This is the time of the year where many coffee & vending companies decide which trade shows to attend and exhibit, for both the refreshment services space and beyond. There are many things that you can do at a trade show, as an exhibitor, to make your booth and your product or services stand out from the crowd. Prior planning is one of the most important measures you can take to ensure that you have a great trade event. Here are a few tips for you to think about before your next show.
Where do you decide to exhibit? While this economy has seen shrinkage in the number of trade shows, you’ll always find a few each year that could be a good fit. If you’re like most OCS & Vending distributors, a local radius of 20 – 50 miles is usually the best prospect target base to serve your delivery model. The first question you want to inquire into is, do the Associations you belong have an Annual trade show? I’ve seen my OCS clients attend a Dental show, an Insurance and Attorney conference, SHRM (Human Resources conference) and of course, a B2B general business expo. While you can service all companies of a certain size, there’s something to be said for that one-on-one opportunity to connect with prospects in a specific industry, even if the people you meet aren’t the final decision maker. People like doing business with vendors that ‘specialize’ in working with companies like them, though we all know that companies of all shapes and sizes need your coffee adrenaline kick and your vending machine perk! Outside of industry, which conferences do Facilities managers and HR directors attend? Use the reference name from the show in your follow up to gain credibility and an extra 15 seconds with the decision maker!
The trade show you participate in is only as effective as how you work the show. Show up early, don’t be the first to leave. Sometimes the best conversations occur when things are just getting started or just coming to a close. Why? You can take advantage of conversations with meaningful dialogue! Also, stand beside your booth, not behind it. You’ll be more approachable that way. Make eye contact with your prospects as they pass booth to booth and they’ll be more likely to talk to you.
Have some giveaways to attract conversation and business cards. When you can’t talk to everyone at the show, what giveaway will capture attention and generate business cards? As an OCS distributor, your giveaway is obvious! You can sometimes negotiate with the show organizer to get an extra (i.e., the attendee list) if you’re giving away coffee or snacks (the organizer could see it as a value to the show). For the table raffle prize, consider partnering with a restaurant or hotel, for example, and give away a free night’s stay or a meal as the prize (publicity for that company and it cost you nothing!) I have seen other OCS distributors negotiate gift baskets, as a door prize, from their manufacturers as well.
Memory aids: You will be meeting a lot of people at the show. Be sure to write a note on the back of each business card where a conversation takes place so you can recall the details more easily. Do you want to be a sales extraordinaire? Write “A” or “B” to signify who the best prospects are to yourself! Your top 10 will require little thought of the conversation, post-show, because you will have taken copious notes, real-time! Some may argue that you don’t want to collect business cards for the sake of it, however, with the proper filing of those business cards, you can discern “A” priority prospects from the rest.
Consider your purpose: As you have conversations with prospects, consider what information you want to gather. A trade show is a chance to gain information to follow up with an especially warm call since you’ve done some fact finding at the show. What questions will you ask of the prospects, and how are you training your trade show colleagues to ask those questions and present your compelling advantages? At my most recent trade show, I noticed that many exhibitors did ALL the talking towards their visitors. Build rapport by making sure it’s a two way conversation. This will also allow you to better understand who your best prospects are.
Plan a phone follow up strategy: About 80 percent of trade show conversations are never followed up with. Even if you only send an e-mail, you’ve already distinguished yourself by being in the 20 percent category.
If more than one person from your company is attending the show, plan ahead on how to divide the prospect calls when you return. Assign someone to put all the business card information into a contact management system right away so calls, emails and other marketing can start immediately. For those of you with a smart phone, there’s an app for that. For less than $10, you can find an app that allows you to take a picture or scan a business card that can then be added to a list and exported into Excel. Or, purchase the scan technology from the trade show organizer.
Even if you don’t have a regular newsletter, make sure you send out a thank you e-mail after the event. It should thank the attendees for stopping by the booth, announce the raffle winner, and present a couple of paragraphs or bullet points about the benefits of your service. Also consider adding YouTube and website links, and of course, your social media links. Plan this post-event email before the show so it’s ready to go two days after it has ended.
Fellow exhibitors could be your best prospects: It’s very important to consider a marketing plan for the other exhibitors at the show, both pre-show and post-show. Exhibitors have already proven they have the dollars to take booth space so there is also a good possibility that they can do business with you! The best time to talk to other exhibitors is before visitors arrive, so arrive early and make your rounds.
Plan ahead you will be able to make the most of your experience, and sales will roll in. Above all else, be sure to follow up post-show!
For more information on how MarketReach can help you through your pre and post show lead generation efforts, call us today at 609-448-6364!