Forging successful connections at trade shows requires a solid strategy for attracting and retaining the attention of prospects.
Trade shows are an excellent opportunity for businesses to showcase their products and services and connect with potential clients. However, with so many companies competing for attention, it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd.
To be successful at a trade show, businesses must find ways to attract and retain the interest of potential clients on the spot in real-time. This requires a combination of creativity, preparation, and a willingness to take risks. To that end, 15 Fast Company Executive Board members recommend some top strategies businesses can use to stand out from competitors during an annual trade show and leave a lasting impression on potential clients.
Provide a welcoming environment
Always have your team members face forward instead of turning their backs toward prospects, even when talking to someone or having a conversation. Build a work culture strong enough that your team members are genuinely happy, smiling, and exude attractive energy. – Kenneth Shen, Half Past Nine
Create a direct marketing campaign for attendees
Trade shows are all about pre- and post-show marketing to drum up and convert booth traffic. Take the time to plan out your campaign! Buy or rent a list of attendees and create a killer direct marketing campaign. Include some kind of incentive to drive people to your booth – people love tchotchkes or other giveaways. Scan people when they stop by and follow up! – Rio Longacre Slalom Consulting
Offer something of real value beyond company swag
Trade shows are all about pre- and post-show marketing to drum up and convert booth traffic. Take the time to plan out your campaign! Buy or rent a list of attendees and create a killer direct marketing campaign. Include some kind of incentive to drive people to your booth – people love tchotchkes or other giveaways. Scan people when they stop by and follow up! – Viveka Von Rosen, Vengreso
Bring in your creative staff members and service workers
Alongside the marketing and salespeople, staff your booth with people who actually do the work to provide the service or make the product. Customers can gain quick confidence in what you do by interacting with the folks who actually do that thing. This can be difficult, as technical people can shy away from these types of situations, but find the ones who can and bring them along. It’ll pay off! – Todd Slind, Locana
Build a memorable booth
For our booth, we created an eight-foot pop-up with an electric chair that said, “Don’t be a dead brand walking, give your marketing a jolt!” We received so much attention because of it and the buzz it created. That exhibit prop was the reason two of the biggest rock drummers in the world wanted to meet us, and later became our clients! – Kevin Neff, Kevin Makes Sense Media
Think outside of the box
One of my clients attended an annual show in San Diego. Exhibiting at the conference was expensive, and it was challenging to capture people’s attention. We decided not to exhibit for one year and instead rented a beautiful boat near the hotel. Conference attendees came and stayed for long periods of time. The fresh sea air gave people an energizing lift. – Debra Andrews, Marketri LLC
Incorporate valuable workshops and sessions
Many tactics can be used to draw some attention at a trade show, from side events to interactive activities or unique giveaways. But one of the best ways to attract and retain interest from your target audience is through thought leadership. We always aim to pair trade show exhibits with sessions or workshops that add value because they’re relevant to the problems our potential clients are looking to solve. – Raj Indupuri, eClinical Solutions
Ensure you have strong, standout copy
I think that good copy on your display, pamphlets, and other promotional materials is a great way to stand out at a trade show. It’s important that you create powerful messaging and share who you are and what benefits you offer in your headlines. Such copy will attract eyeballs and give people a reason to engage with you. Don’t underestimate the power of the written word during a trade show. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
Offer demos with experts and follow up with engaged attendees
Three surefire ways to improve engagement, and ultimately sales, at your booth at a trade show are to provide product demos, have experts on staff to answer questions immediately, and capture and prioritize those engaged attendees over others in your follow-up. These three are the foundation of an ROI on your marketing event investment. – Chad Engelgau, Acxiom
Set clear goals and objectives beforehand
What is your goal? Is it to attract and retain new customers? Is it to build brand awareness and buzz? Build a coherent brand story and easy brand messaging that’s simple enough for attendees to grasp. Take time to research the trade show and your competitors who will be attending it. – Candice Georgiadis, Digital Agency, Inc.
Authentically represent your brand to build connections
Stand out through authenticity to drive genuine connections that people will remember most. Think about how your booth can represent an authentic and immersive expression of your brand. Previously, we hosted a relaxation experience that simultaneously showcased our clinical trial services and underscored our B-corp’s commitment to wellness, evidence-based decision-making, and transparency. – Pelin Thorogood
Know your business inside and out
Have a clear and concise elevator pitch with a good understanding of what your company offers. Be prepared for any questions a potential client may have. You can attract and retain their interest on the spot by being friendly and easygoing. Don’t let a potential client feel like they’re being sold something — it should feel like they’re talking with someone who has their best interest in mind. – Rudy Mawer, Mawer Capital
Make your booth fun
Ensure your trade show presence enables visitors to memorialize and share their experiences with colleagues and friends. Video and AR can underpin impressive, shareable artifacts. Yet, low-tech methods like a life-size cutout of your CEO or a roaming brand mascot can still punch above their weight. Don’t forget the fun! – Karen Starns, OJO Canada
Align your business with the latest trends
Get a feel for what is hot in terms of public or industry perception during that time and find a way to attach your message to that without appearing to try too hard. For example, AI is really on fire right now. If your business is related to AI or the Metaverse, chances are it will attract attention even if you don’t try that hard to get it. – Zain Jaffer, Zain Ventures
Get the whole team involved
Have all levels of management participate and get the CEO and exec team in there on the floor to answer questions and listen to feedback. It’s an expensive focus group, so use it! Everyone learns, everybody benefits and it builds teamwork. – Rich DePencier, Chief Outsiders
-Originally published on fastcompany.com.
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