What these additional advertising mediums are, will depend on the industry you’re in. For some companies an advert in the local paper might still work. For others, putting fridge magnets into local letterboxes might bring a great return. For other still, TV or radio might be the ticket. But when it comes to face to face marketing, the best return on investment by far can be found by exhibiting at an industry specific trade show.
Visitors to trade shows are qualified business professionals who have taken time out of their busy schedules to come to a venue specifically to review the latest products and services pertinent to their company. Which means that when they’re standing in front of your trade show booth…they’re ALREADY A WARM LEAD.
The challenge of course is how to get them to your trade show booth in the first place…
How to Attract Visitors to Your Trade Show Stand
- Advertising / Marketing.
- Public Relations.
- Sales Promotion.
- Personal Selling
Note: when done well, the delineation between these four quadrants blurs so as to be practically indistinguishable.
Using Advertising and Marketing to Attract Visitors to Your Trade Show Stand
A common advertising and marketing mistake made by companies exhibiting at trade shows is when they try to be ‘all things to all men’ in their pre-show advertising (and thus diffuse their overall message and smother their ‘call to action’). Either that or they indulge in egocentric ‘flag waving’ or branding, in the vain hope that their logo alone will be enough to attract visitors to their stand.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but unless you’re Sony or Apple or Google, etc…your brand alone probably isn’t going to cut it…
To make your exhibiting at a trade show a success, your pre-show advertising and marketing efforts needs to be focused on a SPECIFIC PRODUCT OR SERVICE. So you’ll need to ask yourself what product or service of yours would the people attending THIS PARTICULAR TRADE SHOW be interested in…and why? Because if you can find that sales ‘hot button’ and keep pushing it, again and again and again, in ALL your advertising and marketing leading up to the trade show, your chances of having a constant stream of visitors to your trade show booth will increase exponentially.
Oh, and remember to differentiate between ‘Features’ and ‘Benefits’ in your pre-show advertising, too. Features can be defined as ‘what your products or services do / offer’. Benefits can be defined as ‘WHAT THOSE FEATURES WILL DO FOR THE CUSTOMER. And it’s this latter point that your potential customers are interested in, not the former. This is a very common mistake in below the line advertising, so make sure you avoid it.
Another way to ‘get your message out there’, is to utilize (and exploit, damn it!) your channel partners. You can do this by mailing off the back of their database and sending out Direct Mail (DM) or Direct Response (DR) marketing literature or Electronic Direct Mail (EDMs), in exchange for placing their company logo on all your pre-show advertising, and – if appropriate – giving them some branding or product placement on your trade show stand itself.
You can also run a short-term SEM (pay per click) campaign online to get people to visit your stand. This is a terrific way of tying in your on-line marketing / SEO strategy with your physical presence at a ‘neutral’ venue like a trade show.
And finally, ensure ALL your advertising and marketing in the lead up to the trade show explains:
- which trade show you’re going to be exhibiting at and why.
- what products or services you’ll be demonstrating / launching at the trade show.
- the dates and location of the trade show.
- your individual stand number at the trade show (ideally with a map, if space permits).
This way you make it EASY for visitors at the trade show to find you.
Using Public Relations (PR) to Attract Visitors to Your Trade Show Stand
The vanguard of all PR is the humble press release. These are predominantly used in a ‘scatter-gun’ tactic to carry the desired PR message to media outlets both large and small. When exhibiting at a trade show you’ll need to issue a press release to notify the general public of your involvement at the trade show in question, and also to give them a reason why they should care, along with a call to action. This latter point is important as its this that will prompt the magazine or website in question to actually post your press release in its entirety (lazy journalism 101!) or else to quote from your press release in a story about your involvement in the show.
When it comes to companies exhibiting at trade shows however, PR usually comes in the form of “free” editorial coverage or comments in newspapers or trade magazines and web-sites, offered in exchange for adverts purchased in the publication in question. (Thus proving the old adage that nothing in life is ever truly free...). And, while ‘advertorial’ is rightfully deemed to be a ‘dirty word’ by journalists and marketing managers alike…it is nonetheless a necessary evil to get your message out there. So suck it up and factor this “free” PR into you advertising budget.
