Tradeshows can be a powerful marketing tool for businesses. With tradeshow season quickly approaching, many business owners begin considering if they should reserve a booth a tradeshow, which tradeshow would be the most beneficial for them, and how to make the most of their presence if they do reserve a space. If you are asking yourself these questions for your own business, consider the following:
Why Should My Business Participate in a Tradeshow?
Simply put, displaying in a tradeshow is one of the best ways to make face to face contact with those who might be interested in your business’s products or services. How many chances do you have actually meet, in person, hundreds or thousands of local people who you can tell about your business? If you choose the right event, you could leave at the end of the day with a stack of business cards of prospects you have not already qualified as good potential clients, but who you have also had the opportunity to introduce yourself to and possibly even schedule a time to chat on the phone or meet. For the minimal cost most tradeshows entail, it is usually well worth it to display for this reason alone. In addition, having a booth at a tradeshow is a good way to brand your business and increase your visibility. Even if you aren’t actually talking to everyone who attends the tradeshow, they are seeing your booth and this is valuable in and of itself.
Choosing the Best Tradeshow for your Company
There are usually a few different local options (and many national options) when it comes to tradeshows. If you are wondering which one you should choose, ask yourself the following questions:
Who am I trying to reach? Identify who your prospects are and find the tradeshow that is likely to attract them. This might mean an industry-specific tradeshow, it might mean a tradeshow associated with a specific group or organization, or it might mean a tradeshow located in a specific city or area of the city. If your target audience is more broad, you should consider a tradeshow that attracts a more widespread crowd.
Who else will be displaying? This is a good question to ask for a couple of reasons. First, if many of your competitors will be there, it’s a good indication that this is a good place to meet prospects and you should probably be there, too. Second, sometimes the best people for you to meet at tradeshows are not those who are attending, but they are other businesses that have a display. Make sure you take the opportunity to identify which other businesses you would like to connect with who are taking part in the tradeshow.
Does the date of the event work for your schedule? It’s always important to do some thinking when it comes to the date of the tradeshow. Does it fall on a day of the week that works well for you? Is it during an important deadline? Will the staff you want to work the booth be available? Is it a good season for you? If preparing and attending the tradeshow will put you or your staff in a bad position with the timing, you might want to consider a different show.
Do we display here every year? If you display in the same tradeshow (or shows) every year, you might want to put some real thought into the upcoming year. If you always get great leads out the tradeshows you participate in and end up closing a lot of business (or if your goal is more of a branding one and you feel like you are reaching the right people with your message), you may want to continue to be involved. However, if you feel like it’s always the same people, that your leads are dwindling year by year or that you just aren’t getting out of it what you used to, it may be time to make a change. Try not displaying this year and instead going as an attendee. You can still meet all the other businesses that are displaying and meet some of the other attendees as well. You can always be a participate again next year if you feel you’ve missed out.
Be realistic and set goals “For those considering being in a trade show, make sure you go in with realistic expectations and set some goals like how many names you would like to gather,” points out Scott Stream with Image Inflators. “Trade shows are a great opportunity to work on your “elevator pitch” as you meet people which will help you when you work with customers in the future.”
How to Make Your Booth Stand Out
Once you’ve made the decision to display in a tradeshow, you need to decide how to make the most out of your space. Here are a few ideas:
Have the right people at your booth If you are not personally going to be there or if you want staff there with you, make sure you’re choosing the right ones. Outgoing personalities always do best at a show and make sure the people you have at your booth are very knowledgeable about a wide range of the products and services you offer. Now is not the right time to break in the new guy who you’ve never really seen in action! Having two people at your booth at any given time is always a good idea because if one gets caught up in a conversation, the other can still greet others who come to the booth. During slower times, one can also walk around and meet others without leaving your booth unmanned. If you have enough qualified staff, you might always want to consider splitting the time up between them.
“Your preparation should be just as intensive as your follow-up,” says Jessica Johnson with Production Creek. “If you want to drive traffic to your booth, send out invitations to qualified potential customers. Give a discount or giveaway to the first 100 people to your booth. Another great way is to be a presenter at the tradeshow. Many people will want to hear more about what you presented and will come to your booth. Being a presenter makes you the expert in your field instead of your competition who is sitting in his booth watching the clock.”
