Tradeshows can be expensive. Are they worth the investment of your company’s money and staff’s time? Depending on your specific business and marketing tactics, we find that tradeshows can be a very powerful marketing tool, if executed correctly.
In so many ways, tradeshows can be a powerful component of your company’s marketing activities. Properly executed, they will produce huge returns in exposure, branding, education and sales.
The return on investment that you can expect from your tradeshow activities is typically correlated to the amount of effort and strategic planning you put into them. So what should you do to maximize your tradeshow opportunities?
Here are four proven strategies that our marketing and advertising agency has found to be of great help for many of our clients:
Get your staff on the same page.
Before the show begins, train each person who will staff your booth. Be sure that everyone knows your objectives, policies and sales procedures. And, make sure that they all understand your product line and how best to sell those products in a fast-paced tradeshow environment.
Remember, selling at a tradeshow is very different than selling in a retail or direct environment. At a tradeshow, you typically have just a few seconds to attract the interest of a busy attendee. Time is limited. Don’t be so anxious to close a sale at the show that you cause the prospect to sense your anxiety and back away.
It’s okay to set up the sale for the future as long as you conclude the tradeshow contact with an appropriate action plan in place. And let the prospect be an active participant in the development of that action plan.
Draw potential customers into your booth.
You typically have about three seconds to grab prospects’ attention as they walk past your tradeshow booth. So how do you get them to stop and listen? Be strategically creative. We don’t recommend giving away promotional items unless the prospects do something to earn them.
Invite prospects into your booth for a presentation or product demo. As an incentive, offer them something as a reward. T-shirts with your logo and/or sales message are popular, and offer good promotional exposure as well – but we suggest that you get creative and provide something that will be remembered and is relevant to your message. Then be sure to have a system in place to collect every prospect’s name, address, email address and other vital information for subsequent follow-up.
Organize your notes.
You can’t possibly remember every conversation with every prospective customer, so take notes on the prospect’s business card or whatever other contact form you’ve developed.
Rank each contact as to the likelihood and readiness to buy. A letter or number code works well for this purpose. For example, A = “very hot prospect,” B = “a good prospect,” etc. Include any additional follow-up information. Make sure that everyone who staffs your booth uses the same codes.
Once the tradeshow is over, the real marketing activity should begin. Have a plan in place to follow up with all contacts immediately. Organize your notes, which should indicate each person’s apparent level of interest at the time you spoke with them, from hot to cool. Concentrate your follow-up efforts on the hottest prospects first, but be sure to follow up with every prospect, no matter how routine it may seem.
Branding impressions are formed incrementally over time, through every contact a prospect or customer has with your company. Tradeshow contacts are no exception. Therefore, failure to follow up as promised can create a negative impression on your brand.
Tradeshows are a great way to build awareness and generate sales. But, as with all marketing activity, the better you plan and integrate your tradeshow strategy into your overall marketing plan, the better results you can expect.
Consider your tradeshow efforts as a complete marketing package with before, during and after strategies, and watch your return on investment dramatically increase.