As a demand generation expert, I have mixed feelings about trade shows. Unless they are carefully planned and executed, many don’t show a positive return on investment. And I hate to waste money. So, do your homework before you book. Here are my tips for making trade shows pay off:
- Set objectives before you book the show. Determine how many deals you need and calculate back to your lead goal and then the cost per lead. If the math doesn’t work, you might not have a business case to attend.
- If you do, set goals for hot leads, warm leads and cold leads. Hot leads are those that have engaged with a sales rep and are specifically asking for follow up. Warm leads are those that have an interest other than just being polite. Cold leads are those high volume folks that you didn’t engage, but let you scan their badge. (Still worthwhile as a database builder!)
- Make a plan to engage current leads in your database. Get your reps on the phone and offer a gift or incentive to current leads who comes by to get to know your rep face to face.
- Every single lead from the show is going to have to be tracked. Every. Single. Lead. Get leads into marketing automation before they’re distributed and make sure your sales reps don’t circumvent that process. You probably don’t have to make them turn their pockets out to check for business cards (although I’ve had to do that!), but a polite discussion on how tracking means you can justify booking the show for next year usually does it. If you have a rep really excited about a hot lead who doesn’t want to hand it off, put it into your marketing automation on the spot.
- Set your communication plan up front. Plan pre-show emails to tell prospects why they need to come by and set up and program your follow up email before you go. That way, everything is out of the way when you’re dealing with last minute travel and show details.
- Think about ways to make your booth fun, interesting and engaging. A place to have a real conversation and something attractive enough to get those badge scans for cold leads. That’s why so many booths have cars, bars, fresh baked cookies and booth babes. Get noticed amongst the competition!
- Don’t hand out collateral at your booth. It’s expensive and just gets thrown away. I generally recommend bringing only a handful of data sheets if it’s helpful to refer to them in conversations, but don’t plan on handing them out. They’ll just end up in the trash.
- However, trade show tchotchkes and giveaways are important. Come up with something fun, cheap and useful. If you have a drawing for a larger gift, try to think of something everyone else hasn’t thought of. Having the coolest giveaway at a show brings traffic.
- During the show, make sure your booth staff is up and engaged. Nothing horrifies me more than seeing reps texting on their phones with their backs to prospects at an expensive trade show. I guarantee whoever wrote the check for the show wouldn’t be amused. Have the team up on their feet, smiling and saying hi!
- But don’t overdo the staffing. A booth with too many people is intimidating. Most regular 10’ x 10’ booths can house a maximum of 3 people at any time. Take shifts.
- Wear comfortable shoes and hydrate. Those are long days!
One more thing I recommend is a detailed show plan that spells out all of the objectives and puts all the details in one place. If you want an outline for a killer show plan, email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll send you one!