Optimising Tradeshow Success.
By Paul Quinn, © 2003
Here are eleven tips to help you maximise the value from
your next tradeshow appearance:
1) Set Objectives
What do you hope to achieve from exhibiting at the tradeshow?
More sales leads, greater PR exposure, attention for a
new product, raised brand awareness, or expansion of your
contact database? How will these objectives be measured?
The number of resumes received? The number of interviews
conducted? The number of placements made or job orders
Once decided, write down and communicate each objective
to staff, set a budget and assign responsibilities so
staff know what role they are expected to play in making
the tradeshow a success.
2) Send Personalised Invites
Contact your prospects 2-3 weeks before the show with
a personalised invitation that lets them know how a visit
to your booth will benefit them. Research by the American
Trade Show Bureau reveals that up to 45% of attendees
come to an exhibit because they were personally invited,
received a letter from the company, or saw an ad in a
trade journal. Be sure your potential customers know you
will be exhibiting at the show and give them tangible
reasons to come and see you.
3) Screen Prospects
Develop a script and booth layout that your staff can
use to quickly screen out people who are of little or
no value to your organisation. For example, at a careers
fair you could set up three different greeting points
within your booth - one for Grads, one for candidates
with 1-5 years commercial experience, and one for candidates
with 6 years+ commercial experience. This way each group
is made to feel like they have someone that specialises
in their needs looking after them, and more importantly,
your more experienced staff members can focus on looking
after the prospects with greater potential value to your
4) Your Greeting
Research has shown that greeting customers with a line
such as: "Hello - have you used our service before?",
as opposed to "Hi - may I help you?" will increase sales by between 10 and 16 percent. If customers
answer "No", you can say, "Great. We've
created a special package for people just like yourself
who haven't dealt with us before. Let me take a minute
to tell you about it." Likewise, a similar response
can be crafted for people who have contacted your company
previously. This approach gives you a great lead-in to
open a meaningful conversation and minimises the "just
looking thanks" responses.
5) Stand Up And Be Counted!
Over 90% of interpersonal communication is non-verbal.
If you are sitting down at your booth, your body language
is screaming, "Go away! Leave me alone! Don't
bother me!" To be more welcoming, you should
instruct your staff to be standing and smiling whenever
they are at your booth. (Needless to say, this means they
should also wear comfortable shoes.)
6) Put Your Booth Design To Work
Your booth doesn't have to be the flashiest on the floor
but it does need to draw the eye. So, make sure that you
use simple and appealing graphics and large, bold images.
Remember to use the entertainment factor with caution;
a magician may help attract people to your booth but will
it reinforce your agency's reason for being at the show
in the first place? Also ensure you don't block the entrance
to your booth; position tables and stands so that they
draw people further in as opposed to shielding your sales
people from your prospects.
7) Sponsor The Showbag!
Be quick - this simple tactic is extremely effective
but typically only available to one sponsor. By plastering
your logo, website address, and even a special offer to
tradeshow attendees all over a giant plastic bag handed
out at the main entrance for people to carry their loot
in, the showbag serves as a walking billboard for your
company both during and after the show.
All too often agencies needlessly invest in giveaways
such as pens and mouse mats in an attempt to stand out
from the crowd
only to find that every second booth
is offering the same thing. If you are going to give something
away to visitors to your booth - make sure it is both
relevant and valuable to the person receiving it. Perhaps
consider giving away useful information as opposed to
merchandise. For example, an agency specialising in placing
lawyers could provide the latest salary information or
statistics showing the demand for various practice areas.
Another idea is a laminated card printed with your logo
and website and a useful list such as "Ten Ways
to Get That Pay Rise" or "Ten Common
Mistakes Contractors Make."
9) Code And Rank Your Leads
Why not ask your staff to make an initial judgement call
on prospects and then 'tag' each resume or business card
you receive with a 'hot', 'warm', or 'cold' code after
the prospect has left your booth. This way after the show
you can quickly identify and contact the 50 candidates
who are most likely to result in a sale as opposed to
laboriously wading through the 1,000s of resumes you received
trying to remember who was worth talking to.
10) Follow up
If you haven't planned any time to follow-up the leads
generated at the tradeshow - don't bother attending -
because it is at this stage that relationships are sealed,
customers are developed and sales are closed. Follow-up
should happen within a week after the show closes. Wait
any longer than that and you might as well forget it,
because people won't remember who you are or why they
talked to you in the first place.
11) Measure Your Results
Measurement starts during the tradeshow.
i) Walk around the exhibition floor and take note of
the traffic patterns - which booths are people flocking
to? Where are they positioned?
ii) Note down competitors' activities and the response
received from their visitors using the same criteria that
you created for your own exhibit evaluation. Jot down
successful ideas that they have implemented, then consider
these elements during your next tradeshow brainstorming
iii) Gain feedback from attendees - ask them "How
does our booth compare?".
iv) Ask staff for feedback - what worked well? What didn't?
What else should we have done?
v) Evaluate the leads generated and measure the number
converted to sales.
vi) Finally, compare the results to the original objectives
you hoped to achieve from attending the show.
Tradeshows have been around for many years and yet the
full benefits that can be gained from attending a show are
often not maximised. Agencies often attend tradeshows 'because
we have always been involved' or 'because our competitors
will be there' or 'because it's a good brand building exercise'.
This type of approach almost always guarantees that the
participating agency misses out on the extra business that
tradeshows can generate because their booth has not been
developed with a sales target or a strategic objective in
mind. This can easily be overcome and tradeshows can begin
to deliver more value, simply by following the tips outlined
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