Trade shows can be an invaluable opportunity to grow your small business. This is where you can boost your brand’s visibility, showcase your products and services and expand your network.
If it’s your first time heading to a trade show, the prep work you do beforehand can determine how beneficial your experience will be. The following action plan is part of a four part series that offers a blueprint for getting your A-game ready for opening day and beyond.
1. Be the early bird
Trade shows can attract hundreds or even thousands of businesses, both large and small; you don’t want to wait until the last minute to snag a spot. Be sure to book your space well in advance to help land a prime location.
Look for a spot that’s likely to get a lot of foot traffic, but try to steer clear of positioning yourself directly next to a restroom or by a competitor. The show organizer should be able to help. Another great reason to book early? You may be able to get a discount for being ahead of the curve.
2. Get to know your competition
Before the trade show begins, take a look at the full exhibitor list, usually available on the event’s website. Then, evaluate how (or if) those businesses are similar to yours and what they’re doing differently.
For example, are they targeting the same prospects you are? What products or services will they likely be promoting at the show? How does their pricing work? What kind of marketing strategies are they using to attract customers?
Learning more about who you’re competing with can come in handy as you map out your trade show sales approach.
3. Perfect your sales approach
How you present yourself can make or break your business at a trade show. Making a strong impression begins with building some buzz around the event. Doing a pre-show email blast or social media campaign inviting people to visit you at the show is a good way to get the ball rolling.Then, when potential customers approach your booth, be ready with an elevator pitch that succinctly explains:
- Who you are.
- What you’re selling.
- What value your product or service offers.
Your initial pitch is generally more effective when it’s short, sweet and to the point. If a customer wants to know more, be ready to answer questions or provide a more in-depth explanation of the benefits of doing business with you.
4. Schedule meet & greets
As a first-time trade show participant, you might feel nervous about what to expect. An informal meet and greet could be just what’s needed to put you at ease. Meet and greets are intended to be more about socializing and making new connections than about pushing a sales agenda. These events are typically more casual, which means more of a chance to let your personality shine through.
These events allow you to get to know your fellow trade show attendees, including other small business owners, customers and vendors. Frequently these events are open to a limited number of attendees, so remember to register in advance so you don’t miss out.
5. Be approachable
The adage about attracting more flies with honey than vinegar remains true when applied to trade shows, especially if you’re a newbie. Think of yourself as a living, breathing representation of your small business’s brand.
Making a positive first impression can be dependent on the attitude you’re projecting. Do you want prospective customers to see a blank face or a smiling one when they approach your booth to talk business? Maintaining a friendly and polite approach with everyone who comes your way at trade shows can be just as important as having a top-quality product or service.
6. Keep the conversation focused
Once you begin chatting with a potential customer, it’s easy to get caught up in singing your business’s praises; however, that’s not always the most effective way to generate sales leads. You may benefit more by keeping the focus on the customer and their needs.
Asking questions is a relatively easy way to keep the discussion going, but try to steer clear of questions that require simple yes or no answers. For instance, if they’ve mentioned a particular problem that your product or service can help with, you could ask them to explain their problem in more detail. Putting the attention on the customer can be more productive than just subjecting them to a hard sales pitch right out of the gate.
7. Be ready to respond quickly to leads
If you’ve done your homework, crafted a spot-on pitch and put your best foot forward, your first trade show could result in multiple leads. Now you may have to figure out how best to capitalize on opportunities so they don’t slip through your fingers.
Mastering the art of the follow-up before you hit the show floor requires preparation. For example, creating an email marketing campaign ahead of time can streamline your process. When you collect emails from would-be customers, you can be in their inbox in a timely manner.
Bottom line, the more effort you put into getting ready for your first trade show, the better the outcome can be. Following these tips for your first trade show can help cover your bases and let your small business have its moment in the spotlight.