Getting the most out of your Trade Show Stand or Exhibition
We’ve all been there haven’t we – hours (days) on your feet, smiling all day at people who don’t want to smile back at you – and are resistant to going anyway near your trade show stand in case they get “sold to”.
I was at an exhibition last week in Leeds, and I can’t believe how times still haven’t changed, how similar people run their exhibition stands like we used to 10 or 15 years ago !
So, just how do you get the most out of your exhibition stand? Well, getting people to the stand is the first part, and this starts way before you actually attend your exhibition.
Mail your existing client based, and entice them to bring a friend – you can offer existing clients a freebie like cake, (everybody likes cake) – ok, so maybe not cake, but its about driving traffic back to your stand. So a well crafted mailer, perhaps as a letter or perhaps as a postcard, inviting your existing clients to come and say hello.
You know what else really helps? Asking your clients to help you out on your stand! Why? Imagine a new prospect coming up to the stand and the person they speak to happens to be, not a member of staff PAID to talk nicely about you, but another customer who is already using your services.
Social Media – ensure you have automated your tweets, Facebook Feed, etc in a countdown to the exhibition. During the exhibition, you can post images, updates, product info and so on throughout the day. You could find out all of the other attendees, and go to their stand having already discovered their Twitter name, speak to the MD about what they do and tweet that.
Why ? Imagine going to Bobs Computers on stand 241 and tweeting “Just spoken with Bob at @Bobscomputers about their new super PC thats coming out great stand Bob – by Dan Latto (stand 113).”
You now get a tweet out to all his followers on Twitter for something that’s relevant. Even better is that you can ask them to re-tweet you, which gives you further credibility.
I’ve seen lots of fancy stands at Trade Shows, and whilst that’s all very nice, its about what actually happens during the trade show itself that counts. I’ve seen rubbish stands packed with clients, and i’ve seen excellent stands very quiet.
We went to the Google stand once, and they were offering a £25 voucher for adwords – which I thought was neat. Only, when we went to claim our voucher, we had to apply for it.
“Great”, we said, “Where do we apply” – well you have to do it online, and the process takes a few weeks.
“WHAT !!” – seriously – the big boys can get it seriously wrong too !
So – now you have a few existing customers turning up, and you have gone around the stands and spoken to them and got some tweets out there – what else.
Well, you’re not allowed to hand out leaflets generally, so one of the best ways of raising your profile I saw was a man dressed in one of those all in one outfits that covers them up completely, like a blue man,
or a green man (er .. you see a lot of these on stag do’s weirdly!) – anyway, if you can tie it up with a
message, for example “Don’t be jealous, join us on stand 113” – for the man dressed in green.
Or “For some blue sky thinking, join us on stand 113 – free cake” for the one in blue.
Or perhaps, for the one in red, you could think up of one for yourself ?
You have to be a bit more careful with this kind of creative thinking – and make sure it doesn’t undermine the brand any, but it could be a fun way to interact.
Another way to do it could be to have the 118 118 man off the advert – get someone dressed like that – and the stand number on the shirt – very effective and stands out.
The other great way of raising a bit of profile is having helium filled balloons over your stand – so that people can see that something exciting is happening over there.
Especially if there is something with a noise. The event I saw last week had one company banging nails into a block of wood (made hell of a racket) – on one hand, you wondered where the noise was coming from (and what on earth it was) and so you went to investigate. On the other hand, it became incredibly annoying very quickly !
Ok – so now, you’re raising awareness within the exhibition, they next is what happens on the stand.
So this is what generally happens …
Customer – so what do you do then
Exhibitor – we provide computers for small businesses
Customer – er .. ok – thanks, bye
wouldnt it be better if it went something like this :
Customer – so what do you do then
Exhibitor – we provide help for businesses and their owners – what is it you do?
Customer – I own an accountancy firm
Exhibitor – great – and what have you come for specifically?
Customer – I’ve come to grow my business
Exhibitor – and are you growing right now? Many of our new clients often say that when they’re growing their business, getting IT Support in place can be a bit of a nightmare, which is why we work with businesses that are growing, and show them how to reduce their costs whilst implementing that growth in a sustainable way – is it worth having a quick chat next week so we can see where we can save you money when you grow?
