Trade Show Success Rules
You only have one chance to make a first impression for your trade show success. It may sound as a cliché but guess what: most clichés have at least a grain of truth to them. When it comes to setting up your trade show display, the first impression is what counts and what can make or break your business. If you do it right, you have already laid the foundations of a long-lasting, mutually profitable relationship.
There’s plenty of information on how to be successful at a trade show but as technology and the world around us evolve, so do the rules of success. We’ve gathered some of the old’ n’ gold as well as some of those that needed an urgent update to help you plan for your next trade show and turn it into a roaring success:
TRADE SHOW SUCCESS RULE #1 – Decision Makers May Skip your Show
Often, the people who wander the floor and stop at your booth aren’t the same people who make the business decisions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because, even though the person you’re speaking to might not be authorized to make a decision they still report to someone who is.
The key to success here is tailoring your approach to your goal. Instead of following up with the person who stopped at your booth, you need to adopt a more proactive approach. What you can do is be prepared to allocate the necessary time and resources after the show to connect with your attendees on LinkedIn (more on this in Rule #2). You can also use this rule to your advantage and identify and reach out to the actual people who make the decisions.
It’s important to identify decision-makers from non-decision-makers. In some countries, the rule applies in almost 100% of cases – it’s the way the industry works. In others, such as Germany, for instance, up to 80% of the attendees at the major trade shows have a decision maker status, so tailoring your approach accordingly is of the essence.
TRADE SHOW SUCCESS RULE #2 – Be prepared
We really shouldn’t have to highlight this but being prepared means you’re halfway there. Pre-exhibition preparation are what makes or breaks your business. Start with defining why you’re there and make sure your stand design, exhibits, marketing materials and campaign, and your ROI all reflect a concrete understanding of your goals.
Make sure to test your 3-second stand design, too: this is the maximum time it should take for an attendee glancing at your stand to get an idea of who you are and what your company offers. Talk to your team and ensure both you and your booth members are prepared for the trade show. Have an exhibition kit close-by with things such as business cards and sales literature, product samples, office materials such as tape and staples, as well as bottled water and snacks for your team.
TRADE SHOW SUCCESS RULE #3 – Social Media
Over 80% of trade show attendees will decide which booths to visit even before they’ve set foot on the floor. What this means is that, to reach your target audience, you need to be proactive and you need to be bring your game up a notch.
Make sure your target audience knows who you are and is excited to see your stand even before the trade show has begun. How? Utilize social media to give them a compelling reason to put you in the top of their ‘to-visit’ list.
Social media is gaining more and more importance during both the pre- and post-show marketing campaigns, and social trade shows have become the new norm in trade show marketing. Use social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, XING, and Twitter to build up anticipation – share valuable content, attractive photos or announce a giveaway.
During the pre-show period, exhibitors on B2B shows should also consider using LinkedIn to promote their booth and connect with potential show attendees in a professional way. Facebook is great but LinkedIn may help you present your company and products in a more professional way and precisely reach your target audience. This process should begin approximately six months before the trade show starts.
TRADE SHOW SUCCESS RULE #4 – Get Social
In fact, the reason why social media is so effective when it comes to trade show marketing is the ‘social’ aspect. Think about the following scenario: you’re a tourist, trying to decide which restaurant to choose for a nice evening meal. Do you stop at the one that’s got a queue or the empty one?
Same is true for your trade show booth. Social proof generates trust; when attendees see others engaging with your display, this automatically makes them want to check what the big deal is about. The easiest way to increase engagement is by having your team members interact with the visitors and providing interactive products or services. Find a way to present whatever it is that you’re selling in a way that compels visitors to stop and take part; touch screens are a great way to display your business offering and make it interactive, regardless of the industry you’re in.
TRADE SHOW SUCCESS RULE #5 – Sell you, not your products
Have you ever been to a trade show, completely confident in the superior quality of your products or services, only to find out visitors can’t be any less interested in what you’re offering?
This may be because you’re going with the wrong assumption: trade show visitors aren’t looking to buy your products. They want to buy you.
This is especially true if you’re taking part in a trade show where you’re likely to meet decision makers (such as in Germany). Every person who stops to check out your booth is looking for a company they can put their trust in. Of course, most business owners would do their due diligence but you would be surprised to learn how often people make decisions based on their ‘gut feeling’ and this can often play to your advantage.
The key to making a good first impression is body language. If you look like you’d rather be anywhere else – by chatting with your colleagues, leafing through a magazine or giving visitors a one-word replies – your attendees are likely to pick up on this fact and wonder why you’re not excited to present them your product.
A neat trick is standing in the isle or in front of the table, rather than sitting behind it. This decreases the distance between you and the trade show attendee, and makes it easier for you to hand them materials or sample products.
TRADE SHOW SUCCESS RULE #6 – Follow up
Research shows that around 70-80% of all leads created through trade show are never followed up on. This means that you’re losing on a huge chunk of potential partners and clients simply by not being proactive. Follow-up is essential, and it contributes as much to the success of a trade show as your preparation before the show and your behavior during it.
The old rule states that you should reach out in no more than 3 days after the show. Every day you waste causes an exponential drop in your ROI.
Scratch this out. Think about it: after your show has finished, most of your leads will go home to have a nice, relaxing evening. They’ll go to work on the next day and keep on working till the end of the week, then spend the weekend recovering from all the activities they took part and return to the office to be swamped with work on Monday. They’ll first have to find their way out of the mountain of missed calls, emails and action items from the previous week before they can attend to your follow-up.
So, the new rule of trade show success is to reach out at least two weeks after the event if you have not promised to deliver any specific information at an earlier time. Just make sure you keep in mind whether your leads are actual decision-makers and tailor your approach accordingly.
Think about connecting with your valuable leads on Linkedin and also use a professional CRM system like Nimble Social CRM to monitor and keep contact with your leads and prospects in a systematic and strategic way.