Taking your Brand on The Road: Making The Most of Trade Shows

Trade shows are one of the best places to advertise your business. When you attend a show, you can show off your brand and products. But, it’s not a risk-free proposition. If you’re not careful, you can also lose more than the cost of the booth.

Trade show

Decide What Your Goals Are Before You Go

Before you rush out and set up your booth, decide on what you want out of the trade show. For example, some businesses go to collect leads. Others go to showcase their wares for other businesses, but not to collect sales leads directly. Still others go to network or even sell directly at the show. Shows are expensive and, if you don’t know what you want to get out of it, you’re wasting your money.

Write down the top three things you hope to get from the show. Rank them in order of importance. Once you’ve done that, make a firm, written, plan about how you will achieve those things.

Track Leads

If part of your purpose is to gather leads, have a way to track them. You can do this in a number of ways that are uncomplicated. For example, if you get specialized banner printing for the trade show booth, you can incorporate a QR code that people can scan. This will tell you where your leads are coming from if they later show up on your website or at your front door.

You can also implement QR codes on business cards, brochures, and right on the stand. Finally, an easy way to track trade show leads is by using a special URL on all business cards and promotional materials you hand out at the show. That way, you can track where people come from – and you’ll know they came from the show when your raw logs show people hitting your special URL.

Build Some Buzz Before You Go

Building up buzz before you go can be a very good thing. Announce that you’ll be attending a trade show using social media, or send out an email blast to your email list. You can also tell people about it locally – those who come into your store.

Run a few press releases. Give people an incentive to come to your booth. For example, run a special giveaway for the first 50 people who approach you with a special “password” that you’ve mentioned only via Twitter or Facebook, or some other venue.

Use Effective Giveaways

An effective giveaway might be something like a raffle drawing for a free sample of your product, money that can be spent with your company, or a trial of your company’s service offering. Try to make the giveaway relevant to your audience. They will want something that they can use or that solves a problem for them. For you, don’t waste this opportunity.

So many businesses give away cheap or disposable items because they get caught up in the idea of using a raffle to gather names for an email list. Even though people aren’t buying anything from you in a raffle, they’re still forming an impression of you as a company. If your giveaway is cheap or uninspired, it will tell them all they need to know about your business.

Don’t come off as boring and gimmicky. Give them something real – something of value.

Know Your Audience

Know who your target audience is. How much do you know about the demographics of the people who will be picking up a brochure or business card? How about your exhibition stands and event branding? Are they suitable for your target demographics?

You can’t always generalize about your audience, but you should have a good idea about who your target audience is and whether they will be represented, broadly speaking, at the show.

Show Off Your Trade

At the end of the day, this isn’t a brochure show. It’s a trade show. So, show off your trade. If you can demonstrate something (a demo), do it. This is probably your strongest “card” in the deck, so to speak.

Demos are a fantastic way to draw a crowd, sell a product, and gather names for an email list. If you have a great product, it’s an easy win for your company. Oddly, you won’t have much competition. Doing full-on demonstrations is rare at trade shows for some reason, where most businesses are fixated on handing stuff out to people and then walking away.

This is a colossal waste of time. It’s much better to just show people what you do right then and there. Why shoo them away or direct them to your website? They’re right there in front of you.

William Hardwick is a small business brand marketing consultant. His articles focus on small business marketing solutions. He enjoys sharing his insights through blogging.

Photo credit: popculturegeek / Flickr

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