Trade shows are an opportunity to meet customers, suppliers, competitors and business partners. They also offer the chance to get some new ideas. You may notice some businesses are using a service or technology you were unaware of, or you may discover a way of marketing that had not occurred to you.
Before you even book a booth at a show you need to consider the people who will be attending and how to target them. If you offer a number of products or services decide which one will be of most interest to these potential customers.
Decide what you want to achieve on the day. It may be to sell or launch a product, or gain leads for new customers. You may want to test a new product idea, re-enforce your brand or meet the media through interviews or a press release. Whatever your objectives set yourself targets to work towards. A number of sales or leads to achieve will keep you working hard throughout the day.
Make sure you have an “elevator pitch” ready. You must not be stuck for words when someone pauses at your stand. You only have a matter of seconds to engage the person and start explaining what your business offers them. Be sure to know your key advantage over your competitors, especially those that are also at the show.
You need to decide how to be different and noticeable. At most trade shows most people wear their best suits and try to look business-like. This gives you an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. You do not have to wear a suit to look smart. If you have identified the biggest benefit you offer you could get posters, badges or even garments printed with 'I can solve your X problems' or 'Ask me about X', where X is the problem you are offering a solution to.
Give some thought to the message you put on your stand. There should be one central theme, not a bewildering array of products or services. You have only a few seconds to attract the attention of those moving past. Make sure your stand is visually attractive and informs potential customers how they can benefit from involving you in their business. Avoid clutter and obstructions. Keep the stand simple. Use product displays that will help you explain and present what you are offering. Make sure you have enough relevant information to answer any questions about your product or service. Keep details of the most expensive products at the back of the stand so you can draw people in with the more affordable ones. Live demonstrations attract attention and show customers how a product can benefit them. If possible have interactive exhibits. People love to touch and feel, and an exhibit can capture attention even if everyone working on the stand is busy with other customers.
The most important, and most often broken rule for working on a display stand is that staff must not talk to each other. They should be too busy trying to attract the attention of passing customers. First impressions count and staff too busy chatting to attend to an inquiry do not suggest your customer service is going to be of the best quality. If you have a number of staff working on a stand organize their breaks so that you have the maximum number available at the busiest times. Also make sure there is some time for visiting your competitors and suppliers.
One way to be different, attract attention and increase the number of business cards you collect on the day is to run a prize draw. Make the prize relevant to your product or service. Put the cards into a hat and make the draw at a set time.
Have a meeting after the trade show to discuss how the day went and establish what you achieved. If you did your homework before the show you should be clear about what counts as an achievement. Giving out lots of literature is not an achievement. Getting someone to promise to telephone or email you is not an achievement. You count your success by the number of sales made, appointments organized, or contact details collected. If you have planned your day well you should find that you made the most of your attendance at the show.