Exhibiting at conferences and trade shows is typically looked at as a stale and archaic way to grow revenues for new, exciting startups. My experiences differ greatly.
Here are a few best practices that I have seen used to drive customer acquisition and ROI from trade show events:
How to select the right conference: The more targeted conference the better. Quality over quantity. Figure out what shows your core target frequent. Focus not on number of leads but rather number of qualified opportunities from the event.
Prepare, Plan, Execute: Don’t just show up. Understand who the attendees are. Decide who you want to connect with and prepare for those conversations. Schedule time during the conference if possible to meet with your key prospects one on one. Establish goals prior to event have a way (like CRM) to track the success of the event. Know what needs to happen to help decide if you should do this show the following year.
Reach out prior to the conference: Even is it’s just a “looking forward to meeting you at…” Make it personalized – not a spam to all attendees.
Task current customers there with connecting you with one person: If you have current customers at the conference as them for help. Ask them if they would be open to bringing one person by your booth. People like to help – just ask.
Booth engagement: This should go without saying but I still see it at every show we attend. Don’t sit behind a table sitting behind your computer or cell phone. We have a no chairs and no cell phone rule. Be engaging, draw people in, smile.
Be prepared if people are ready to buy: If you run a credit card driven business have a Square – if they want to buy right then, let them.
Let them play: Have demonstrations running. Let them use your software or visually experience your product or service.
Network away from the booth: Some of the greatest successes that we have had at conferences has been from networking at sessions, cocktail hours, or dinners outside of the exhibition hall floor. The more people you meet the more opportunities for uncovering qualified opportunities.
The most critical time: Once the show is complete the real work starts. You’ve made the investment now relentlessly pursue an ROI. Set specific tasks to connect with the top opportunities. Make it creative – remember they are getting touched by multiple vendors after the show. Stand out and be different. At Hireology we started writing hand written thank you’s for stopping by our booth. Have an email nurturing campaign set up to hit passive prospects.
HubSpot brings up some interesting points in this blogpost about why they don’t exhibit at Trade Show events and what to do instead: For an opposing view CLICK HERE.