Exhibiting at a trade show is a HUGE amount of work, not to mention a major investment by your company. Being successful at a trade show requires detailed planning and follow through. Without a plan, you may never find that needle (paying client) in the haystack (thousands of unqualified buyers) that you are looking for.
EXHIBITORS, listen up! This is for you. Here is the secret formula on how to find the “needle in a haystack”.
1) Who are your target prospects? It is best not to be too broad, thinking that everyone might need your product or services. Focus on no more than three types of prospect buyers. Sit with your team and give each prospect a complete profile . Even more helpful is to establish a persona and give them an identity complete with picture, name, title, and personal traits. Be sure to ask show management if they are providing a matchmaking tool, or at least a registration list with attendee demographics and interests. This will help you to: 1 – Make sure your persona’s fit the type of prospects coming to the show 2 – Pre-market to the prospects you want to meet 3 – Set goals for your team based upon the number of A, B, or C prospects you see in the registration list that fit your personas.
2) What problem needs to be solved? Try to create a story for each prospect’s persona. Get into the head of each one, pinpoint the problem or problems they face, and establish how your offering may solve them. Put yourself in their shoes so you can empathize with their need. Ask yourself, as each persona, how would you go about shopping for a solution? Role play with your team to practice different methods of engaging your prospect and gathering the information you need.
3) What resources will your prospects use to plan for an event? Technology is constantly changing the way trade shows are promoted and as an exhibitor it can be hard to keep up. Your best bet is to work closely with show management and find out how they plan to promote exhibitors. Some shows use printed show guides while others use online eBooths, matchmaking tools, widgets or mobile apps to promote exhibitors. Wherever show management is sending attendees to research exhibitors and create an expo plan…is where you need to make a big impact! It has been said that 79% of attendees create an expo plan before they arrive to the event. If you neglect to promote yourself properly, you may miss out on meeting that “needle in the haystack” that makes the show valuable for you. Worse yet, is losing that same prospect to a competitor. You should also ask about what social media channels are being promoted so you can participate before, during and after the event.
4) How are going to attract the right buyers to stop by your booth? Once you know who your target prospect is, and you now know where show management is sending buyers to build their expo plan, you need to develop a marketing strategy that speaks to your prospects and attracts them. Your message to each prospect should be short, targeted, and designed around an engaging theme. Make sure your message is delivered clearly before, during, and after the event.
5) What do you do with them once they are in your booth? ENGAGE them! The best leads can be found by following this simple formula on how to “sift through all of that hay” to find the “needles” you are after. (My personal secret…so don’t tell anyone!)
1 – LISTEN & LEARN. Find out who they are and what they are in search of. Don’t mention what you have to offer until you have an idea of who they are and what product or service you might offer that best fits their need. Your goal here is to discover if they fit the profile of a needle (your target prospect) or not.
2 – FIND COMMON GROUND. Usually as I listen and learn, I will discover that I have absolutely nothing to offer them and can wish them a great day or refer them to another booth they may find helpful. Or…I will discover common ground. All it takes is one small clue from them, on who they are, what they are looking for, or what their challenges are…and I can share a quick story that they can relate to. This “common ground” is key. Without it, moving on to step three becomes a sales pitch, rather than a helpful consultation.
3 – CONSULT AND RECOMMEND. People don’t want to be sold. They want to be helped. In under three minutes when a prospect enters your booth, your goal is to make them feel that they have found a solution to a problem that they want to solve, and you can become their new best friend. Just be sure you are honest about what you have to offer. It is much better to under promise and over deliver than the reverse.
4 – ENGAGE. Make sure you schedule a “next step” and that both of you agree as to what that next step is. Some people prefer email while others prefer phone calls. Even better, you may be able to set up a demo or another face-to-face meeting. Chose the path that they want to take. This way, when you follow up on the next step, it will be because they requested you to.
5 – BE MEMORABLE. Since your prospects are meeting hundreds of people at the event, you want to make sure they remember you when you follow up. At a2z, we all wear red shirts, red shoes (not just any shoe…red Chuck Taylors!) and we pass out our cards with Godiva. When I follow up I can say, “Remember me? I was wearing a red shirt and gave you Godiva.” (For those of you who have met a2z at a trade show, you should be laughing right now. Yep, it works and we are happy to have you as a client.)
6) How do you follow up after the show? Keep in mind, that once an attendee leaves a show, many times they will forget all about you. It is not their job to remember and follow up on everyone they met. They are most likely busy telling co-workers about the parties they attended. But it is YOUR job as an exhibitor to contact them if you want their business. Personally, I like to send them an email, thanking them for stopping by within 24 hours of the show. In that email (that has my picture in my signature so they can remember who I am), I usually confirm or suggest the next step according to what we discussed in the booth. Then, if they have not responded within 3-5 days, follow up again by email or phone until you either get an appointment or determine they may not be a good prospect after all.
No matter what, follow through is key from beginning to end. Without it, you might as well not exhibit at all.
Good luck, and happy exhibiting!