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With so many retailers, manufacturers, and distributors hitting convention floors across the country, sales professionals attending trade shows should plan strategically for what can be a lucrative opportunity.

Being one step ahead of the game is critical, especially when the stakes are so high. Space for a 10 by 10 foot booth can cost a business anywhere from $4,500 to $10,000 depending on the show, and the sales staff are expected to deliver to justify the expense. Developing a pre-show, at-show and post-show strategy is the key to success and making the most out of each booth interaction.

Prior to the show:

If you wait until the trade show to see who makes it to your booth, you are skipping an integral first step. Trade show strategies should never rely on a hope and pray-type scenario. Do your research and identify who is planning on attending beforehand and communicate to them ahead of time. Often trade show organizers have lists of the previous year’s attendees. Reach out to them, as well as others and build a relationship in advance. 

A successful pre-show communications strategy should have three to five touch points which can include direct mail, e-blasts and follow-up calls. Each touch point should contain different content about what potential clients need to know or would be interested in. The more targeted your pre-show strategy, the higher the chance you will be on their minds when they walk onto the show floor.

Show time:

Ensure that you have key messages at the ready. You should have two formats for your presentations –one should be a five minute presentation for those on-the-go and another should be a full presentation for visitors with more time. Regardless of the length of time spent with a visitor, your key messages need to be presented. 

Always have an interesting and relevant take-away to help make the booth experience memorable. Product samples or a useful item that is connected thematically to your product are both excellent gift ideas. But before booth visitors leave, be sure to gather key information in an organized tracking system that is sorted into hot, warm and cold leads.

Notes about the visitors should be taken and tracked including information about personal preferences, needs and new ideas. This is crucial because it will be hard to remember details at the end of the day - this can help seal the deal down the line. Creative measures like contests are not only great for interaction, but they also serve as a communication tool once the show finishes so you can extend the relationship beyond the show floor.

Post-show communications:

After the show, go back to your hot, warm and cold leads list. Companies tend to only focus only on the hottest leads and neglect the rest. This approach is short-sighted, as less interested prospects could become customers down the road.  Make sure you communicate with each group following the show to keep the conversation going and to build a relationship.

Follow-up ideas can include some additional information, link to video and thank you e-mails. If possible, send additional product sample kits to buyers after the show to share with other company stakeholders. The more opportunity for the buyer to be influenced by positive feedback, the better the chance it will appear on their purchase list.  This could bring an influx of deals long after booths have been torn down. 

About the Author:

Glen Eisenberg is President of Precision Marketing & Communications and travels to over 25 trade shows each year in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Italy and Hong Kong, to ensure businesses maximize their marketing potential. Precision is an innovative marketing firm that has redefined the relationship of the marketing executive with its client by bridging the communications gap between their internal sales team and their customer. Since 1997, the company has created marketing programs that are now used across the globe in over 17 languages.



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