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How to increase business opportunities with Exhibits & Trade Shows

28 Dec 2018 | Posted Under Event

Exhibit, Trade Show, Display Booth or Informational Table Venue Engagement Selling… Ideas for Increased Business Opportunities!

The opportunity to have suspects, prospects and existing customers funneled directly to you, the customer service and sales professional, can be a windfall or a crap shoot—you decide.

In reality, most client service representatives, sales professionals, recruiters and business professionals in general dread working the booth, exhibit, trade show, expo fair, information table (or whatever you call this exposure opportunity) more than going to a dentist or paying taxes. Not taking full advantage of these opportunities though is a critical mistake and possibly the greatest career oversight you will ever make!

With a few simple shifts in “attitude” and “behavior”, you can turn this informational awareness event into one of the greatest prospecting, marketing, selling and brand awareness building opportunities in which you will ever participate – and potential closing day ever.

Your ability to have quality and quantity of lead generation at one time and venue can be a strategic accelerator for your business. Viewing these events as B2B, B2C and C2C target rich opportunities is the mind-shift towards a champion. Likewise, this can be an opportunity to re-engage COIs, friends and industry colleagues with increased market exposure. To make this shift in mind and presence for greater ROI consider the following strategic and tactical recalibrations in your performance.

First, always start with a clear understanding of what you immediate, intermediate and long-term purpose or goal is for exhibiting and showing up?

Second, recognize the actions of the person who hates the exhibit, fair, display booth, or trade show affairs. He or she

  • Shows up late to set up, with an endless list of reasons (aka excuses)
  • Accepts wherever he/she is directed to set up.
  • Creates a display space that is boring or too busy!
  • Spends less time engaging people walking by and more time rearranging the set up. It’s amazing how busy one can be at these events . . . doing everything except networking and making new valuable qualified leads for later follow-up selling endeavors!

Third, let’s turn this event into a cash cow of potential. Here are twenty-five plus action plans for your next venue opportunity. If your competition is not taking advantage of this same opportunity, you have the chance to have a career-changing experience.

In fact, with these twenty-five plus strategic and tactical plans, you will find yourself looking for more group venue opportunities.

Get clarity of the B2B and B2C opportunities that differing people that you engage can bring you and engage accordingly. Focus, plan and execute:

  • It’s all about location, location, location. Get there early and get the high ground. Remember that attendees are not there (just) for you, they are always there to see someone else. Determine who the big players for that venue will be, that your target prospect may be coming to see, and set up next to them.

    If not relevant, then a great general location would be next to the check-in counter or a high-profile exhibitor. If you are relegated to a low-traffic spot, then the venue should be FREE; If you yield no meaningful results, make sure the vendor hosting the event not only refunds your monies, but also gives you bonus exposure in some after-event communication vehicle sent to attendees. In fact, this after-even communication exposure should be sought anyway!

  • Traffic flow is critical. You will want to make sure that you are set up so that you are in the early stages of the traffic flow. You don’t want to be the first or last booth in a major hall, as the first booth typically intimidates most attendees, and they will purposefully avoid making eye contact with you; by the last booth, most attendees are exhausted and are ready to be somewhere else. Avoid being the left- side placement on corners, as attendees make too fast a turn and will often blast right past you. Ask event promoters or review layout charts to determine what the traffic patterns should be—and then set up in an offensive position. Sometimes there is potential near food stands, but this can sometimes work against you as well. There is an art and a science to traffic flow.
  • Design a high-energy booth for engagement. Make sure your display has the energy that attracts—not repels—traffic. Leverage every vantage point as an access point to your booth. Have pictures versus just words; have a television or interactive computer screen playing an endless loop of your most eye-grabbing features and benefit stories. Consider a drawing/giveaway for something, but make sure the prize will be of interest to your ideal prospect/customer. Think like your clients! Have live samples of your product/service if appropriate for tactile interaction; reflect on anything displays that have drawn you in previously, and try to replicate that energy for your display.
    1. An example with one of our clients is the National Guard with an emphasis on the market of 17-to-35-year-old individuals and the Iowa Army National Guard and then Recruiting Commander LTC Higginbotham … What they call their "WOW" tables, using STEM items to generate excitement. Make people fight their way to your display. STEM is science, technology, Engineering and Math. It’s a buzz word in education circles.

      Tables are set up for interaction and engagement with the market, we have a UAV called the Raven and its gear on the table, a TOW Mission system, A TV playing a video of cool stuff on a loop, two thermal weapon sites (see through walls, etc.), a small satellite dish connected to the new high tech radios.

      Once you have a formula for how best to set-up your tables/booths, make this the standard, explained why we do this, why we need to etc. The visual helps your team to learn and execute greatness so as to be able to engage and gather great leads and just meet and build rapport with people you don’t know.

