Today’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee caught up with the very busy Booth Mom Candy Adams. She’s been in the industry helping companies succeed at tradeshow marketing for years and shares a lot of great insights into how it all works – especially when you have to pull Plan B out of your back pocket:
Richard Erschik of TradeshowLeadstoSales.com joins me for a fun and very useful conversation about how to generate (and follow up with) great leads at your next tradeshow. What are the five questions you need to ask before you’ve identified a good lead? Watch or listen now:
Yes, I have a Pinterest account. No, I don’t spend a lot of time there. Something about not having enough bandwidth and so on. However, when I do get over there, I find a lot of things to like. Such as these boards on tradeshow marketing which are standouts!
Kimb T. Williams‘ board on Tradeshow Marketing Items features a variety of eye-catching items which make it a worthwhile stop.
Infographics do a great job of quickly communicating information in a fun and effective way, especially if you’re like me (and 65% of the rest of the population) and are a visual learner. So let’s sift through some of the great tradeshow infographics floating around on Pinterest these days.Click through to the Pinterest posts, or browse the infographics below.
Well, actually, you can probably narrow it down to the one most important reason to exhibit at a tradeshow: to build your business! To grow! To see your bottom line increase!
Sure, but in a sense, pretty much any good reason you can think of to exhibit has a chance to fall into the top three of any list, depending on your company’s overall goals. And remember that your specific goals can, and probably will, change from show to show.
So let’s start with reason Number One. To generate leads. Not just any leads, but qualified leads. The definition can vary from business to business, but it boils down to this: a prospect who has shown interest to buy, is qualified to buy, and is planning on making a decision in the near future to purchase whatever it is you’re selling. So let’s be clear on what a lead is NOT. A lead is not a business card that lands in a fishbowl where you’re giving away a par if Bluetooth speakers. A lead is NOT scanning a badge of virtually anyone who passes through. No, a lead is ONLY someone who has passed the tests of being interested, having the ability to pay your price and are in the process of making a decision soon. And by exhibiting at the right shows, your company is reaching markets and new leads that would otherwise be difficult and expensive to reach.
The second most important reason to exhibit at a tradeshow is to show off your brand. A damn fine exhibit can do that in the most eloquent and engaging way. But your exhibit is not the only thing that represents your brand, although it’s critical. First impressions are imprinted on visitors’ minds, and they carry that impression with them for a long time. But beyond that, the impression your people leave is as important than your exhibit, and probably more so. Is your booth staff friendly, prepared and trained to handle the onslaught of visitors and the chaos of a tradeshow floor?
The third most important reason to exhibit at tradeshows? I hinted at it in reason number one: the expansion of your market reach. Bob Moore, the iconic Bob of Bob’s Red Mill, has stated in more than one interview that their consistent exhibiting at tradeshows gives them access to markets they could not otherwise reach. Period. When you exhibit at tradeshows, be prepared to interact with potential clients that are in a position to either purchase your products or services, or help you bring them to new audiences that will help grow your sales.
There are other reasons to exhibit at tradeshows, but by focusing on these three items, all other reasons will almost take care of themselves.
“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”
― Isaac Asimov
There are countless books written about how you can do something better, whether it is tradeshow marketing or underwater basket weaving. But the real secret to improvement is to approach the task with the intent of seeing what works and what doesn’t and use that information to increase your outcome the next time.
Which means that no matter what book you read, you are responsible for the success or failure of that venture. Or, as Peter Shankman recently said, “Lose is not an option. Your options are to win or learn.”
Frankly, even the most seasoned tradeshow marketers run up against forces that give them less than stellar results, leaving them to question their approach.
But if you’re a rookie tradeshow marketer, the learning curve can be steep with many bumps and potholes along the way. Don’t let that dissuade you. Yes, you’re under pressure from the boss to bring home more leads than last time, and to have your sales team close more sales from those leads.
What if the lead count is not what you want? What if the sales results are not optimal? Your choices are to keep moving forward and ignoring the reasons why you had those results, or dig into the various moving parts to learn what happened. Was your booth visitor count down? Did your booth staff perform poorly because they were not as well-trained as they should have been? Did your competition have a better product or service?
