Commercial Concepts

Trade show execution

By Chip Burnham

Tips for giving and getting the best out of this method of outreach

FFJ 0718 commercial lead2October 2019 - For many, trade shows are the largest source of new leads. They also allow the advancement of customer relationships, identification of industry trends, competitive analysis and market needs research.

But participation is expensive. A 10-ft. by 10-ft. booth often costs $5,000 to $7,000, including graphics, materials, travel and entertainment. Larger booths with machinery can be many multiples more costly, so maximizing return on investment is paramount.

Here are 11 ways to maximize your next trade show:

1. Create the right booth: The two most important factors when designing your booth are ambience and message attractiveness. You have one second to catch a passerby’s attention. The booth must be interesting and inviting, and should instantly tell a story on its own, like a museum display. Your booth should not be a cafeteria or personal office—no one eats, drinks, emails or makes phone calls from your booth (including the executives). If you must make a call or send an email, do so elsewhere.

2. Use a multimedia approach: Design your booth content for those prospects who respond to sight, sound or touch. Manage the visual well. Video with sound is a must because it provides movement, acts as a sales prop, creates credibility and helps clearly communicate your message. As for touch, don’t put all your components and samples under glass; leave them out for people to touch.

If your offering supports it, consider giving live presentations at large shows. Presentations create excitement, slow visitors down to absorb your message and educate those who might not yet be ready to become a lead. Have staff available to pick off likely prospects from the presentation audience to qualify them, and send low-quality leads to the presentation to free up sales staff. The presentations should be given continuously by an expert from your company during the main busy hours of the show. Reinforce the call to action every 90 seconds.

3. Offer branded giveaways: Offer a carefully branded trade show giveaway. My favorite is a high-quality plastic or canvas logo bag with a shoulder strap. Your message is now traveling the show on the shoulders of your booth visitors. Quality is important. A low-quality bag will be replaced by a better bag from another booth.

4. Don’t leave literature out: The main purpose of the show is to obtain contact information from visitors so you have permission to market and sell to them. Although you need literature in the booth for salespeople to use, I don’t recommend having literature out to be grabbed by casual passersby or handed out by staff. Most literature collected at shows ends up in the hotel trash and doesn’t make it back to the prospect’s office.

5. Use scanners wisely: Scanners are quick, non-invasive ways to collect visitor information, but you need more than just phone number and email address. Include a means of indicating lead quality and note taking, which helps with post-show follow-up.

6. Set goals and work the show hard: All booth staff need to know the show goals. Update progress each day at a 15-minute pre-show meeting. Consider providing incentives, such as paying each staff member $3 or $4 for each lead they obtain. Do such incentives risk the generation of too many low-quality leads? No. Generally, if a prospect is willing to let you collect their contact information, then they are just as likely to be a hot opportunity as any other lead.

7. Qualify in 60 seconds: To qualify, start with an icebreaker question. Don’t ask, “May I help you?” Instead, ask, “Are you familiar with ______?” to get the conversation going. Answer no more than a couple questions and then take over the conversation to uncover enough to qualify them. If they are entering or in the buying cycle, hand them off to the appropriate salesperson. If not, send them to watch a video or to a live presentation. Either way, collect their information and take notes.

8. Use social media at the show: Build excitement before the show, and post live walk-throughs during the show. Post videos of customers who stop by and help promote their business, and blog about the show. Make it an exciting event for your followers.

9. Invite loyal customers: A trade show is an opportunity to thank good customers, have them meet staff, learn more about their latest needs and socialize at dinner. Loyal customers can often be persuaded to talk to potential buyers about their experience with you.

10. Invite potential customers to your booth: Any hot prospect planning on attending should be a top priority. Monopolize as much of their time as possible upon their arrival in town. Schedule meetings and dinners. As for lower-quality subscribers and leads, invite them all and create an incentive to entice them to your booth.

11. Follow up: Effective follow-up is the key to trade show success. Many of your competitors might be lethargic in their follow-up, and a third of all leads won’t be followed up on at all. Call visitors as fast as possible with relevant content and discussion. Trade shows are expensive, but the ROI is higher and easier to predict than many other activities. Make the most of these costly investments. FFJ

Chip Burnham is author of “MarketMD Your Manufacturing Business” and is co-founder of Fairmont Concepts, which helps manufacturers maximize the performance of their commercial engine. Fairmont Concepts, Maple Valley, Washington, 833/667-7889.

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