Your industry’s major trade shows and events already started or are coming up. If you are not doing it already, now is the time to start preparing it.

If one of your exhibit goals is to get more qualified and high-quality sales leads, follow these tactics before and after trade shows to be successful.

Pre-Show Initiatives

Getting people to visit your booth requires that you do a number of activities… from scheduling visits or meetings with prospects to advertising your event and what you are presenting there. The following pre-show promotional initiatives can help you generate more qualified booth traffic and one-to-one meetings and guarantee you won’t be standing around.

1. Evaluate and select trade shows carefully

Check where your competitors are investing, speak with your business partners and evaluate their past experiences… inquire your customers and understand which type of events they are used to attend.

Now… Are the show’s attendee’s likely prospects for your products or services?

It’s better to have a couple of hundred very qualified leads than thousands of leads from people who may not be real prospects.

2. Set measurable goals

You can’t determine the success of your exhibit without first knowing what you want to achieve. Marketing and Sales teams, as well as your exhibit vendor, should be involved in establishing the purpose of exhibiting. Make your goals as specific as possible and align them with your overall lead generation plans. What is your definition of a qualified lead? Are you looking for Marketing Qualified Leads or Sales Qualified leads? How many qualified leads do you hope to generate? If you are able to sell at the show, how many sales do you expect?

Read our article: Not Every Lead You Generate is Sales Ready, Or a Fit For Your Product. Learn The Difference Between a Marketing Qualified Lead and a Sales Qualified Lead.

3. Write a plan

This plan should include a workable schedule, define the responsible resource and designate responsibilities for each. Don’t wait until the last minute, and be sure management signs off on the plan… preferably a couple of weeks before the shows start to prevent “last minute” changes that will put all your work at risk.

4. Develop a key message for your exhibit

Like good advertising and promotion campaigns, a good exhibit communicates one major message clearly… Don´t try to pass to many messages at the same time or speak about a lot of products or business areas at once… This is more effective at drawing prospects to your booth than the cluttered image projected by companies trying to communicate too much. Be clear and focus on the emotions you are able to transmit. You need to stand from the crowd and in the middle of so many flashlights you need to boost your presence.

5. Design an open, catchy, emotional inviting booth

Don’t block access with tables and counters. You want to draw attendees into your booth not scared them away! Don´t put all your team in front of the booth “frightening” and blocking attendees from entering. Use interesting, and colourful graphics with a powerful message to engage them. If space permits, provide comfortable chairs to encourage prospects to linger. People love to mingle. Create an interesting environment where people are able to chill out and stay there for more than 5 minutes… or less…

6. Identify key prospects and invite them

Go through your in-house database or CRM looking for people who have expressed interest in your products or services in the past. Mail your customers, past enquirers, hot prospects, and prospects lists with information about the event, what you are going to showcase and offer complimentary free passes to the exhibits, encouraging them to visit your booth. Call them! People love to feel special, and you can use this to your advantage by personally inviting people to visit your booth. Be sure to pique their interest by telling them about new products or services. If you don´t have new products or services, promote new functionalities through major releases or great minor releases they can test or see “in loco”. Offer them a reason for visiting you… a special offer (premium preferably), just for them or a one-to-one session or personalized demo if applicable.

7. Merchandise your show participation

Post your event(s) dates. Include tag lines in your ads such as “See us at booth number XXX” Include free exhibit passes with your inquiry response materials. Write a press release explaining new products or services to be introduced at upcoming shows. Invite editors or publications to stop by or schedule specific appointments with your key people. Publish an article in your company newsletter or blog listing trade shows and conferences you plan to exhibit at. Include taglines on print ads, in direct mail letters and even as part of your e-mail signature. Post all your company’s events on your website, and make sure they get into your company’s e-newsletters.

8. Train your exhibit staff before each show

Your staff and sales team need to know what is expected of them. They also need to have detailed information about any new products, services or company policies being announced. Ensure that everybody understands what is being offered or presented and any new company policies that are being announced. Very important. People are not robots… pass the message you would like to transmit but let each person work their personalized way. Don´t forget that selling is not only about technical skills… emotions and soft skills are also if not the most important… the combination of this tree skills makes the perfect customer experience.

9. Design a custom lead registration form, digital or non-digital

Keep a record of your visits!! Be sure to include questions designed to qualify your prospects by determining the immediacy of their needs, purchasing authority, budgetary situation, etc.

Show-Time!!

10. Create a unique identity for booth personnel

Matching blazers, Hawaiian t-shirts, cowboy hats (for a western theme) or even boutonnieres will identify your people to prospects who need information or assistance.

11. Offer samples or premiums if appropriate

Merchandise your traffic-building giveaways through pre-show mailings. For example, include the cap portion of a high-quality pen in a pre-show mailing that invites customers and prospects to pick up the rest of the pen at your booth.

12. Provide live or video demonstrations

This will draw attendees to your booth and help them learn more about your company’s products or services. It also allows you to effectively communicate to a number of prospects at once.

13. Remind the folks staffing your booth to record all prospect information

Encourage your people to record everything they can learn about the prospects’ needs and applications. Stress the importance of getting phone numbers and email addresses whenever possible. Consider awarding prizes or special awards to your exhibit staff for the most completed leads turned in on each shift. Motivate your staff and sales team!!!

Post-Show

14. Send requested literature, link to try by yourself or samples immediately

Have literature ready to go before your head to the show. Then send leads from the show to your inquiry handlers overnight. Have them send the requested material to prospects within 24 hours. Fast response is your second opportunity to get a jump on the competition and make a favourable impression. (Your performance in the booth is the first.)

15. Include a teaser on the envelope or in the email subject line

Something like “requested information from YYY event from company XXX” works well to get the package past the assistant (or wastebasket) or global email box and into the prospects’ hands. Off course, if you have the correct prospect information this “blocking” situations may not happen… don´t forget that some companies have strict email box rules so the best thing to do is to call after sending anything… confirming the reception.

16. Help your prospects take the next step

Make sure your literature packages make it easy for prospects to take the next step by including ‘where-to-buy’ details, including the names, addresses, phone and fax numbers and email addresses of your sales offices, dealers or distributors.

17. Use the telephone and email to follow up

Your goal is to build sales-winning relationships with your prospects and further qualify them. Telemarketing and direct mail (including email) are cost-effective and efficient ways to do this.

18. Track your leads through to the sale

Did the qualified prospects buy? How much? Use the answers to demonstrate to management the show’s return on investment, and to increase the odds of show budget approval next year.

19. Complete a critical evaluation

After each show, look at what went well; what didn’t. Critique each aspect of the show and ask salespeople and other participants for comments. Give special attention to the feedback pertaining to lead quality. This information will help you maximize the effectiveness of future show efforts.

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In addition, we work in the coordination of events and in the management of your participation in exhibitions and fairs at national and international level.

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