Throughout my career I’ve attended more tradeshows than I can count: as an attendee, a service provider and a speaker. After my most recent trip to Blogwell in NYC , I was reminded of a few key points to remember when attending a tradeshow.
- Know your audience and plan accordingly.
Understand the target market of the event and the relevant interests of the audience. If you want people to talk to you, make sure your messaging fits. If it doesn’t, you may want to work with your marketing team to ensure you have the right talking points — or it’s going to be a long day.
- Location, location, location.
Make sure you know the layout of the event and the ways you are permitted or encouraged to engage with prospects. Exhibitors spend a lot of time and money into planning these events, so pick the right booth location (if you can).
- Always have a backup plan.
I always abide by Murphy’s Law; packages can get lost in transit, so make sure you have marketing materials besides your business cards readily available, even something as simple as a few glossies in your briefcase and a slide presentation that can run on your laptop. If you can, have everything sent to your hotel the day before just so you have time to regroup in case the unforeseen happens.
- Know what the goals are before you go.
Tradeshows are expensive – in time and money. Take the time for a 30-minute meeting or phone call to understand what the goals are for the show. If the focus is on market intelligence, you may only need one person at the booth at any given time. If the goal is lead generation, bring the wrapped iPad and empty fishbowl with you for the business card giveaway. If there is no goal other than to attend the show, revisit your budget to determine if those funds can be better spent elsewhere.
- Give actionable advice.
Before you hit the conference floor, prepare a handout with practical tips or memorize a few useful URLs so that people who are interested in your product have an easy way to act on what they just learned.
- Pre-planning is key, but so is follow-up plan.
Too often we focus on pre-event and on-site tasks with no strategy for following up. Understand who the stakeholders are in your company and among your audience in order to prepare a process and allocate time to follow up with those groups and add value across all constituencies.
- Know your audience (It’s so important, I’m listing it twice.).
Know who is attending the show. Will any of your present/former clients/prospects be there? The best way to sell is to have your clients do it for you. Like most sales people today, I do almost all of my business via conference calls and Web conferencing. A trade show is a great way to meet and engage multiple clients in a single afternoon. While you are chatting with your new prospect, you can introduce them to your current client who loves everything your company does — and let the cross-selling take its course.
We work in a world of tweets, emails and Web meetings where you rarely get a chance to meet your clients and prospects face to face. Tradeshows provide one of the few opportunities for sales reps to physically meet a prospect or existing client. It’s amazing what a difference a handshake makes, even when you live in the world of social media. I keep reminding myself of the old adage: “You have to spend money to make money.” Make sure you know how to take advantage of them to make it worth your money and effort.