Was Your Last Trade Show Not That Successful? The Next One Could Be.

Trade shows are simply great – they let you create brand awareness, give you the perfect opportunity to showcase your products in front of your target audience, and provide you with a highly coveted platform, one that you are always on the lookout for, to meet existing and potential clients – phew! Enticing enough to reserve your space right away and sign on the dotted line, right? Is that what you did the last time – when someone just mentioned a trade show and you jumped on the bandwagon with little or no preparation? How did that turn out? Not good? Well, let bygones be bygones. Pull your socks up for the next one.

Nail down your motive: Why are you participating in the show in the first place? Are you looking for a launch pad for new products or concepts? Or are you rather interested in nurturing relationships? Or probably both? You can only prep up for the show when you have a clear answer. And when you do, reach out to your audience, find out if they are attending, and more importantly, make sure that the show is in sync with their requirements.

Know what you want to say: Blabbering is a big no-no. Once you have determined the goal of attending the show, decide on your strategy and message, or else you’d have a hard time achieving the goal. The message, of course, needs to be relevant to your goal.

a) What products would you be selling at the show?
b) Would you be highlighting some specific services or will you focus on all of them?
c) How is this projecting your brand? In what light?

Focus on space and design: Do you need a relatively large booth or a standard one would suffice? Figure that out. Space does matter, but if affordability is an issue, don’t fret; go for a smaller one, and invest in booth design – the idea is to establish meaningful connections and lay the groundwork for conversion. If your booth is delivering a clear, concise and memorable message, there’s no stopping you – make sure your designer does a good job – the passersby should get to know what your company is all about and want to come on over.

Choose the right location: While some exhibitors don’t like being placed next to show-stopping booths, because of obvious reason(s) – a distraction for potential customers, too much noise, undue comparison etc. – others categorically look for such spaces. They plan on cash in on the footfall that the flashier booths attract. Take your pick – whatever works for you.

Don’t take things for granted: First things first; don’t expect people to line up at your booth if you haven’t let them know that you’d be exhibiting at the show. Work on your pre-marketing tactics – emails, social media and your sales reps can spread the word without any difficulty. Secondly`, make sure that you and your staff are on the same page. If they have no clue what your goal is or what all offers you are floating exclusively for the show, they’ll be caught unaware, causing embarrassment to you and your company. They must also know how to man the booth, and create an inviting atmosphere – conduct a training session if required. Thirdly, generate curiosity through social media. People love to share, no doubt, but you need to give them something first – share pictures, give tips, answer their questions and do anything and everything to forge a connection. Last, but not the least, follow up, like always. If you succeed in building a relationship with the visitors during the show, nurturing it post the show is your responsibility – as simple as that!

And yes, follow a timeline – plan your budget 6-12 months before the show, and come up printed marketing materials at least 3 months in advance – just do things as and when they should be done!

Press Kit And The Art Of Storytelling – What The Media Wants To Know About Your Trade Show?

A press kit isn’t exactly the kind of bedtime story one would read before hitting the sack; in fact, who’s to say if it’s a story in the first place? It isn’t, but when it tells the media about any of your trade shows, it must become one.Yes, the media may be pretty much interested in knowing all about the show, and might even seek easy access to your press release(s), multimedia, bios, fact sheets, and other brand content, but unless you are good at weaving a cohesive yet meaningful narrative, chances are that your press kit won’t live up to the mark. In other words, you must learn (and possibly) master the art of storytelling, or else your press kit would gather dust. Sad but true. Here’s how you can come up with a page-turning version:

Avoid being a salesman for once

You may be tempted to make the newest product on offer the central character of your press kit, but do keep in mind that the media won’t take it well. You would unveil this product at the trade show, agreed, but what they are really interested in knowing is how it would change someone’s life or perhaps why should it excite the buyers? Yes, you must make a mention of your product, but at the same time, it’s imperative to ensure that the product doesn’t hog the limelight.

– Try and explain how the product is in sync with the relevant current events

– Talk about how your brand’s actions and offerings impact the community

As a storyteller, the first thing you need to learn or accept is that context is critical, and once that’s been established, it’ll get easier for you to uncover a unique story angle for your next press kit. Of course, it’s a possibility that you have no plans of launching a new product at the show, what would your story revolve around then?

– Shift the focus of your story to what the visitors or the attendees care about

– Do some research, and if your findings suggest that the visitors have an avid interest in knowing how committed you are to your values, it’s advisable to talk about your philanthropic initiatives, if any.

