This year I presented, exhibited and worked on a number of meetings
throughout the O&P community. By last count my tally was 14 national,
regional and state meetings attended. That’s a lot of meetings and that
kind of juggling requires me to wear a lot of different hats. On the upside, it
gives me a whole different perspective on meetings and making the most of them,
specifically as an exhibitor.
There are unspoken trade show rules and I want to share with you the top
three that I think you should break starting with your next meeting.
Rule #1: Focus on more than return on investment
Do not focus on the booth fee and the return on investment that you want
to achieve. Instead, focus on how to get customers and potential customers to
your booth. Find a way to keep them interested.
At many of the shows, organizers offer a chance to be a part of a
bingo-style game where attendees need to visit each booth to fill their
scorecard and ultimately be entered in for a chance at a larger prize. This
will guarantee traffic right away.
Additionally, you can offer something similar on your own. Purchase a
grand prize – an iPod, electronic book reader or some other device or item
that is popular. Run demonstrations of a product or have attendees watch a
video about your company in order to be entered into a drawing for the product.
Relying on random booth traffic to achieve your goals might not lead to
the desired outcome. Think ahead and see what has worked for other people.
Rule #2: Get the traffic
You might think that like real estate, an exhibit hall floor is all
about location and that you are doomed if you have been given a “bad”
location. You would be incorrect.
According to the Trade Show Exhibitors Association, roughly 70% of show
attendees plan who they are going to visit. Remember, you might be standing
there all day but attendees have a lot to do – attend sessions, network
and handle calls from work. They have to maximize their time. Give them a
reason – and the information – they need to seek you out.
Pre-show outreach is important. Let your customers know your booth
location. Let them know who is coming from your company. Let them know what
they can expect if they do come see you. Will you be hosting an open bar? Will
you have new products? Will they be able to win something? Are you handing out
new catalogs on zip drives?
I am sure I just heard someone say “We didn’t/don’t get a
pre-registration list” or “We have to buy a pre-registration list and
it’s too expensive.” You know who your customers are and you have
their contact info. So what if you do not know if they are coming to the
meeting? Do you think they are going to be offended if you invite them to stop
by your booth? I doubt it. And even if they are not planning on coming to the
meeting maybe they will be motivated to contact you about the new products
you’re introducing or the t-shirt you’re giving away. They might even
decide to attend just because they are hoping to win that $500 gift certificate
you are giving away.
Rule #3: Know your target
You have a limited amount of time. If you spend all of one break talking
to someone who is super interested and excited about your brand new software
only to find out that they are the spouse of one of the attendees, they do not
work in O&P and they just happen to have an interest in computers and some
time to kill, then you have wasted your time.
The value of the trade show is the face-to-face time it gives you to
connect with potential buyers. Having those potential buyers qualify themselves
can be a big time saver, especially if you are a small company with a small
booth and an interesting product.