When Woody Allen Meets Michael Scott – Trade Shows in a Nutshell
Woody Allen once famously said, “80% of success is showing up.”
When it comes to attending trade shows, however, we firmly believe the opposite. 80% of the measured success from attending a trade show should be based on the planning and preparation you did for the show. The remaining 20% is attending and participating while you’re there.
If you’re in an industry where attending frequent trade shows is a benefit to your business, you know that the scope of trade shows has evolved substantially in recent years. Gone are the days where you attend a trade show to get your name out there – there’s a little thing called the Internet that does that for you now. Potential customers or contacts don’t attend trade shows to find new vendors. They (should) have already found you online prior to attending the show. The real benefit in attending a trade show comes from the personal connections you can make with people while you’re there – either through a product demo, an in-person consultation, or an industry talk.
Proper planning leading up to the trade show is key to being successful. Based on the scope of the show and your goals while you’re there, consider the following in the weeks leading up to the event:
1. Get your name out there in advance. There are tons of ways to promote your brand prior to a show. Check out industry publications, trade magazines, and show publications for potential media placements, many of which usually have a web component. Plan well in advance of the show so your ad can alert prospects to come find your booth.
2. Let them know you’re coming. In many cases, the trade show can provide you with a list of companies and customers that have registered to attend the show. Contact these people in advance (e-mail blasts, postcards, etc.) to let them know you’ll be there and what they can hope to find at your booth. Make sure to include a mention of any valuable presentations you’ll be giving, so they can plan their visit accordingly.
3. Pack a punch at the show. Trade shows can be overwhelming. They’re crowded, over-stimulating, and require a lot of focus and energy. Make sure your company has put together a memorable booth. Everything from booth graphics, interactive elements (games, videos, raffles, demos, etc.) and presentations are all opportunities to be remembered and catch the attention of prospects.
4. S.W.A.G. – Stuff We All Get. Because trade shows can be busy, many attendees may simply walk around and gather materials, and then review when they get home before deciding whom to contact for more information. Be sure to have promotional materials at your booth that you can give away so that they remember your company’s name. Not everyone is going to be Michael Scott and decorate their condos with your materials, but their value shouldn’t be diminished nonetheless. Anything from copies of your corporate brochure, t-shirts, key chains, pens, etc. are all viable options, but don’t be afraid to get a bit creative, too. The goal is to be remembered. Just be sure that whatever you make has your name on it (and potentially a web address or phone number) so they can contact you later.
5. Don’t be flakey. Unlike after a first date, there’s no unspoken three-day waiting period after a trade show before you can reach out to the people you met. Have your contact list ready and follow-up with post-show communications to offer a chance to speak further. Set up a chance to speak in more detail about what you presented, get them in touch with your sales team and see what comes of your discussion.
As you plan, be sure to factor in production lead-time, days lost to shipping materials, and show deadlines. Remember the 5 P’s: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
Good luck this trade show season!