Attending trade shows has always been a great way to raise brand awareness, build lasting relationships, develop a company’s lead portfolio, and even revitalise your brand – all before digital marketing was even a thing.
Think of trade shows – or expos – as online adverts’ big brother; the kind that gets out of the house more. Which one of them is more likely to make more significant business partnerships and sales?
Why trade shows?
Expos, as opposed to online advertising, give you the possibility to build more personal relationships with your potential clients. With the overabundance of online scams and endless popups, investors are more likely to trust a company they can meet face to face with which they have a ‘proper’ conversation.
You are therefore able to create a long-lasting impression, if your attendance at the event is a success. What you always want to do is to draw attention to your booth in order to give people a chance to learn more about your product.
When it comes to pushing that sale or even doing a proverbial 180 and convincing someone to purchase your product, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. You can use the best sales techniques in the book, but as long as you’re stuck behind a phone or a screen, you lose the personal approach that can turn a ‘let’s talk’ into a ‘let’s sign’. There are no two ways about it.
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The way I see it, there are two main risks associated with attending trade shows:
- Cost: Attending expos isn’t cheap by any means, especially if you’re interested in securing a booth or some sort of sponsorship. Depending on the expo itself, you’re looking to spend an average of $3000 on either one. Add travelling & accommodation costs for you and/or your staff, and the fact that you need to fill your booth with merchandise (various giveaways such as brochures, branded items, etc). This will all add up to around $7,000. You have to make sure that:
- a) Your company is equipped to handle this kind of investment, and
- b) Your attendance at the expo will yield a healthy ROI which will at the very least cover your expenses.
- Competition: Depending on the expo, you’re looking at a minimum of 50 exhibitors. This means that, depending on your company’s activities, you’re bound to have a few competitors a few meters away from you. What this entails is a risk of potential clients either deciding to visit your competitor’s booth before yours (and therefore choosing their product over yours), or simply deciding that your competitor’s product fits their needs more than your product does. Either way, you can’t catch them all. You just need to make sure that you attract as many people to your booth as possible – and convert them.
Pre-Show | In-Show | Post-Show:
Failing to properly prepare for an expo can damage your chances before the event even begins. Getting people excited about your attendance at the expo by letting them know how they can benefit by visiting your booth will undoubtedly stand you in good stead come show time. Do you have any special giveaways? Is there a limited-time offer during the show? Send out a few mailers, get on forums – make some noise.
What is your in-show strategy? Are you simply going to exhibit your product, or do you have something special in store for the conference attendees? A surprise unveiling of a new product perhaps? That is entirely up to you. The one golden rule for the duration of the expo is to make sure that you attract people to your booth in the first place. Whether you have an in-booth game in which people can win a gift related to your product, or you’re just giving away merchandise; people need to have a reason to go to your booth. Sometimes, something as trivial as a quick game can give you an edge over your competitors. Combining fun and professional atmospheres can do wonders for your brand.
Alternatively, speaking at the event can also raise considerable exposure for your brand. While the speeches are never promotional; displaying expertise in your field will draw people’s attention to your brand. If your speech answers some of the industry’s big questions, people will look to your company as one which can help them in their business.
Your job isn’t done when the show ends, however. Strike the proverbial iron when it’s hot, and shoot out a follow-up mailer to all the contacts you made at the expo – close any deals you couldn’t wrap up during the event.
In the end, it comes down to attending an event in which you know exactly what kind of audience you’re dealing with – whether you’re doing B2C or B2B sales. With digital marketing campaigns, you always run the risk of targeting users who simply aren’t interested in your product – with an average conversion rate of 5%. Conversely, you can be sure that people attending the same expo as you are interested in what a company such as yours can offer.