A trade show is a great place to get your business and product promoted and sold. These events are perfect networking centers full of potential buyers, future clients, and PR opportunities. They aren’t going anywhere either. According to Statista: “In the U.S., trade show still remains one of the most profitable business-to-business (B2B) media strategy, as trade shows generated more than 12.6 billion U.S. dollars in revenue in 2015.” This is not a marketing strategy you want to forgo. If you have the opportunity, take it, but not without going prepared with knowledge from the following experienced pros.
If a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words, Then a Video Is Worth a Million
One strategy is to have short videos produced. Consumers are more likely to purchase from you if they see a professional looking video that engages them. Testimonials, brand, explainer, promo, and company overview videos can make your trade show booth stand out from the next. The great thing about having videos for your exhibit is that you can use it over and over again and share it online via your website, Vimeo, YouTube, and social media. It works because people remember a video easier than text on promotional items. If your trade show reps are occupied with potential customers, people waiting to speak can watch the videos at the exhibit and gather more information until they get that one on one conversation. It’s a win-win trade show marketing strategy.
-Leon Bailey, Founder and Lead Videographer at Lasting Blueprint Productions
Knowledgeable Staff Makes Time Well Spent
We try to set up stalls at trade shows at least 3 times per year, and we’ve noticed that there are a few simple things that you can do to make it really worthwhile. One aspect that I completely overlooked the first few times that I had a stall at a trade show was having properly trained staff. Ultimately, people visiting your stall will want to talk to your staff, and if they aren’t engaging and representing your business well, you’ll be wasting your time. I invested in courses for my staff throughout the year to ensure that we were prepared to make the most of every trade show that we visited. Another thing that we always make sure to do is hand out freebies. It builds trust amongst your customers and makes your stall stand out.
-Max Robinson, Ace Work Gear
The Way to a Prospect’s Heart Is Through His Stomach
My most successful trade show strategy was actually baking chocolate chip cookies right on the trade show floor!
As a small marketing firm, I was exhibiting at a business trade show where the objective was to engage and connect with attendees and secure the highly-coveted “face time” with potential new clients in order to promote our award-winning services.
I thought about the tried and true approaches to lure people to our booth — a bowl of quality candy (not the cheap stuff), the latest “it” promotional giveaways, or even 6 foot tall models in an attempt to draw people into our booth.
But then it hit me…I’ll attack their olfactory senses and they’ll be unwittingly drawn to me! In the back of the booth, I set up a little toaster oven and I was in the cookie business!
I am proud to say that it was effective — not only did people follow their noses but the cookies served as a conversation starter and prove positive that our firm had the ability to creatively and effectively position our brand.
Can I offer you a cookie?
-Rhonda Moret, LinkedIn
Tag, Mention, and Share
Having attending more than 10 trade shows each year, my best strategy to always standout is to take pictures at every booth, add a comment about the vendor, use the trending hashtags and share on twitter. This always gets ScanMyPhotos.com to make an impression, as the exhibitors are so grateful and retweet to their entire group of followers. At CES each January, this is especially helpful to enhance our brand and recognition and create an important list of new contacts and customers, as that opens the conversation to engage and follow up. So much better than just having your badge scanned.
– Mitch Goldstone, President and CEO of: ScanMyPhotos.com
Keep Calm and Be Attentive
Stand up. If you sit down behind the table provided in front of your stand, people are far less likely to come and talk to you. You look disengaged, aren’t on the same level as the people walking up to you and because you’re not on your feet you’re much more likely to relax. Get your phone out under the table, etc. If you want to attract people, stand up a meter away from your stand. Smile at everyone who goes past you. Shake hands. Be keen to meet people and they’ll be attracted to meeting you.
– James Rice, Marketing for: WikiJob
The best tactic to get attention in a busy trade show is to hire booth babes. Attractive young women wearing tight skimpy outfits handing out some kind of freebie in exchange for getting prospect contact info (i.e. swiping their badge for follow-up later).Yes, it’s sexist. Yes, it works; especially if the attendees are more than half men. When faced with 200 booths to stop at, who would you rather speak to: the babe handing out freebies, or the grey hair man who looks like a used car salesman?
– Mike Scanlin, CEO of: Born To Sell
Exhibit Your Strengths in Unique Ways
The key to making an impression at a trade show is to be different. Just having a booth and hosting a happy hour won’t make an impression. The most success we’ve had at trade shows is when we have a giveaway that everyone wants. The most memorable is when we offered dog bones for any dog owners. People were clamoring for the dog bones and it created a buzz. Not only did we get a lot of attention but it was a great follow up item that many attendees brought home. It created goodwill and made follow up very easy for us.
– Nick Braun, Founder of: Pet Insurance Quotes
Make Them Remember You
As the owner and proprietor of a trade show display company I’ve gotten to see and hear about some impressive displays but the most off the wall one had to be WePay’s stunt at Paypal’s developer expo. Way back in 2010, Paypal was holding their annual developer conference and were hit with a guerilla display in the form of a huge chunk of ice filled with 600$ and a label that said, “Paypal freezes your accounts.” Subtle? No. Memorable? Yes.
– Charles Dugan, Owner of: American Image
Do Your Research, Plan Ahead
Trade show success begins before the show starts. To be successful you must promote you are attending the trade show and get the news out to prospects and customers. This involves a pre-show marketing strategy including email, social media, and personalized invitations. If everyone is on board, including the sales rep, and promoting the show ahead of time it will help people to plan ahead and visit your booth.
