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Savvy Trade Show Exhibitors Have a Plan

When it comes to trade shows, the old saying “Plan your work and work your plan” certainly applies, veteran Midwest trade show entertainers Christian and Katalina agree. Our Corporate Events team interviewed Jane Thompson, whose expertise involves improving trade show marketing outcomes. Thompson’s twin goals – helping clients increase profit while reducing face-to-face marketing costs.

Those trade show marketing costs are counted in time as well as dollars, Thompson cautioned. In fact, she added, without a good follow-up system in place, it is very difficult for a company to break even on a trade show!  Lots of leads may not be good news – you need to ask yourself who is it you really want to get as your customer.

As trade show entertainers and facilitators, Katalina and Christian couldn’t agree more on the idea of having a system in place.  “Oh, we know how to fill your lead basket, all right,” Christian explains, but then you must be able to follow up effectively.

There are some common traps to avoid, Thompson advises, before, during, and after a trade show.

Before:  Don’t commit to a booth before you’ve set a budget that includes not only booth furnishings, giveaway items, and setup, but adequate – and well-trained – staffing for your booth. Then, and only then, are you ready to select the best show and the best booth location you can afford within that total budget. After all, she asks, is it realistic to expect one or two employees to cover a 3-day, 8-hours-a-day shifts and effectively represent your company?

During: The biggest mistake companies make at the trade show itself is failing to create and use a qualifying question. Rather than waiting inside the booth to catch attendees’ eyes, have a representative go around, socialize, and “meet and greet,” using a well-rehearsed and delivered qualifying question:  “Does your company have…..?”  “Does your firm use…..” When Katalina or Christian is bringing someone over to their client’s booth, they are able to say “Meet Bob.  He’s interested in learning more about….”

Many trade show exhibits have literal barriers to entry, with a table “blocking” prospects’ way into the booth. Sitting behind a table is a no-no when it comes to trade show marketing. Make it easy and inviting for customers to come inside your booth, away from the flow of trade show traffic.  Inside, you can talk to them, find out their needs, and share ideas with them.

After: Salespeople love leads, Thompson has found, yet they hate trade show leads! Far too many of those leads are drop-a-card-in-the-jar, nonqualified names who have no specific interest in your company’s products or services. The “follow-up” turns out to be frustrating for both the sales force and the people whom they contact.

Trade shows are actually the perfect place to take advantage of technology through social media, Thomson pointed out. Like-minded people are all gathered in one place, with products and services and education sessions and entertainment all competing for attention. But, just because attendees might have their faces buried in their cell phones, she warns, does NOT mean those manning the booth should do that.  Technology, she asserts, is forcing exhibitors to step up their exhibiting skills. With more competition for everyone’s attention, people skills are becoming more and more important.

SkylineTradeShowTips.com takes the concept one step further, advising exhibiting companies not to provide chairs for staffers. Chairs for attendees are fine, Skyline’s Chad Chesmark adds, so visitors can sit and chat and gather. The more people around your booth, he says, the better.  (Christian and Katalina’s skill in drawing crowds around clients’ booths is legendary.)

“Hire professional entertainers who can combine their skill with your company’s message and branding into visual mini-shows,” Chesmark advises. In fact, that’s precisely what we do at Corporate Events Indianapolis. Our team was delighted to learn of a survey conducted by Exhibit Survey’s, Inc. of New Jersey: Live entertainment and demonstrations, researchers concluded, are the most effective methods for attracting booth visitors in an exhibition hall.  What’s more, magicians received the highest ratings for product identification and recognition.

As our Corporate Events Indianapolis team concluded our meeting with Jane Thomson, one thing was very clear – Savvy trade show exhibitors don’t block their own way to success!

– by Rebecca of the Corporate Events Indianapolis blog team

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