Tradeshow success is defined differently by almost every company.
For a company that sells high-ticket items, a single sale can be enough. For others, large volume, smaller-ticket items might be the way. Not all events and tradeshows are right for every business, but there are ways to maximize your success regardless of what side of the spectrum you’re on.
In this post, we’ll explore the elements that make an event successful so you can become a world-class tradeshow exhibitor. (Hint hint: Just buying a booth and ‘showing up’ isn’t the secret.)
Part 1: Picking the Show
If I asked you to stand alone in a booth for 6 hours, how many people could you have a meaningful conversation with in that time? Let’s assume all the attendees were lined up back to back, as far as the eye could see.
How many of those would you be able to connect with in the best case scenario? 100? 200? 500?
Let’s consider a 3 minute chat as ‘long enough’ to form an impression that could potentially lead to a sale. That means you could speak to 20 people per hour, or 120 people per 6 hour show day.
Add a second person to your booth, and you’re connecting with 240 people per day. That’s busy, and you won’t have time for a yawn during all of it.
Practically speaking, the best streamlined sales team in a 10×10 booth connects with no more than 200 attendees per day. This is a physical limitation, one that can’t be lifted by ‘trying harder’ or ‘more attendees’ – It’s strictly a limitation of time.
If you can only physically connect with 200 prospective leads per day, you’re going to want the most qualified leads in front of you at all time. This applies whether your strategy is low price, large volume, or high price, low volume.
What are the ways to ensure those attendees are who you want?
Event Marketing. Does the show marketing speak to the specific customer you’re looking for, or does it seem generic? If you were considering this show as an attendee, does it share enough information to spark your interest and generate a registration? Is the show specific to a group you’re targeting (and therefore truly interesting to that group), or is it a ‘little bit of everything for everyone?’
Ticket Price. If the goal is maximizing the value of your 200 conversations per day, does the ticket price act as a filter to the people you want, or does it do the opposite and fill your funnel with unqualified leads? Regardless of whether you’re selling $20 tchotchkes, or $30,000 systems, you want the most motivated buyer in your line of 200. A prospective lead that spent $350 to attend is speaking with their dollars, saying ‘I intended to come to this show. I’m here for a reason.’ Compare that to the $20 ticket buyer, who may just be attending because, ‘hey, I’ve got nothing going on…’ (Or, in the case of the emerging cannabis industry, people may be there just because a ‘weed show is in town,’ versus professionals there for the intended business.)
Attendee Experience. Although show marketing will be able to tell you some about the mission, what’s the actual experience like? Does the event agenda act as a draw, or does it bring people with no intended purpose? Is there a reason for attending beyond walking around the expo? If the event has an educational side, are sessions truly educational or thinly-veiled product pitches? Is there anything outside of the show floor to draw people in? Step back and consider the event as a prospective attendee…If you were your own potential buyer, would you want to attend?
Many companies believe they need to attend the ‘largest’ shows. If your argument for needing more attendees is that it’s a ‘game of numbers’ and ‘the more people I speak to, the more potential business I can get,’ then quality of attendee is even more important.
Why waste your very limited time filtering through thousands of window-shopping attendees for the ones you need? It’s contrary to your mission.
Conversely, if you sell high ticket items, you need an audience capable of purchasing at those prices. This is where attendee ticket price can be a huge filter, clearly identifying those with the financial backing to buy and filling your funnel with the most highly qualified leads.
So, you know that you’ve got a ceiling of 200 high-quality opportunities per day to make an impact, what other elements can make the show successful for you?
Part 2: Get Involved Early
Attendees want to register for tradeshows that have exhibitors. The earlier you come in as an exhibitor, the more pre-show marketing time you buy yourself.
This seems like common sense, but more often than not, exhibitors wait until the last minute to reserve their booths. This is a mistake.
Reserving early gives you obvious benefits like prime booth space, but also adds a new marketing channel for months leading up to an event. Every visitor to the event website, regardless if they attend, will be another potential impression for your company. Why squander this opportunity?
Your whole purpose for reserving a booth is to garner more business, and reserving early allows you to piggyback on the (often much larger) promotional efforts of the event. Additionally, the earlier exhibitors come in, the more content is available to prospective attendees, the more potential attendees will register. It’s a very simple cycle that repeats itself event to event. If you want to be involved in successful events, reserve early and follow these steps:
Step 1: Remember the event is a marketing channel. In most cases, events have marketing budgets made up of dollars brought in from exhibitors and sponsors leading up to the event. These budgets are often many multiples of what you paid, and are intended to draw in a crowd of qualified attendees for you and others. Reserving early allows you to piggyback on these efforts, get seen by more potential prospects, and puts you in favor with event organizers.
Step 2: TELL YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS EARLY AND OFTEN! If you’re picking the right events, that is, events that match your customer base, then your customers are interested in attending these events too! Use your presence at the event as a ‘reason’ for getting in touch with your customers and prospects in the months leading up to the event. (Don’t wait until a week before!) If you interest 10 of your customers to attend, and 50 other booths interest 10 of their customers to attend, it’s a win for everyone involved. Your customers feel appreciated that you thought of them, you meet 500 new prospects you haven’t met before, and the event becomes more beneficial to all involved. The higher the flames, the more people will see them. Win-Win-Win.
Step 3: Use the tools the organizers give you. Most quality events provide you with personal promotional codes, creatives, and more to promote your presence at the event. USE THESE TOOLS REGULARLY! They aren’t afterthoughts. These items are intended to make the event more successful for you. When you do well at a show, the show does well. It’s a symbiotic relationship that requires both sides doing their part.
Step 4: Consider Sponsorships. Sponsorships are often overlooked by companies, but can be a fantastic way to stand out among a crowd of exhibitors. Look for sponsorship opportunities that are built into attendee experience, as they tend to be the most effective. People like dealing with people; therefore, sponsoring parties, group events, cocktail hours, etc. are great ways to humanize your brand and gain recognition beyond the booth. They also allow for greater pre-show marketing opportunities than just a booth alone.