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August 25, 2019


4 min read

Getting the Most from Your Tradeshow Dollar

Richard Byrd
Getting the Most from Your Tradeshow Dollar

Companies spend a lot of money on tradeshows. A lot.

And some get value from this spend, but most don’t. How do I know? Well, let me ask you if you’ve ever seen this at a tradeshow:

There’s a 10 x 10 booth, with two sales people sitting around looking at their phones and not paying attention to their surroundings. No business cards in the goldfish bowl on their table. Nobody walking up and asking them about their offerings. They’re bored out of their minds and can’t wait until the end of the day so they can go have a beer with friends, or the week to be over so they can fly back home to their families.

I see this sorry scene at every tradeshow.  Not surprisingly, this level of disengagement on the booth never provides a good return on investment.

But think of the time at a tradeshow where you’ve seen a booth with engaged customers, communicating with the salespeople, looking at product models, talking with sales. All the things you want from your tradeshow experience. These companies are having high-level executive meetings on the booth. The media is there. There is a line of customers and other tradeshow participants wanting to see the new technology, waiting for a subject matter expert to give a presentation.

It’s the tale of two tradeshows. Companies that make the most of their investment and those that throw money away.

You have a booth, but what for?

The companies that succeed—what are they doing that others are not doing?

Yes, they realize the need a good-looking tradeshow booth, but more importantly (and because there are a lot of beautiful booths with no traffic), they have contemplated a strategy. They’ve likely asked themselves, “What are our goals for this tradeshow?” and built tradeshow objectives around these.

It’s not enough for people to show up at your booth. You have to ask all sorts of questions: Are we at this tradeshow because we want to get sales leads? Are we at this tradeshow because we want to get media attention? Are we at this tradeshow because we want to recruit the next generation of stars to our organization? Once you figure out what you want to achieve, give yourself a goal—a hard goal—like generating 100 sales-qualified leads. Then a strategy will be easier to develop.

Take this scenario: We’re going to invite our customers to this product launch, and we’re going to have 20 of our top customers come by the booth to look at this top technology and we’ll take them to dinner afterward. See? Those are achievable goals, and once you have your goals in mind, you can start to think of how to achieve them.

A sales lead is NOT a business card

So, the tradeshow’s done, and you’ve got your leads. But think about what makes a good sales lead—I don’t mean 500 business cards with no information about what the customer wants. Your salesforce won’t know what to ask when they call, so why bother? In addition to getting the name of the contact and their title and the company they work for, capture what they interested in and get as specific as possible. This will enable better engagement. Sales does not want to call blindly and start a conversation with “Hey, I saw you were on our booth? What did you think?” Qualify that lead on the booth—tell the salesperson what specifically that person was interested in.

You can also get good leads this way: If you have a lead magnet that you like to promote, perhaps a whitepaper, tell interested customers at your booth you would like to send them this information. Get their email. That’s capturing a good lead with information that they want.

Engaging “the others”

Think about other ways to engage different audiences. If you commercialize a new offering at a show, you know the media will be there. Why not invite the media to see the technology you are displaying at the booth for the first time? Or have an SME present a topic that is very relevant to the industry. Ask the media for any follow up opportunities, such as a write up in a trade journal.

Trick of the Tradeshow

Before the event and as part of your pre-tradeshow strategy, give your salespeople an opportunity to have extra more touch points with prospects with something as simple as a print invite to a presentation on booth. They can see client before when they drop it by the office, tell them to be sure to check out a presentation at the scheduled time, and then follow up later to ask their opinion on the topic.

After the tradeshow, take the opportunity to connect with those who couldn’t attend. Push some of the content that you presented at that tradeshow to your client list and beyond using social media. This way you make your content available well after the show. Keep the momentum going—your tradeshow message shouldn’t end on the last day of the tradeshow, let it live on.

Maximize your tradeshow experience—My final chirp

If you are going to invest in tradeshows, do it right: be prepared. Have a plan centered around your goals. Promote your booth before the show and create opportunities for sales engagement. Put the right people on the tradeshow floor. Leverage that momentum after the tradeshow. All these things must be considered to align your tradeshow goals with your overall marketing strategy.

Prepare for takeoff.

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