Trade shows are a great way to raise awareness about your company and make great connections (and meet potential leads). You don’t always have to exhibit to maximize your brand awareness and generate new business -- but even if you are exhibiting, spending a little time extra time can help to maximize your results. Here are the things you'll need to before, during and after a trade show to make sure you're maximing the ROI on your trade show attendance.
1. Before the Show
Select The Right Show
First, you want to make sure you have selected a show that makes sense for your business. There are more IoT trade shows in a year than you could possibly attend. Make sure that the businesses exhibiting and the keynote/breakout sessions line up with your goals as a company.
Once you have selected the right show for your company you’ll want to make a list of personal goals for the trade show. These will guide your decisions while there and help you make the most of your trip.
After outlining your personal networking goals, take some time to outline business goals. What exactly do you want to achieve while at the show? How many contacts do you want to make? What types of business are you targeting this quarter?
Develop a Plan
Now that you have selected the right show, developed personal and business goals, it’s time to get a plan in place. I usually try and get a map of the trade show floor/exhibitors ahead of time. This way I can research the companies I want to talk to ahead of time and plan my route.
You will also want to take plenty of marketing materials and business cards. This is often overlooked. A case study or company overview document can go a long way when speaking to exhibitors.
2. During the Show
Revise Your Plan
Upon arrival make sure to check the shows website to make sure the exhibitors list hasn’t been updated. Many times last-minute exhibitors will be added. You will want to research the new additions and make changes to your plan as needed.
The last thing you want is to end the day with hundreds of brochures and business cards from businesses that you have no interest in. It is important to be selective about the business cards and marketing materials you collect throughout the day. Be sure to stay focused and follow the plan you developed earlier.
Qualify Leads Within The First 60 Seconds
It is easy to get sucked into a sales pitch while at a trade show. It is important to ask qualifying questions after the initial “Hello”. I believe that within the first 60 seconds you can qualify the potential lead. Ask targeted questions and if they don’t seem like a good fit then thank them for their time and move on. You have other companies to talk to. Remember, we are trying to MAXIMIZE the time spent on the floor.
3. After the Show
Before You Sleep
You made it back to the hotel room and are wiped out after a long day on the floor...time for sleep right? Wrong! It’s very important to gather your thoughts and take notes about each person you met that could be beneficial to you and your company. It’s not enough to get a business card and say “I’ll follow-up when I get back to the office”. You might have another day on the floor or a long travel day the next day. All of the information you gathered on the floor today will be long gone by the time you make it back to your desk.
Even though you are just an attendee, you want to also make note of and booths you thought were particularly effective/compelling. You might decide to exhibit at this show next year or use inspiration for the next show you have scheduled. Write down the company name and what you liked about the booth display/presentation even if it isn’t a company you are wanting to target as a lead.
I can't say this enough: Now is when the real work starts. You have talked to several companies that you would like to target. You have names and emails from business cards (hopefully more than you can count). Now what?
This is where the magic happens, except that it isn't magic: It's putting in the final bit of hard work that moves you towards your goal and can generate the true ROI from your trade show attendance.
The day you get back to the office you should start calling every single one of the contacts you made at the trade show. Yes...CALL. I know it’s archaic, but it goes a long way and will help you stand out. Why? Because so few people call anymore, it can be an instant differentiator -- and it also helps cement in your leads' minds the conversation you had at the show.
Once you have made the initial call, take all of those business cards and enter them into your marketing automation software or email marketing database and create a drip campaign with content relevent to the show that that will not only be of use to them, but also keep you in front of them -- a win-win.
And have I mentioned calling them?
As an agency specialized in B2B technology companies, we've been to plenty of shows -- and we've helped plenty of clients go to shows, too. If you would like to learn more about automating emails, tradeshows, or anything else, feel free to contact me!
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