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I sat down with our Director of Sales, CyndiLou Foster, and our Director of Marketing, Jonathan Snavely, to find out the best ways to maximize your business' experience at a trade show. Attending a trade show can bring a lot of benefit to your company or business, but only if you know how to maximize your exposure. I talked to CyndiLou and Jonathan to find out what tips they have for just that.
MB: What can people do before they actually get to the trade show to prepare themselves to have success?
CF: I think that's probably the biggest part in all of this. One of the top things is to make sure that there is relevance. Do your homework on who is attending that event and make sure there's a correlation between the intention and the audience.
JS: You also need to be sure that you're advertising your attendance at this show through your business. Figure out how much promotion you want to do in your business vs. online, depending on how local the show is. Make sure you're connecting with and tagging the other companies that are attending when you're promoting it on social media.
MB: What can you do to make sure you're catching the attention of the people walking by your booth while you're at the trade show?
CF: Again, I think it comes back to relevance. Make sure you know your audience and are doing things that are going to be intriguing to them. Technology seems to be enticing in terms of videos and pictures. You also need to keep in mind that you only have about 20-30 seconds to peak someone's interest, so make sure you're approachable and present.
JS: The first thing I always do is remove the chairs provided with my table. As an attendee, I know that if I see someone sitting down behind their booth or on their phone, it would take a very strong interest in that booth's products or services to get me to approach them. You should also be trying to gather leads while at the booth. So even if the trade show requires you to have a larger prize to give away, you should still bring smaller giveaways to try to collect contact information from attendees.
MB: What advice would you give to the people actually working the booth on the day of the trade show?
CF: First, they need to know the pitch. They need to know what they're trying to plug and be approachable. Be excitable! That's super important because people want to go where it's fun, not necessarily where they know they're going to be sold to.
JS: I think it's important to make sure everyone understands the purpose of why they're there. Set goals for those staff members so that they know what they're supposed to be doing that day. If your purpose is brand awareness, your team should have a different approach than if their goal is to collect 5 qualified sales leads. You should also have someone promoting in real-time on social media while at the show.
CF: We talk a lot about intention in our sales meetings. We shouldn't be doing something just to do it. We should have a goal or an endgame in mind. If at any point you identify a hot lead - someone who is a really good fit for your company and is interested - and you're at the show over multiple days, see if they're available for coffee or something before or after the show. Just try to engage them outside of the trade show space in some way.
JS: Don't forget the logistics. What's your day going to look like? How are you going to manage if it's a 6-hour show and you only have one staff member? I think it's important to reach out to the person organizing the show and try to get in to see the space (if it's local) before the day of the event. That way you know exactly what you're working with and can plan accordingly. Where's the drop-off? Where can I park? Is Wi-Fi available? Can I sell at my booth? Be sure to ask these things if they're not mentioned in the exhibitor kit.
MB: What types of giveaways or takeaways should you bring to your booth?
CF: Things that are unselfish. You shouldn't always necessarily give away discounts for your product or service. Food always seems to be a draw to get people into the booth, but it's not great because it's essentially temporary. Make sure if you are doing a giveaway that it's branded or trademarked. Something else we like in sales is something that's going to be consistently visible for them - something they can put on their desk or in their car.
JS: It's important, again, to understand what you're expected to have. Also, I suggest reaching out to a promotional items company to find out what's hot right now and what they're selling a lot of. Make sure you consider your budget and how much you're willing to spend per unit.
CF: Know how many giveaways you're going to need and whether or not you're going to be selective in your distribution. If you don't know the estimated number of attendees, that's another question you can ask of the trade show coordinator.
JS: For larger shows, I always used to give something away that people would see as they were walking through. It'd be great to call the trade show coordinator and ask if they wanted a bag sponsor, so that my bag was the one being handed out at registration and people would carry it around and put other giveaways inside of it.
MB: So what do you do post-trade show to make sure you capitalize on the experience you just had?
CF: I think that your hot leads should be addressed as soon as possible. I like to see my team reach out first thing the day after the show - even before they get started on any other work. Have a marketing campaign to follow up with the rest of your leads, knowing your intention of what you're trying to promote.
JS: Be clear on if the vendor is providing you with the leads after the event. What I see a lot of times is that people get the email list from the vendor and then do nothing with it. Make sure you're using that list to send a follow up to the people you're interested in reaching. Have a plan immediately after the show to accomplish whatever your purpose was.
MB: Why do you think it's so important for businesses to attend trade shows?
CF: Visibility is probably the key. Understanding, again, the relevance - why were we going in the first place? When you can get face time with people, especially for brand awareness, it's a can't-miss opportunity.
JS: I think it's that emotional connection. People like to do business with people they know and like. So getting in front of them is the first step in that. It goes back to the people you have working there because they have to be representing your brand.
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