1. Plan Ahead

Trade shows are a great place to meet a bunch of prospects at one time. They take a lot of planning and are usually a full year in the making. Scanning your prospective trade shows EARLY is a great idea, and can take the stress out of the show and lower expenses. No overnight rush charges and last minute flights to drive up the costs.

  1. Stay true to your goals

Set up your trade show to close the deal and be prepared. Scout out the location and find the best place to sit down with a prospect. Ask yourself if you’ll have room in your booth, and if not, where? Do you need a few stools? Thinking about this in advance will pay dividends.

Your second goal should be to make new contacts and collect contact data. Here’s a tip within a tip—only ask for what you’ll use. For most, email addresses, phone numbers, and maybe a zip code are sufficient. Don’t bother people for information you don’t need.

  1. Beware of bullshitters

You should engage everyone and don’t let a single prospect dominate your time. The quiet guys in the back are your buyers. Make sure you make eye contact with people on the periphery too visually say—I see you and I want to talk to you.

  1. Be prepared to hold an audience

When you’re answering one person’s question, restate the question for everyone around you to hear and then give the answer using several examples that different people could relate to.

  1. Embrace the showmanship within your brand

People are looking to be engaged and even entertained when walking the aisles—so give them what they want… as long as it’s not too far from your brand. If you’re selling fishing trips, dangling some line with a dollar bill overhead in the aisle might land you a big one—this may not work so well if you’re selling designer handbags, or maybe it would.

An attractive booth with some interactive element is key. People want an excuse to engage with you that isn’t direct—Hi, I’m interested in your product/service. Spin the wheel, cornhole, samples, etc.

  1. Work as a team

If you’re the guy upfront answering questions and playing showman, make sure you have a coworker tied to your hip. When the prospect is qualified, make sure you do a warm handoff to your coworker to get that prospect’s information so you can continue engaging with other people and answering questions.

  1. Give away something cool or valuable

In exchange for contact information, give away something cool and rather big. Draw for a large prize on the last day of the show or stop all that you’re doing to announce a winner every hour. This will give people a reason to keep swinging by your booth.

The prize could be event and location related ($250 gift card to the Buffet at the Casino), or universally useful—like cash. Company t-shirts only go so far.
Whatever you promise, be sure to deliver—have the winners name on the board when you say you’re going to. Take this part seriously as it’s the first impression of your accountability.

  1. Follow up during the show

When you get that magical prospect that you really feel good about, don’t wait till a week after the show to follow up. Consider doing it an hour or two after you meet with a text or email telling them you’re glad they stopped by and you’re looking forward to working with them. Maybe even invite them to dinner if they don’t have plans, or meet for a cocktail or coffee. Make friends in person while you have the chance.

  1. Have a plan for when you return to the office, before you return

Trade shows are a lot of work, and I’ve seen time and time again where the people who put on the show come back and are wiped out. While they were gone, the earth kept spinning and now their inbox is overflowing with hot items. It’s easy for a couple of weeks or even a month to go by before you think about following up with the trade show leads—oh, where did we put those?

  1. Have a good home-team handoff in place

Consider having your home team ready to take the baton from the road warriors and take immediate action on the leads. EVERYONE will be happier about trade shows when that happens.

Asking your hunters to skin, clean, cook, and then also serve their own catch is a great way to crush morale. Have a proper homecoming for your team and be ready to take over on what needs to be done, which is:

  1. FOLLOW UP with Email

Have a plan that is longer than—we’ll send them an email.

You should have a series of messages lined up to stay in touch for the next year. Everyone else will have petered out by then, but not you and it will make a big difference, especially when you go back next year. Here are some ways to do the initial follow-up.

  1. Be willing to do the math

Add up all your expenses from the trade show. Not just the direct costs like booths, flights, hotels, and meals. Add up the time as well—the time for planning, the time away, the time for set up and tear down, and the extra time needed at the office to get caught up. Don’t overlook any expense. Once you find out your actual cost per lead, you’ll be more likely to give them the resources they deserve.

That’s my Dozen Best Tips for having an amazing trade show and getting the most out of your investment. Take these tips with you on the road and download now. If you need help on the last step—following up via email—please contact us and we’d be happy to discuss a custom solution for you. If you don’t have a clear email follow up plan for the next year, you might as well go to the race track, bet on a bunch of horses, and then throw the tickets away before checking them… it will be a lot more fun and you’ll never have that sickening feeling of seeing a press release from your competitor signing that big account you forgot to follow up with.