All of these and more can affect your results, and the more you understand about why you got the results you did, the better you can respond and improve.
Well, these might not be actual tradeshow marketing secrets, simply because by its very definition, a secret is something that is not well known. The following items are fairly well known and no doubt you can easily find them online – but the question is: are you using them to their full capacity and capability?
First, let’s look at first impressions. Hey, you only get one chance! And as you know, in tradeshows, perception is everything. Make your first impression strong, and the second piece of the puzzle will fall into place a little easier.
Next, know that the image you put out at a tradeshow isn’t just a random piece of your brand – it’s your whole brand. It IS your brand. If you miss the mark here, your next puzzle piece just got harder.
Up next: your staff. You can have the sweetest exhibit at the show, but if your staff sucks, it will all go for naught. Which means that your staff should not only know what they’re doing and be presentable and friendly and good with people, they should be well-trained in the challenges of dealing with hundreds of people on the chaos of the tradeshow floor.
Now, be sure to have something for people to do when they arrive at your booth. It could be a product demo, an interactive tool, a video to watch, a virtual reality headset to wear – anything that engages them for more than 8.4 seconds.
Ninety percent of success is showing up. Of course, you say, you’ll show up. But do you really? Are you really there for the full show? Are you there ready to listen to a client’s complaints and respond? Are you there to jump in when there is a problem or challenge and not leave it for someone else? Be there. All the time. Not just when you’re on the clock.
Cross your T’s. Dot your i’s! Details are important. When you slip on an important detail, someone – perhaps a potential client – is bound to notice.
Yes, details are important, but so is keeping your eye on the bigger picture. Tradeshows are a powerful way to reach markets that you otherwise would not be able to access so easily and economically.
Really, it’s all in the follow-up. Yup, I was kidding back in that earlier paragraph where I said the key to tradeshow marketing success was to draw a crowd and then know what to do with them. You’ve got to have a good follow-up plan in place. And be sure the work the plan.
Finally, be flexible. Sometimes, you just gotta MacGuyver things and adjust to a changing landscape. Be willing to go with the flow and see where it leads, as long as your overall strategy doesn’t change.
If you’re standing at the edge of your tradeshow booth ready to engage with a visitor, remember that as try you qualify him or her, you’re really trying to find the prospect’s real issue. Once you do that, you can determine if you can be of assistance, or if you can’t.
Tradeshow selling take place in a chaotic environment. Hundreds or thousands of competing exhibitors, and thousands or tens of thousands of attendees means everyone is vying for attention and they all have their own personal agenda. So when you get an opportunity to interact with a booth visitor, the best recipe for a successful encounter is to know where you want to go.
And often that destination is reached by trying to uncover the prospect’s real issue. How do you do that? By asking questions.
Let’s say you’re exhibiting at a show to get more leads for your IT business such as virus eradication and firewalls and related services Your visitor mention that they think their IT department is doing okay. That’s a bit of an opening – not much – but it should give you an opportunity to peel back the onion a bit.
“When you say that ‘you think’ the IT department is doing okay, what do you mean?”
They may tell you that from what their IT guy says, they seem to have dealt with most of the recent viruses with a rebuilt firewall. Or something. He’s not an IT guy.
“What do you mean by most? Can you tell me more?”
They go on to say that the IT guy only “swore for half the day” earlier in the week at something-or-other that was taking up all his time instead of being able to add on to the network which he was supposed to be doing.
“So your network administrator only ‘swore for half the day’ at having to deal with viruses? It sounds like he must have dealt with it. So it’s a done deal, right?” (You’re trying to backpedal a bit: psychologically it’s going to spur them to open up a bit more. If you suddenly tried to sell them your services without knowing if they need it, their defenses would likely go up).
Naah, he says, still some work to do. But he doesn’t know because he’s not the IT guy. Maybe it would be worth giving you his contact number, he says.
