by Shereen Dindar
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, trade shows are a necessary tool to grow your small business.
But the value of a trade show can be a bit of a gamble when it comes to ROI. You risk spending hours preparing and organizing for the big day only to discover that by the end of the day you’ve captured a meager 10 leads.
Sound familiar? Chances are you aren’t maximizing the event to attract the highest possible number of leads.
Read below for tips on how to get more leads while showcasing your product at trade shows.
Ditch the paper
Long gone are the days of acquiring leads with business cards, paper forms and notes. Not only are business cards easily lost, but the process of collecting them can also force you to miss out on meeting other people. While you are chatting with one lead, three other potential leads might walk by your booth.
But what if you captured lead details like email addresses and phone numbers with multiple tablets around your booth? This allows you to chat with one lead while other trade show attendees provide their contact details on your company tablets.
Make your booth attractive
Having an attractive booth may seem like an obvious way to attract leads, but you’d be surprised by how many small businesses miss the mark. A company logo and banner are not useful if they are falling down or hidden behind take-out containers and stacks of paper.
In addition to keeping your booth neat and tidy, consider having an image of your product or service featured prominently. Brand your booth so that it stands out. This doesn’t mean you have to spend way outside your budget, but consider a nicely-constructed, well-designed background display, unusual chairs, bold digital signage, tablecloths and maybe some extra lighting (since expo halls tend to be a bit on the dreary side).
And let’s not forget, the way your employees dress speaks volumes about your company culture and level of professionalism. You’ll need to determine the image you want to project – formal, business casual or casual. Whatever style you choose, make sure you have clear standards - no light jeans. Consider having your employees wear their uniforms or dress in one or two colors associated with your brand.
Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and have breath mints available.
Include giveaways that are useful, not gimmicky
Everyone will have freebies like pens and bags. The trick is how will you make your freebies standout.
Consider having giveaways that are useful. They can related to your product, such as a USB stick for a software company or a rubber football for a tire manufacture, but people also go for things that are useful and a bit more unique, like pocket mirrors with an emory board (with your logo) on the back. Having an enticing gift creates the perfect opportunity to discuss the value of your product as visitors stop by to grab one.
Even in the age of digital, some form of paper collateral is a good idea. A leaflet, catalog or sales sheet should describe your product to varying degrees, appealing to different types of leads. It should go without saying that your company logo, contact info and website should be printed on everything you give away.
Tell people in advance that you’ll be there
Most trade show organizers keep an email list of attendees. Try to get your hands on it six weeks before the event and send people a friendly note to let them know your exact location and booth number. Set up meetings with key sales prospects in advance and send them a coupon in your introduction email.
Nowadays using social media to promote your attendance at an event is par for the course. Tell all your followers what you hope to learn and the connections you want to make at the trade show. Include hashtags for the event so that people outside your followers can read what you have to say.
Find leads from past trade show events and email them with a reminder about who you are and why you hope to connect with them again. Have something new to offer and unique to say.
Do your research beforehand
Small business owners often want to learn more about a particular area of their industry at trade shows. Find out what other attendees are most interested in learning about and when they visit your booth have something insightful to say about those topics.
Attendees will be bombarded with seminars and lectures that aren’t relevant to their particular interests. If you can capitalize off of this opportunity and show them you have knowledge they want, you will make a lasting impression as an industry expert. This impression will serve you as people decide if they want to do businesses with you.
For example, say you are restaurant owner hoping to make supplier contacts at a food service trade show. You notice most of the seminars are related to customer service and staff management, but your social media contacts are mostly talking about the trend in organic, local and gluten-free products. When a potential supplier stops by your table, you start a conversation about how you recently started serving organic burgers and free-range chicken at your restaurant.
Nail your pitch
You only have a few seconds to capture a possible lead's attention as they walk by your booth, so nail down one to two sentences that describes your product and service. But remember, simply reciting your pitch to anyone who stops at your booth won’t get you the results you want. Use your pitch with discretion. Use body language as a way to gauge a person’s level of interest before you decide whether to recite your pitch. Politely end conversations with people who occupy too much of your time but are not qualified leads, and if it’s clear someone’s not interested in what you have to say, politely end that conversation, too.
And finally, don’t forget to follow up when it’s over! Don’t let that new email list languish for weeks before you email. Have something ready to go before the trade show even begins so all you have to do after the fact is plug in some data and hit send.
Ultimately, trade shows can be excellent sources of lead generation when you get savvy about harnessing them.
Shereen Dindar is the content manager for QuickTapSurvey, a lead capture app for small and medium sized businesses. She is responsible for leading the company’s content marketing efforts as customers look to QuickTapSurvey for tips and suggestions. Read her insights on the QuickTapSurvey blog.