Just because your company bought a booth, it doesn’t mean you will know how to sell at trade shows. Before you make your sales pitch, ask yourself: How can you be proactive to get your booth recognized? How can you start prospecting before the trade show even begins? In this post, I'll provide tips to increase your visibility before, during, and after the trade show.
Before the Event
- Start #hashtagging on Twitter & Instagram that your company will be at the trade show
Social media is free and a great tool to use before trade shows. Whenever I go to trade shows, I always look to see what influencers of mine will also be attending. The best way to see what companies are going to be at the show is to see who is tweeting about it. I use a software called Tweepi, where I can see everyone that has used the hashtag for the event. Instagram can also be an equally valuable tool to connect with a different audience and alert them about your upcoming presence in their city. Hashtags and a public account apply on Instagram as well.
- Comment and start following people who mention the trade show
Get involved in the conversation and start making notes. This is your chance to get an advantage over the competition, so it is ideal to join conversations. This is not the time to try and close a sale, but your chance to start building relationships with people at the show.
- Post a picture of what you will be wearing at the trade show
What better way to help the exhibitors of the trade show find you? A black suit will not do much, but if you have a color like pink or purple or a company t-shirt, post that on Twitter or Instagram and let people know how you can be identified. If you don’t like wearing pink or purple, I am sure you can think of something that will make you stand out.
- Research the companies going to the trade show
Before you step foot in the trade show, you should be able to list 25 companies that will be at that trade show. Just like you are preparing for a test, you need to prepare for a trade show. If you look like you have done your research, your prospects will notice and you have a better chance of turning a prospect into a sale after the trade show.
- Bring a sample of how you can help companies going to the trade show.
When recruiters are looking for their next star athlete, they bring them to the athletic program and give them a jersey with their name. The athlete has not made any decisions, but it makes the athlete feel wanted. This is no different in business. If you know potential clients are going to be at the trade show, have something ready to show them you are working for them. Do your research and be unique, your prospect will love it.
- Book appointments
At this point, you now have an idea of some of the people that will be coming to the trade show. This is the perfect time to book introductory meetings or quick coffees with people before or after the event. The sale often goes to the first person to interact, so it is a good idea to start booking your appointments early before the show.
During the Event
It is the day before the trade show and you are setting up your booth with the other 150 vendors at the event. What do you do? The best way to get your next customer is to talk to everyone. Word of mouth is still the number one marketing tool and you should introduce yourself and your company to all of the exhibitors.
- Talk to anyone and everyone
Even if the person is not your target market, talk to everyone and get to know them at a personal level. Don’t go up to exhibitors and just jump right into telling them what your product is. Get to know them with simple background questions like, “Where are you from? What do you do? How are you enjoying the show?” I guarantee after a few questions the exhibitor will ask “So what do you do?” this is where you go into your 30 second elevator pitch.
- Rehearse your 30 second elevator pitch
You have 30 seconds to grab someone’s attention, so use it wisely. I always practice my pitch the night before the trade show I am attending. If you can answer all of the main questions and problems in 30 seconds, you might get your next client.
- Scan everyone and write on back of business cards
It is so tough to remember every person you meet at a trade show because you are talking to everyone, RIGHT? For this reason, I always write a quick note on every business card to remind me who the person is and why they are important.
- Walk around the trade show
If you followed step 3 from Before the Event, people will already know what you are wearing. So, take advantage by walking around the trade show and people will recognize you. I know this might sound really tacky, but it works. You are always on the hunt for the next prospect; make it easier for them to find you.
- Go to your competitors booth
Every time I go to a trade show and I see people in my competitor’s booth, I know they are my target market. You don’t have to stalk them, but I always like to find a way to get in a quick conversation with them: at lunch, coffee or when they are walking by your booth. You know they are interested in your competitor’s product; this is your chance to put your sales ability to the test.
After the Event
The trade show has just ended and you have accumulated a ton of new business cards and have scanned hundreds of people. What do you do? When do you contact?
- Social events
If your trade show has a designated hotel for exhibitors and vendors, go the same night and socialize with everyone. It is always a great way to connect with some new people over wine or beer. Also, if you really want to get noticed, wear something very unique that people will look and say “who is that guy dressed like that?” For this reason alone, I like to wear purple or pink, as compliments on the way you dress can be a prospect when you come home.
- Be different
Everyone at the trade show will be sending emails to the people they scanned or met. “Thank you for coming by my booth, I look forward to connecting.” How can you stand out? BE DIFFERENT. Try and think of something outside of the box to make sure you get their attention to your email rather than the other 100 people that will be contacting them. Another thing that I usually do is include something funny, or different that happened in my conversation with the prospect, which, if you followed part 2 of this blog, can be found on the back of the business card.
- Wait 3-5 business days before you call your list of prospects
Did you see how I said call? Yes, if 80% of the people that got that same person’s contact information will email – instead, be a bit different and call your prospects. Everyone is busy, so waiting 3-5 business days for your prospects to travel back to their head office and catch up on emails will provide them more time for you.
- Have a proposal ready
If you spoke to prospects during the show and already know their needs and interests, just send them a proposal. Writing an email with a complete proposal will save your prospects a lot of time. The two keys to getting new clients are to save them both time and money.
Following these tips will help you increase your visibility and sales at conferences, events and trade shows. These tactics can be used whether or not your company has a booth. Although there is an increasingly greater emphasis on connecting with prospects through technology, the value of face to face interactions cannot be understated.