There really are only two possible objectives from exhibiting a small business at a trade show:
- Gathering contact data to add to the prospect list
- Selling products at the show
So what should you think about if your objective is to gather data and increase the number of prospects in your marketing database? How are you going to collect visitors details without spending money on buying the visitor database from the organisers (which can be worth the money if you are clear about how you would use that data).
Many businesses turn up and offer a prize draw which can be a useful way of collecting business cards. However, this old chestnut is now becoming outdated and many exhibition visitors won’t enter just because they might win a bottle of champagne, they’re worried that they’ll get spammed or harassed. Even worse, they will give you their contact details for the prize draw – but with no interest whatsoever in your products or services.
The key here is to give the visitor a reason or incentive for giving you their information. Often this is some kind of freebie such as, a report, goodie bag, or a free trial.
So have a think about what you can offer to gather data in a meaningful way.
What if your objective is to sell products on the stand? Well, you’re going to have to first of all get them to your stand and then convince them to part with some money while they are there. So it’s vital to have an ‘easy to buy’ product or a special offer to make this easier. It’s also a good idea to gather their contact details so you can add them to your marketing database anyway.
Another important consideration is congruency, where your offering is right for the audience. It’s not a good fit for a stationery company to exhibit at a pet expo, or selling greasy cheeseburgers at a healthy eating conference (you might laugh but this kind of thing happens regularly). Yes, you might get one or two customers but the visitors aren’t really there thinking about the incongruent offerings.
Either way, you need to think very hard about these issues. Don’t be afraid to be creative but, whatever you do, just be clear about the objective and your route to achieving it.
Thinking about attracting visitors to your stand during the show
You need to think a little bit more creatively to come up with something that attracts people to your stand and encourages them to give you their business card or contact details.
The first thing to consider is whether your stand looks like everyone else’s. This is a particular issue with professional practices, they tend to look and say pretty much the same as all the others. Now we’re not suggesting you have to have some great Disney-esque display just to get some attention but can you spruce up your visuals a bit?
Second is what you and your colleagues look like? Do you wear suits so you can look ‘professional’? Is there a way of wearing more colourful clothes to help you stand out, perhaps hats, polo shirts or tabards? Again, you need to think about being a bit different from those around you, whether you’re giving visitors a reason to come to your stand and give your their details.
When you’ve been to the show you then need to consider what you’re going to do with the information you gathered. Are you just going to add the contacts to your database, are you going to make them a special offer for having visited your stand, who are you going to call them up to try and get an appointment to potentially sell them something?
Whatever you do it vital that you do it within a few days of the exhibition. Don’t leave it for weeks because the memory of the event will quickly fade.