“Well,” you say, “that may be a good move. But he probably has his own go-to team to deal with issues like this, right?” (Still back-pedaling and acting like it’s not a big deal, to get him to open up more).
He doesn’t think so. In fact, just an hour ago when he was having lunch with the IT guy, the guy got a phone call from his assistant and they must have sworn back and forth for ten minutes over the situation. In fact, the IT guy may have to leave the show early to go deal with it.
“He and his assistant swore about the situation for ten minutes while you were eating? So the assistant has it handled, then?”
Uh, no, says the visitor. Gulp. Doesn’t sound like it. But then, he says again, he’s not an IT guy.
Now you’ve uncovered the real issue. It took a bit of doing, because your visitor was unwilling to reveal that information until you kept asking questions – and following up those questions with some ‘aw, shucks, it’s probably not a big deal, right?’ questions. And with your laidback but curious approach designed to get more information, he’s revealed the issue: that there really is a problem that your IT guy is trying to solve. Trying to put out a fire, in fact.
Sales is essentially the same whether it’s on the tradeshow floor, on the phone, or in someone’s office. It’s not about features and benefits. It’s about uncovering the problem and seeing if there is a fit between your prospect’s problems and your potential solutions. If there is, you’ll find an opportunity to discuss it in full at the earliest opportunity. If there is no fit, you wish him or her well and move on to the next.
Next time you’re on the tradeshow floor, try to refrain from hitting your visitors with a list of features and benefits at the first sign of a possible lead. Instead, drill down by playing a bit dumb, asking more questions and getting to the prospect’s real issues. Then you can schedule the next move that both of your agree on.
More than two-thirds of exhibitors do not have a solid plan in place and end up making mistakes at the tradeshow as they exhibit.
In fact, not having an organized, comprehensive plan is one of the most common mistakes that exhibitors make.
And it’s safe to say that nearly all exhibitors don’t have a solid grasp of the metrics of their success or failure that comes from that tradeshow appearance. Why? Because companies tend to put all of their energy, time and money into putting on a good show, and very little into counting the results after the end of the show. Measuring your results – leads, sales closed – is one of the most critical measurements you can make.
Let’s look at some of the common mistakes you might make as you exhibit at the tradeshow.
First, you don’t have a comprehensive plan. This means going from A-Z and planning to cover all your bases, from pre-show marketing and show execution to having an exhibit that accurately represents your brand and communicates your message to counting leads and sales after the show is done. Know what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, how you’re planning to get back your return on the investment and where your tradeshow appearance fits in your overall marketing strategy.
Secondly, you may have the wrong people in the booth. Tradeshow floors are a chaotic busy mess where hundreds or thousands of people come and go all day long. Without proper preparation, which usually means staff training and picking the right people, you’ll end up with sales people or other staffers that can’t interact with precision, veracity and alacrity with those visitors. They’re not asking proper questions, they’re letting big fish get away and they’re spending too much time on little fish or people that won’t ever buy.
Third: you’re repeating yourself. Do you ever see the same company at the same show with the same exhibit year after year, showing off the same products? On close examination it seems nothing really changes from year to year. A company that’s on top of their game will upgrade the booth regularly or replace it when necessary; they’ll have new products to show off and new ways of interacting with visitors.
Fourth: you’re cheapening your brand by having inappropriate brand ambassadors in your booth. Pretty models in skimpy outfits may attract a crowd, but they do nothing to improve or define your company’s brand unless, of course, your brand is built on pretty models in skimpy outfits. Otherwise, in today’s climate, exhibiting in the US using those types of representatives will likely get you negative feedback.
Fifth: the biggest tradeshow marketing sin of all – you’re not following up on all of those leads in a timely manner. The fact that tradeshow leads are cheaper by the dozen and more targeted than any other kind of lead, coupled with the fact that your competitors have many of the same leads in their bucket, means that you must strike while the iron is hot. Letting a lead sit more than a few weeks means it grows colder and colder until you might as well toss it out with the other dead fish.
We all make mistakes – it’s part of life – but the more you can minimize mistakes with oodles of tradeshow marketing dollars on the table, the better off you’ll be.