Eric Sink says that tradeshows are like sex: When it's good it's really really good, and when it's bad, it's still pretty good.
It's easy to waste a lot of time and money at tradeshows. But also they can be invaluable both for marketing and sales (outward) and market research (inward).
What are your tips for a successful booth? What should you do before and after?
We've been attending trade shows for several years. When we started, the main trade show we attend was very targeted for our demographic (almost all attendees are potential customers). Over the years, however, that show has grown, and now only about 10% of the attendees are a good fit for our company.
When most attendees are potential customers, we found it effective to offer a give-away (a high-end iPod or iPhone) to those who would drop off a business card. This drove a lot of traffic to the booth, which was good - we would have good conversations with the folks stopping by the booth, and we generated good leads for follow-up after the show.
But when the attendee mix changed, we found that we were swamped with people signing up for the iPod that would never, ever buy our products. We wasted time trying to engage them in conversation, and it prevented us from talking to those who might really be interested in our products. The give-away was attracting the wrong kinds of people and it was overwhelming us.
The next year, we didn't do a give-away. We found that this eliminated the crowds and only people who were really interested would stop by the booth. Life was good again.
A few other points from my trade show experience:
Just came back from one of those (actually it was our first).
So my humble list out of this experience:
A couple more points to add in to the mix from a number of tradeshows and conferences:
Have free food. My mother's been running booths for her real estate magazine & vacation guide business for years, and the one thing that guarantees people stopping by is offering free food of some kind. Cookies work well.
Have them in the center of your booth, rather than at the edges, though, so people can't just grab and go. You want to get them in a spot where it's natural that you'd start a conversation with them; they're in the booth, rather than walking by it.
Good free things to give away:
You will have the whole expo asking for the location of your booth if you give away an item that is visible to other visitors. Everyone loves freebies especially if its not some cheap keyring or pen.
Also, try to arrange your booth to allow visitors to walk into the booth. If its just a table against the walkway, they will keep on walking. Have a table against the back wall with freebies so you can invite people in to get them while you talk to them.
Capture their attention.
Make them stop.
Tell them your story.
Leave an impression.
Get their info.
Followup, followup, followup.
• I prefer to do exhibits at conferences for my primary target market, libraries, as this is the most cost and time effective but I also exhibit at events with teachers for exposure.
• My purpose for exhibiting is to get names, contact info and permission to contact potential customers. (I do give short demos but many attendees are on time restrictions.)
• I have drawings at my table and the prizes are attractive logo bags filled with books. My drawing form asks for: name, school, phone, email, asks if they buy books, asks if ok to contact, asks if ok to send email newsletters on new products and specials. The prizes are also an indirect form of advertising as the bag has my company info and the books are samples of what I sell.
• My display consists of my company banner, display stands with books, PC (to demo audio e-books), the prominent drawing box, entry forms and pens around the table. I give out a one page list of the companies I represent and the buying terms if people want them and give out book catalogs only upon request. Like Michael, I found giving away catalogs to everyone in effective.
o A versatile attractive banner that can be used in the front of the exhibit table or hung as a back drop is good. o I leave the $1 Office Max pens out to complete drawing forms as any other good/attractive pen will walk away immediately. • For small (couple hundred people) events, I man the exhibit myself as I stand in front of my booth and ask people if they want to enter my drawing. But when I do have detailed discussions, the pens and drawing forms are set out around the entire exhibit so people can fill out the forms themselves. For large (thousands) events, I get help for the times when the exhibits will be packed. Since asking teachers to enter the drawing is easy to do, I had high school students help at the last teacher event and that worked out well.