Aside from showcasing your latest products and services to companies within your niche and meeting industry leaders, the most common top priority is to generate leads from trade shows.
With the right strategy, small business owners can leverage their trade show exhibits to:
With that said, here's how to prepare, execute, and follow up on leads from trade shows.
First of all, planning a successful trade show requires you to be super organized, creative and resilient. The level of effort you exert in preparing for a trade show determines the number of leads, opportunities and return on investment (ROI) that come out of it.
You need to understand that planning way ahead of time is the ultimate key to a successful trade show. Lackluster planning can lead to a disaster of epic proportions.
Here are tips on how to prepare for a successful trade show:
When setting goals for a trade show, always remember the S.M.A.R.T mnemonic:
Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time-bound
Take a look at these examples:
Also, when you’re setting goals for your exhibit, a great way to achieve them is to break them down into small, achievable goals that you can work towards as a single exhibitor or a team.
Did you know that multi-tasking is very unproductive?
Oh yes! This is one skill you don't want to use at a trade show. Focusing is a key to success at a trade show. Multi-tasking usually leads to feeling like a "chicken with its head cut off".
If you're handling a team, then it's best to delegate tasks according to their specific strengths. Spend enough time going over each person’s responsibilities in the weeks before the show.
Assign a specific team member to do the presentation, hand-out flyers, distribute giveaways, talk to clients, etc.
The purpose of delegating tasks to team members is so you can FOCUS ENTIRELY on your goals and execution for the trade show.
A successful trade show requires preparing the right approach for the right type of event.
There are two unique types of trade shows you may want to exhibit at:
It's important to be very strategic about the trade shows you exhibit at, otherwise, there's a strong possibility of getting a very low or zero return on investment.
It's very important to have a clear view of your space at a trade show. You have to know your specific floor location, your competitors' locations, and even which direction you’ll be facing.
The foot traffic and the lighting can dictate the success of your booth.
Try to learn which exhibitors you’ll be located beside before you book a floor space. Also, keep an eye on utilities and services near your location. You might want to ask yourself these questions:
The bottom line is that understanding your space and its requirements can make or break your exhibit so you better spend enough time doing your research.
Trade shows follow a certain narrative and following this narrative gives you access to valuable media coverage.
Industry leaders use trade shows to introduce new concepts or launch new products and it attracts the media. This gives your business an opportunity to be part of the narrative.
My personal tip is to first, research guest speakers and learn about their trade show presentation concepts. And then, focus on matching your exhibit with the trends and strategies they will talk about.
Synchronize your marketing efforts with the event's message or theme to highlight the qualities of your business.
You don't want your trade show exhibit to become a major flop, do you?
Although mistakes during a show are unavoidable, the chances of committing them will be lower if you spend time rehearsing the whole show from beginning to end.
Write a conversation plan. Have a dress rehearsal and role play if you must to make sure that everything flows smoothly and nothing falls through the cracks.
The best way to be prepared for an event is to REHEARSE, REHEARSE, and REHEARSE some MORE!
For the most part, executing on one trade show is the same as another. I'd highly recommend creating a trade show checklist for all the tasks you need to complete from beginning to end for a trade show.
Here are some additional resources to help you prepare for your trade show:
Now that you’ve completed all your pre-show planning, it’s time to execute at the show.
Here are a few things to do...
Check the following during the tradeshow:
Make sure you are active on social media to reach attendees during the show. If there's a designated event hashtag (#), use it.
Also, you might want to post pictures of your company in action during the event. Go Live on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc. and tweet on Twitter to remind people about the event.
Give away stuff to those who give you their full contact information. You can use prizes, gift cards, and discounts to add value to potential customers.
You can also giveaway T-shirts, pens, stickers or notepads, or your marketing brochures and handouts. Make sure you give away something that people will remember you by.
These giveaways will give your leads a reference point for reconnecting with you when you follow up after the show.
Here are a few articles that can help you execute at a trade show:
With that said, here's how to follow-up on leads after the event.
The first and most crucial step to take after a successful trade show is to organize your leads so you can get in touch with them immediately.
Organize your leads (if you can) based on - hot, warm, and cold - in order to prioritize them. Doing this lets you add details and missing information, including company name, other contact information, and the services they were most interested in.
I don't think there's a right or wrong way to complete your trade show outreach. The most important thing is you have an outreach plan and you start executing it as quickly as possible coming out of the tradeshow.
Following up with leads two weeks after the show isn't going to cut it. You need to strike while the iron is hot!
Here are a couple of outreach ideas you might want to consider.
Phone calls can be a very effective mode of communication when it comes to following up on trade show leads, especially hot leads. Phone calls allow you to connect with prospects quickly so you can be sure you maintain a constant connection to your potential customer.
Send customized emails that prompt interaction with your leads right after the trade show.
Coming out of a trade show there is all kinds of valuable information you can provide your leads to help further the relationship with them while adding value to them in the process.
Use calls to action in your emails to further engage your leads and encourage them to take the next step with you.
Many of your trade show leads won't be ready to buy immediately. Crafting a plan to keep in touch with them and nurture them over time will be really important.
There are a number of ways you can remarket to trade show leads after the show, it really depends on how much information you collected about from people during the show.
With a phone number or email address, you can create a custom audience in Facebook and target folks who visited your booth with a relevant ad.
With a physical address, you can put together a direct mail campaign to engage boot visitors after the show too.
Remarketing in channels outside of phone and email will provide you with one more way to stay top of mind after the show.
Trade shows take up a lot of time and money. For this reason, you must be very strategic about the trade shows you choose to exhibit at.
Do your research and make sure you will gain significant exposure to your ideal clients.
And that's how to generate leads from trade shows!
Remember, it starts with great preparation and impeccable execution to get leads from events, conferences, or trade shows. Then, you must have a strong follow-up strategy to turn those leads into customers.
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Need more lead generation tips? Check out our entire Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation.
Header image courtesy of Pexels.
Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Marketing. At Rialto Marketing, we help take the guesswork out of marketing so your small business can grow. Marketing your business shouldn't be a constant challenge. If you are ready to eliminate the uncertainty and confusion of marketing your business, we can help.