locations; get married; their companies may acquire others. All these things affect your data and that’s the information your business relies on to develop those hoped-for dream sales.

More than one-third of global exhibitors declare low levels of satisfaction with exhibitions. There is no need to be one of them with the training offered by Exhibitors Only

The most active and interested companies attend trade shows

Contrary to belief in some quarters, trade show organisers do not hatch new people for their events.

What they do very effectively, is attract the most active and interested specifiers in a market to their shows.

Anyone who makes the effort to travel to a show is telling you that they are on the hunt for something.

They may have a problem to solve, a deadline to meet, an unexpected order to fulfill. Attending for them is about finding solutions. Theirs is a buying frame of mind.

And guess what: many of these active buyers will be the very same people that your business markets to throughout the year.

They will be people and businesses that are in your sales database, your CRM system or on that dream list of clients that you keep somewhere. They will be from enterprises that you would like to know more about and that you would very much like to be talking to. 

Bottom line; trade show attendances consist of real people. Individuals. Reach out to them and sell to them. Invite them to your next event. Stop dreaming and start converting. Please.

David O’Beirne

Read this related article 

Posted in Sales  /  Trade show advice  /  Trade show marketing  /  Trade show sales

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