Have Promotional Products
“It’s always nice to give out items at a convention or tradeshow,” explains Frosty Critchfield with Frosty’s Specialty Advertising. “This ensures that everyone you have contact with at the show is walking away with something tangible and that they will have your information once the show is over. More importantly, it gives those working your tradeshow booth an incentive to be motivated.
While it’s nice to think that everyone you have working at your booth is happy and motivated to be there, this isn’t always the case and, if left unattended, they may just sit down and ‘do their time’. Years ago, Southeast Community College bought some simple wooden rulers from me to give out at the State Fair. The reason for doing this was not as much for something to give the attendees, but for the people manning the booths. It gave them something to do to break the ice with those who came up to the booth. Their people were required to be there and some of them didn’t want to be, so the rulers gave them added incentive as well as a purpose for being at the show. It was so successful that SCC continued to buy these rulers for many years.”
“Promotional products are the one means of marketing where your customers say ‘thank you’ for receiving the marketing piece,” points out Jessica Johnson with Production Creek. “People do not call you and say, ‘thanks for playing that radio spot or thanks for putting up that billboard’. With that in mind, there are five questions you need to ask yourself to ensure you are not throwing money away with your freebies. Are they appealing to your target customer? Are they useful and can be used time and time again so you are guaranteed that your name will be in front of decision makers on a regular basis? Are they unique or clever? Remember, your competition will most likely be at the same show so you will want to stand out. Do they reinforce your company image and go with your theme? And finally, are they cost effective?”
If you do decide to have promotional products, Frosty has some good ideas. “Everyone uses a bag at a tradeshow, so the ‘winner’ is usually who has the biggest bag to put all the other bags in. Another thing I’ve used in the past and that I’ve seen a lot of lately is fortune cookies. An idea is to buy 1,000 fortune cookies and have a little prize announcement in 550 of them, such as a ballpoint men, and then 50 larger prizes. The attendees need to have a meeting with you or come to your office to pick up their prize, so that gives you another contact with them. If you are going to have fortune cookies, make sure you have a vacuum or some other clean-up tool as it can get messy.”
Frosty also suggests having something wearable. “Wearing something yourself is always a good way to interest people. It doesn’t have to be something expensive, either. My brother, who lives and works in New York, wanted something where people would see it and come to his booth to get it. He got a pen that hung around the neck that was also a bubble maker. He started by doing around to 50 people at the show and giving it out. Everyone who saw those 50 people wanted to know where they got them and ended up at my brother’s booth.”
“iPhone, iPad, Kindle cases and accessories are popular,” Jessica Johnson adds. “This product category has really expanded over the past year and you can get full color imprinting on the silicon cases.”
Making your display as unique as possible is a good way to attract those to your booth and make a good impression once they are there. “Having items at your booth that are different from those around you is a good way to stand out,” states Scott Stream with Image Inflators. “Our 15’ Adversails stand above most other booths and can be seen from across the entire show in most cases.
Also, make sure to be interactive and engage people as they walk by and have some unique item for a giveaway. We also offer Adversails, banners, retractable banner stands, table covers, backdrop and table top displays, LED displays and fabric displays.”
–If appropriate, have an offer that people have to sign up for to build a database and then be sure to follow up with those contacts.
–Always have your people standing up. If they are sitting down, it looks like they don’t want to talk to people.
–Make your booth bright and cheery and obstacle-free to enter. If the show is during a chilly time of year, consider having a coat rack and let people know they can leave their coats as they walk around the show. This ensures that they will have to come back.
–If allowed, have bottled water or a water cooler. People get thirsty at tradeshows and will not only appreciate the gesture, but it will also make your booth stand out.
The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce is proud to host one of the region’s largest tradeshows. The Business to Business Tradeshow is Lincoln’s premiere tradeshow with over 140 exhibitors and over 2000 attendees. The B2B Tradeshow is an excellent opportunity for you to connect with thousands of potential customers in a single day. Exhibitors introduce new products, build distribution or generate new business leads. The 2012 B2B Tradeshow will be held October 16th at Pershing Auditorium.
For more information about Lincoln Chamber of COmmerce, please visit them on the web at www.lcoc.com.
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