Focus on the goal. Each show has a different goal. Some shows are attended to break into a new market, and some to drive big business. It is best to know the objective of the show, get the show staff on board, and ensure there is consistent messaging. By having a goal it allows everyone to have an objective and plan of action.
Trade show success continues after tear-down. It is ESSENTIAL to have a successful follow-up plan. No matter if your goal was to assess the show or to bring in big business; a follow-up plan is key at measuring success. Prompt follow-up with people who attended the booth, mass follow-up for anyone that missed you, and an event recap to get feedback on strategy are all key in analyzing the trade shows success.
– Katie Bisson, Marketing Communications Specialist for: RAPID Manufacturing
Go Big, Exciting and Fresh
The coolest tactic I’ve ever seen a business use at a trade show was a crazy golf area; it was only small but attracted a lot of people, with the chance of winning a remote control helicopter. There was so much activity around the stand, which allowed sales reps to talk to potential customers.
– Lee Fisher, Senior Manager at: Wooden Blinds Direct
Outreach Is Your Friend
Aside from giving a presentation: Unless you are spending big money on sleek video screens, dance booths or giving away free money – it’s pretty hard to stand out at a trade show. However, there is a BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER strategy that you should be applying when dealing with a trade show.
Know your audience! Create engaging content (blogs, posts, articles, etc.) leading up to the show that demonstrates that you know their challenges, pitfalls and are excited to demonstrate a solution for them when attending the show.
Social: Invite invite invite! – tell everyone where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing. Make sure the show knows you are attending, and knows you are sharing THEIR information as well.
Contacts: A quick shout out or discount to those who visit your booth can have great effects if you can get access to a show list or have a regular database management system (emails) you can work with.
Prizes: To ensure you are capturing WARM leads (those who visit your booth and actually speak to you) give them another opportunity to provide their information. Prizes (good ones) always help to draw visitors and get those emails added to your database for after the show!
Social: Be sure you are being physically social, but also taking photos of yourself at the show with supporters, fans, etc. This goes a long way on social media.
Traditional Media: Ask if there is a media table or media people present and be sure to try and arrange a meet up with them that day. You could land in a well-read industry publication.
Nurture: Connect with warm leads and anyone you physically took a card from. This can be email campaign, further discount, get them to dive further into your website. And give them another 2 or 3 opportunities to hear from you that month. An old fashioned phone call can go a long way with someone who was engaging with you (HOT prospects only!). A Thank you goes a long way on social media as well. Tag people who you met, learned from or generally were interested in, or supports your business in some way. Continue building these relationships online.
Content: Write about what you learned. Make the most of your experience and share some great Top ‘Three Take Aways’ or other ‘Did You Know’ type of posts/blogs and be sure to share with show organizers.
– Amanda Sutton, Chief Brand Officer of: CATALYST communications choreography
Build a Welcoming Atmosphere
It’s incredibly important to maintain a professional exhibit area. Make sure you have attractive signage and a setup that welcomes artists and attendees to it. Secondly, your staff must be welcoming: smiling and eager to talk to attendees and make sales. They should never sit or look bored, as attendees will notice this. No matter how pretty you make your exhibit look, attendees won’t want to approach your space without a presentable and welcoming staff.
– Shelly Taggar, Owner of: The Makeup Show
Reel Them In & Lock Them Down
I recently spoke at 2 meeting planning events and found a couple of people with trade show booths who were doing something unique.
One was Travel Tacoma, who had a booth at the IMEX show for international meeting planners. CEO, Bennish Brown, said that they had never been to the show before and didn’t have any appointments set up, so they knew they had to do something unique to get people into the booth. So, they set up an oxygen bar. The many multiple colors lined up were enough to catch your attention. The beauty of it was that you were literally locked in there for at least 5 minutes while a teaser video of Tacoma’s beautiful landscape played in front of you.
The other one was Visit Norfolk’s trade show booth at MPI, another meeting planner event. They partnered with a local dog rescue organization and had them bring in some of their rescue dogs so that people could pet them to lower stress. Good for the attendees, good for the dogs, and good for Visit Norfolk. Why did it work? Who could resist adorable rescue dogs?
– Julie Austin, Founder of: Speaker Sponsor
Play to the Shows’ Theme and Audience
To create the perfect ambiance for sales representatives during Las Vegas tradeshows, suite conversions for onsite selling works best.
For example, trying to sell during the casino expo? Convert a suite to ‘Cherry-Land’, the popular slot machine fruit and create a comfortable industry environment for your sales reps. Other examples include: Converting a suite into “Ice-Land” during the Refrigeration Conference in October. Or a ‘Tech-World’ suite during the popular CES show in January.
– Rodric J. Hurdle-Bradford, Managing Partner at: Vegas Luxury Group VIP
Start a Live Broadcast
A couple of years ago, I was at CES with the Lamassu team (the creators of the world’s first Bitcoin ATM), and in one tweet I got them featured in Wired magazine. There’s definitely ROI in monitoring for conference hashtags and interacting with others at the event via social media.
I outline the complete strategy we use to connect and interact with conference attendees/speakers, as well as how to live tweet events, in this blog post.
– Kari DePhillips, Owner of: The Content Factory
These are all great ideas and proven methods of trade show success. When attention is all you need to get people to visit your booth, the most important thing you can do is have fun! It’s the easiest thing, will show everyone around you that you are enthusiastic to be there, and it spreads quickly. Show your audience that you are there for them, and they will come.