– On the other hand, if it’s innovation that piques their interest, play with words to convey that it was indeed the very basis of your company’s founding.

In short, don’t sell, inspire.

Step into their shoes

The media isn’t the only one keen on grabbing a copy of your press kit; the customers and the influencers attending the show may also look forward to it. Identify your audience, and figure out what could go down well with them. While some may prefer videos, others might be more receptive to text and graphics – curate your content accordingly. And for those who only understand facts and figures and would prefer data any day, you may hold back on your storytelling techniques for a while, and rather give them what they want. Doing so is important because your press kit needs to be shareable and it would only be so once it has a variety of content. On that note, using infographics and SlideShare is an also a good idea, and so is making a video with survey results.

Don’t be shy about promoting your press kit

You need to spread the word; amplify it. Share the message through multiple channels, if you want people to know about it. Get a digital copy made, even if you already have hard copies and/or USP versions – they aren’t that easy to distribute. You could also consider printing the link to your press kit on your business cards, or share it via social media – either way, you’ll be reaching out to a far wider audience.

Coming up with a good press kit is easy – tell your story, ensure that it’s not overstuffed with your company’s history or has some outdated media clippings, and you are good to go.

 

Assumptions about trade show interactions that can cost you dearly!

Trade shows are fun, no doubt, but that’s not why you go there, right? You are there for business – to get more leads – to interact with as many prospects as possible – and more importantly, to crack a deal or two. Now that we have established the objectives that take you there, let’s talk about why and how you may fail to achieve them. Well, believe it or not, but every time you are at a show, you make certain assumptions – assumptions that defeat the very purpose of you being there. Here’s what you and many other exhibitors often presume:

You can cut through the noise

Trade shows, especially the popular ones, are way too noisy – now, you may be able to attract a decent number of visitors to your booth, but you can’t really talk to them at length, until and unless you scream at the top of your lungs. You need a quieter place, where you can answer their questions, discuss the pricing, and even close the deal, if possible. Look for that place – reserve a room, if available, and don’t just rattle off to your prospects. These one-on-one interactions, away from the noise, can make all the difference.

You can just go and on and on

The visitors are either interested in your brand, or they are not – how do you get your message across to the ones who are not? Of course, you can’t really engage them in an hour-long conversation, or you’ll lose their attention sooner than expected. So, what is it that you can do? Not to worry, you can bowl them over them with an elevator pitch – one that lasts no longer than 30 seconds and pretty much sums up what your brand is and what is it that you offer. A short description of your product or service and a concise detail of how it would help that person or their business should suffice.

You need not drive the interactions your way

You love to interact, great, but more often than not, the attendees do not – you need to prompt them – use a call-to-action (CTA) to make them look forward to talking to you. In fact, you should have your marketing materials say that out loud that you want the attendees to perform a certain action. While you could always ask them to sign up for a free product trial or maybe visit your website, these tactics would only work before or after the show, and not when they are there. The idea here is to focus your CTA only on interactions that can take place during the show. Here’s what you can do:

  • Display QR codes, the ones that tell the visitors what to do next
  • Make your CTA a part of it, or let it sit next to the code(s) on your signage

– Let’s say, if your call-to-action emphasizes the importance of booking a one-on-one consultation with any of your reps, chances are that people would actually do that

– The QR code could be of great help here, especially if your message has been conveyed and they are all set to schedule an appointment.

You need not be all prepped up

If you just blabber and give yourself a pat on the back thinking how good of an improviser are you, the visitors would love to give you a reality check, one that you won’t like. They look for content. Interactions are fine, but there must be substance to them – you need to have your case studies, testimonials, product content, and pricing information handy. Otherwise, it’s all gibber-gabber.

Interact all you want, but don’t be pushy, especially when the visitor is not ready to buy there and then; make a move after the show – follow up, and work towards building a relationship.

They always tell you what to do at exhibitions. What about what not to?

Exhibitions are all about careful planning and hard work. And of course, there’s money involved. So, there’s a lot at stake. Not to worry though, if things go well, you can achieve a great ROI and then the exhibitions would be worth their salt. But what if they don’t? What if you commit a mistake or even worse, a blunder that costs you dearly? Would you still be successful at the exhibitions you participate in? Sadly no. Here’s what could go wrong:

You exhibit at the wrong show(s)

It’s not uncommon for a business to blindly follow the competitors or step into their shoes – so if they participate in an exhibition, you should too, right? No. Absolutely not. You should have your own reasons of booking a stand – your target audience, the media houses you have been trying hard to get to notice you, anything and everything, but not because somebody else did it. And it’s not just about competition, you just can’t be everywhere – you shouldn’t be. Do some homework, before you dive in with your chequebook.

