In early October I attended a trade show for a client… this one happened to be a Polycom Technical Summit in Slough, England… about 25 miles west of London.
I’ve been attending events like this for over 25 years. In the beginning I thought they were a waste of time, money, and resources because I didn’t understand how to properly leverage the event to get a good return on my company’s investment.
But that has changed—25 years of experience will do that.
Here are a few things I’ve learned:
- First, know your business so well – including target markets and segments – you can accurately determine which trade shows and networking events to attend, and which to avoid. (Read my post: “DON’T JUMP INTO SOCIAL MEDIA WITHOUT A MARKETING PLAN” on creating a Marketing Plan). This should be only one element of your marketing plan. Draft a thorough set of criteria and run every opportunity against them to make sure you’re investing your money wisely.
- Second, create a budget and do not exceed it. Participating in trade shows is expensive to begin with, but it also drains your company’s resources, a cost that’s easy to underestimate. Commit to leverage every aspect of the trade show to insure you’ll get a return on your investment and make sure you do not exceed your budget.
- Trade shows are physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. Be well rested prior to the event. Take the time to prepare yourself to be “on your game,” and maximize every opportunity, every interaction, every moment of every function to the advantage of your business.
- Before the event, visit the trade show’s website and pour through the names of all companies attending. Visit those companies’ websites. Dig for names. Develop a list of prospects. Know them before they know you. Throughout the event, visit and revisit the booths of every company that could be a potential customer. Introduce yourself to everyone. Then get out there and start creating relationships with as many as possible before the event is over.
- People from many lines of business frequent the same trade shows, some do not qualify as Target Prospects for your business. Write up the profiles of your top 3 or 4 prospect types. Make sure you review these profiles with all staff in attendance. When people come to your booth, qualify them against your criteria & if they don’t fit the profile either hand them off to more junior staffers, or find a polite way to disengage and continue the search for prospects that meet your criteria.
- Finally, if you’re taking employees along, prepare them well, and well in advance. Make them memorize and rehearse your thirty to forty-five second elevator pitch. Split the list of prospects up according to each employee’s strengths. Be sure to precisely schedule booth responsibilities and that everyone is highly knowledgeable about your company’s product and service; if they can’t answer a question, they need to know who can. Train them on using communication methods designed to quickly engage and draw in wandering prospects, and be creative.
My final advice for now is for you to take the time to develop a marketing plan, and apply the concepts that fit your own company’s unique profile and personnel. I’ll have more to say on this and other subjects in my next post.
For now, remember: Running an SBE is a long distance journey, you don’t have to do it alone,
Managing Director, The Allasso Group
Social Media Director & SBE Advocate, Supplier-Connection