It’s surprises and disappoints me when stand managers disclose that they are in charge of a stand at a trade show almost under duress.
Comments like “I didn’t want to do this’ or “I drew the short straw’ are disappointing to hear. They also make me think that exhibiting success may well be hindered by this attitude.
Why the dread?
Generally this feeling arises because trade shows are outside of the normal day-to-day role of the people who manage stands. And when you aren’t entirely sure of what you are doing, then you are scared of screwing-up.
Look instead at all of the opportunities for getting things right
Apart from the mechanics of exhibiting, which we can teach you by the way, there are plenty of reasons to look forward to exhibiting both from the perspective of your business and for your career success and progression.
Here are my ten reasons (I could give you more) for “short-straw” marketeers as to why they should be excited about running a trade show stand or stands for their businesses. In no particular order…
1. Awaken dormant clients
Reignite sales with companies that haven’t re-purchased from you in the past 12 months or more. Let those sleeping clients know about the new things that have changed since you last did business together. Offer them incentives to re-order that are linked to the show.
Your company’s participation in an exhibition provides an excellent reason to get in contact again. Offer your past clients appointment slots during the show. Make them feel special because there is probably a huge amount of untapped sales value lying within your past client list.
Prove this to yourself by asking your accounts department to run off a dormant clients report. Then get excited.
2. A focus for your direct marketing
Having a valid reason to contact clients, past clients and prospects often stumps marketing people and that can result in bland mass communication messaging. A trade show provides a valid focus for direct marketing that can include emails, direct mail, phone calls and SMS messaging, webinars and social media.
If you have worked out why you are exhibiting and what your product or service focus is for the show, you have plenty of routes to market to promote that message. Go to it and draft your comms plan.
3. Meet current clients
I said this was in no particular order, your current clients are the people that you should inform first about your participation. Why? They deserve your best attention. They are spending money with your business now. Hopefully, if your company does a good or great job, they will continue to buy from your business way into the future too.
Invite current clients warmly to the show. Give them excellent reasons to attend. That means telling them what’s in it for them at the whole event and not just your stand. Is there a conference programme? Highlight subjects that are allied to the field that you work in. Feature areas? Do the same. Most of all, let them know about things of interest that you are promoting on your stand and why it will be a good use of their time to drop by when they visit.
4. Meet real people
Trade shows offer you and your colleagues the opportunity to meet with real, live people. Sometimes it comes as a surprise, even a shock to find out what the real opinions of people are about a subject. Especially when those views are different to the story that is written within your marketing materials.
A reality check is a great thing and hopefully you and your audience are on the same page. Real time validation is good thing.
Don’t let fear and trepidation affect your marketing antenna. Hear what people in the market are really telling you good or bad. Make notes so that you can improve or fine-tune your marketing across all channels.
5. Test sales propositions
The most successful businesses have marketing messages that resonate with the people who buy their products. Their messaging highlights how they are most or best able to solve the problem or fulfil the desire of the person on the other end. You can use event participation to help you do the same.
Opening phrases used to greet visitors can be tested to see which works most effectively. You can test slogans and strap lines by showing them to stand visitors and asking them to rate each for resonance. And if you’re really stuck, ask visitors “What’s the biggest problem that you’re facing in your business now.” Note those answers.
6. List development
Want to grow or improve your sales database and the data within it quickly? Take part in trade show. But, be very careful and organised about how you collect your data. Piles of business cards by themselves aren’t going to take you far. Take notes, physically or digitally and import your lead data from the show’s registration supplier into your database. Ensure that everyone has been followed-up and keep in contact with relevant messages to all who don’t become clients in the short-term.
7. Content marketing
If you’ve been wondering how you can make more of the content that’s floating around your company, incorporate it into your trade show marketing programme.
Use those reports and articles to show how your business works to eradicate the problems that your market faces. Videos and webinars can build awareness too. Encourage prospective show visitors to sign-up for updates from your business. Provide links to other resources that have affinity with your subject. Demonstrate your expertise and leadership.
8. Test new markets
Looking for a low-cost way to test a new market? Take a small stand at a trade show. Giants like General Electric who normally exhibit on very large spaces, use this tactic to test whether a new show or market would work for them. You can do the same thing. And if the event works, you can scale-up next time.
9. Find new applications for existing products or services
Finding new applications for a product or service that is standard to you, is often a happy by-product of exhibiting. It happens because visitors from industries or businesses that you haven’t dealt with previously, see an application of what you do that could work for them.
In my days organising shows, new application success stories were told to me many times. It’s one of the exciting things that can happen when you exhibit.
10. Look good to your boss
Hey, everyone has a right to get promoted and to progress in their career. Nail the business of exhibiting and of generating new sales and new clients using the tactics described above and you just might get promoted. At the very least, your reputation as someone who can generate new business will be enhanced.
Instead of fearing a show management responsibility, see the opportunities that are presented both to you and the business you work for. Then build your own list of reasons to love trade shows. Feel free to share them here too.