Trade Show Marketing: How to Attract the Best Qualified Leads and Prospects to Your Booth (Part 2 of 3)
Sep 10, 2008
(Part 2 of 3)
The day you have marked on the calendar is here. Today is the first day of the trade show you have planned for over the past few months. You’ve lost sleep, spent time at Kinko’s the other night running off last-minute flyers and signage you forgot about, and now you are ready to go.
Or are you ready?
In my previous column, I discussed several strategies for maximizing your trade show effectiveness and return on investment.
In this column, I will be discussing several “at-show” trade show activities and tips you can do to ensure a successful trade show.
Guerilla Marketing: Some companies do an end-run around the show management’s policy of a 5-mile radius of non-competing activities by hosting hospitality suites at nearby hotels (or even the host hotel or at the corporate home office or regional facility). I have even heard of companies that host private invitation-only golf tournaments the day prior to a trade show to get the maximum bang for their buck as they bring in their top prospects, customers and vendors. Be forewarned, however, that if caught violating the show management’s rules, you can be fined, banned, humiliated and forced to walk the plank (well maybe not the plank). Many of these same functions can be done with the blessing of show management with a smile, charm and some money.
Walk the Walk, not Talk the Talk: Many times you can get into a trade show by applying as an attendee or by telling management that you would like to walk the show to decide whether or not you want to exhibit the following year. As an attendee, you can visit your competitor’s booth and hear their sales presentations â€“ though you may also be kicked flat on your backside, as well as thrown out of the show by management. I have always found it good business to introduce myself to my competitors, offer to swap brochures (you are each going to end up with each others’ sales material one way or the other) and just start a friendly conversation. Sometimes you can learn a great deal just be being honest and up-front. (Remember the golden rule: “Do unto others…”)
Walking a show floor also gives you an opportunity to actively seek out potential customers, either in the aisles, at seminars, in the restrooms (yes, I have seen it and it is not pretty), at lunch or at other booths. Remember, exhibitors do not like to have salespeople visit their booth on their time (since they paid for their booth space and you didn’t). Best approach is to arrive early (just as the show floor opens) or just as the show closes, as it will be less busy then and exhibitors may welcome a conversation during a slow time.
Attending Seminars: Attending seminars is an excellent way to meet prospects and renew old acquaintances. Same strategy applies here—get there early and stay late—as you will often get an opportunity to meet many high caliber prospects. Have your 30-second elevator speech ready and met and mingle.
Celebrity Appearances: You can plan to have a celebrity at your booth or an opportunity to meet the president or CEO of your company (if that is an appealing option). I have seen booths with local professional athletes, sportscasters, painters, wrestlers, actors, cheerleaders, Spuds McKenzie (am I dating myself?), singers, body builders and “celebrities” that I did not recognize at all.
If promoted properly, a celebrity appearance can bring people into your booth, giving you an opportunity to try to qualify them while they wait in line. A typical Hollywood B-list actor can be had for as little as $5,000 and as high as $25,000 or more per day, so it depends on your budget. Although this can bring both exhibitors and attendees into your booth, I believe that anything you can afford to do that get’s people to stop in, and gives you an opportunity to qualify them, is a viable option.
Sponsorship Opportunities: There are many opportunities for sponsorships, such as hosting the show’s prayer meetings, breakfasts, luncheons, golf tournaments, speakers, concerts, beverage carts, panel discussions, Wi-Fi service, etc. Depending on your budget, these can be an expensive option, but it will give you an opportunity to get your name in the directory, on banners, and mentioned several times throughout the show. These events will also allow you to mix and mingle with many of the top companies in your industry, giving you and your firm instant credibility.
Ad Specialties/Promotional Products: As I mentioned in my first section, a well-targeted imprinted promotional product can stop a person who would normally pass by your booth â€“ and keep your company in their minds after the show. It goes back to the billboard question I like to ask my clients: “If you can put your advertising billboard on your customer’s desk (or in their car), how much would you pay to rent that space?” A useful and meaningful advertising specialty with a quality imprint can help keep your brand identity in the prospect’s mind when they are ready to make a decision â€“ without the high cost of “rent”.
Remember what I mentioned in the earlier column about an A-B-C selection of swag—a low-cost gift for non-qualified visitors; a higher priced gift for qualified prospects and customers; an even higher valued gift for members of the media, “A-list” prospects and others. Be sure to keep the higher priced gifts out of eyesight so they only go to those you intend them for.
I also suggest packing your literature with the imprinted gift so that when they are handed the promotional item, they get your sales information, as well. I have sold hundreds of orders of imprinted bags, both plastic and fabric bags (both made of recycled material to avoid these ending up in landfills, of course), so when you hand out the item, not only does your billboard get carried around the entire show floor, but your sales material is placed inside ahead of time—ensuring it gets to that buyer.
Another good idea is to hand out a live tree seedling tree in a tube, with a single sheet sales flyer wrapped around it. When you hand it to the recipient, tell them that you are giving them a live tree seedling, so when they get home, they should immediately take it out of their bag and plant it. What happens is that nobody wants to kill a tree, so instead of waiting for that mythical “rainy day” to go through the stack of collected trade show material, they will get home and reach for the tree seedling—with your sales flyer wrapped around it. It is a low-cost way to ensure your material gets looked at.
Lights, Camera, Action: Nothing makes a booth look bleaker than dark spaces and shadows. Pay for electricity and have bright halogen lights highlighting your booth, as well as calling out special sections. Be sure to keep the lights high, as halogen lights can get very hot â€“ making your booth quite warm. Lighting is one area you do not want to skimp on.
Personnel: As a final suggestion, don’t forget your personnel. They should be armed with a few opening statements (open ended questions) and given a plan on how to stand, how to introduce good prospects, how to move along visitors that are not prospects, etc. I also shipping a case or two of bottled water to your booth so you and your staff can stay hydrated. Rest them and rotate the staff if possible, as breaks as few as 15-minutes can help to rejuvenate a person and make them more upbeat.
Following these ideas can help you make the most of your time on the show floor. In my final segment of this article, I will discuss one of the least used, and most important, of the three areas of trade show marketing—the post-show follow up process.