Do you have a presence at trade shows and other physical events? Do you feel that your marketing at events isn’t delivering as well as it should? This is a common problem for small and large businesses alike. Trade shows and events are a fantastic marketing opportunity and should not be forgotten. You can make a great showing at these events and come away with greater networking and new customers – but only if you market effectively at the event.
The first common mistake made is under-preparation. Before you attend, learn about the event and see if you can speak at it. As an expert in your field, you will have high value content for the attendees, and your talk will bring in more attendees and exhibitors because of that. Identify and speak with last year’s exhibitors and attendees to learn valuable information about the show’s atmosphere. Contact other businesses within your sphere to plan joint marketing strategies. Prepare any handouts or contact information sheets and have marketing materials prepared to send out to the new contacts you make at the show. Finally, and most importantly, focus your marketing message at the event, targeting it directly to the attendees.
Your exhibit at a trade show should be a marketing machine as you gather contact information, sign potential customers up for webinars to take place within a few weeks of the show, and arrange personal meetings with decision makers. The most effective exhibitors at a trade show focus their message so as not to confuse the audience. Attendees will be exposed to any number of other exhibitors at a show, and at most will remember only one or two messages from your exhibit. If you have too many messages at your exhibit, the attendees may easily become confused, and your exhibit instantly becomes forgettable.
At the trade show itself, you should engage attendees, interviewing them for their qualifications to purchase from you, and archiving the highest-quality inquiries for immediate follow up once the show has finished. Your primary purpose at the show isn’t to sell – your primary purpose is to gather information. It is a great idea to sign people up for future webinars, email newsletters, marketing mailings with high value content, and personal meetings. As mentioned earlier, if it’s possible, speak at the event or host a breakfast or dinner at which you can speak. Invite attendees to visit your exhibit for more information, and ensure that the highest quality prospects attending your booth are given immediate access to sales people or customer service representatives. Taking these steps will allow you to focus on your best opportunities and increase your database of qualified purchasers.
As you interact with potential leads at these events, remember to watch your body language and use good communication practices. Standing with your arms crossed or talking to colleagues does not invite customers to stop by. They’ll find you unapproachable. Remember to ask open-ended questions that require more than a one-word response. Asking, “what led you to stop by our exhibit?” will give you a much better introduction than “Can I help you?” As you converse with prospects and get their contact details, take notes on the conversation so you can personalize your response and give your sales representatives additional information to use in their future contact with the prospect.
After a trade show or event, the most important detail to cover is following up on qualified leads promptly, within the next few days after the show while your marketing message is still fresh. If you promised access to an exclusive webinar or deal on your website, get that information out within a week or sooner (if possible) of the event. If you allow too much time to pass, your prospect will likely have forgotten your meeting and you will have to cover territory you already went over during your initial contact.
Being a leader in trade shows and physical events is not a matter of saturation or hype, but of consistent, targeted marketing and a sincere desire to build relationships. You must prepare well for the event, engage prospects at every opportunity, and follow up with them immediately in order to get the most out of your trade show experience.