By Patti Curran
Whether you have exhibited at an expo or are thinking about it, you are probably wondering if the experience is worth it. You know face time with prospects is important, but exhibiting may seem pricey and you’re unsure about the return on investment. The truth is, face time is crucial in growing your business, and exhibiting IS one of the most cost-effective ways of meeting potential clients. However, there is more to it than just showing up.
The Right Fit
First, research the trade shows and expos that are available. Price point is a priority, but more importantly, you need to know who attends. If the show attracts hundreds or even thousands of attendees, you need to know if what you are offering appeals to the masses, or just a small fraction. If it is only a small percentage of attendees, it may be wise to seek out a trade show that specifically attracts your target audience. In addition to knowing who is attending, you should also know who is exhibiting. Clearly, if no one else is offering the product or service you offer, it is a prime opportunity to capture potential business. On the other hand, if your competitors attend and you don’t, they will have the opportunity to snag clients who could have been yours. Being prepared by knowing your product, your audience and your competition will allow you to exhibit more effectively.
Once you have found the trade show that is right for you, follow the three Es – entice, engage, educate. Effective exhibiting requires more than showing up with business cards and a few brochures. Entice attendees by creating an exhibit that stands out from all of the others. In a small amount of space, you want to create an atmosphere that invites attendees to visit. Banners, signs, drapery, printed collateral and promotional items are all ways to fill your exhibit space. If you have the budget, find a unique or practical item and have your logo printed on it. Many exhibitors offer prizes for attendees, but put some thought into the product and make it something that will stand out. Make it something attendees can use so that whenever they pull it out, they see your logo. Another way to entice visitors is to have a game on display. Games that mimic ones found on popular game shows, such as The Price Is Right or Wheel of Fortune, offer a sense of familiarity and excitement. Plinko boards and prize wheels are a simple way to add a fun, interactive aspect to your exhibit. If your budget won’t allow you to purchase giveaways for every attendee, raffle off one great prize or gift basket instead. Ask visitors to drop their business cards in a bowl and have the prize on display for passersby to see. In addition to increasing traffic, you now have business cards with all the contact information of potential clients.
Once you have attendees in front of you, how do you engage them? Begin by asking a visitor how her day is going and if she’s enjoying the expo. Once you have initiated conversation and made the guest feel welcome, get to know the person in standing front of you. Who does she work for? What does she do? What does her job entail? If you jump straight into a canned spiel of how great your product is, it can be a quick turnoff. You have to know whom you’re speaking to before you can know how your product will be beneficial to her.
Now that you know whom you are dealing with, it is time to educate that person about what you have to offer. Start with highlights of your product, service or facility and an overview. Then discuss how your offerings can benefit that potential client. First impressions are critical and this is your chance to wow a potential client.
Now that you know that there is far more to a successful expo than just showing up, you will find out that it doesn’t end there. Hopefully, by the end of the expo, you have made good first impressions and strong leads. It is imperative that you follow up on these leads within a week or two of the show. Don’t sit around and wait for your phone to ring, because it may not. Keep in mind that attendees met with dozens of exhibitors. A simple phone call can help you stand out from the rest. All you have to ask is if the attendee has any additional questions or if you can send additional information. You want potential clients to know that your customer service skills were not left behind at the expo. MM&E
(Patti Curran is the Associate Editor from St. Louis, Mo.)
TOP DOS and DON’TS of EXHIBITING
DO: Choose the right trade show
DO: Create an enticing and exciting exhibit to draw attendees in
DO: Offer takeaway items
DO: Offer prize drawings at your exhibit
DO: Make eye contact and smile
DO: Get to know your potential client
DO: Know your product
DO: Follow up on leads
DO NOT: Eat or drink in your exhibit
DO NOT: Talk on the phone
DO NOT: Sit down in your exhibit
DO NOT: Wait for your phone to ring