7 Secrets For Tradeshow Domination
1) Send the right people to the right show
This is the first step in your goal setting process. First figure out why your presence at any given tradeshow is important. If it’s just because your competitors are there, that may not be a good enough reason for the investment. If the purpose to attend is for professional development, then send the key team members that will get the most out of it, and then have them come back and teach others. This will maximize the takeaway value and keep them accountable for getting as much out of the experience as possible. If the purpose is to generate new business, do your research on the general demographic of attendees. If it will be 70% colleagues, competitors, and vendors it might not be worth it other than to show face. But if a large majority of attendees are from companies that could become customers or strategic partners then that is where your focus should be. If that’s the case you should consider sending executives, subject matter experts or speakers, and your business development team.
2) Follow the 7 P’s
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
The best way to tackle a tradeshow is to spend a good month planning your method of attack. All tradeshows are different, but usually with various levels of sponsorship come certain perks such as the attendee list, whitepaper submission, branding at the conference, and often a speaking role. Take advantage of all of them. You’re paying for it. Once you have the attendee list, have a team go through the list and identify good potential customers and make a list for outreach. Before you start spamming the conference attendees with a “hey let’s meet up for coffee” come up with a better idea. It may be different for each person or group you reach out to but have a reason for reaching out, personalize it, and follow up.
3) Set up meetings in advance
The purpose for outreach of course is to do just that, set up meetings. If your plan is to pay a ton of money to sit at a booth, or maybe a little less just to walk the tradeshow floor, don’t bother going. Schedule dinners and invite a handful of potential clients. Plan a cocktail reception in a hotel suite and give a small (and very brief) presentation. Whatever it may be, make it fun and relaxed.
4) Ask to be a speaker at the show
One of the most important ways to really stand out at a tradeshow is to be vetted by the event planning committee or public relations firm in charge of the tradeshow and of course that you are a thought leader in your space. Nothing builds trust faster than teaching something of value without asking for anything in return. If the team member who is a speaker is great at building relationships, let then do so, but you should consider having your business development team standing by for support.
5) Give away something of value
Whether or not you are investing in a booth, if you plan to give something away, give something away of value that will get their attention. Chances are it will end up in the bottom of their laptop bag or the hotel room trashcan but if it has unique value they will remember you. This of course takes more time and preparation than ordering some branded foam stress balls online. For those companies that RSVP to your dinner or meeting in the show, have your team create free marketing audits or other research of value and place those reports on branded flash drives. This will take a lot of time and hard work but it will be worth it when you hand them to potential clients and tell them what is on the drive.
6) Don’t Sell, build relationships
If you are going to invest the time and energy to attend, send your relationship builders. This seems like common sense but the tradeshow floor, a cocktail reception, or after you speak is not where you will close a deal. At the very most you should work towards scheduling a follow up meeting for as soon as possible while the tradeshow buzz is still in the air. Regardless of how exciting the conversations may be and how deep the level of interest is during the event, this will dwindle substantially the following week when everyone is back to “real life.” Listen to the people you are talking to. Ask them questions about their business, and themselves. Find common interests. Don’t come on too strong or you will scare them away.
7) Market before and AFTER the show
Prepare some content about your presence at the upcoming tradeshow and host it on your site. Use all of your social channels and schedule various announcements as the tradeshow or conference nears. Use these social channels during the tradeshow. Tweet. Post on FaceBook. Even blog if you can find the time. Have someone there taking pics and video that you can use for marketing purposes later. I recommend posting recap blogs about the show with key takeaways, pics and video…especially if you had or are a speaker there.
At the end of the day, these aren’t tricks. These are just tips for tackling a tradeshow the right way in order to measure a successful outcome. Be sure to keep track of event success so you can make any needed strategy adjustments along the way.