Trade shows are aplenty. While it may be tempting to go and exhibit at all of them, doing so doesn’t always make sense. As an exhibitor, you have to keep a lot of things in mind while taking a call. Here’s what could help you choose right over wrong.
How To Choose The Right Trade Show
- What do you want? Unless you have the answer to this question, there’s not much you can do at a trade show, so why bother exhibiting anyway? It’s important that you are clear on your trade show objectives or better still, have written them down somewhere. Are you looking to increase brand awareness? Is a new product in the pipeline? How about launching it then, at an upcoming show? Make an informed choice.
- Who would you meet there? A show floor may be bustling with the crowd, but if your target audience is not out there, there’s nothing in it for you. Do some research beforehand. Identify your target audience, if you haven’t already, and then take a look at the show’s track record. Most of the organizers share some sort of prospectus or brochure which could give you a sneak peek into the demographics they attract. Say yes only if there’s a match.
- What’s beneath the surface? If everything looks hunky dory, dig deeper. Check out the show’s website to develop a better understanding of what it can do for you. You may also want to refer to articles and publications that may have covered the show in the past. What was their opinion? The feedback of the show could play an instrumental role in helping you decide.
- What did the others get? Your peers from the industry may have exhibited at the show in question. If so, were they able to get the most out of it? What about your competitors? If they have been to the show in the past, then that’s exactly where you should head next. Their participation is a testament to the fact that the show is worth its while. It is also a good idea to keep tabs on some of the biggest players in your industry. If they prefer going to a specific show, you may want to follow suit for obvious reasons.
- What would it cost you? Trade show participation doesn’t come for free, and sometimes, you may have to spend more than your marketing budget allows you to. If that’s the case, do calculate the ROI. Would the show help you earn more than what you will spend on it in the first place? And yes, do not forget to take the additional costs into consideration – booth designing, shipping, team travel, anything and everything that could lead to a last-minute surprise!
- What kind of a show it is? In the end, it all comes down to why you are exhibiting. For instance, if you are to launch a new product, you should opt for a consumer-focused trade show. On the other hand, if your brand could use some networking, an industry trade show would serve the purpose better.
Remember, the wrong show can have a drastic impact on your ROI or worse, lower your morale. So it’s important to choose wisely!
Trade shows could be harsh. You may be put under the microscope, with every action being closely watched and every word monitored. You can’t just go around giving everyone a piece of your mind. Successful sales teams don’t. They know what to say and what not to. What about you?
Things Better Left Unsaid at Trade Shows
- Words that may come back to bite you: People who succeed at nailing trade shows are not the ones who ask you to “trust them” or “give you their word” at the drop of a hat. They know actions speak louder than words and that they need to gain your trust by successfully demonstrating that they are worth it. Telling the trade show visitors to trust you is like raising suspicion for no good reason; the more you ask them to trust you, the less likely they are to believe.
- Small talk. “How are you today” is fine, but eventually, you must cut to the chase. Successful sales teams do. The visitors know what you are looking for, and they are at your booth because they are interested in your products, so instead of beating around the bush, just say it. Then, of course, don’t say the first thing that comes to your mind. Weave a story instead, one that shows your brand in a good light and assures the visitors that you have the solutions to their problems.
- Open-ended questions. “What do you think?” – what they think is that they should rather make a detour and head to some other booth, where the salespeople have more confidence in their own products. People who are good at sales do listen to what the visitors have to say and even empathize, but they know how to take control of the conversation. Open-ended questions may put you in a tight spot. Steer clear!
- Tall claims. Say only what you can prove. Blowing your own trumpet is okay, in fact, it’s a given at trade shows, but don’t step out of line. Bragging or even worse, bad-mouthing the competition could do you more harm than good. If your products are better than theirs, the visitors would know.
- A matter of life and death. Long gone is the era of “limited time offers”. Nobody falls for that anymore. The visitors know that there is no urgency and they can make an informed decision any time they like. As far as the successful sales teams go, well, they know that even if the offer is only valid for a brief period of time, they ought to build value first before they can think about discussing the price. And that’s exactly what you should do.
The trick lies in not saying anything that ends up forcing you to eat your words later or leaves a question mark over your professionalism. The truth is that an eye-catching booth design may attract the visitors, but if anything is going to make them stay past the elevator pitch, it’s what you say. Watch your mouth, like literally. Successful sales teams do, and that’s the reason they are successful!
As a startup, it’s okay for you to be intimidated of opportunities that you are yet to explore, but do make sure that you don’t let the apprehensions stand in your way, not for long. So if there’s an upcoming trade show that you should participate in, don’t think twice before saying yes. Not to worry, you can, just like every seasoned exhibitor out there, get the most out of any show you choose to be a part of.
How Startups Can Take Full Advantage Of Trade Shows
- Come up with a message. If you haven’t already. Trade shows are all about getting the word out, and if you don’t have anything to say, well, there’s no point in going to one. What it is that you would want to convey to the attendees? Are you clear on the objectives of participating in the first place? The answers to these questions will pretty much determine whether or not you would succeed.
- Wait no more. Start planning right away. The longer you wait, the more difficult it could be for you to devise the perfect strategy. Trade shows call for due diligence. It’s time you get down to work. Find out all there’s to know about the competition, or better still, shift your focus to the attendees. If you know who’d be turning up, you can contemplate establishing contact beforehand and apprise them of your participation, through social media, emails and phone calls. Now’s when you can also let them know of any promotions or let’s say free giveaways. And remember, when you plan ahead, you save big on time – time that you could use to invite the key stakeholders including your investors and customers, and more importantly to make sure that there are no flaws in the booth design.
