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Written by Lisa Shepherd
on April 23, 2013

tradeshow, trade show, exhibit, booth, manufacturingMany B2B companies rely on trade shows in their marketing strategy for lead generation and promoting their brand. I hear a lot from my clients and colleagues that they attend many shows and invest a lot of money to be there, but find themselves without a good ROI - just a few cold leads. This often leads to them wondering: are trade shows still a good way to get leads and can you get value from them these days? Yes, you can and it is possible.

Through my marketing journey, I have managed up to 40 trade shows a year and dealt with many show organizers and attendees. I have determined that there are great ways to get value from trade shows - you just have to approach them with the right strategy. To get successful results at any trade show, you need to consider the following:

  1. Choose the right show for your industry. When you find or are offered a new show to go to – do your research first. Is this the right show for your company? In order to answer this question, you need to find out the location of the show, list of exhibitors, profile of attendees, any competitors in presence and the cost of exhibiting and all of necessary show accessories. Also, you need to find the last year’s data for all of the above to see if this show was successful in previous years. After considering and analyzing all of these aspects, you will have more information to help you with your decision making.
  2. Have the right exhibit booth stand and arrange booth space properly. Often at the shows you see these booth stands that have many pictures and messages, but when you come closer, you never understand what these companies do or offer. I heard a few times in the past people approaching the booth and saying “what do you guys do?” To design and produce an effective exhibit booth can be very expensive these days. Therefore, it is very important to have a clear concise message and related pictures on the booth panel that give audience an idea of what your company does. Test your current booth – show it to an outside person and ask them if they can tell you what your company does by just looking at it. You will know right away if you have the right booth or you need to change it. Also, it is essential to arrange booth space as an open or lounge concept, so people can easily walk in and talk to you. Order a nice bar table with stools, brochure rack and a few other accessories that are necessary to make your booth look inviting.
  3. Prepare and send relevant collateral. When going to shows, companies usually send the same sales collateral that they use every day. Sometimes it's relevant but more often than not, you're going to need something different. When preparing brochures, look at your audience profile, think about their expectations and what points or features of your services or products might catch their attention. You can send a few other brochures that you use every day for sales pitches, but it's a must to have a relevant brochure or one-pager specifically created for this particular show. Another hint - don't make your brochures look too cluttered. Concise relevant points and a couple of simple design tricks will do the job.
  4. Send people with the right mind set and knowledge. Companies always tend to send only sales people to shows. And very often they don’t find many leads afterwards. Why you ask? Because not all the sales people are the right people for trade shows. Some sales people are excellent in sales when they are given a qualified lead, but they are just not good at getting those leads at shows. It really depends on personality. Others, on the other hand, go to shows and bring back a bunch of leads because they love to be in that social environment and enjoy interaction with bigger crowds. You cannot just stand at the booth and wait for people to come visit you, you also need to walk around the show and meet people. That's why you always need to have at least 2 people at the booth, so one can be at the spot and another can walk around. It is also recommended to send a product manager to shows. Product managers can always help with technical questions that people might have and give them reassurance about the company’s knowledge. My suggestion – send one sales person and one product manager to any show.
  5. Have a strategy in place and prepare some games/surveys to get attendees involved. When you determine the trade show and get it approved, start building a strategy for it. Yes, a strategy for each show can help boost your results at the end. There are a few things you can do. First, think of some interesting game or survey that would make attendees want to be a part of. For example, have a personality test with questions, and when attendees answer them, they get a short description about their work style and who they are. But make sure that your test is designed in a way that you can use the answers to determine later if they are good candidates to be your potential prospects. Offer either a small prize at the end or make it a draw for a chance to win a big prize after the show (iPad or camera). Anything that makes it interesting for attendees to participate will bring a bigger crowd to your booth and obviously more leads. Also, think of giveaway items for your booth. They are not necessary but if you choose something that really stands out and somehow represents your product or industry, you might get good booth traffic.

There are many other approaches that you can take to improve your trade show strategy but if you follow these five, you're putting yourself in a great position to see better results.

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