Though undoubtedly advantageous, there’s much to consider before, during and after your first trade show. It’s certainly not as simple as handing out samples; the key here is thorough research and preparation that ultimately sells the business to the best of your abilities.
Informing employees of strategy, defining goals, following up leads and managing your own body language are all important factors you need to weigh up when bringing a business to a trade show. Here, we’ll delve into the things you can leverage in order to get the most out of your first trade show, and what you should be doing before, during and after the event has taken place.
Before the Show
It’s highly recommended that you scope out the show as an attendee beforehand. The reconnaissance you do at this stage can help you to glean valuable information about your given industry and the competition. Using the intel gathered, you can start to get a sense of what you want to achieve through this trade show.
It’s usually possible to get an advance copy of the attendee list; use it to size up potential customers and business, and reach out to them via phone or email before you meet them in person. Be sure to mention your booth number in your correspondence, as well as a time and day you’d like to meet them.
If you can, drum up some publicity before the show. Use social media and face-to-face networking to your advantage; funnelling people to your stand before the event has even started is an excellent way of capitalising on everyone’s time.
Ask yourself what you want to get out of this show and discuss it with the rest of your team, so everyone is on the same page. Will you use the show as a means of gaining leads or simply to let people know about your product/company? If your goals are clearly laid out, and a strategy has been determined, the easier it’ll be to achieve what you want from the trade show.
With so many people and businesses vying for attention during the trade show, your stand needs to stand out from the crowd. Many in the know recommend a ‘less is more’ approach. Your booth or stand should be open, spacious and inviting, letting attendees know that you’re approachable and ready to converse. Rather than huge tables that barricade attendees away from you and give off the wrong message, keep the appropriate literature to hand on small, bar-height tables and stools.
Consider designing your booth with interactive elements such as product demonstrations, prizes, competitions and giveaways. Something tangible that people can interact with is always a good way to hook attendees in, and don’t forget about free stuff to giveaway.
As we mentioned earlier, your staff should know your goals inside and out beforehand. They should have the key messages you discussed with them in mind at all times, and be well versed in the service or product they’re selling to potential customers. Whether you have them demonstrate things themselves or through the use of a video demo, your interactions must be clear, concise and engaging; make sure you’re mindful of your body language too.
Since they will be on their feet a lot of the time, it’s important to keep them motivated throughout the day. It’s well worth motivating them with a reward if a certain target is reached so they have something to encourage them as the day progresses.
If you’re at a trade show to generate leads from potential customers, it’s crucial that you collect the appropriate information on the people you meet for your follow-ups later down the line. It can be as simple as writing a word or phrase you associate with a particular person you meet to jog your memory, or you can harness modern technology such as badge swipes and RFID wristbands.
The latter can usually be obtained from trade show organisers, and are used as an alternative to swapping business cards. You can even use them to categorise your follow-ups as low or high priorities, download content with and post social media updates too.
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A good rule of thumb: talk to everyone. Your time at the trade show is limited, so you might as well talk to as many people as possible, even if it’s waiting in line for the toilet or when you’re in a lift with someone else. Who knows? It could lead to bigger things in the future, so you might as well give it a go.
You can get strategic with your networking, too. Speak to show organisers and staff and let them know your goals. If they know what you’re looking for, they may be able to introduce you to people who may be of interest to you. It’s also crucial that you never leave your booth completely unattended, you never know the opportunities you might have missed because nobody on your team was around.
Ensure you’re investing time and money in following up on the people you met during the trade show. Connect with them on LinkedIn and let them know who you are (chances are they met a lot of people that day), and thank them for stopping by. Here’s where the RFID wristband mentioned above comes in useful, identify those contacts you prioritised as ‘high’ and strike while the iron is hot.
Also, use your follow-ups as more than just a way to reach out. Include a press release or any industry news relating to you that the contact may find interesting or relevant to the follow-up. Additionally, you can use the trade show as a means of tracking your ROI. If you went to the event with goals in mind, how did the performance measure up to your expectations?
Together, all these processes can help increase the value of a trade show to your business and potentially increase the volume and quality of leads.
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