Thursday, October 3, 2013

Putting the “rad” in trade show

Lately I have read a good amount about what to do and not do at trade shows in order to get people interested in your product or service, in the expectation that it will translate into sales.  Most of these blogs and write-ups have focused on things like “good preparation” and “strong communication”.  

Well, unless you have no experience in the trades show industry or really just sales in general, these bullet points should be pretty obvious.  However, if you break down those important factors into several more detail-oriented objectives, it will surely help you get the most out of your trade show presence, while ultimately giving you a much better chance at reaching whatever contact and sales goals you have set for yourself and your business.

1)      Don’t Go It Alone – Bring in the Cavalry

I believe this may be the most important decision someone can make when they decide to present at a show.  I don’t know how many times I have been at a trade show and noticed that the booths that had multiple representatives just had more buzz and energy, versus the booths that had just one rep there.  In fact, I recently went to a home & garden show, and this stood out to me probably more than anything else while I was there.  I don’t care how big or small your business is, get someone to commit to coming along.  Not just anybody either, but someone who is comfortable having a conversation without being too “salesy” but also someone who knows the business and isn’t afraid to try to close a sale.

As a potential customer, knowing that there are a few people to talk to at a booth makes it a much more relaxed environment (at least for me, some may disagree), which gives the impression of a “comfortable chat” instead of a one on one, which sometimes makes me think I could get into an awkward sales pitch type of scenario.  Plus, it’s obviously nice to have multiple people there to help out if it gets busy.

If you are a customer, answer me this – Would you be more willing to walk up to a booth that has 2-3 representatives talking, smiling and looking like they are enjoying their time there, or a booth that has one person manning the area, maybe standing there looking disinterested or sporting a courtesy smile, hoping to talk to someone and get a sale?  If I am the attendee, ill go to the booth that has multiple representatives every time.

2)      Have A Strategy, Not Just A Plan

Now that you hopefully are bringing someone with you to help, you need to have a strategy.  A strategy is much different than a plan. In my experience, a plan is “hey lets meet there an hour early, setup the booth, go get coffee, pass out cards, take lunch around 1pm, blah blah blah”. 

To me, a strategy is more like this - “Let’s start to engage interested customers by building rapport, which hopefully should take some pressure off the conversation, followed by asking some relevant questions and finding out what exactly it is they are wanting.  At that point, whomever has the better rapport with the customer can continue the chat, while the other prepares the literature, etc.….and this way if another party walks up, then you help out the new person(s) while I continue to help the first customer and we can both prepare the literature ….”  

You simply just never know when you will get slammed and have 5 people at your booth, and 3 of them are prime customer candidates.  In order to effectively reach these qualified customers, a strong, detailed and practiced marketing strategy is a must. 

3)      Role-Playing

We all hate doing it. Yet, for anyone that has any kind of sales background, they know how important this is.

Sit down with the person(s) that will be attending the event with you.  Start role-playing a minimum of one week before the tradeshow.  I would recommend spending at least 30 minutes every day doing it so it stays fresh in your memory.  Also, make sure you rotate who plays the customer and who plays the representative.  Ask open ended questions (not questions that are answered with a simple “yes” or “no”). 

Role-playing makes the entire process of engaging a customer second nature, and I guarantee that it will make the conversation flow much easier since it will feel like you are two steps ahead of wherever the chat goes….

4)      Positive Body Language / Dress The Part

I was going to call this one “Be Positively Energized”, but let’s face it – having noticeable positive energy for 8+ hours is incredibly difficult.  I think the more important thing to focus on is making sure you have great body language.

Smile.  Laugh.  Look like you are having a good time.

When you aren’t talking to anyone, look busy.  Even if you are just shuffling brochures, organizing product, or cleaning your area, it tells people walking by that you are someone that respects his area, and cares about his work and his product.  If you do these things with a smile on your face, people will be much more willing to engage you.

Speaking of “respect”, this is also where dress comes in to play.  

It’s much more likely that someone will want to do business with someone that is dressed “for business”.  I would think that this is another obvious one, but I’m surprised at how many representatives for companies show up at trade shows wearing t-shirts and shorts or jeans.  Unsurprisingly, they usually don’t look very busy.

5)      Offer Incentives

Offering rewards to customers (or even potential customers) has never been more important or effective. 

We live in a time where so many of us want want and want some more, while hoping that we don’t have to give much of anything.   People are now more than ever willing to engage in social media and other marketing channels to obtain discounts, perks, or a chance of winning a prize.  The financial cost to a company that runs an incentive program is typically very minimal, while the potential sales gained over time by accruing Facebook likes, Twitter follows, Google +1’s and even standard testimonials, could and should be enormous.

The best thing about this is that there is no better way to let people know about an incentive program than doing it in person.  It’s important that you prominently display this incentive program somewhere in your booth area so people can easily see it from a distance, which should attract more people.

6)      Choose The Display That Is Right For You & Your Message

With so many trade show display options these days, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one.  Even for the seasoned trade show professional, this can be a frustrating process.

What material is right?  Is it easy to setup and transport?  What dimensions would be best for my area?
The first things that should factor in to this decision are a) dimensional space and location of the area you have reserved, b) an idea of what kind of display you want, and how you want to set it up c) your budget.

Once you have an idea of the design you want to use, the budget to work with, and the total space you want to use for your display, you need to figure out where to order it from.  I don’t know about you, but when I am shopping for pretty much anything, I always first and foremost look for a place that appears trustworthy, with easily accessible and legitimate testimonials and reviews

Some display companies only offer a few different types of print material or hardware.  Others look like newly formed web-stores that are difficult to navigate and even more difficult to trust.  Finally, there are some places that upcharge for items and prints that would come standard at others.

A proven trade show display company like DisplayStar is a great place to start.  They give the end user a large variety of affordable yet impactful trade show displays.  Displaystar has experienced and helpful customer service, and can be easily contacted via phone, email and live chat.  Last but not least, they have many helpful customer testimonials on their webpage. 

These factors should all be taken into account when deciding on where to purchase a display that will make a positive and lasting impression at a trade show.

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