Successful Trade Shows1 Apr, 2012 By: Jim Kahrs, Prosperity Plus imageSource
As spring approaches we are entering trade show “season.” And you’ve (or your vendors/manufacturers) have signed up for a booth at an upcoming trade show such as ITEX. The event promises to have good prospects in attendance, but what makes for excellent results and a good experience?
Exhibitors and attendees alike seek a successful trade show “return”- it starts with understanding what you’re looking to accomplish there on site and then having a strong plan. By definition, a trade show provides the platform (besides good education) for participating exhibitors to have a venue for “branding” themselves further and having a Public Relations (PR) opportunity - rather than a typical sales or promotional event.
For a successful outcome, the vendor should carefully instill the principles of effective PR. Dealers are savvy and want a quality experience, so their expectations are high when networking on the show floor to find new products and value-adds
So let’s look at what PR is, or can be, as executed at trade shows. The Hubbard Management System states that PR is primarily done “to make the company, its actions or products more known, accepted and understood.” One way to determine if that’s being accomplished is through the prospect or attendee. Upon leaving a vendor’s booth, is he/her, the attendee, now well-acquainted with the company of interest? If you’re a vendor, do your prospects know just why you’re better than your competition? If not, expect those prospects to walk away thinking they’ve met yet another sales rep that’s only interested in selling something at the moment.
By focusing solely on selling the prospect something without doing the prerequisite PR steps to provide a quality networking experience, results in very little. But when exhibitors change their communication efforts and apply good public relations skills, they/you will grease the skids for future sales.
When vendors reach a prospect by using effective PR techniques during a trade show, during the relatively short window of opportunity, prospects will leave with a good impression…and on follow up are much easier to turn from prospect to “client”…whether it’s next week or next year.
There are some specific strategies that can be utilized to achieve better presence at a trade show, and dealers and business providers visibly notice the differences. It starts with the initial planning of a booth. Booths that simply feature random equipment and some manufacturer brochures are neither enticing nor inviting. A truly professional trade show booth typically has company logos, quality images, banners, etc., and photos of product / machines sold. Though these help tell a good part of the company’s story, they don’t cover all the basics of PR.
An effective use of booth space at a trade show will tell the story of who you / vendor are as a company and paint the picture of what you do well. I suggest having a display with photos of your office and the staff, along with captions. This will allow you to give a virtual tour of your facility and company capabilities. Because they typically only meet one sales rep and a technician or two, many customers and prospects often have trouble visualizing and understanding the full scope of a company. They are often amazed when they see how many people you have on your staff.
It’s very common to hear customers say something like, “Wow, I didn’t realize you guys were such a large organization.” The images could also show things like your equipment and parts warehouse, shop area, admin areas, as well as smiling employees. That is an inviting overall image of who you are as a company.
In addition to the pictures, I suggest having a few framed customer reference letters on display as these demonstrate first hand that you are successful at what you do. When you’re giving a prospect a tour of your booth you can show them references from people and companies that they may know or can relate to. It creates a trusted comfort zone. If you’ve won any awards you’ll want to make sure some of these are displayed; in a frame, flip-book, or represented in a flyer; it all adds credibility.
If you are going to have equipment models on display, be sure you have the ability to demonstrate the equipment in action. People like the “show and tell” hands on experience. Most trade shows have industry specific audiences making this much easier to accomplish. But merely pointing at a piece of motionless hardware doesn’t create real interest, or make your company, its action or products known if they have no prior history with you.
Another important aspect of a good trade show booth is its connection to its ongoing marketing and promotion campaigns. We have many clients that use regular email and direct mail to promote their dealership. One way to increase long-term exposure and future sales results is to display ongoing promotion materials in the booth.
Often, we’ve accomplished this by taking a postcard or email image and creating a larger banner for display in the booth. A prospect that tours a booth and sees memorable ads and banners will be reminded of that company every time they get a marketing piece in the mail from them/you.
When enough time is taken to create the perfect trade show display, it gets people into a booth for a real presentation. The best way to make anything known and understood is to get into dialogue with people.
A key principle outlined in the Hubbard Management Systems states that people will respond to direct commands. Booth exhibitors shouldn’t ask attendees “if” they want to see a display but simply direct them to it with a closed remark. It goes like this, “Let me show you what we do.” Attendees want to feel vendors are committed to assisting them with credible info so will respond to those confident enough to engage them firmly.
Of course, good PR is a required step on the way to sales. For exhibitors, if you’re going to participate in a trade show you need to plan for future sales besides current. This starts with ensuring that you have the ability to collect as many qualified names as possible. If the trade show provides ID scanners make sure to scan every badge you can. If they don’t offer an automated method for capturing names, then you need to have a back up plan.
One very successful method for collecting names is to have a business card raffle. Raffle off an item that the attendees will be interested in to stop by your booth, and which requires a business card to qualify. Dealers know you want to network with them so this isn’t deceptive but accepted, adding another reason to stopping by your booth.
Often, the trade show provides special sponsorship opportunities that when you participate, drives attendees to your booth needing a stamp from you or signature. Whatever method used, this list
of names will then be added to your database for future marketing and sales efforts.
Take the time to market, brand, promote and rely on PR!