Occasionally, if a company is large enough, or their PR agency well enough connected, it is possible to gain PR through radio and television stations. Though usually a company will need to be releasing a hot new product at the trade show to gain this type of attention, as it usually falls on the shoulders of the trade show organizer to rustle up the mainstream media. (For example when digital television was officially launched in Australia at one of my trade shows in 2000, and I had Senator Alston, the Minister for Technology and the Arts cutting the ribbon and officially opening the event, I had a suitably powerful ‘hook’ to get channels 7, 9, 10, ABC and SBS to turn up in force and cover the show for their main news bulletins – and the news showed long queues of people waiting to come in, before I allowed Senator Alston to cut the ribbon to ‘open’ the trade show).
Using Sales Promotion to Attract Visitors to Your Trade Show Stand
Sales promotions usually run in conjunction with an advertising and marketing campaign, and – where a trade show is concerned - usually combine special offers or giveaways only available at the specific trade show in question. These promotions are offered to create a sense of urgency in the mind of the prospective buyer, such as “Lease this photocopier from our stand today and you’ll get an on-site warrantee worth $1,500 thrown in for the first 12 months of your contract…free!”, etc.
Trade shows offer a particularly vibrant environment for sales promotion, due to the ‘hands on’ nature of the selling experience and limited time-span of the event.
Using Personal Selling to Gain Business From Your Trade Show Stand
To truly appreciate how important personal selling is in the grand scheme of things, you need to ‘walk the floor of a trade show’ and OBSERVE the sales dynamic in action.
I have to say that walking the floor of a trade show I’ve produced is my favorite part of the entire event, because whenever I stand there looking at the throngs of people and the rows upon rows of exhibitors, I’m always overwhelmed by the genuine feeling of pride that comes from my having headed up a team that created something from nothing. Because a dynamic, bustling trade show really is a beautiful thing to behold. So, if you’ve never taken the time to walk around a trade show yourself, I’d advise you to do it ASAP, because it’s there, at the ‘coal face’ of the event, that companies capitalize on their investment…or flush their money down the toilet.
It never ceases to amaze me how much money companies invest in trade shows via advertising / marketing, public relations and sales promotion…only to blow it all by staffing their booth with sales people who – not to put too fine a point on it – don’t want to be there!
Many sales people are good at their job, when their job involves calling on a client and doing a ‘sales presentation’, etc. But that doesn’t in any way mean they’re a natural ‘people person’. Which is exactly what you need to be when manning a trade show booth.
Trade shows are a ‘sales neutral’ environment, where traditional ‘hard sell’ techniques only serve to scare prospective customers away. Trade shows are a venue where ‘always be closing’ needs to be replaced in the sales person’s mind with, ‘always be listening’. Perhaps Dale Carnegie put it best when he said, ‘You have one mouth and two ears, use them in proportion’. Because never has that truism been more relevant than to a person manning a trade show booth. And, while all companies love to sell on the trade show floor, the vast majority of sales they make will come during their post show follow-up, long after the trade show is over. Therefore the sales person’s raison detre while manning their booth is not to close sales (unless that opportunity is there to be taken, of course), but to smile, listen, ask questions, gather contact information, get the prospect excited about the products and services on offer…and establish a personal rapport so they or a colleague can call on them at a later date to close the deal. Because trust me, there is nothing more likely to make visitors walk away from your trade show stand than if your sales staff go all ‘Tom Hopkins’ on them. Which is why populating your trade show booth with knowledgeable sales staff who are genuinely friendly, have a great smile and are easy to get along with, will gain you far more business in the long run, than staffing it with hardcore ‘closers’.
Because unless they have a ‘personality’ in their bag of tricks along with a 101 ‘test closes’…you’ll be best served by keeping them in reserve for the post show follow-up…where the fun really begins!
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