Are you prepared for your first trade show? Here's some advice

Are you prepared for your first trade show? Here’s some advice

For the uninitiated, here's that tingly feeling you get when you just can't wait for your first trade show.

The thrill of finally being able to meet face to face with prospective customers is invigorating. No more postcards or email messages back and forth, arguing over price quotes or worrying about whether or not they'll actually remember what they saw on your website or who you are.

Trade shows are the greatest!

Actually, trade show season is right around the corner. Are you ready? It's not too early to start preparing. Here are some tips for a successful first trade show:

1) Keep your expectations in check

A lot of people get really excited about their first trade show - sometimes so excited that they forget this fact: Nobody knows who you are, and nobody cares. It's just not the way it works.

You have to go in knowing that YOU are going to be doing most of the work to make sure everybody knows who you are and what you do.

Trade shows are primarily about YOU making contact with PEOPLE so YOU can tell THEM all about YOURSELF. Don't expect THEM to come to YOU. You go to THEM, then you tell THEM all about you and your company.

2) Know the show’s goal

What does the show mean to you?

What are you trying to accomplish with this trade show?

Are there specific things that you want out of it?

Is attendance important to your bottom line (that is, will having more people at the show directly benefit your bottom line)?

Make sure that your goals for this trade show fall in line with what the show itself can do for you. If there are no attendees who fit into YOUR market, don't waste your money on exhibiting space.  

3) Have a plan

Make sure that your booth design and your trade show strategy match up with the size of the space you've been assigned.

We can't tell you how many times we've seen exhibitors end up flopping all over their space, trying to make stuff work in an area that's at least twice as big as they needed - and it doesn't matter how good the product is... If the flow through the booth isn't efficient and comfortable, nobody will stop to look or listen.

Know ahead of time what type of trade show traffic flow works best for your business. If it's back and forth, then set things up so people walking by will notice you before they're gone. If you want to steal people's attention the second they walk by, then make sure your booth is designed with that in mind.

4) Have a good booth

Here's another thing we see all the time: booths that aren't attractive. Exhibitors go with what they think is "good enough," but when you're setting up your first trade show, remember this:

Good enough isn't good enough - it needs to be awesome .

When you're building or designing your trade show rental booth and considering all of the different elements that go into it, don't just stop at putting something together that looks "good enough."

Make sure it's an attention-grabbing booth design that will steal people's attention and make them want to know more about who you are and what you do.

Think about how much money (in the form of new business opportunities) you'd have to spend in order for this trade show booth to pay for itself.

5) Have a good trade show strategy

When you're planning your trade show marketing strategy, you need to remember that the purpose of attending a trade show is not just putting up a booth and waiting for people to come by.

The most important aspect of any marketing plan is lead generation. You need a solid trade show marketing plan that will turn these interested prospects into actual paying customers.

A good start would be pre-registering targeted leads who have requested information from you about your company or your products/services.

Trade shows are all about matching people who might be interested in what you do with what you offer... And if they've already expressed interest in what you're doing, then it's like hitting the market with a guided missile.

6) Follow-up

After the show is over, you need to make sure that everyone who came by your booth follows up on any leads or potential business opportunities they might have had contact with while at your trade show exhibit.

Be consistent - follow up within 48 hours after the trade show ends so these prospects know you are serious about giving them information and following through on their requests. Even if the lead isn't ready to buy today, don't let them forget about you.

"Out of sight = out of mind." Keep in touch!

7) Don't be shy!  

It's very easy for people attending trade shows to overlook your booth...

"Oh, another catering company. Yawn."

Yup. You have to fight for their attention. You have to be loud and proud about what you're offering - that's the whole point of a trade show!

So don't just sit there quietly with good intentions as people walk by your booth day after day. Your job is to catch people's attention and invite them in for a closer look at what you've got going on so they can see how it will benefit THEM.

8) Listen to advice from a seasoned pro!  

Don't miss this opportunity if someone wants to share their knowledge with you... It won't happen again! If you haven't done an exhibit before and you're attending a trade show and someone wants to give you some free advice, STOP and listen!

It might not always be right for your industry or market, but it's an opportunity that doesn't happen every day. So don't just blow it off because this person isn't who you wanted to talk to. Be polite and take whatever they have to share with you - do the best you can to apply it as best as possible going forward.

9) Focus on what should drive decisions about your booth... NOT what competitors are doing!

And finally... What trade shows should I attend? Where is my target audience? Those questions should drive decisions about where and when a company attends a trade show... But companies spend way too much time focusing on what their competitors are doing at a trade show instead of where their target audience, the buyers and decision-makers will be.

It's easy to sit there and get distracted by other exhibitors around you... Why? Because it's human nature. "Why did that booth have a better looking display than ours?"

"I wonder what they're going to say about that product."

"We should be doing something different with ours!" That kind of thinking is a BIG mistake!

Focus on attending one or two key local shows every year. If you can't afford to do this, then focus your attention on marketing via other online marketing avenues so you don't have to attend. After all, why go broke attending shows when you can produce the same results online via other methods?

But if you are going to exhibit at a trade show, make sure YOU choose where YOU want to go. Don't let anyone else make that decision for YOU!

Trade shows can be a great way to generate sales and bring in new business if you're doing them correctly: reaching the right prospects, enticing them into your booth with an eye-catching design and professional displays, engaging them through interesting conversation that introduce tons of benefits you have to offer and then following up after the event.

These tips should help any company do their trade show marketing more effectively... And remember - success is all about trial and error!

Try it out at one or two events before you invest too much money. Then adjust what doesn't work so you can get even better results for your time and money invested at future events!"

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