On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, Nathan Grepke, President of Blue Pony, joins me to go over some of the latest technology and some of the things they’re up to in video production, presentation and mogician. Yup, mogician. Just take a look / listen:
As an exhibitor, you’ve got most of the moving parts handled: logistics, schedules, booth staff up to speed on how to handle prospects, ask opening questions and so on.
But what’s the last thing you should do once you have converted a prospect into a lead? It’s a step that a lot of people in sales, especially newer ones, tend to overlook. And it’s easy to let this critical piece slip by quickly.
At the beginning of the visit, you clarify if the visitor is interested in your product or service by asking good questions. During the conversation with them, you’re asking more clarifying and confirmation questions.
But what about the very last step?
Confirming everything before they leave. Make sure that their business card or scanned badge info is accurate down to the email address and phone number. If you can’t get back to them easily, they’re lost. Confirm the next step: when you’ll call (or write, or visit), what that next step entails (more product information, order sheet, longer product demo, etc.), what you might need to send them prior to the call or visit (sell sheets, white paper, etc.).
In every sales meeting – and let’s be clear that a tradeshow visit that gets this far and turns a prospect into lead is definitely a sales meeting – the last step before parting is to confirm what the next step is.
The challenge that comes up if you don’t clarify the next step is that you may forget. Or your lead may be unclear what to expect from you and when. Better to take an extra minute so that there is no mutual mystification. Make sure you both know what’s coming next and when.
There are a lot of people in the tradeshow industry who are well-travelled and highly experienced, and I love chatting with them about tradeshow marketing. In this episode I sat with Michael Thimmesch, long time Skyline marketer, now a consultant with his own company. We covered a lot of bases of tradeshow marketing, including his approach of the FIVE LEVELS of tradeshow marketing. Where are you? Take a look:
In this week’s vlog/podcast, I got a chance to learn quite a bit about something with which I’m not very familiar with: international tradeshow exhibiting. I’m guessing that a lot of us don’t get a chance for much exhibiting in Dubai, France, Spain, England, China or Japan or any of a number of countries. That’s why this week’s interview with exhibit designer and international tradeshow exhibiting expert Larry Kulchawik is such a treat. Loads of great information – and you should pick up his book if you do any international exhibiting. Check it out:
I suppose having your tradeshow booth overwhelmed with visitors is a good problem to have, but if you have a small booth staff that can’t handle the number of visitors, it can be frustrating.
If you get lucky enough to face this problem, what should you do? Certainly, you want to capture contact info from as many people as you can.
Depending on the circumstances, you can approach it in a few ways. A little preparation for this will go a long way. For instance, have a couple of clipboards handy with pre-printed forms asking for just a few pertinent pieces of information such as name, phone, email and company. And if room, what do they want to talk with you about. If you’re overwhelmed with visitors, your staff can quickly hand out the clipboards and ask those that can’t stick around to leave their information behind – and be sure to ask for a business card as well. In fact, you can even say to those that hand you a business card to give a shortened version of their info on the form and make a note that they left a card. This gives you name, contact info, company and phone number without them having to write it down.
Don’t have clipboard with forms or even blank paper? You might think ahead and toss a small notebook in to the booth crate. You can at least ask the questions and write that info down.
No notebook? Ask for a card, tell the guest that you’re sorry that you’re swamped right now but that you want to get back to them soon: “Can we schedule a meeting later today or tomorrow? Or would it work better to call you when you get back to your office?”
The goal with this situation is to get contact info for as many people as possible – if they leave without you doing that, they’re likely gone for good. Grabbing a card and making a note on the card is sufficient. Even if you don’t get a chance to jot a brief note on the back, you can make a return call a few days later.
At busy shows, it’s kind of rare to have a few moments when you’re simply overwhelmed, where you just don’t have the booth staff to handle the influx of visitors. But if you can do your best to capture contact information before they leave, you have made a connection, even if it’s tentative. But it’s better than not capturing anything from them!
While the reasons for attending a tradeshow are different from company to company, everyone has essentially the same tradeshow goals – we all want to spread awareness about our brand, make sales, and forge connections with new partners and customers.
Regardless of how top-notch your product or service or how flashy your booth, you won’t achieve any of these goals if you don’t have a steady stream of traffic. Get creative in your tradeshow approach so that no one can resist stopping by your exhibit.
