[su_dropcap style=”flat”]I[/su_dropcap]NDUSTRY TRADE shows are one of the best ways to put your small business on the map. It’s your chance to stake your claim in your company sector and network with all the right people. Done correctly, a trade show can generate new leads and clients. It will establish new supply networks, and you might even tickle the fancy of an investor or two. You could walk away from a show with thousands in new revenue and even more in investment.
These shows are where the entire industry descends on one location for a weekend. You’ll become a crucial part of the atmosphere, and stake your claim in the sector. However, if you don’t plan accordingly, you could pass by the radar. The most successful companies at any trade show are the ones that make themselves seen. In this post, we’ll explain how to plan and prepare for your most successful show yet. We’ll walk you through the process, and make sure you come away from the event with results.
- Set goals
As with any other business activity, you should set clear and concise goals. What do you hope to achieve from the event? Are you primarily concerned with raising awareness about your business? This is a common goal for small startups who are just establishing themselves. Perhaps your goal is to connect with a specific buyer or client. In that case, make that your priority and organize your event around it. Without setting goals, you could come away from the whole thing without any results at all. Be clear, concise, and follow your goals.
Start thinking about the logistics as early as possible. We’re talking about travel arrangements, booking hotels, and liaising with the organizers. The earlier you put these plans in motion, the more cost-effective your trip will become. There is a lot of planning and organization involved here. Ideally, you’ll want one staff member to act as the point person. Filter all communication through them, and host regular meetings to make sure you’re on track. Avoid the last-minute panic!
- Order promotional materials
You’ve got to get very clever indeed when it comes to promotional materials. Every single business at the event will be handing out flyers, posters, and brochures. It’s up to you to create something unique that stands out. Creating a small info book and attaching it to a lanyard is always a good idea. People will keep it around their neck throughout the trade event. Take a look at Lanyards Factory for more inspiration here. Try to find a new and exciting way to present your materials. Make it memorable.
- Start reaching out to contacts
As soon as you’re booked in, start reaching out to contacts. As soon as tickets are released, other companies will begin planning their trip. Now is the perfect time to start booking in some key meetings. In some cases, it might take a little work to get the ball rolling. Now is the time to start the early connections with potential new contacts. Connect with them on LinkedIn and mention that you’re attending the upcoming event. Begin a conversation on Twitter and suggest a meeting at the trade show. Get your calendar full as soon as you can.
- Make your booth inviting or interactive
The centrepiece of your trade show is your booth. This is where hundreds of passers-by will stop to check out your business and engage with you. Now, put yourself in the position of a passer-by. They tend to wander until something jumps out and catches their eye. So, what can you do to stop everyone in their tracks? How can you make your booth inviting? Some kind of interactive experience is often the best idea. Anything that people can play with or experience is going to attract flocks of people.
- Speak on a panel
There is no better way to draw attention to you and your company than speaking on a panel. It instantly gives you a position of power. It gives you authority and a presence. It will introduce you to hundreds of new people and allow you to show your expertise. Now, getting on a panel isn’t easy, but it is possible. Contact the organizers and find out who is in charge of the process. They usually print a list of topics in advance. So, make a clear and reasonable argument to be on the panel. Think creatively and it might just work.
- Network, network, network
While you’re at the trade show, your number one job is networking. But try not to approach this in a ‘carpet bombing’ fashion. Remember, quality is more important than quantity. Try to target the most useful contacts, and network with them. Don’t forget, the conference centre isn’t the only place to network. Everyone will usually stay in the hotel, and you can connect with people back at the hotel bar. Utilise all the time and space you have available.
- Practice your key points and answers
When you’re speaking with new people, the same questions and conversations will come up. You’ll run through your elevator pitch so many times it will begin to feel like your life story. With that in mind, try to practice the key points and answers thoroughly in advance. Hone them until you explain it perfectly and eloquently. Of course, don’t make any conversation seem rehearsed or forced. But, make sure you’re covering all the points you need to.
- Follow up after the event
Once the event is over, you’ll head home for some much-needed R-and-R. However, your work isn’t done yet. Far from it. Now it’s time to capitalize on all the contacts you made during the show. Find all the business cards you collected and start following up with people. You can start with a simple thank you, and you can bring up something of mutual interest. Then slowly build that connection into a working relationship.
Follow this advice and you’ll come away with some fantastic results. You’ll have new clients and buyers, renewed interest in your company, and maybe a new investor.