You don’t solve the puzzle

People who attend exhibitions are interested in finding the possible solutions to their problems and the challenges they face at their own companies (B2B). If your stand is all about who you are and what you do, they won’t give two hoots – as simple as that. Coming up with a generic poster or pop-up stand, one that’s far from painting a clear picture, would be the final nail in the coffin. You need to be empathetic, or at least act like it. Show them you care and that your products and offerings are in complete sync with what they are looking for. Make it all about them; take the back seat.

You are too pushy about sales

Not being patient could be your biggest pitfall. Exhibitions are not about sales; those who succeed are out to there to capture leads, and not necessarily close the deal(s). You must do the same. On-site sales are good, agreed, but if they don’t come your way, don’t fret. Capture as many leads as possible and build a database. Shift your focus to getting a good lead retrieval system instead, but just don’t push. Nurture the leads first, and do the selling later.

Your marketing literature is a joke

The product content that you are proudly handing out to the visitors may pique your interest, but not theirs – they want a lot more – at least those who understand the dynamics do – they are on the lookout for case studies, testimonials and more importantly, the pricing information. With these missing from the table, your marketing material is dead as a doornail. Also, not having enough material is a sure shot way of warding off the visitors. As such you may not be able to talk to all of them and on top of that, if they have to walk away empty-handed, you are on your own.

You want them to make a detour

In-booth huddles may seem like a great source of motivation to you and your staff, but to the visitors, they make your stand look uninviting – they don’t feel like interfering. And if your staff is giving the restaurant or cafeteria a miss and rather eating right there, at the booth, the visitors would get the hint; you want them to come back later. They won’t.

Lack of promotion could also lower your chances of making it big at the exhibitions. Spread the word. And yes, once you have the leads with you, follow up, don’t watch them grow old. Learn from your mistakes, don’t keep on repeating them!

How to become the go-to stand at an exhibition

Exhibitions are a great way of getting noticed – the industry insiders are there, and you have the opportunity of meeting your prospective customers – what more could you ask for. However, exhibitions are often costly, and more importantly, they warrant hard work. So, you lose a fair chunk of your marketing budget and then there’s this pressure of ensuring that the investment is well used. How do you that? By becoming the stand that everyone goes to – simple – the more the number of visitors, the better are your chances of achieving a relatively high ROI.

For visitors, the stands that they are attracted to and remember once the exhibition is over are the ones that give a clear picture – ambiguity doesn’t go down well with them – if your banners and literature don’t show them what you deal in and whether or not your offerings are the potential solutions to their (or their company’s) problems, they are more likely to give you a miss.

Easier said than done, right? Would clarity work if you are participating in a show where there are lots of contenders who offer more or less the same things as you? Well, it may, but you would still need to compete, and that’s when it gets interesting.

Think Outside The Box

Novelty sells like hotcakes. Do something that others won’t. Say, choose a theme, and ask your staff to dress accordingly, even the men. Your stand will draw a lot of attention, and who’s to say your competitors won’t be green with envy? If choosing a theme is not to your taste or you fear to become everyone’s laughingstock, find an angle that works for you. The idea is to create a buzz, no matter what it takes. If you think you can stand out with gamification – go for it. Display the results for everyone to see and make sure that the winners are handsomely rewarded. There, you now have something that others don’t – where do you think the visitors would go?

Show That You Care

Are exhibitions only about you and your business? Of course not. Make sure your stand echoes this thought – make it all about the visitors. Start off with a proper seating arrangement. Exhibitions are tiring, and if the visitors have to be on their toes, like literally, while listening to what you have to say, they would lose interest sooner than expected. Yes, chairs or other furniture could restrict the visitor movement, but the longer they are there, the more are your chances of cracking a deal. And making them stay for long is only possible if you make them feel comfortable.

Try Your Luck With Giveaways

In an ideal world, comfort and novelty would get you there, but even if they don’t, all is not lost. Freebies or giveaways usually suffice – again, do something different – don’t go for the quintessential ones, choose quirkier options. Getting them branded is also important, but that’s another story.

The endgame is to ensure that the visitors make a detour even if they were headed to another booth. If your stand stands out, they will. Pun intended!