Trade show require thorough preparation to ensure a successful outcome. As Stephen Covey said, you need to “begin with the end in mind.” In other words, you have to establish your goals for the show before you get there. Who are your targets and how many meetings do you want to schedule? What do you want to accomplish at the show? How much revenue do you need to generate to justify the investment?
Do you just want to:
- Collect a lot of contacts and generate soft leads that you can qualify later
- Focus your time and energy on more qualified leads
- Engage those prospects in a more meaningful dialogue while at the show so that you can go home with potential opportunities
Like most, if you want to achieve the latter, you need to actively engage potential customers before the show, letting them know you’ll be there and offering appointments so you can arrive with qualified leads, ready to provide something of more value for them to carry away.
If you make appointments and offer value, you’ll get more prospects to your booth during the show, resulting in a more productive event.
1. Differentiate Yourself
Most companies, if they ask for meetings, do so with a general email providing the location of their booth and nothing more. You can stand out from the crowd by noting that your booth will be well furnished with constructive information beyond the standard show fare.
This is your chance to create some pre-show buzz and position your appearance as a must-visit destination on the floor.
Prepare your team to invite prospects: “Stop by our booth, and we’ll show you how our solution can improve your bottom line.”
Compare your nearest and dearest competitor’s sideshow pitch.
"Step right up folks to see that our tools have the latest and greatest bells and whistles! Come on by and we’ll distract you from our lack of understanding of value and ability to have a meaningful conversation by entering you into a drawing to win the most creative thing our marketing department could come up with this year. And in case that isn’t enough, look over here and we’ll give you some shiny trinket stamped with our name to stuff in your already over-packed suitcase!"
...with your more business-oriented, value message. Make sure you’re really giving them something worthwhile to put into their virtual briefcase.
Isn’t that better than talking about the weather and handing out tchotchkes? You probably paid a pretty penny to secure your space on the show floor and you need to show more than a little something for it. You need to earn a little ROI yourself. Preparing before the show will pay off.
2. Gather Your Data
In your emails, when you announce your trade show appearance, include an assessment tool or value calculator so each interested prospect considering scheduling an appointment can provide a small amount of key personalized information for you to use as the foundation of a valuable takeaway.
Tell them that, in exchange for this data, you’ll share the initial results at your trade show booth and provide an updated and more detailed copy by email immediately after your consultation. Prospects will have it to review later in the day and be ready to share it with other stakeholders the moment they get back to work.
3. Talk the Right Talk
Old school marketers insist on talking features and function, forcing the customer to clear through a cobweb of words to figure out whether the solution is even a fit for their business, nevermind whether it will actually improve their established process.
This approach forces buyers to read between the lines and makes them think too hard. They find it too difficult to visualize how the solution solves a problem for them, and in a sea of exhibitors, they’ll just move onto the next booth before they give yours more than a fleeting look.
You, with your value-selling bad self, will tell potential buyers how your tool will deliver ROI because you’re equipped to help define the problem and build a case for your solution. You make the value of your solution obvious to the buyer right there on the show floor where anyone can see.
Furthermore, your sales team isn’t embarrassed because they know they’re delivering valuable information gleaned from the prospect’s own data, leaving them with a clear idea of how your solution can help.
4. Reduce the Time to Close
Another benefit of reaching out to prospects before the show is that qualified appointments leads to a quicker trip through the sales process. Instead of starting at the beginning of the buyer’s journey at the show, you’ll be a step or two ahead. The sales representatives at the other booths will still be struggling for a hook while you’re already starting to reel in the line.
Trade shows are costly ventures; and that’s just for the space or sponsorship package you buy. While you also pay for travel and lodgings, this shouldn’t be an all-inclusive, paid vacation for your team. When all is said and done, you want something to show for all this expense.
If you lay the proper groundwork in the weeks beforehand, you can ensure a steady stream of qualified traffic at your booth. Buyers will come away with something of much greater brand value than a koozie or a pen with your company name on it, and so will your sales team.