Trade shows and exhibitions can be an excellent way to get yourself in front of qualified prospects – if you follow the steps I’ve outlined below. Wing it and you’ll lose money – big time.

So let’s take it from the top.

You’ve booked the space at the tradeshow. Created a stand that will wow your audience. Sorted out the travel and accommodation requirements if you’re coming in from out of town.

It’s cost you considerable time and money to get this far.

You excitedly wait for the opening, stand expectantly at your brand spanking new stand and wait. And wait. And wait. The expected hordes of people simply either don’t turn up or completely bypass your stand.

And as the day wears on you get more and more frustrated and wonder what went wrong.

Sadly this is a very common scenario for many exhibitors at tradeshows. Don’t let it happen to you.

The most important reason you’re at the show is to get in front of qualified prospects. People who are in your target market. So in essence you want to attract them and repel everyone else (or you’ll waste a lot of time with tire kickers).

So how do you do this?

Well it depends on whether you’re at a trade only or consumer show.

Let’s take them in turn.

At trade only shows you’ll have far less traffic and your goal is to get in front of as many highly qualified prospects as possible and start meaningful conversations with them. Quality, not quantity is the key.

  • Start communicating with registered attendees.

    You’ll get a pre-registration list from your show management. If not ask for it.

    Not everybody on this list will be in your target market, so start by culling the list to avoid a scatter gun approach. This is will save you money and time, as you don’t mail out to everyone.

    Once you have the list, create an invitation, explaining to them who you’re looking for and why they should visit your booth. This will very clearly separate the wheat from the chaff, which is exactly what you want.

  • Inform your existing clients, and prospects that you’ll be exhibiting at the trade show, and give them reasons why they should be visiting you there.

    You know that these people are already interested in doing business with you, so encourage them to come and see you.

    Worst case scenario will be that they can’t make it to the show. However you’ve created an opportunity to keep in touch with your clients by letting them know what it is you’re doing and offering.

  • Create a multiple-touch promotion

    It’s rare for someone to respond the first time they see something. Therefore it’s imperative you create a multiple-touch sequence that contacts your clients and prospects in different ways.

  • Use a combination of email, FAX, postcards, SMS, and physical letters to contact your list.

    And if you think this is not worth doing – here’s a real example of why you should…

    A client reported a physical invitation letter they sent to a client got blocked by his PA. However a personalised FAX got through. The client attended the show and won a prize worth $900!

  • Make sure your message is clear and concise and attracts qualified leads only. (If you’re unsure of how to do this, engage us to write your copy)
  • Make sure your prospects understand very clearly why they will benefit from visiting you at the show.
  • People are busy and plan their activities well in advance. So make sure this mail out reaches your prospect at least 30 days before the start of the show.

    Then send out a series of reminders using different modalities.

    Reminders which include plans for the event, new products you’re launching, and other events including social function you’ll be hosting.

  • If appropriate, offer an opportunity to book appointments with you.

Consumer oriented shows are a completely different beast.

The audience will be general in nature and your main role here is to capture as many names and other contact details as you can. So you need to do everything you can to funnel traffic past your stand.

Rule number one is position, position, position. You want a stand in a main traffic area or near an eating area where people congregate.

For consumers the biggest drawcards are holidays followed by gadgets like IPADS and other devices. So create a large, hard to miss banner proclaiming the chance to win prizes.

Then make sure you capture visitor details in return for entries. To ensure you get valid details tell them you will notify winners by email, SMS and physical mail. This way you’re more likely to get real information.

While there is a risk you’ll get people signing up just for a chance to win, there will be many who could be qualified prospects.

Your immediate goal after the show is to start following everyone up. Do not call them UNLESS you have spoken to them and qualified them at the stand. (You are taking notes of conversations aren’t you?)

Put everyone onto an email and if possible physical mail follow up sequence where you start drip feeding them with more information, material which would be of interest to them, and the occasional promotion.

With each send out encourage them to call you.

Remember, it can take multiple touches before someone takes action. The biggest mistake you can make is to only follow up once or twice. We’ve had people on our lists for years before becoming 6 figure clients. People buy when they are ready, not when you want to sell something.

Does all this seem daunting?

Well, maybe it is, but unless you implement these strategies you’ll likely waste your investment.

Which is where we can help.

Outsource your trade show marketing – both pre an post to us. We can design a campaign which will bring the right prospects to your booth. We can train your stand staff to rapidly qualify prospects in or out, so you spend time dealing with people who are likely to be buyers.

Call us on (02) 9499-7958 for more information. Also head over to and download a Guide to maximising your trade show returns. You will get lots of actionable strategies to improve your ROI.

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