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Resource Center > Article
How to Make an Impact at Trade Shows
1 Nov 10 Posted by: Kevin James Culp
in Marketing & Sales
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Some business owners can’t wait to head to a trade show, while others dread the idea.  If you’re in the latter category, it’s tempting to skip the shows and blame it on the need to save money.

It’s true that whether you’re a visitor or an exhibitor, you’re going to have to spend money to attend a trade show.  However, if the show can nab you one or two new clients, then it will pay for itself.  The key is to make sure that you get the most bang for your buck.

For visitors, click here to see how you can get the most out of an event.  For business opportunities that plan to exhibit, here are some hints to ensure your booth makes the most impact.

First and foremost, for those business owners that don’t like trade shows ― change your attitude.  Some shows will be pointless, but others could generate great leads. According to Trade-Show-Advisor.com , “trade shows represent a significant opportunity to enhance brand and product visibility, promote new and existing products, generate leads, and drive incremental sales.”

Now that you have a fresh attitude, here are some helpful hints:

Choose your show(s) carefully ― While trade shows can be a great way to generate business, nothing is guaranteed.  If money is tight or you’re just getting started with your business opportunity, then choose carefully.  It may be tempting to try out a new show because it’s cheap, but an unproven event might not be well-attended or well run.  Focus on more established shows and ones that will help you connect with your specific audience.

Have a plan ― Exhibiting at a trade show takes time and preparation.  Don’t leave everything until the day before.  “Set specific trade show goals with quantifiable objectives,” says Jeff Hilton, president of the Integrated Marketing Group in Salt Lake City.  Use your time wisely, and make the most out of the event.

Provide added value ― A great way to get free attention is to offer your speaking services, volunteer to run a seminar or sit on a panel.  This won’t cost you anything, and you’re getting your name, face and business in front of others. After you speak, attendees will be curious and make a point to visit your booth. Additionally, some trade shows might let you speak without requiring you to exhibit at all, giving you a free opportunity to get noticed.

Create an attention-grabbing display― According to marketing experts The Koch Group, Inc., you only have a few seconds, sometimes as little as five, to catch the attention of attendees.  There are literally hundreds of ways you can create a display that will stand out, but you also want it to be clear and concise. “Make sure your booth is designed to create a single focal point using easy-to-read text with clean, simple graphics so trade show visitors will understand your message quickly and correctly,” says The Koch Group.  Also, try to have fun with creative ways to make your booth stand out.  Nothing is sadder than the fellow sitting alone in his booth with nothing to display but a boring brochure.  Use colors, props and a smile.

The sad guy with his computer also isn’t bothering to reach out to attendees and draw them in.  Just as your display can grab attention, your personality can as well.  Make sure to invite everyone to come over so that you can explain what your business offers.

Hand out your message ― Once you’ve gotten their attention, give potential clients something to take home with them.  If you have the money, give out pens or other products with your logo and website.  The more original the product is, the more memorable your booth will be.  Also, candy and treats can draw visitors to your booth, but don’t let people sneak a grab without saying “hello.” The more attractive your booth, the easier it is to stop visitors and explain the details of your business opportunity.

Though you want attention, you want to be remembered for the right reasons. You don’t want to be known as the booth that had a ridiculous mime, but it’s great to be remembered for your ice cream sundaes.  Come up with an original concept that is tied to your business, and you can’t lose.

Have a follow-up plan ― The whole point of attending these shows is to generate leads and get the word out about your business opportunity.  Trade show attendees are going to meet about 100 other businesses that want the same thing as you.  Have a bowl for cards at your booth, and then follow up with every single person after the show.

"Studies show that most trade show leads are never re-contacted or activated, which wastes the time and money you spend,” according to Joanna Krotz, co-author of the Microsoft Small Business Kit.  Don’t let those potential clients get cold ― contact them right away so that your efforts are worthwhile.

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