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Not Being A Trade Show Zombie

This was a post that I had done for another company as part of a campaign. For some reason I can’t remember, we didn’t end up doing business with them. After sitting in my drafts folder for a couple of years I thought I’d throw it out there are this week’s #FriLearning  Enjoy your weekend!
 
Here’s how to fail at trade shows:
  1. Set up your “Professional” looking booth
  2. Show up at the show and hope to find some leads
  3. Bring home some business cards
  4. Maybe close a deal or two

What about the winners?

They Get Seen. When people are walking the show floor there are two states of mind – The Beta state is the normal zombie state of anybody walking the streets. Not really paying attention to anything, having that normal monologue going on in their head. Alpha state is when you snap somebody out of Beta and they are paying direct attention. They are talking to someone, reading something – they are now fully focused and not paying attention to everything else going on around them. Step one to winning – get them to Alpha. As far as the booth is concerned, looking “Professional” is code for “Unremarkable” and a recipe to fail. Work with your marketing team to create a remarkable booth, shocking, offbeat, casual, whatever as long as it doesn’t look like everyone else on the row. Two easy tricks – hire a chair massage, or just pay the extra $100 for super thick floor padding for those shows where everybody has to walk 5 miles of show floor a day.

Signage is important, do what you can within your budget, but optimum would be huge overhead that can be seen anywhere on the floor. A masthead that can be read on the whole aisle. The key here is to keep getting the text smaller as you go lower to literally pull people into your booth.

They Have A Hook. What makes them remarkable also connects to their story. “Sure, you can have a 5 minute shoulder rub, c’mon over here. We’ve been working with this spa for 3 years handling all their accounting, do you get help with your accounting?” Yes. Even an accountant can have a remarkable booth and story.

They Have Appointments Set. The 3 months before the show is where the winners are determined. Winning organizations already have a list of appointments and even a few deals in the pipe before their plane lands in town. These players know that the show will pay for itself before the booth is set up. Don’t be afraid to outsource appointment setting, use a calling automation tool, or a virtual assistant to both set appointments and monitor social media to filter through attendees who are mentioning the show beforehand to determine who might be a prospect.

They Do Biz Dev. For shows where you don’t get the attendee list, find two or three exhibitors with complimentary products and either trade leads or band together and do a follow up event like a webinar that you can all use as opportunity to contact your leads. I’ve found that these leads from other exhibitors to perform even better than leads that visited the booth at many events.
 
Their Giveaways Generate Traffic. Don’t make the mistake everyone makes of pens, candy or other “From the Far East to the Landfill” giveaways (stress ball anyone?) Give away something $50+ but only to qualified leads. Somebody who can buy your six-figure business intelligence software? Yeah, that’s worth some Bose Headphones if they’re willing to take 10 minutes to check it out on the floor. Wait and see how many people will line up for a Bluetooth travel speaker. Have some candy around for those who don’t qualify…
 
They Don’t Take No For An Answer. What if you don’t have the six-figure budget for that huge event? Be a Lobby Rat, invite a prospect for a drink after the sessions at the hotel across the street. Suitcase it – sign up for the free expo badge and meet a prospect after one of the big keynotes. Outboarding is also another effective tactic – instead of a $10,000 4×4 booth you could take 5 prospects for the finest steak in town that night for a legendary event.
 
Best of luck at your next event!