Look at that as a sentence- there’s a bunch of stuff in there you can use. Sure it’s a bit of a mouth full, and at first you won’t be very good at saying it, so you need to practice the words coming out of your mouth before you actually say it to anyone.
There is engagement, there is actually taking the time to LISTEN (99% ahead of the game there methinks), you’ve identified where the client is at in their business and what they actually need, and you’re now looking to sell the next part of the relationship, a chat over coffee or a meeting of some kind.
REMEMBER – every step sells the next step – you don’t go for a marriage proposal on the first date, why would you in business – the whole point of a first date is to get a 2nd date, and so on … then 3 years down the line you’re married with kids – exactly how you’re business should work.
So, you’re exhibition stand should be engaging with the client through the use of engaging questions – what about data capture ?
I like to get name, mobile number, email address and company address – this way, I can use a number of marketing channels to further communicate, such as text message, post cards, direct mail, emails, gifts and so on.
So, lets look at what we can do to get their contact information.
Create something you can give out in return for their details. This could be for example, a Free Social Media Professional Photo taken – in return for their email address (you know, to email the picture to)
Or it could be an application form to receive some free training, or free product. You could have a professional looking box on the desk that states FREE DRAW, or something similar, and a whole bunch of application forms for people to complete, that way, if your stand is full and no one left to answer queries, at least that person may fill a form it.
I’ve seen some exhibition companies give away free pens and the like in return for the business card. Lets face it, someone giving you their details IS a transaction of some form, so you need to make it worth their while for them to release their contact information – for me a pen wouldn’t do it – but something like a free Social Media Photograph would – plus it allows some fun interaction with your potential client – i’m sure you remember the “It’s not what you say to your client, but about how you made them feel”.
You could also have seminar sessions on your stand every hour on the hour – this will create influence around the stand, bring in a crowd and make the stand look busy – the more busier it looks, the more people will crowd around to it to “see what they are missing”.
I also believe you should also have a stock of promotion items that you can use as trade show giveaways – these should be branded up. Im a tight northerner, and always taking pens from trade shows that I used and keep !
You’ve got to make it easy for booth visitors to get information, so you could use signs in your trade show displays to give information about prices, minimum orders, shipping costs, or any other basic information they might need to know, to save them the trouble of having to wait to ask when you’re busy with another potential customer. In my experience, when we get busy on our exhibition stands, you miss out on potential customers as you’re deep in conversation. This is where getting people to help you out (like your customers I mentioned before) can really help.
In addition to this – and I’m in danger of repeating myself here – if you do have a busy stand, then you need to limit the time spent with each individual, get their contact details and organise a time to speak properly – this later appointment can be used to qualify your potential client, but it also gives you the opportunity to give them the time they need to resolve their query.
I’m surprised how many times I see a stand and there is no one on it – please man your trade shows at all times! I know its a daft thing to say, but I do see it quite often, especially when its a small business who has paid lots of money for a stand, and then aren’t there all of the time.
Follow up – quickly. So – you’ve done a great job, the stand was buzzing, and you’ve got loads of follow ups to do. I bet you’re left with a huge pile of business cards, and you can’t remember who on earth anybody was.
The first thing I would do, is add them to my email responder and send an email thanking them for their contact details.
Then, I would hit the phones, and make contact with every single person who left me a card, or filled in a form.
Then, I would send them something in the post, like a thankyou postcard (not a brochure or price list), but something to thank them – it could be access to a free video, or something relevant to their business.
So that’s 3 interactions with a potential client already, and you’ve only just started I know you may say this is very intensive, costly and time consuming, but … you’ve just spent 3 days on a trade show stand. It’s like buying a nice car and then not putting petrol in it. You have spent the time and money on the exhibition – now it’s time you got a return on that investment.
There are many, many more things you can do to make sure you get the best ROI on your trade show, but these listed above are a very good start for you the next time you’re considering exhibiting.
Author : Daniel Latto
About the Author : Daniel Latto is a Business Coach based in Leeds. He runs training courses on SEO and Social Media, along with helping business owners make the most of their business.