Expo Central

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Quick tips and advice to help profit from a successful trade show

Story by New North B2B

Snow and cold weather traditionally usher in the trade show season for so many northeast Wisconsin businesses.

And while a contingent of business owners and marketing directors may feel such expos have become irrelevant in a digital marketing age, nothing could be further from reality. Trade shows are perhaps more vital and important than ever as customers and vendors require face-to-face interaction to access information, network, make decisions and close deals.

Rather than comparing product web pages on a computer monitor or Smartphone screen, customers can do some hands-on shopping while tangibly comparing similar products, particularly at an industry trade show, said Carol Van Vreede, owner and CEO of Skyline Exhibit Resource in De Pere.

Most trade shows attract a well-defined audience of attendees, many who are primarily there as an integral part of their product sourcing and buying process, as well as personally meeting current and potential suppliers.

Trade shows and business expos are intended to be a manner of generating leads from this well-articulated audience, not necessarily a venue to sell products right on the spot from your booth. A recent survey published by Expo magazine in concert with Skyline Exhibits revealed that while a bulk of sales that result from show leads are started within the first three months following the event, a surprising 21 percent of sales are started more than nine months after the show.

“Your job at a trade show is not to sell something on the spot,” Van Vreede said. “Your job is to earn the opportunity to sell to them down the line. I always ask everyone if I can follow up with them after the trade show.”

Even though her business is selling trade show displays, Van Vreede said the greatest investment any business makes in a trade show isn’t its elaborate display or even the booth registration itself. Rather, the most important investment in a trade show is in the people who staff the booth. Van Vreede offered the following advice for your staff working an expo booth:

  • Have an open stance. Keep any literature or lead cards in your hands to avoid crossing your arms or putting your hands in your packets.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover – never underestimate prospects by classifying them by the way they look.
  • Stand near the aisle and ask open-ended questions rather than simply saying “hello” to each person who walks past.
  • Avoid giving away promotional products to everyone who walks past. Promotional items should be given as a reward for those who visit your booth and stop to have a conversation.
  • Take a break every two to three hours rather than sitting in your booth.
  • Eat and drink during your break, not at the booth.
  • During idle periods, stay off your cell phone altogether – no talking, texting or surfing the web.
  • Dress professionally and wear comfortable shoes.
  • Smile, be friendly, and have an uplifting attitude.

In addition to the behaviors and actions of the key team members staffing the booth, the manner in which the booth is staged can have an impact on your organization’s trade show success as well, Van Vreede said.

“A trade show is a little city that’s set up for a few days,” she said. “You want people to come into your store, not just window shop.”

Most exhibit spaces come with a 6-foot or 8-foot table and a chair or two. Van Vreede suggests doing away with them altogether, or at least moving those props out of the way to the back or the side of the booth.

It’s not always appropriate to litter the table of your booth with stacks and stacks of literature and brochures. If possible, leave those items back at the office and don’t necessarily make your trade show booth a kiosk for visitors to grab all the information they think they need on your company.

“If you give everything away at the tradeshow, you have no reason to follow up after the show,” Van Vreede said.

Avoid giving away promotional products that have no meaning, Van Vreede said. Pens with your company name and website on them may be inexpensive, but they don’t quite generate the same kind of excitement they might have 40 years ago. Stick to promotional items that are likely to be used regularly, particularly those that might take permanent residence on top of one’s desk.

Lastly, keep in mind a trade show is a day outside of the regular environment for your staff to sell your company’s products, and also a day outside of the regular environment for your customers to shop. Trade shows generally sport a festive atmosphere, so make it enjoyable!