Reserving a booth at a conference can be extremely costly – there is the price of the booth itself, of promoting your space, paying people to help you run the booth, purchasing creative items to giveaway, and all of the travel costs associated. Add all that to the price of food and a hotel, and you could be looking at thousands of dollars spent on a single event.
The goal is, of course, to procure solid leads in the form of new clients, customers, or business partners. Building these relationships will help your business to earn more money in the long-run. However, in the short-term, you’ll want to make sure that trade show is worth every penny you’ve spent. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the leg up on earning leads at your next conference trip.
Before the Conference or Trade Show Begins
While your competitors are focused on setting up their booth or planning out their schedule, why not start engaging with conference attendees ahead of time? Providing an introduction before the event can be extremely powerful, and allows you to be proactive in engaging your prospects without the added competition.
“Most organizers, if you are buying a booth, will give you access” to the list of registered attendees for the event, says David Brull of the Trade Show Exhibitors Association. “You should conduct some outreach to them – or a segment of attendees that might be interested in you ‒ either through direct mail, e-mail, or even phone.”
Sending a personalized postcard or email letting them know you are looking forward to meeting them is a great way to stand out. Within your communication, include an enticement to get them to your booth once they arrive. This could be a voucher for a free trial of your product, a sneak peek at your new service, or another special gift that you won’t be offering to anyone without the voucher.
Doing so will help make sure your booth is a priority for them to visit once they arrive.
Speaking at the Conference
Whenever possible, someone from your team should be speaking at the event. What better way to get qualified leads than presenting on innovative solutions to a problem you are the expert at solving, before even talking to prospective clients?
A well thought out presentation that provides a ton of value and includes no sales pitch is a great way to get prospects to view you as an expert in your field. The key here is to get them to realize that they have a problem (one that you can solve), but not to explicitly tell them that your company is the answer. It’s about educating them and then having them realize on their own that the logical solution to that problem might be reaching out for your help.
At the end of your presentation, provide listeners with your contact information and booth number. You may even offer an incentive to visit your booth, such as access to a discount on your product or service, or even a free guide on the topic of your speech. If people were truly engaged in your presentation, they’re going to want more of your ideas, and this is a perfect way to initiate a personal contact with those interested parties.
Swag That Sticks in an Attendees Memory… Not Their Trash Can
Giveaways are a great way to engage those passing by your booth or give to prospects you’ve chatted with about your business. Of course, you can bring the conventional pens and notepads, but offering something more functional is key. Think about what all conference attendees are going to need. In many cases, the answer is likely food, coffee, and battery life for their phones and other devices.
Mobile device chargers, also known as power banks, are a practical item that can help you stay top of mind with an attendee, as they’ll likely run out of battery life around noon each day.
Giveaways relevant to the location of the conference or current season can be extremely valuable. A conference in California or Florida is likely to have attendees who stick around afterwards to get in a few extra beach days. It might be wise to offer them a pair of flip flops or a beach towel to use once the conference is over. For a trade show in Seattle or Portland, an umbrella might be a more useful item.
While many consider them overdone, t-shirts can still work if you make them more creative than just pasting your company’s logo on the front. Include a clever saying relevant to your industry that is going to make people envious of those with your shirt ‒ something that will have people asking around to find out how they can get one for themselves. This kind of memorable swag will get people talking and drive more people back to your booth.
For more swag or giveaway ideas, check out this article.
Creating Your Own Social Buzz
Those serious in making the most out of the conference will likely be actively discussing the day’s events on social media. Make sure you aren’t missing out on this key opportunity by ensuring regular monitoring and contribution to the conversation! Follow along using the event’s official hashtag, and initiate conversations with attendees to spark interest in your booth and business services.
Once you’ve established your digital presence, you can use trade show traffic to amplify your message. When handing out your company literature or giveaway items, include a call to action letting attendees know they can win an even larger prize by utilizing your hashtag and uploading pictures of themselves at your booth, or interacting with the items (wearing your shirt, etc.).
You can ask attendees to tag you in their conference selfies and include a hashtag you’ve created specifically for the event so they have a chance to win an even bigger prize. Not only can this get you more social exposure, but this can also drive other conference attendees your way to get in on the action.
Don’t leave it solely up to attendees to drive your social engagement. Posting regular pictures of your busy booth for social proof, or of your reps having a good time, can help entice people to want to join in on the fun.
Ideas for Your Trade Show Booth
Having an interactive and engaging booth is a great way to draw in crowds. There are going to be tens, or even hundreds, of other booths surrounding you ‒ what is going to make your target customer come see you as opposed to them?
Including signage, such as a large pop-up banner, that succinctly tells the attendees what you can do for them is necessary to capture the attention of someone walking past. Be clear about who you can help without the fear of alienating people who won’t be a great fit for your service.
The expo floor is a very busy place, leaving many conference-goers looking for a place to relax – could that be your booth? Including chairs for folks to sit on and take a break during your product demo can be a wise use of your space.
In addition to a welcoming atmosphere, having a few people with you to man the booth so you’re well prepared to handle multiple visitors at once is a great idea. Your reps should be knowledgeable, dressed well, and ready to interact with customers as much as possible. You may want to bring your best sales reps with you and gamify the experience by offering them a prize between whoever gets the most leads or sales.
A bit of creativity can go a long way towards bringing in qualified leads from an event. While many executives simply show up, collect business cards, and hand out some pens, you can be proactive and already be in contact with prospects before the conference even begins. Put yourself into the shoes of the trade show attendees, and you’ll be able to come up with lots of brilliant ideas for drawing them to your booth and making the event success for your company.