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Making the most of trade shows

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Trade shows. A necessary evil (and effective way to blow your kids college fund)? Or a great way to meet new customers and grow your business? Possibly a bit of both; it’s always great to get your products in front of current & potential customers but shows are time consuming and costly, so it is critical to make the most of them.

I’ve exhibited at dozens of them (my kids aren’t going to college….) and these are a few of my thoughts on how to make the most of the show:

The work starts now The work starts long before the show does. Reach out to all your contacts; current customers & target retailers. Make sure they know where you are exhibiting and give them reasons to come visit you. Try to set appointments where possible, or at least get commitments they will stop by.

You want to embed the message that they should see you at the show, but without making them feel like they are being pestered, so start far in advance with a structured communication plan, building and becoming more ‘show specific’ as the show approaches.

Stand out! An obvious one, but it really does help to stand out. Hundred’s or sometimes thousands of exhibitors stands tend to blend into one, so anything you can do to catch the attention of weary visitors will help. Stand out doesn’t mean expensive; actually the most polished stands often look lovely but don’t jump out. Quirky can work well, and having a point of difference as always works best.   

Engage! Don’t sit at the table in your booth and stare up at people walking past. Push the table back and stand (as much as possible) and interact with the visitors. Not all of them will be relevant to your business, but it’s better than taking a chance of missing that key buyer while you’re snoozing at the table.              

Listen: Buyers normally know their business and can normally tell you what they are looking for. So, ask them or let them tell you before you launch into your prepared sales pitch. That way you can focus on highlighting to them the products that best fit their needs; maximising the chances of catching their interest. And, it is more interesting than saying the same thing two hundred times.

Bring your best sellers & motivate them to sell If you have a sales or business development team make sure they are ready and motivated to make the most of your investment in the show. Make it a competition, reward the most successful.

The work really starts now The last visitors have left, you have visited every beer, cheese and chocolate exhibitor at the show to have a taste and you have managed to dismantle the stand, without falling signage sending Jamie from marketing to A&E this time. But the work is only just beginning.

There are some shocking statistics out there about the volume of contacts generated at shows that aren’t followed up or followed up effectively.

Ensure a solid, measureable plan is in place to track the progress of following up the leads. And keep at it; it can take many contacts before progress is often made.

Sadly, the majority of leads taken at shows don’t come to anything. Buyers return to their busy daily lives and the enthusiasm shown at the show dissipates.

Product Guru can help with that post show lull, by ensuring that your products remain in the constant view of buyers throughout the year. It doesn’t need to replace the shows, but it can provide a significant advantage to your brands once the stands come down.  

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