For some sectors in the franchise world, trade shows can be an excellent way for franchisees to connect with new clients. Shows that focus on topics such as health, interior design, fitness, real estate or other can be a great fit for businesses that are looking for customers that share those interests. That being said, trade shows require thousands of dollars in investment just to exhibit. In order to get a return on your time and money, we recommend doing some upfront planning to make the most of the event. The following notes provide a checklist of items to consider for each and every show you attend.
- At the beginning of the year, decide which shows are worth attending.
You spend a lot of time, energy, and money on these trade shows and conferences, so don’t attend one that won’t pay off! Do your research to be sure that the shows you attend will give your business the most bang for your buck.
You can search social media to research shows to determine if they are right for your business. Research the hashtag for each show to determine if it attracts the kind of audience you’re looking for.
- Decide who you want to meet and what you want to do.
By figuring this out ahead of time, your game plan will be tailored to your goals for the show, and the whole experience will be better for your business. Write this down and evaluate your progress after the show so you know how to improve and get more value out of each event.
Send out show mailers, distribute a press release, maybe even give your customers who will be there a shirt with your logo on it to wear. A busier booth with existing customers stopping by gives a good signal to others that you’re worth a look. By doing these things before the show, attendees will know ahead of time that you will be there.
- Have a backup plan.
For staff, materials, everything. If something goes awry, you don’t want it to ruin the whole event! Be prepared for any problem ahead of time.
- Practice your pitch.
Be sure that everyone who will be working at your booth knows the pitch so that everyone is on the same wavelength and delivering the same message to new potential customers.
- Try to get a speaking opportunity.
If at all possible, see if you can deliver a speech or a presentation, or be on a panel at the show/conference, as this will certainly attract a lot of attention for your business. Agenda organizers often plan up to a year ahead so be on the lookout for the ‘call for presentations’ announcements early. Note that these are also turning into ‘pay-to-play’ opportunities, but you have to consider the value of each deal and lifetime value of a new customer.
Invest in some shirts with your logo on them. By having everyone at the booth wear them, your booth will look more professional and attract more attention.
Attract Attention at the Show
- Do you want a large, bold display?
These can attract a lot of attention if you want to go that route. Most shows do have some guidelines and restrictions on what you are able to do so be sure to gather that information as you sign-up.
- Or do you want more of a personal touch?
You can also make your booth cater to the one-on-one experience, so that your interactions with customers can be deeper, rather than getting lots of less meaningful interactions.
- Have a lottery.
By offering a giveaway of some sort, those that wouldn’t have initially thought to stop by your booth will have an incentive to do so.
- Give a gift.
This will also incentivize attendees to stop by your booth. Be sure to make it mandatory to fill out an information card to receive the gift, so that you can get some leads out of it.
- Check out the competition.
Trade shows are a great place to check out the competition. See what they are talking about and what points are resonating with the audience. Look at how you differ from them and be sure to be able to articulate that well at the show and in your future marketing materials.
- Attend Sessions.
Go to the keynote sessions so you have some conversation points when people travel through the exhibit area. While it depends on what you sell, there will be many people at the show who are not interested in your products or services, but it’s still nice to make new connections and create awareness for your business and effective small talk can help with that.
- Continue your own education.
Look at what is trending at the shows and understand why it’s important or what effect it will have so you can figure out how to incorporate or deal with those trends as they relate to your own business.
Who to Talk to
- Ask questions!
Rather than just giving your pitch to everyone that stops by your booth, have a conversation with them. This will make them feel less like you’re trying to make a sale and more like you care about them as a person, which will lead to their taking more of an interest in your business.
Talk not only to the regular press, but also to any bloggers/podcasters that may be there. Look for opportunities to contribute to their work, now and in the future. Make sure that they will mention your business in their coverage of the event. Look for industry magazines and make connections. Those editors frequently need expert opinions and will provide a link back to your website or at the very least, mention your business name in their work.
If you have a special gift for your current customers who stop by during the event, that will help them to remember you at the event and make recommendations to others to stop by your booth.
- Alliance partners.
Be sure to talk to anyone that you could help or that could help you either right now or in the future. These events are a great place to find other businesses that could mutually benefit you at some point. Event organizers usually have a list of exhibitors on their web site and you can check this out ahead of time and decide who you’d like to schedule an appointment prior to traveling to the show.
Get to know the organizers, so that next time you can get a speaking opportunity or other notable opportunities beyond just your booth. Thank them for the great job that they’ve done.
- Use social media.
Use social media during the event to attract more attendees to your booth. Use Twitter hashtags or post on the Facebook event page.
- Follow up on leads within five days of the event.
Ideally, you want to follow-up immediately or get on their calendar while they’re standing in front of you.This way the contact won’t get cold, and the lead will be more likely to translate into business.
- Assess what worked and what didn’t.
Talk to staff and everyone who helped you at the event. Decide what you can improve on and which practices need to be eliminated. Then the next event will be even better.
- Segment your leads.
Divide them into three categories: the best, that should be contacted right away, the okay leads, that should be added to your database, and those leads that don’t seem like they’ll really help, which should be analyzed to see if there’s some way you can help them – because in the future they may very well return the favor.
- Talk to your alliance partners.
Just like you’re following up on your leads so they don’t get cold, enrich those connections you made with other companies that can help you and vice versa.
- Start writing about it!
Write your own content about the event – talk about what you learned, etc. and get the information out via blog posts and newsletters. Use questions that were asked at the event as blog content starters—you already know people are interested in this information.
Get Ready for Your Next Show!
Don’t stop after you’ve finished up with all of the steps above. Start thinking about your next event, or if you haven’t had an event yet, start thinking about ways to generate excitement.
Here are some ideas of what you might do to start getting ready:
- Is there anything you can create as a lead generation document?
- Prepare case studies so you have success stories available.
Article by Kelly Weppler of www.whandassociates.com