NetFort Advertising

A vendors guide to surviving a trade show

13 October 2014 NetFort Blog By: Darragh Delaney
Trade show

Top tips for surviving a trade show

Often when I read reviews about trade shows they are written by delegates, those that attend the seminars and wander around looking at vendor stands. Well vendors are people too so for this blog post I am going to look at things from their perspective. Last week I attended IPEXPO as a vendor, when I say vendor I was actually helping out one of our sales channel partners. Met lots of interesting people and filled my head with plenty of new information. If you plan to attend an event as a vendor you have a few options.

  1. Rent a stand and all the accessories that you need.
  2. Share a stand with a technical or sales partner. Sometimes you need to pay a percentage of the costs if you want your brand to stand out.
  3. Book a speaking slot.

No matter what way you go about it there will be costs involved. If you go about it right and you attend a relevant show there are a number of benefits:

  • Generate new sales leads
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Meet customers and get feedback
  • Review the messaging of competitors
  • Meet new sales and technical contacts

If you are new to trade show or you just want to get better results, here are my top 10 tips to getting the most out of a trade show.

Tip 1 – Prepare, prepare, prepare

You may think I am stating the obvious but it’s amazing to see how many vendors show up with the same material to every event. Maybe it works for them but as shows use different themes you should try and match your collateral to the personas who may attend the show.  Create a short questionnaire which will remind you of the questions you should be asking people.

If you use product demos, try and bring a local copy. Don’t rely on an online demo. A combination of VM player, GNS3 and virtual hosts can create complex networking environments which are fully portable. Include a decent camera or camcorder so you can capture images during the event for social media updates. Finally, bring along some free gifts and some sort of prize giveaway.

Tip 2 – Keep your message short on the stand backgrounds.

When I say short I don’t mean something like ‘cloud solution’ but avoid overloading your backgrounds with loads of text. As people walk past they want to see solutions, maybe bullet points. If you sell multiple products be careful of listing product names, people may not be familiar with them. At the end of the day people are looking for solutions to fix problems so make sure this is very clear on your stand.

Tip 3 – Set you stand up the evening before

Most events will give you access to setup your stand the evening before. Be sure everything is in place and test all demos.

Tip 4 – Dress consistently and to impress

Make sure everyone on the stand dresses the same. Go with suits or polo shirts but whatever it is make sure everyone looks the same. This shows consistently with the brand and it’s easy to spot your colleagues when things get busy. Also make sure everyone arrives on time.

Tip 5 – Expect quiet periods

Some events require that all attendees go to talks\workshops. This means that vendors are left standing around for long periods. I have never had much success with these sorts of event, if you are looking at one try and organise a get together in a local pub or other venue after the main event. Most events will have talks so expect some quiet periods.

Tip 6 – Find out why attendees are there quickly.

People attend events for various reasons. One of the tricks to getting the most out of your time is been able to identify why they are there quickly. Normally you have these characters attending

  1. Prospects looking to learn
  2. Gift hunters
  3. Job seekers
  4. Other vendors.
  5. Customers looking to speak to a vendor
  6. Event speakers
Tip 7 – Always look interested.

While it’s okay to have stools at a stand, don’t be always sitting down on them. You will end up looking tired and no one will want to speak to you. As people walk by a simple smile, hello and quick introduction usually works best. Don’t use mobile phones or other touch devices on the stand. Take regular breaks and check up on email then. Try and have at least two people standing at the edge of the stand to grab the attention of people who stop to look.

Tip 8 – Get customers to come along to your stand

Prior to an event get emails out to your customers informing them that you will be at an event. Entice them with a free gift if they come along. This brings a number of benefits

  • Always great to have a mix of customers and prospect at the stand, let your customer do all the talking and they will be a huge help.
  • Customers will like to talk and this makes the stand look busy. When people are having conversations it looks like something interesting is going on.
  • They usually have somebody with them too who could turn out to be an good prospect or contact.
  • Ideal opportunity to show customers upcoming releases and get feedback
  • Have a video camera available and if customers allow record a customer testimonial.
Tip 9 – Have regular huddles

At certain times during the day, get all stand personnel together to discuss what is working and what is not. This is vital, no point of learning about stuff that worked at the end of an event. Towards the end of each day have a get together to discuss a final push. A couple of conversations at the end of the day could be the reason you turn a bad show into a good one. It’s not over until you hear that final whistle.

Tip 10 – Make the most out of the contacts you meet. Follow up!

If you see these events as a way to generate sales leads you can end up with two types

  1. Unqualified – Just some random name that was scanned in or left a business card
  2. Qualified – Someone who discussed their needs and agreed that your product was a fit

The typical approach to get unqualified leads is to get some novelty act to everyone and anyone who passes by. This can be good for building lists but don’t expect to get many sales from them in the short term. The other approach is to have a brief conversation with prospects and making sure you note down what their requirements are. Also scan in their attendees badge so you can cross reference it after the event.

Finally, you may end up lucky and start closing deals straight after an event. This is usually not the norm; it may take many weeks or months to finally get a return. The most important thing is have a plan to follow up. Remember that any contact you met at a show will be inundated with calls and emails from other vendors that they met. You will need to be novel with your follow ups but whatever you do, do not forget about them. Nurture, nurture, nurture……

Do you have any tips for surviving a trade show? Comments welcome

Darragh Delaney

Follow me on Twitter: @darraghdelaney