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“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” – Dr. Seuss

Trade shows and industry conferences are great ways to get face-time with several potential customers in a short period of time with some of your best sales and marketing team members highlighting the best aspects of your company. Both small business and larger enterprises can benefit from attending trade shows. Try some or all of these tips to make your company stand out amongst the other exhibitors at your next trade show event!

1. Attract Attention with Consistent Messaging

You might have a flashy trade show booth that you have spent a lot of money on that you’ll need to use across many different events. However, you wish to highlight a specific message, a new product or particular benefit for the audience of a particular show. It is important that you think through this theme at a high-level when planning the event and that all your messaging (pre-show, at the event and post-event) creates a unified experience for your audience.

So, in addition to your usual branded backdrop, consider adding a more cost-effective custom pop-up banners to your booth. These banners can incorporate into the look and feel of your bigger booth, but can showcase the messaging of this particular audience, provide a simple call to action or announce the launch a new product. you can get a retractable banner created for under $200 inviting people to come in and check it out today!

Another option is to create a fun, social media friendly backdrop highlighting your company or a specific product in a creative way that encourages sharing. Combine this with #3 below and consider a post to social media as an entry into a draw you might be having later in the show.

2. Get Out of The Booth

This piece of advice might seem counter intuitive, but it needs to be said as it often ignored! Unless the exhibit area is closed, your booth should be always be staffed (yes, even during downtimes). But, if you have multiple people at the show, get out of the booth every so often and really network on the trade show floor. Without the pressure of being at the booth and trying to sell, the other person will likely be more at ease and may open up more.

Most trade shows will have events throughout the scheduled show hours to break up the day for attendees. Often these optional events give everyone a chance to take a breather from the show floor, and they can serve as a great opportunity to make connections with people. These networking events should be required for your staff as they are a huge opportunity to meet. Also, tell your team to break-up and talk to others, not much value in them standing around talking only to each other!

3. Have a Contest

Everybody likes to win, so why not have a contest to win a prize? Prizes can be anything from a gift card to a local restaurant (support the city or town the trade show is held in) to the current hot tech items. Get creative and give away something your target leads are likely to want!

Have a ballot-box or fishbowl and collect business cards or have a small questionnaire for them to fill out (don’t forget to bring some branded pens along to have people write with). Just keep in mind that while this is a great way to get a lot of leads at a show, they aren’t always the most qualified lead sources. If the show is more of a branding event and you’re looking for quantity over quality of leads, a giveaway is the perfect way to draw a crowd! This is also a great way to be able to follow up with trade show attendees who might be interested in your products or services.

4. Have Something to Give Away to Everyone

It’s inevitable, not everyone you meet at a trade show is going to turn into a new customer, but that doesn’t mean that every connection isn’t valuable. Everyone is significant, but some people are a little more significant than others for your business. Letting all your booth visitors walk away with a token to remember you by ensures that even those not in the market for what you sell will have a positive impression of your company. Try giving away something to everyone, but give away something amazing to really hot leads! Great to ensure that all your potential customer have your contact information and phone number and are reminded of your brand.

Maybe everyone gets a tote bag, branded nicely with your logo and website as a trade show giveaway. Throw in a pen and your literature, and you’ve got walking advertisers around the show floor. However, even these smaller custom giveaways should be something the attendee will be likely to use and is easy to travel with. You don’t want your swag to end up in their hotel room’s trash can.

For a really hot lead, have a few ‘nicer’ items stashed. Having a really great conversation for a potential customer that’s primed and ready to buy in the next six months? Why not grab them something you’ve set aside just waiting for them to come by – something like an LED power bank or a Moleskine Notebook that’s too nice not to use every day (and think of you and your company in the process)? People like to feel special, and acknowledging someone as an important customer before they’ve even purchased from you is a big ego-boost for them, and a big potential win for you! This will ensure your client has something positive to say about their trade show experience.

Bonus Tip: Think of the event holistically

While these trade show tips are great individually, the real impact will come when you can think strategically about your presence at the event. Successful trade shows and industry conferences give you an opportunity to meet lots of great people all at once and show off your brand, but to put your best foot forward it is best to think through all the details (your booth, swag, staffing, etc) in advance with a solid strategy guiding it.

Need some other ideas for swag to giveaway at the event, see our recent post on popular products for trade show giveaways