Trade Show Time
Peter Eberly, Director
Product and Vertical Marketing
We’ve talked about how much you’re spending on trade shows and events in previous posts, and we know it’s significant. (Looking to save some money? Read our earlier post, “Budget Busters,” for advice on keeping your trade show budget in check). According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), direct exhibitor spending was more than $25 billion in 2017.
Companies often make large investments in trade shows and events with the presumption that they will get in front of the right clients — the decision makers — who channel business their way. In fact, trade shows are typically considered valuable and cost-effective opportunities to meet with prospects face-to-face.
Given how much money is spent on trade shows and events, it’s critical that exhibitors maximize their time there. With so much activity swirling around, it can be easy to get distracted and lose valuable time that you could use connecting with clients.
How can you maximize your time?
- Don’t go in blind. Making sure you have a goal for what you hope to achieve and/or who you hope to connect with will help focus your efforts at the show.
- Let key contacts know you’ll be attending ahead of time. That way, they can make a point of stopping by.
- Go one step farther and set up meetings before the event. That ensures you’ll be spending time on valuable relationship-building instead of relying on attendees who might be distracted by show happenings or competitors.
- Use social media to amplify your presence at the show. Inevitably, there will be lulls when you are waiting for an appointment or someone to stop by. Use that time to take photos and write clever captions to encourage others to visit you. Don’t forget hashtags to increase awareness and connect with other attendees.
What about at the end of the show and before exhibits open? Although it might be tempting to check out the hotel pool, these are critical times to entertain clients. Of course, there’s the option of the traditional breakfast, lunch or dinner meeting, but with some planning, you can wow your prospects or clients with interesting experiences.
For example, if you’re visiting Nashville, consider hosting a group of clients at the Grand Ole Opry. Really want to impress the group and have the budget? Consider taking them on a VIP backstage tour. Almost every city has unique, interesting venues and experiential opportunities. It’s important, though, to ensure that your plans don’t conflict with trade show rules. For example, conferences won’t allow any formal external events that conflict with the conference schedule.
It’s also critical to follow up after the show. Trade shows offer great face time, but like any relationship, yours with your prospects take time to cultivate. Planning your trade show experience to maximize your time can open the door to new relationships with prospects and offer opportunities to develop deeper relationships with existing clients.