- Invest in a good design. While startups are often tempted to make do with whatever they can their hands on, this is not the time or place to settle for less. Look for a company that knows its way around trade show stand construction, one that can design an eye-catching event booth for you, giving you an edge over the other exhibitors. If budget, however, is a matter of concern, you can always ask for a modular design. This one can be used time and again, saving you the trouble.
- Look for reasons. Let your booth bustle with the crowd. While an easy-on-the-eyes booth may catch their fancy, the attendees won’t come your way just to appreciate the design, and even if they do, who’s to say they would stay for at least a while? Offer something of value. Make it worth their time. Anything, a giveaway, a demo, a VR experience, a free consultation, games – just make sure there’s something in it for them.
- Don’t act like an amateur. Won’t go down well with the attendees. The way you and your staff behave is detrimental to your booth’s performance. If you appear disinterested or are rude while answering the questions, there’s no saving you. Case closed!
You may be a new company, looking forward to expanding your business, still not confident enough to step out of your comfort zone, but you have to drop the guard sooner or later. Why not do it now and let things take their own course?
While trade shows do present you with quite a few opportunities, how many have you actually grabbed over the years? Do you even try to stand out and get the message out anymore, or like many of the other exhibitors, have made peace with the idea of getting lost in the shuffle? Well, to each his own, but getting noticed is not that difficult as it seems. All you need is a story to tell, and of course, learn the art of telling one.
Why Tell Your Story At Trade Shows?
The audience wants to get to know you on the whole, but they would love to scratch beneath the surface anyday. Brand storytelling lets them dig deeper.
- When you tell them your story, you’ll share some of the most amazing and transformative moments within your company, and before you know, they’d drop the guard and relive your journey with you.
- If your story also makes a mention of how your products are made, especially in case of a rather unusual but interesting process, you’ll see that they are all ears.
- Interestingly, it may not just be you who has a story to tell. Your team and sometimes even your clients could have some engaging tales.These will pique the interest of your audience even further.
- The endgame may be to establish a connection or even generate a lead or two, but the more intriguing your story is, the better are your chances of building a rapport, something that could a long way in securing success.
How To Tell Your Story At Trade Shows?
For starters, make sure that your story is not only engaging but informative as well. You can’t just go on and on, without making a point.
- Build curiosity and work on the characters of your story. Do keep the 4 C’s of communication (clarity, conciseness, completeness, and consistency) in mind while you weave your narrative.
- Bragging is a big no-no. The audience is not there to watch you toot your own horn. They would make a detour and head to another event booth, and happily so. Also, be honest with the narrative. Lying or misleading would put you in a tight spot.
- See if you can spark an emotional response from the audience. While no one likes a sob story, if you have something they can connect to or empathize with, there’s nothing like it.
- Get a good booth builder on board and tell them your brand story. Once they are familiar with the elements that matter to your audience, they’ll take the cue and make sure that the design offers a compelling narrative, one that is engaging enough for your audience to stay long after the elevator pitch.
How You Can Hit It Off With A Story?
Make sure you know your own brand well before the audience gets to know you. Develop a clear understanding of what it is that you want to convey because unless you do, all you would be able to do is blabber. Here’s the thing: you do have a story to tell, every brand does; all you have to do is to find it and ensure that you polish it well. A half-baked brand story may do more harm than good!
Trade shows have never been about rubbing shoulders with peers from the industry; truth be told, every time you are out there, all you want to do is to build your network and connect with the potential buyers – the prospects. But do you always succeed? If not, why? Is it because you are yet to catch up on the paradigm shift in networking? Have you given up on the old tricks of the trade, or are still stuck with business cards and other primitive methods of building a network? It’s time you come up to speed!
Networking At Trade Shows: A Whole New Ball Game!
Gone are the days when you had to wait for the prospects to come your way before you could start with the elevator pitch and make an attempt at networking. Today, the two of you can get acquainted long before they actually walk in.
- Technology, especially the social media, has turned the tables for good, making it possible for you to reach out to your prospects, even if they do not show up when you expect them to. In this day and age of hashtags, forum discussions, and blog posts and comments, there’s no reason to hold back on your “meet and greet” strategy, when you can offer them an immersive experience right in the comfort of their living rooms.
- And even if you would rather wait for the big day, when you can meet them in person, there are quite a few ways to not just ignite their curiosity but to keep them engaged.
- While nothing beats an engrossing conversation, not all prospects may look forward to one, how about then, increasing engagement with gamification? A little fun never hurt anyone, right? Think of some games, get hold of a scoreboard, and before you know, your trade show booth will be bustling with crowd, giving you yet another opportunity to build your network. Better still, why don’t you simply bowl them over with an innovative display of information or take it up a notch with magnetic levitation, 3D projection mapping, kinetic ceilings, and the like?
- Back in the day, you had no option but to hand out flyers and expect the prospects to actually read. Today, you can take advantage of what they call “experiential marketing” and give a product demonstration right there, so as to incite participation. You could also opt for a chalet and get a meeting area incorporated into the exhibit, with enough room for you and the prospects to have inspiring exchanges. And with technologies like virtual and augmented reality being more accessible than ever, it is no longer difficult to make them stay past the elevator pitch. They no longer have to walk out from your trade show stand with reams of paper, which would end up in the trash anyway.
Networking has come of age. What about you? That stack of business cards you have been bragging about would do you more harm than good. Move with the times before the prospects make a move. Pun intended!