Trade shows… love them or hate them. They are a great option to get plugged into an industry and to spend time really getting to know the industry’s current trends and issues. Many companies and attendees related to an industry are concentrated in one spot which allows maximum exposure and an opportunity to network. However, trade shows are time consuming and some are hard to navigate. Those in attendance could be the wrong audience and there’s rarely an immediate prospect. In addition, Trade Shows are an expense and take an individual away from the office as well as their personal life! Preparation before, vigilance during, and follow-up after is imperative to maximize results.
Getting the most out of trade shows takes work before and after the show. Trade shows can be another tool in a business development toolbox. Plug the right trade shows into a business development plan for the year, and they can help reach goals.
Here are some pointers to make the most out of a trade show:
Plan ahead. Access or build exhibitor, sponsor, speaker or attendee lists early. Other resources may be needed to get names, phone numbers, and emails. Some conference sites will provide basic information, like company name and location. However, many conference sites will filter exhibitors based upon country, state, products, organization type, etc. To effectively manage time, targets should be utilized. Keep in mind, not everyone has to be contacted. Target the best organizations for the message.
Announce attendance. Issue a press release, use social media, send emails to network contacts and pipeline leads. Get the word out and create an awareness.
Take advantage of the conference website. Some websites will provide the name of the attendee, not just the company name. Allowing one to connect, directly to the attendee by phone or by email. Look for corporate speakers to find senior executives. Take advantage of the message and meeting functions, on the conference website.
Pick up the phone. Directly call those companies and contacts your organization is most interested in meeting. This means putting in a little time targeting and prioritizing. Don’t make the calls a daunting task. Do 10-20 at a time but be prepared to make a few dials to reach someone. Recruit help to get this done, if needed.
Fill your calendar. Make appointments and fill your time at the show. Trade shows are fluid. It won’t all go as planned. Be prepared to track people down and reschedule, if the first time doesn’t happen. Have a list of companies (exhibitors) or sessions of interest and fill in gaps with these activities. Network, network, network.
Keep good records. Write notes on business cards right after meeting someone. All those seemingly memorable conversations will quickly blur together if you don’t. These notes will serve as reminders, when it’s time to follow up. Go ahead and put an A, B or C in the corner of each card to start prioritizing follow up. Utilize a CRM system, if possible, while attending the trade show. Keep up with “nice to meet you” emails. Send LinkedIn connection invitations during off time, at the show. If not, block some time off a day or two after the show, to execute these activities.
Using these pointers can maximize the Trade Show experience. Having appointments set, a full schedule, and a backup plan for down time, are key. Visiting the trade show is just step one in business development. The next step, an often-neglected step, is follow up. After the trade show, it’s time to start responding to requests, getting introductions to the right people, and sending more information. Start with prioritized contacts. Work the system and start filling the pipeline. If the Trade Show is an annual event, make sure to keep good records, so the information and contacts can be used again.
It sounds like a lot of work! If you need help maximizing the trade shows you attend, contact Applied Marketing. We have helped many clients have productive and successful shows. We can do it for you too.