  • Remove all chairs. Make sure you have no opportunity to withdraw from the audience and let your energy decline. A lot of money is invested in your presence, and the traffic flow is potentially delivering to you many prospects to meet and follow up on. It would take a month of high-impact prospecting days to equal the potential of this one single event. There will be time to relax when you get home! (You may offer your chairs to competitors; if they’re dumb enough to accept them, they will most likely even say thank you to you for aiding their laziness!) Another problem in sitting is that the relaxed stance enables you to let your professional guard down, and in many cases, you may engage in dialogue with your booth-mate, thereby ignoring attendees walking by. You are no longer approachable, and many potential prospects will not want to disturb you. Worse even than this are clients walking by, listening to you talk disparagingly about the venue or attendees!
  • Push your table and display stand screening, etc., to the wall. Make sure that if you have a booth, any table setup is pushed to the wall. You never want to be hidden behind the table—isolated from the traffic flow—as this makes you less approachable and actually more intimidating!
  • Offer candy or unique power snack/drink/bar. Have a sugar fix on your table. Candy does attract and so too do health bars . . . and chocolate is a magnet!
  • Set out business cards in three stacks/or a row across the front of the table. Make sure you have your business contact cards in three different stacks across your display area, not just in one area. This way, if you are blocking one stack or engaged in a dialogue in front of another stack, a passerby will be able to see other cards, increasing the odds that he or she will pick one up and contact you later.
  • Make a personalized business card brochure. For every person you meet, take one of your own business cards, and on the reverse side, draw a circle in the middle. In the circle, write the prospect’s name and date, and on the outside of the circle, draw axis lines outward. On each line (times how ever many you need), write down the greatest feature and benefit items for that particular prospect. Relate to what you have to offer that can serve a need the prospect has revealed in discussion.
  • Limit your table brochures. Don’t have so much literature on your table that it looks like a warehouse. Only give brochures, flyers, catalogs, etc. that are truly appropriate for each particular suspect or prospect. Make sure you write the person’s name in at least two different places, referencing at least two major print items of specialized interest to the suspect’s/prospect’s needs. By writing the name in the material, you increase the likelihood of your literature actually getting home with and being read by the potential customer.
  • Schedule ten-minute interval meetings/appointments. Want to fight and eliminate boredom? Keep it alive. Here is the most powerful strategic adjustment in your venue set up . . . adjust your efforts for the week leading up to the exhibit opportunity, and for all customers whom you had planned to meet, instead of going to see them, schedule them to come by your booth in ten-minute interval appointments. Now you will never be bored, and you will have created a continual sense of energy around your booth that will attract greater traffic to your area. Meet with a new client (member, recruit, etc. as they are at this point in their life-cycle over-enthusiastic about you!), a center-of-influence/advocate, a hot prospect, someone from whom you need a final signature, a person you were planning to give something to, etc. Stack the cards in your favor. During the event if people need more of your time or specific needs answered, schedule them back like an appointment when you would otherwise be dead, so as to always keep an array of energy and urgency around your space, this attracts others to your space!
  • Identify the top 25 people you meet during your exhibit and develop a separate campaign to mail them a series of collateral (hard copy, tangible) pieces for two months. This could include a simple hand-written "Thank You Note" within 24-hours of your event, then one week out a brochure or flyer that follows up on something you discussed with them, followed up two weeks later by another informational piece on you and or your organization, followed up three weeks later by one final value rich media piece. Along with each of these mailed out pieces, you can enhance the power and influence of this campaign by making a follow-up telephone cal to move that contact forward into active customer status.
  • Consider the nature of the venue you exhibited at and what the real reason would have been for the individuals that you meet for being at the venue, as it more than likely was not to just come there to have interacted with you. With that goal clearly in mind, now evaluate if you have any complimentary information, services, or products to assist them in their endeavors, and if so make sure you send that to them as value added differentiator and a simple note, "FYI".
  • Make sure you likewise send a hand-written "Thank You Note" to the sponsor of the event that you were invited to exhibit at, as well as the actual Venue operator them self, as a way expressing your appreciation for the opportunities that they afforded to you. This will also be a shock to them as no one ever thinks about them afterwards, and will serve as a stock raising action with the sponsor and allow you greater courtesies for the next event!
  • Check with the sponsor of the event to see if they maintain a master list of attendees or members over-all to their organization (business, association, community, etc.) and inquire about penning a content rich (no self promotion here) value added article for their newsletter, journal, magazine, or electronic news services (eZine or blog). Inquire about having this appear in the publication to these people immediately after having exhibited (or posted to their web site). This becomes a major differentiator and serves as a second party endorsement of you to this demographic.
  • To make action item twelve more impactful, inquire about offering a column for publication in any media piece prior to the exhibit trade show opportunity that the sponsor may have. This will serve as a subtle pre- marketing endeavor, and people may seek you out at the exhibit venue because of a compelling editorial item you wrote about.
  • Immediately after every exhibit opportunity debrief (either by yourself, or with your colleagues) what worked, what did not work, and what you could have done to make the experience more productivity. Identify from that same venue opportunity what exhibitors seemed to be significantly more attractive to participants, and then determine how you can replicate that in your booth the next time, and even better yet, how can you surpass that at your next event.
  • If you had a give-away item, now evaluate whether it was a flash-in-the-pan item that people may have grabbed while there, yet thrown away as they left the exhibit area. If so never spend your money on that item again. Determine who had something so original that people went out of there way to go by their exhibit area to get it, and better yet they will be using it throughout the conference and into their life-style afterwards - thereby gaining your bonus exposure into their circle of influence when they go back home and continue to use them. For example, the United States ARMY gives new enlisted recruits in route to basic training black shoulder back-packs with a big gold star and the simple word ARMY on the back - I have seen these on youth’s shoulders all over the place and on the shoulders of parents, business people, and soldiers in airports, malls, and on the streets, all of whom are not the target audience yet are serving to continue to promote their service opportunity in the mind of a mobile public!

