Think of the last time you were on the midway at a state fair. Every booth was brightly colored, full of interesting things to see, do, and win. Hawkers yelled: “Step right up!”, “Three tries for a dollar!”, “Win a stuffed bunny for the lovely lady!” Lights flashed, kids ran around, and everyone seemed to be talking at once.
A trade show is like the midway at the state fair.
There may not be quite so many stuffed bunnies at a business trade show, but the level of noise and distraction is just about the same. There are lots of other businesses competing for your customers’ attention, all with product demonstrations, service information, and free giveaways. On top of that, there may be speakers, new technologies to play with, raffles, food booths, and networking opportunities.
How do you make sure that your company doesn’t get lost or overlooked in all the noise and commotion?
And how can you make sure that your (not-small) investment of time and money will pay off for your company? That you won’t end up sitting alone in your booth for hours, wishing that someone would stop in and talk to you?
The answer is in the pre-show preparation.
If you’re setting up a display at a trade show, you have to do more than just pay for a booth space, put on a nice outfit that morning, and walk in the door for your company to get real results. You have to think about how you’ll cut through all the “noise” to get in touch with your target audience.
What do you have to do to prepare?
1. Create a strategy. Saying “I want to go to this trade show and get customers” is fine, but that’s every vendor’s goal. You need to create a real, measurable goal for the show before you even sign up.
Ask yourself things like: Why am I here? Am I promoting a particular product or new service? Am I trying to grow into a particular target market? How many people do I want to connect with? What types of people do I want to talk to?
Then, check the show you’re thinking of against these goals. You’ll want to make sure that enough people will be there, that they’re in your target audience, and that you have a reasonable expectation of getting a good return on your investment.
2. Determine the one (or two) things you really need to tell people about. The people you meet at the trade show will be distracted. They’ll be tired (or soon-to-be tired). They may be far from home. Their feet will probably hurt, and their arms will be full of promotional trinkets, brochures, and paper they’re planning to recycle just as soon as they can find a bin.
These are definitely not ideal conditions A4 Poster Holder under which to meet new prospects. Don’t freak them out further by trying to tell them everything you can do for them and every detail of your offer.
Decide before the show what might be most appealing to the show’s attendees-you should be able to get demographic information about them from the show’s organizers when you sign up. Then plan your strategy and marketing materials for the show around promoting that one aspect of your offerings.
3. Set the stage for follow-up. You probably won’t make a big-ticket sale at a trade show. You’ll be lucky to make a small-ticket sale unless you’re selling products, but even then, it can be hard to get prospects’ attention long enough for them to pull out their credit cards.