Trade shows are a wonderful opportunity to enhance your brand. Every chance you get to be in front of your target audience and/or the media is a great opportunity.
Trade shows help level the playing field for smaller firms - even small companies can usually afford attractive displays. With creative marketing and booth design, small businesses can actually appear as substantial as larger corporations.
Most companies choose trade shows as a marketing vehicle for a number of reasons including generating sales leads, enhancing your image and visibility, reaching a specific audience, establishing a presence in the marketplace, improving the effectiveness and efficiency of your marketing efforts, personally meeting your customers, competitors, and suppliers and prospecting for new customers.
It is a wonderful way to introduce new products and services, demonstrate your product in ways not possible with other marketing channels, recruiting distributors or dealers and educating your target audience. Trade shows also offer an opportunity to share your expert status by taking advantage of speaking opportunities.
If prospects or suppliers feel good about interactions with your staff - they will tell others - creating a buzz about your company. Usually, your sales and/or technical staff will man your booth and meet prospects. Delegate someone to manage the lead tracking system. Your sales and technical team need to focus on the visitors to the booth.
An executive should be in attendance, just in case media opportunities arise. Often, the media visit the booth and want a quick word with a representative of the company. You do not want an untrained employee speaking to the media - it can be a disaster. Booth staff should know what to say if media want information and should offer to contact the person best qualified to answer questions.
Since trade shows generally take place at a single location, are usually one to three days only and bring together thousands of exhibitors and potential customers, they are a very powerful marketing medium that is, if you target geographies appropriately. Pick your shows by location, if it is an international show; evaluate the value of "being seen" as opposed to "making sales".
Invite attending media to your booth in advance. Work with the show organizers to see what branding opportunities exist. Get your company name listed in the pre-show promotion, sponsor a breakfast, lunch, break or after-hours event. Consider sponsoring the media room, or pay for and brand give-away bags.
Look for innovative and economical ways to get your name out there. Leverage your supplier/partners who often spend significant resources in marketing and PR. If you participate in their booth or let them in yours, you will get a PR boost from the association with a strong brand.
You are representing your company and brand, so your professional image is critical at a show. Look interested - captivate your prospects make an impression!
Here's how - have a good breakfast; you will need the energy and make sure your clothing is pressed and clean and your shoes are shined. Make sure to have a good night's rest. Trade shows can be a great party time. The after-hours events are great networking opportunities, but don't over do it - you will pay for it the next day! A tired, hung-over booth representative is not good PR!
Don't pounce on visitors as they approach the booth, instead smile and engage them. Spend a bit of money, thought and effort on your booth. If your budget doesn't allow for a booth this year, attend anyways so that you can check out the competition and get some great ideas for your booth next year.
Leanne Bucaro, co-CEO of Infinity Communications, is a public relations professional with more than 15 years of experience in communications and media.
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