5 Elements to a Successful Tradeshow

   A successful Tradeshow involves more than a booth, a chair, and a person to sit there. Here are five key elements to ensure a successful tradeshow.

 1.      Know your audience.  

Be sure you are targeting the right market audience for your product. If you are a food wholesaler selling to restaurants, don't participate in a show that is for the general public. Likewise, if you are a photographer, a tradeshow geared toward weddings and brides would be a profitable endeavor. Ask the organizer to who the invitations and announcements are being sent to. What kind of magazines or newspapers are they advertising the tradeshow in? 

2.      Develop a strategy. 

Each show must be a part of an integrated marketing plan. Don't just wing it. Train your salespeople; make sure they know the product. Make sure they know the competition, they will probably be there. Know the floor plan and traffic flow. It may help in deciding the best booth location. Tradeshows can be difficult to measure return on investment so develop a follow up system. Don't rely on just one contact to sell your product. People like to do business with people they like, so be sure to use it as a way to increase face to face relationships with prospects. You can't expect the shows management to drive all the business to your booth. Develop a pre-show promotion. Send out personal invitations to your prospects and clients to attend. Do a mass mailing. Offer incentives for people to visit your booth by creating a contest or raffle.

 3.      Make a list of supplies.  

Every business will have their own necessities, but no matter what show you attend, there will always be a standard list of supplies you will need. Be sure to find out what is included; a table, a chair, electricity, etc. Your list should include plenty of business cards. Believe it or not, many people do overlook this and end up writing their name on a napkin or something that will end up lost or tossed. Have brochures or sales flyers, and be sure they include coupons or other incentives so they will be kept. A table cloth for a better appearance. A fish bowl so prospects can drop in their business card. A pen and paper to jot down notes. And a most have…duct tape. You may not know why, but you will be glad you did. Something will always come up that nothing but duct tape will fix. Keep an on-going list of these needs and continually add to it as required for next time.  

4.      Know proper etiquette.  

Be approachable. I've seen many sales reps are playing on their phones and expect someone to walk up to them and ask them about their product or service. Be ready to handle questions. Don't bring books or newspapers with you. If it is a slow part of the day, use that time to meet other vendors. It's a great way to network and also pick up a few good ideas you may be able to incorporate into your booth. Don't talk on your phone. If you are seen talking on the phone, you will seem busy and prospects won't approach you – potentially losing a sale. Don't eat, drink, smoke or watch TV at your booth. It may sound basic but often done. Do use the prospect's name. They will most likely have on a name badge. People love to hear their name. And smile. Look happy and look like you are happy to be there.  

5.      Most important – use promotional products.  

While they serve many marketing needs, ad specialties are also a great way to attract people to your booth. Products with your logo on them, such as pens, mugs and magnets, are almost expected at tradeshows. But be sure to use them correctly. You want to make sure you receive a return on your investment. Don't place your promotional products near the aisle so they can easily walk by and take one. Place them a little further away so they have to approach you and you can engage in conversation with them. Don't think of them as a giveaway because they are not. They are marketing material. You are not there to just give these items away without expecting anything in return. You are there to market yourself and expect to build business relationships. But remember, just because you gave someone a t-shirt or hat doesn't guarantee you a sale. It is a means of getting them to your booth and for them to remember you after the show. Since the prospect is now in front of you, it is time to promote yourself and the benefits of working with you. When using ad specialties, be sure to choose the right product for you audience. A compact sewing kit would be a great item for an estate planner marketing to women, but would not go over well for an insurance company marketing to truckers.

Successful marketing takes time and planning. Marketing should not be thought of as a cost but as an investment. Businesses are very competitive so you need to keep your name in front of your prospects at all times. And promotional products are a cost effective way to do that. It's not whether “can you afford to advertise”… it's “can you afford not to!”