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The Secret of Your Trade Show Success

Jun 11, 2008
Four tips to helping your trade show booth succeed at your next trade show.

It certainly doesn't take long for those owning or even starting a business to discover that what you read in textbooks doesn't necessarily apply to the real world. When invoices aren't getting paid on time, ads aren't consistently bringing in customers and sales aren't continuously rising, it's no surprise when imaginary hands go up and the questions start rolling. The bottom line-- it's a lot harder than it looks. Obstacles are indeed inevitable and the possibility of failure is just one of the harsh realities of owning a business; but on a more positive note, trade shows provide an excellent opportunity to market your products and services.

Depending on how you develop and execute your plan, trade shows can either be highly effective or of little to no use. Many entrepreneurs have a habit of getting stuck in a comfort zone; focusing on only one or two marketing tactics and essentially putting all their marketing eggs in one basket. However, it's a no-brainer that the more successful entrepreneurs are those who implement "dozens" of tactics and techniques to draw their clients in. Avoid falling into the same habit by finding out how you can get the most benefit from a trade show. When your marketing attempts have been less than successful, how can you step your game up? With the ultimate goal of gaining new business through your trade show booth, how you go about marketing yourself that will make all the difference.

More business marketers are using trade shows to generate leads these days and the biggest problem that these marketers face is the inability to generate enough leads for their sales force. As we know, trade shows are designed to allow entrepreneurs to meet many potential customers face-to-face and make a good impression in a relatively short amount of time. They can be a very valuable part of your marketing strategy-- if done correctly, allowing you to effectively generate new sales leads and promptly deliver your message to your target markets. When you are armed with just a few insider trade show secrets, you'll be surprised at how magnificently your trade show investments will pay off. The key is planning a strategy that starts months before the show and proceeds throughout the vital follow-up stage after the show is over. There are four crown components to achieving trade show success.

Secret #1: Use Pre-Show Marketing to Gain Leads Through Your Trade Show Booth

You may be wondering, "What's the point in marketing 'before' the show if that's what the show is about in the first place?" The answer can be as plain as throwing a party without first handing out the invitations, then wondering why hardly anyone shows up. You'll need to let your prospects and customers know that you'll be exhibiting and what's in it for them ahead of time in order to direct that pre-qualified traffic to your trade show booth. The best visitors to your trade show display are those who are already interested in what your company can offer them. Remember, they'll be hundreds of other exhibitors that you will be competing with for the attention and business of the show attendees.

* Know your target audience. Find out who your most important clients and prospects are.

* Use all methods available to contact them before shows. Use a combination of methods such as emails, direct mail postcards, newsletters, personal calls, and "lumpy mail"; it's only human nature to enjoy receiving gifts, so adding in a little curiosity could certainly get your message through.

* Timing is important. Deliver your message early enough for your prospects to mark the date to attend, but not so early that you risk them forgetting. What works best is a contact several weeks before the show and another one a week before it.

Secret #2: Draw Attention! Make Your Trade Show Display Work For You

It's important that your trade show booth covers enough ground about your business so that people can size it up in one glance. Not only should you focus on making a good impression, but leaving a lasting one as well. A booth that is dressed for success in both appearance and personnel will attract as well as create a pleasant and memorable experience for your visitors. Use your logo consistently; for example, backdrops, rugs and banners to enhance it as much as possible. The use of colors, shapes and graphics also contribute to the visual effect quite well. Be creative, but as long as your trade show display is attractive, well lit and informative with friendly smiles, success in capturing attention will be high.

Although locations near the entrance and prime corners are highly sought after, consider the potential traffic in areas close to entertainment or restrooms. It would also be wise to consider who will be on either side of you. You'll want to avoid direct competition.

* Try to look at your trade show booth from your prospects perspective. Is the atmosphere welcoming? Does your trade show display attract attention so that they'll want to know more?

* Prepare to answer any possible questions knowledgably. Provide resourceful information such as pamphlets, catalogues, samples and promotional products for them to take along.

* Leave them with something unique to remember you by. Create a good personable energy so that once they walk away, they will remember you positively and want to do business with you.

Keep in mind: A cheap looking trade show display or promotional product giveaways will speak volumes about your business.

Secret #3: The Two Post Show Marketing Musts

There are two very important things that most companies fail to do effectively after a trade show:

1. Following through on the leads generated
2. Continuing to market to those leads regularly

Post show marketing should begin with a call to your clients and prospects as soon as possible. They have already done their part by coming to your trade show booth. It normally takes anywhere between 5 to 10 contacts with a prospect before you establish enough credibility for them to do business with you. Continue to contact them on a monthly basis through a series of newsletters, calls or another marketing method.

Secret #4: Choose The Right Promotional Products

Trade shows are renowned for being that place to pick up freebies, but some classic issues for those companies providing them are:

* Will people remember who gave it to them?
* Are the items useful?

This is why it is imperative to consider the retentive lifespan of your gift. How do you know anyone will actually use your item out of all the others received? That answer is simple; the chance of that stress ball, keychain, or chocolate bar ever being used after the show is low. That is why your best bet would be choosing useful gifts that communicate your company's message. Again, be creative and try your best to think outside the box.

Seize The Opportunity: Have Fun!

Trade shows are perfect opportunities to meet new people and sharpen your selling skills, all while building your own morale. Remember that energy, just like confidence, radiates. Be contagious! If you're having a good time, the people visiting your booth will too and therefore be more inclined to do business with you. By implementing these few, simple techniques, you'll certainly gain the edge you need to succeed.
About the Author
Mat Kelly is the president of ExhibitDEAL, a leading environmentally friendly provider of Trade Show Displays, Banner Stands, and Green Trade Show Flooring. They can be found online at: http://www.exhibitdeal.com.
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