    Another example, at a recent exhibit the Jacksonville Florida handed out florescent colored padded grips with their website name on them for participants to place around the handles of their pull brief cases and luggage – WOW, everyone sees them and attracts attention. Another was the Toronto Canada Chamber handed out classy leather-bound travel shoe shinning kits. Another exhibit vendor handed out meal tip calculators printed on the reverse of their business card onto a plastic credit card sized handout.

  • If you feel appropriate, partner with a complimenting exhibitor (maybe even a competitor) to exchange leads after the exhibit opportunity. Then send to those contacts that you have cross referenced to ensure that they are duplicates a letter that simply reads, “Your name was given to me after the _____ (insert the name of the event you exhibited at here) ______ event you attended, it was suggested to me to contact you _____ (insert a powerful benefit statement here) ____. If this sounds like something that you would like to hear more about, please give me a call at ______________ or send me an email to _____________. Thank you for your time.” By doing this you can morph your contact list and extend your reach from having exhibited.
  • Contact the sponsor of the event (ideally you would have done this before the event) and see if can gain access to their invitation list for the event or membership list. If you can get the contact list or access to their list, send them a pre-invitation to stop and see you, and a post follow up invitation to connect with you.
  • Determine if there is a member of your team that their personality is better suited for future exhibit lead generation or exhibit contact interaction. If so make sure they are present the next time, or you will continue to do your organization a disservice and not maximize exhibit opportunities!
  • Duffel Bag/Back-Pack Display. Imagine you are a military enlistment recruiter, bring your duffel bag or ruck bag and spread out across your table or display booth items of your actual life (i.e. night vision goggles, gloves, shovel, paint, food …), instead of the expected hand-out items as this will induce a higher level of curiosity and allow you to engage attendees and prospects in a more meaningful manner. So, what is your Duffle-bag equivalent?
  • Work the other Vendors at the event, as they may be more valuable prospects or lead generators (Centers-of-Influence/COIs), than they attendees you initially came to meet!
  • Utilize Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) smartly to do advance promotion of where you will be, where, why, and what a select few that get there early can receive or connect with you for. Have your COIs forward your social media messages to their contacts. Then use it continuously while at your event to show high energy interactions and Booth engagement to excite others to attend now or follow-up with you at a later date.
  • VIP Meet-and-Greet or Q&A Interview, Invite A Celebrity Personality/Your Boss/and Subject-Matter-Expert (SME) to be at Your Spot. Be smart about your time and leverage the people you know that can make the space you are in more exciting. If you are a military Recruiter have one of or several of your most recent enlistments/soldiers present to create a buzz, work the room and invite people back to the table/booth, display their contacts and leverage their social media contacts to stop by; Have theses invited co-hosts at your Table to wear their new uniforms or paint of their faces in war wear, etc.; If you have a power personality, person of stature within your organization schedule them into your space or Table for a specific time for people to meet and sub promote, announce, signage that up as well…
  • Utilize social media as you arrive or while you are present, to engage your followers, COIs, customers to stop by, bring someone, encourage others to see you … And have them retweet or post to the social media walls for viral leverage!
  • Calendar Your Event, by cross referencing the venue hosting groups calendar, against any community calendar against your calendar to ensure that you leverage all together to maximize your exposure, marketing efforts and what assets (people, collateral materials, give away media pieces, etc.) you can to make this event as productive as possible.
  • Draw attention to your space, by being professional and yet memorable in your presence … Helium balloons can attract attention from across the room to your space, especially of you are in the back or a crappy location; Place traditional 4 to 6 foot floor banners on your table and no you just gained 4 more feet of air borne visibility; Have a power recharging station, H2O, unique and usable trinkets/give- away items; Have a Celebrity personality for or to your cause/industry present; Have show-and-tell items out that people would typically never see or be able to experience as attention and energy creators …

Selling via exhibits, display booths, BOR, informational setups like a fair, a conference, a trade show or on-line virtual meeting spot, should strategically be seen as a blitzing opportunity to meet, greet, engage, sell or recruit people for future follow-up.

Again, the opportunity to have suspects, prospects and existing customers funneled directly to you, the customer service and sales professional, can be a windfall or a crap shoot—you decide!

Change your psychology and pathology around and now create a power force that compels people to stop by, and you’ll see more people in a shorter time frame . . . thus increases your yield!

Would love to hear your thoughts simply reply to this blog.


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