Updated February 2019
STRATEGY FORMULATION IS AN ONGOING process that perceives NEW position TO WOO "customers from established positions or draw new customers into the market."
— Harvard Business Review
If you are marketing your small business, you are perhaps overwhelmed by the methods of delivering your marketing message.
The vehicle for delivering the messages have certainly evolved to include social media, video, virtual reality, highly interactive demonstrations, and more.
Exhibiting at trade shows are one of the many ways of delivering such message. If this is the route you choose to go, take your time formulating a trade show strategy before your exhibition. Then follow up with a plan to execute it effortlessly.
WHAT TO PLAN FOR BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO EXHIBIT AT TRADE SHOWS?
'OBJECTIFY' THE WHOLE PROCESS
IT STARTS WITH SETTING OBJECTIVE GOALS — IN OTHER WORDS, QUANTIFY YOUR GOALS. For example, do not set a a goal that states: 'Promote our Capabilities' or 'Client Engagement' or for that matter 'New Business Generation'.
Your goals might include (see below) one or several of these, that are important to your small business organization or, to your specific business unit.
Write sales orders — This should be easy to objectify.
Research the competition — This is a bit trickier. It lies in asking the right questions. Do exhaustive research on your competition and then formulate some key questions that will help you better know them. Hire free lancers to to visit your competitor's booth.
Spot trends — You want to do this if you want to be a bit ahead of the hive mind. Think about how you may objectify this? (talk to us if you need help). Then, you take this knowledge and you aid your prospects in their journey to become your customer.
Generate leads for future sales — Our research shows this to be the number one reason why exhibitors exhibit at trade shows. Jot down a process on how how exactly you are going to achieve this. If you want your leads to turn into sales, you want to generate the right kind of lead.
Build your mailing list with quality names — Every small business owner should embrace this strategy. Research shows that 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority. Get busy in gathering information about those decision makers and influencers.
Find better or cheaper suppliers — You do not need to exhibit if you are on the hunt for suppliers. However, if you do, objectify this goal by arranging meeting sessions in your space.
Build strong rapport with current customers — Use this objective with artistry. Give them reasons to demonstrate your product.
Have them fly out on your dime. Because, the success of your product marketing lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and seeing things using their lenses. Once, you observe the way your customer uses your product or your services, it will help you forge new paths towards more relevant solutions or might lead to designing new products.
Get Press — If this is your objective, your booth design should be designed to accommodate their functional needs. Make sure to have few hubs of devoted WiFi that will help do their job without frustration.
Generate excitement around a new product — If this is your objective, you should get a head start 6 months ahead of the show. And, needless to say, it needs to be better than 'COME VISIT US AT BOOTH ####'. The essence of your product should be tied into this messaging and architecture of your booth.
Get busy at understanding the behavior of your target audience. Once you get to know that, you can start designing experiences that will speak to them. For example, we designed 'Trade Show Zen' that received the coveted design award, because we know what pains a certain segment of our target audience and the chaos that they have to live through in their business lives.
Increase company's visibility within the industry — Often the dilemma that faces us as a small business owner is that of doubt, and of course, fear on the thought of competing with the 'big boys'.
TURN IT AROUND — You do opposite of what they do. Chances are they will be exhibiting at the premier industry shows. You do not do that. You pick lateral shows, once you know the behavior and the intention of your customers
Industry Surveys shows that prospects and customers are attending trade shows to learn. 66% want to increase their own professional knowledge. They spend an average of 8.3 hours per show viewing exhibits to do so. Source: Trade Show Executive
You are familiar with the saying: 'NOTHING PERSONAL, ONLY BUSINESS.' Well, your job is to make it personal.
This is your chance. Because,
CHANCES ARE, IF YOU ARE A GLOBAL BRAND OR NOT, YOUR CUSTOMERS AND YOUR PROSPECTS ENCOUNTER YOU THROUGH CALL CENTERS, JUNK MAILS "COME-ONS OF VARIOUS KINDS"
TRADE SHOWS ARE THE IDEAL VENUES WHERE YOU GET TO SHOW TO FLAVOR OF YOUR BRAND AND TOUCH THE HEART OF YOUR PROSPECTS. PLAN FOR IT.
Brian Gordon, founding partner of Skyline Toronto, helps companies communicate their message through trade shows, events, and related displays. He has these suggestions on how to propel your trade show marketing and prepare for success.
BE CRAFTY WITH YOUR Communication
As the attendee is walking past your display, you need to use that time to attract and educate that person. Within that brief time, you need to qualify the person to ensure that only potential buyers spend time with you.
Depending on the show, you want to attract your buyers, and keep the rest of the attendees from using up your time. Booth design and banner language need to be as simple as possible while still communicating what you do. Research shows that you have about seven seconds to grab someone’s attention before they lose interest.
If your material turns out to be wordy, rather than simple and engaging, you’ll lose attention spans and ultimately lose opportunities.
Once you have the attention of a person or a group, hand them off to someone on your staff that can talk them through the details of your key messaging.
Stick to the big picture. The details can be explored after the show. And remember people, go to shows to see something NEW.
Your trade show booth is not the canvas for your editorial content. It detracts from your brand offering and confuses your audience. Above shows, what you should not do.
Your trade booth is the canvas for you to project your brand offering in 7 seconds or less. Above, here shows what you should do
Staffing Solution with deep product and Industry Knowledge
You may have an amazing staff within your office, but are they the right people to have at a trade show? Not always.
Booth staff training is by far the most important element of a successful show. We need to make sure everyone is clear on the message. What are you planning to achieve?
Trade show engagement is very different than field sales, where salespeople have much more options to solidify business.
At a show, time is measured in minutes, and each one has to count. Some companies opt to hire event staff to support the team.
Make sure you have a solid plan and include training for all exhibit staffers. And don’t forget to include the boss!
MANDATE MEETINGS — CONTROL WHO YOU MEET
Ask show management for lists of previous attendees. Put together a list of your potential buyers and existing customers.
Set aside time for them at the booth, or, better yet, arrange meetings away from the booth to have more in-depth conversations.
The time you spend in pre-planning meetings can pay big dividends after the show. And, these spaces can be used to cultivate relationships with new potential business.
For example, a customer from one of your competitors walks by your booth and is intrigued with your display, and your message. Invite them to a special meeting nearby.
Depending on your industry, this is a powerful way to build a relationship. After the show is done, make sure to pass every lead to the sales group for timely follow up, complete with all relevant information.
THE HOMEWORK YOUR BOOTH STAFFERS NEED TO DO TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL SHOW — THIS IS A GATED PAGE
Keep it simple, be assertive but not aggressive, pre-plan, and follow up with every opportunity. This will give you a huge advantage over exhibitors who show up and hope for the best.
Download booth staffing in the digital age.