Make your booth unmissable—Step No. 1 of effective tradeshow marketing: design a show-stopping, crowd-pleasing, sales-grabbing booth. Of course, how big and bold you can go varies greatly on your budget, but be sure to look around at some of the top tradeshow booth ideas to get some inspiration and learn how you can do more with less. You don’t necessarily have to have a huge and flashy environment to draw in more visitors. Simple but creative designs—turning your booth into an indoor garden, recreating the feel of an art gallery, or including interactive components—are the most successful in today’s tradeshow landscape. Anything that serves as a conversation piece will get people talking, generating some big-time buzz.
Dress your reps to impress—After your booth, the first thing attendees see is your reps. You should make sure that anyone representing your brand adheres to a strict dress code, and one that jives with your brand image. In other words, if your brand has a laid-back, youthful vibe—and those are characteristics of your target audience—then it’s okay to have your reps dress in jeans and company T-shirts. If you’re catering to a crowd of attendees in suits and dresses, it’s best to stick to the suits and dresses yourself. When visitors think they’ll be in like-minded company, they’re more likely to cozy up at your booth and connect with your team. Be sure that all representatives wear badges displaying their name and company to keep things professional.
Showcase your giveaways—A not-so-well-kept secret in the tradeshow world is that swag is everything. The fact of the matter is that registered attendees are much more likely to pass on your booth if they don’t believe they’ll get something out of it, whether it’s a new partnership or a free gift. Make your promotional giveaways part of the display so that passersby can see them from the aisle. It’s also a good idea to go name-brand with your freebies and to use them as incentives. Save your cool items, like custom Nike swag bags and YETI tumblers, for those who sign up or commit to a deal.
Promote your presence—Make sure that your existing customer base and networking circle knows that you’re exhibiting so they stop by and bring their friends. Be sure to schedule marketing emails and blast your social feeds with your exhibit location and encourage all of your followers to visit. Not only do you need to promote your own presence on social media, but you need to leverage the broader event pages and hashtags to get attendees who may not yet be engaged with your brand to look at your posts.
Host a giveaway—As we’ve already discussed, tradeshow attendees love free stuff. With that in mind, one of the best things you can do to entice visitors to your booth is to host a giveaway. Choose a desirable item—perhaps a gadget, a gift card, or a getaway—and make it a prominent feature of your display. Ask everyone who passes your booth to drop in a business card as their entry and designate a time and place for the official drawing at the end of the show. This is beneficial to you for many reasons. It draws attention to your booth, encourages visitors to stop by twice (once to enter and once to see who won), and earns you lots of new contacts and leads.
Get on the VR bandwagon—There are a few important technologies that you should be leveraging to get ahead in today’s tradeshow environment. The first is virtual reality. If it’s in your budget, do what you can to draw in customers with VR, primarily if what you’re selling is a place or an environment that can’t be recreated at the show. For example, the German airline Lufthansa drew major props when it invited tradeshow attendees to watch the world’s first 360-degree movie filmed on a Boeing 747 at a recent tradeshow—in virtual reality, of course. VR can help users visualize, learn, experience, and get hands-on training with your product without the need to get them in the door for a real-life demo.
Make your booth a getaway—What do tired, busy show-goers want more than anything? A place to chill. If you can make your show environment simultaneously high-energy—you want attendees to take action, after all—and relaxing, you can bet that visitors will come back again and again with friends. Whether it’s adding a TV, massage chairs, or a couple of phone chargers, anything you can do to make your booth feel homey and welcoming is a win. Just be careful about loafers! It’s important to keep the energy flowing rather than stagnant in a tradeshow environment.
Selling with a smile
One of the most important things you can do to draw more visitors to your tradeshow booth is to exhibit with a smile. Put your friendliest, most charismatic employees on the frontlines and train them to act as hosts and hostesses of your environment. If they’re able to make warm connections with people passing by, whether it be making eye contact and smiling or asking them a question, they’ll be able to help convert visitors to loyal customers. Be sure that your exhibit has an open and inviting feel no matter what.
Lee Becknell serves as the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. Lee oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. Lee has been with Pinnacle for over six years. Lee enjoys spending time with her husband, son and golden retriever, running and taking naps.
When you think about it, there are several reasons why tradeshows work to reach new markets. And many reasons as to why they wouldn’t work for you.
Let’s start with why tradeshows work.
