6 Steps to a Phenomenally Profitable Trade Show

Trade shows can be a great opportunity to gain new clients, build relationships with other businesses, referral sources, and the media. And you can make money.

Even though trade shows don’t always produce an incredible return on investment, they can be a strategic part of your overall marketing plan and if you do it right, they can make money for you instantly.

The long-term results of the relationships you build can be well worth the investment even if the show doesn’t produce instant cash.

This article will give you some tips to help you get a better return on your investment of time, money and energy.

This is NOT an “end-all” on trade shows, but just some tips that most people don’t think of, especially if they haven’t done many.

  1. Booth placement – Booth placement is very important. Generally, the closer you can get to the entrance is best. You want to be where the traffic is, which means the earlier you sign up, the better chance you have. Try to be on an end if possible. A corner location is the next best option.
  1. Have a strategy - You want to have a strategy for your show. It does you no good to just be there. What do you want the result to be? Are you there to generate leads? Generate revenue? Network?

Remember that “getting exposure” is NOT a good marketing strategy. You want to be INTENTIONAL about the results.

  1. Maximize the outcome – There are many ways to maximize your opportunities:

Have a Show Special – If your aim is to sell something at a trade show, you need to make sure you have a good offer they can’t get anywhere else. Your offer should create a sense of urgency.

Contact Management System – If you want to schedule work or sell a product at the show, make sure you streamline it so you aren’t missing prospects that are walking by. One person does orders while the others make sure they are bringing people in. Think about how many people you might need. At a show I do in Vegas, we have four people. Two are on the wings to make sure no one gets by without an opportunity to stop. A lot of people want to talk to me or take pictures with me, so I’m usually doing that or visiting with partners, members or referral sources. That leaves one person to be in charge of sales. We have order forms and clipboards so we can get someone going on a survey or order form and move to the next person.

You can use forms and enter them later, or you can also use a device. Plan out how you can be most effective. Everyone that comes by should be on the list whether they buy today or not. The only exception is if they don’t fit your target prospect type.

Script – Train each person on what to say as people approach. Have training before the show to go over how everything will go down. Have a briefing after each trade show day. I have used a different strategy every day of the show depending on the outcome.

Literature – make sure you have visual aids to use, but remember that whatever they take home with them probably won’t see the light of day. Whatever you give them should at minimum position you properly and at best urge them take advantage of the show special.

Meet the media. This is the number one way I got on TV and radio in the early days. The media outlets are usually sponsors and they usually have a booth. Go meet them and give them your five point marketing message and a brief message that would be important to their audience. For example, how to avoid being taken advantage of in your industry and how to make the right choice. If they have a camera or they’re broadcasting live, you may get some coverage right then and there.

Stay in touch with these reporters by e-mail, card and occasional phone call to let them know you’re available if they ever need info on your industry. Remember you are the industry consultant!

Meet referral sources – There are many other complimentary businesses at the show. Build a relationship with them just like you would call on any other referral source. Be an asset to them during the show. Help them and serve them. And ask if you can get together with them after the show. Don’t try to sell them! Study my Referral Marketing programs to avoid mistakes.

Get the microphone – Many times the show will have giveaways and you want to participate. Of course you need to explain what the prize is! So, now you are the person behind the microphone. I have done this effectively at golf tournaments, trade shows, and many, many other events. Not only do you get exposure and connections right there, but the winner may end up being a great long-term client, referral source or supporter.

  1. Stand Out – A trade show is like a carnival. There are so many things going on, that it’s hard to get people’s attention, much less get them to stop! So you have to have some techniques to do this. Do NOT be a victim of whether someone stops or not! YOU have to take control. Here’s how…

Bold Headline – You need a large banner that has a clear benefit that brings in the right kind of client. It might be a give-away, it may be a question, or it might be a benefit. Learn how to write good, compelling copy that gets the attention of your target audience.

Attract Your Target Market – Your message and your strategies should match your target market. For example, we used to do home shows for our cleaning company and we broke all the conventional rules since we are extremely high end and most of the participants weren’t good candidates for our service.

We had a pop up display with the headline “Nobody Out Cleans Clean As A Whistle” with a subhead that said “How to Select A Professional Carpet Cleaning Company”. The words REPUTATION, EXPERIENCE, EDUCATION, SYSTEMS, AND GUARANTEE were each on separate small signs.

Above each word was a large photograph. Each photograph was different – each one depicting a different aspect of our business in action. Instead of trying to drive people to our booth, we stood back a bit and waited until someone looked long enough.

When they did, we simply approached and used the 5 Point Marketing Message Introduction Version and gave a Free Trial Offer in exchange for their mailing address.

Activities – Once you’ve gotten the attention with your copy, you need a hook to bring them into the booth…

Give Aways – Have people register to win a free service that has tremendous value. The nice thing about this is only the people who WANT the service will stop!

Contest – You could make it fun by having a contest where everyone wins something. Then you have bigger or smaller prizes. One of my clients dressed like Elvis and had a Las Vegas wheel.

Food – This can be a great option if it is something that stands out and is desirable. One thing I’ve done in the past is have a big urn of Starbucks Coffee (if the venue allows it). When you pick it up at Starbucks, they give you the cups, the cream and all the condiments. I had a line all morning!

Balloons for the kids – Our service company had a booth at a large home show and one of our colleagues knew how to tie the long thin balloons into animals, swords, etc. Then, every other parent that saw the kids walking around with the balloons asked the obvious question… “Where did you get that?”

While they were waiting for their balloon, we had a survey and a registration for a give-away.

Demonstrations – When something interesting is being shown or demonstrated it engages the participants. You see this with cleaning products and cookware.

  1. Think About Booth Issues Ahead of Time

Carpet, electricity, tables, chairs – Most shows will charge for all of these items, so you need to decide ahead of time whether you need them and whether you will rent them, or bring them.

Parking, set up – The most effective way to do a home show is to have at least one other person with you. Parking is always a hassle. An assistant can help man the booth as well as help get things set up. Having someone else in the booth allows for breaks, more time with prospects, and allows you to get out and network with others in the show.

Booth conduct – Absolutely no eating or drinking in the trade show booth! A bottle of water is the only exception. This is why you have staff. When someone needs to eat or use the restroom, have at least one other person with you.

No sitting down in the booth unless you’re a celebrity and people are coming to you. A good way to get around this if you’re working a long show is to get the high bar stools. That way you’re at eye level. At some of the shows I do, we use the high tables and we sit behind the table. They can walk right up and it puts us in a good conversational position where they can also look at the materials we have.

Stay off your phone. You need to recognize your prospect before they get to your booth. Once they are passing by it’s too late.

Decide on the best dress code for the business and environment you have. Since many of us aren’t good judges of that, you may want to get some advice from us on that. We’ve had lots of experience!

  1. Follow up!!! Your biggest impact may be AFTER the show! Remember, the fortune is in the follow up! Get people on the list ASAP. If you need to hire someone for a few hours just for that project, do it!

A great follow up tool that is easy and very effective is Send Out Cards. You can send everyone a personalized follow up card through the mail with the click of a button.

The cool thing is you can take pictures at the show and use those in your card or AS your card. It’s really cool.

Check it out and send a free card or two on me at: http://www.sendoutcards.com/7162

If you had significant conversation with an attendee, potential referral source or media person, you may send a special card with a photo of you two together.

Depending on your business, you may want a follow up phone campaign as well. Just don’t let those valuable contacts sit! You worked too hard, and you spend too much money to let them rot in a drawer!

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