You probably know that participating in a trade show can be a business development bonanza or bust.
Whether you’re exhibiting on a 6-foot table at a half-day local networking event or in a fancy booth at a multi-day expo and convention, you can maximize the returns starting with your preparation process.
Here are some points to keep in mind, culled from various pundits and trade show gurus, as you gear up for an event. We’ve also provided links to more detailed resources to help guide you through the preparatory process.
Set Your Goals
Your goals for participating in a business event should be clear even before you decide which event(s) you’ll participate in. It’s hard to identify the best venue if your expectations are unclear. Clear goals guide your focus and priorities before, during, and after the event.
Is your aim to win new clients/customers? Get media attention for a new product or service? Raise brand awareness? Identify potential partnerships? Knowing what you want to accomplish will allow you to develop relevant benchmarks for evaluating your results once the show is over.
Generate Leads/Schedule Meetings
Don’t wait until the event to introduce yourself.Examine the attendee and exhibitor lists. Who do you want to see and be seen by? Reach out in advance by phone, email, social media, and U.S. mail. Try to schedule meetings ahead of time with key targets. And remember: the best “pitch” is the one that answers the question, “What can you do for me?” A little more on that later.
Publicize Your Participation
Get the word out early and often through your newsletter, emails, website, blog and social media outlets. Consider creating a special landing page on your website for sharing event-related updates. Issue a press release to trade publications, local newspapers and other media as appropriate with a timely, newsworthy hook; they’ll appreciate a good story tip.
And take advantage of any marketing opportunities the show organizer offers to exhibitors, such as media outreach and an enhanced listing on the event’s mobile app, directory, or show map.
What can you do to differentiate yourself from other exhibitors, generate buzz, and make it hard to pass by your table or booth without stopping? You don’t want to improvise here. Branded giveaways, samples, contests, visuals and demos can reel people in; then it’s up to you to engage them.
Build Yourself a “Benefit Statement”
So how do you engage potential clients, referral sources and partners? By quickly communicating what you can do for them. Experts recommend crafting a brief, descriptive statement (5-7 seconds) that helps decision-makers, influencers, and referral sources grasp the benefits of your product(s)/service(s). Bob Burg gives some helpful examples in his 4-part benefit statement blog.
We’ve run out of room but you can continue your “education,” starting with the resources listed below. The advice they impart can help make your next trade show experience the best yet!
The Value of Trade Shows, Skyline Exhibits and EXPO Magazine
How Trade Shows Can Boost Your Business, ThomasNet.com
Preparing for a Trade Show, Entrepreneur.com
7 Tips to Market Your Business Effectively at Trade Shows, SnapSurvey.com