Tradeshows are organized for one very good reason: to bring buyers and sellers together under one roof for a short amount of time. It’s an extremely effective way to help both parties make connections. By setting up an exhibit at the right show – one that has hundreds or thousands of people or companies that are in the market for your product or service – you can save a ton of money when compared with trying to have face-to-face meetings with those same people at their company locations. Imagine meeting 100 people at a show over the course of three days. Then imagine the cost of traveling to 100 locations spread throughout the country (or state or world) and having the same meetings. Granted, a meeting in someone’s office is typically more relaxed than a meeting on the tradeshow floor. But other than the time and relaxation factors, it’s pretty much the same meeting! You’re determining if the prospect uses your product, is capable of making a purchase (they have the $$), and if they have the ability to make that decision for the company. It’s the same on the tradeshow floor.
Given all of that, tradeshows are the perfect structure for spreading the word about your product among a very large crowd that – again, if it’s the right show – are your target market. Naturally, you’re competing against companies that may be trying to sell virtually the same product or service to the same target market. That’s where the fun starts: how do you differentiate from them, how do you approach the prospect, how do you understand their needs, how do you make them look (and feel) good?
On the flip side, given the high cost and a multitude of variables that go into planning and executing a tradeshow appearance, a lot of exhibitors have come to the conclusion that tradeshow marketing doesn’t work. For them.
You could point to a number of reasons why it doesn’t work for them. They’re at the wrong show. With the wrong exhibit. In the wrong space. With a booth staff that isn’t properly trained. Going against competitors that are way ahead of them in experience, savvy, planning, and attitude. In fact, attitude, I would argue, is one of the keys to winning vs. losing at a tradeshow. But let’s take it a step further: let’s not even use the words “winning vs. losing” because that frames it as a competition. Yes, it is, in a sense. But if you consider all tradeshows as more than that – as a learning experience – take that experience and apply it to the next round. What worked? What didn’t? Why did something work, and why did something else not work? If that’s hard to figure out, it might mean you’re too close to it. Ask someone on the outside to take a look and give an objective perspective. Buy a book or two and learn how it’s done from people that have been there before.
Don’t give up. Keep plugging away. Keep trying. It can – and will – work for you, eventually.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the main goal of all tradeshow marketing is to grow your business, right? Yes, you’re right. But that’s a general and somewhat vague-sounding goal, so it’s worth breaking it down a bit more.
The main goals for exhibiting typically fall under these categories:
Most everything you can do, whether it’s pre-show marketing, in-booth activities, or post-show follow-up, helps support these three main goals.
To support your Branding efforts, consider the following goals:
Easily recognizable exhibit that captures your brand. How do you measure this? One way would be to survey visitors as they pass through the booth to gauge their feelings on the exhibit.
A trained booth staff that knows and understands your show goals and how to properly interact with your booth visitors. This isn’t something that is easily measurable, but investing in your booth staff by hiring a professional trainer is an expense that can be measured – and I’m confident you’ll see an improvement in critical metrics as a results.
Samples given away – if a lot of people want your stuff, that’s a good indicator. Easy enough to measure.
Social media engagement. Did you get good response from the photos and videos you posted from the show floor (as well as before and after the show)? Compare post count and engagement from show to show.
When it comes to Lead Generation, the following metrics and activities can contribute to the overall success:
Making sure that your lead has concrete contact information and specific follow up details. Count leads and track trends from show to show.
Tracking the overall visitor count. Yes, this is hard to do, but with technology it’s becoming easier. By knowing the percentage of visitors that convert to leads, you have valuable information that can be used at subsequent shows.
Sales Success comes from the follow up and the tracking of the total amount of sales achieved as a direct result of a show. Here’s where it gets a little dicey. Some tradeshow leads will pay off immediately, others in the medium-term and some in the long-term. If you can attribute a sale in March of 2019, for example to a show you did in July of 2016, add the profit earned from that sale to the Return on Investment from your July 2016 show. You probably won’t automatically know this information, especially if your company is a fairly large business and goes to several shows in a year. But by tagging the prospect as someone that first came into your sales funnel at that specific July 2016 show, no matter how many follow up steps it took, if they become a new client and you can attribute the income from them to a specific show, make sure to do so.
One of my favorite newsletters comes from Bill Lampton, Ph. D., otherwise known as the BizComunication Guy. When I invited him on to the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee several weeks ago, he offered to interview me for his weekly show as well. It was a pleasure to reciprocate. Bill is great interviewer and as you might imagine a professional communicator.