5 Trade Show Strategies all the Pros use

Professional trade show exhibitors have an advantage over others: they’ve got years of experience driving their every move from the way they set up their booth to their interactions with attendees. Many also have the money to invest in a professional booth decked out with their custom marketing messages. Their experience nets them plenty of leads by the end of the day.

If you want to snag leads like the pros, borrow some of their best strategies:

  1. Be willing to spend money on marketing

People who say “it doesn’t take money to make money” are telling the truth, but there’s a limit to how much money you can make without investing financial capital in your business.

If you’re not getting many leads from trade shows, look at how much money you’re spending on your setup and marketing efforts to get people to your booth. If you’re not spending any money, your marketing strategy is being run by volunteers, or you don’t have a marketing strategy at all, then you’re cutting yourself short.

Be willing to spend marketing money where it’s beneficial to your business. Start by investing in a professional trade show booth setup. You don’t need to get too fancy – a simple 10×10 backlit display is good enough. They’re also more affordable than the complex modular booths that can cost upwards of $10,000. However, if you have the funds for a modular booth and you want to provide visitors with multiple points of engagement, it’s worth considering. A custom booth will get you noticed and remembered by attendees.

Pre-show marketing is another important financial investment. The pros don’t set up and wait for attendees to randomly find their booth – they launch a marketing campaign ahead of time, which brings up the next strategy.

  1. Start marketing before a trade show

Seasoned trade show pros always start marketing ahead of time to book appointments during the show. For example, they might send emails to their customers and prospects to let them know they’ll be at an upcoming trade show and suggest they attend the show and set an appointment to come learn more.

If you’ve collected leads at a trade show, they should be the first people you email to announce your next trade show. However, don’t wait until the last minute. Start marketing at least a month in advance and be sure to continue the conversation after the show.

  1. Train booth staff to engage visitors effectively and authentically

You need staff members who don’t need to rely on a script to have a conversation with booth visitors. Start by hiring people with sales and conversational skills. Even some sales professionals struggle with authentic conversation because they get stuck in hard sell mode.

According to sales professionals, your staff should avoid the following conversational behaviors:

  • Talking too much or too little
  • Grilling the lead with too many questions
  • Being overly eager
  • Being overly complimentary about your product or service
  • Focusing on price rather than value
  • Caving into price objections with immediate discounts

Your staff members should be able to build rapport naturally and quickly with visitors, uncover their aspirations and objections, and paint a picture of what life will be like after buying your product or service. However, it must be done authentically rather than robotically. It’s critical to hire the right people.

  1. Have staff dress in a uniform

Your staff should wear clothes that make them stand out as staff members, but you don’t need to make them look silly (unless that’s appropriate for your business). Come up with basic uniform guidelines for staff to follow. For example:

  • Black slacks
  • A light purple dress shirt
  • Black dress shoes
  • Your company’s signature medallion hanging around their neck

Your uniform doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be noticeably different from visitors and all staff should match.

  1. Offer something of value for free

Rumor has it, people don’t value things they get for free at trade shows. That’s because businesses give away junky trinkets that nobody wants. When something of real value is given for free, the recipient will value what they’ve been given. This is backed up by experiments run by behavioral economist Dan Ariely.

In an interview with NPR, Ariely details some experiments run with children at Halloween. First, he gave a group of kids three Hershey kisses. Next, he showed the group two Snickers bars – one mini bar and one regular size bar. He offered the mini Snickers bar for free – or the kids could trade two Hershey’s kisses for the large Snickers bar. Most kids took the free mini Snickers bar even though the other deal would have provided them with more candy. They gave up a better deal just to get something for free.

Keep refining your strategies

The final strategy used by the pros is they keep refining their strategies. You can improve your success by tracking your results closely and consistently looking for ways to improve.

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