Setting up at a trade show or a community event where your audience is expected to be hanging out can be a good idea. There are definitely some very strong caveats. The thing is, if you have a staff person or (God forbid) YOU set up a table at an event, the time you spend is far more valuable that the tchotchke items you are going to prepare to give away. Your time is worth big bucks, and if you are going to do one of these, you have to make that time work for you.
Two Months Before the Expo:
Before you even spread out the logo-embossed tablecloth, you have work to do. How much preparation you spend before the event can determine how successful you are when the day is done and you are counting your leads. If the event is a conference with a limited and known audience, you have a huge opportunity. Whether or not the conference organizers will share the list with you or not is the big question. Often, they will share the list but not the contact info. If you are dealing with an event that is hosting thousands of potential buyers, it could be worth your while to send that list out to some data scraper in Indonesia or India to have the emails and addresses put in a spreadsheet for you. Whether or not to do this is based on how much lead time you have before the conference.
If the list is already complete with contact info, it is time to go to work to prepare the attendees for your magnificent booth. Spend some money on having a postcard designed and printed with your booth number on it. Then, create a call to action with a carrot dangling at the end offering attendees a special gift if they will drop by your booth. Whatever the special gift is can be relative to your audience. A free drink ticket at the bar? A cup of barista coffee? A copy of your book? You decide what it is, but whatever you choose, , get that postcard sent out in plenty of time so it arrives before they ever leave for the airport to arrive at the conference.
Be sure you have enough “special gifts” to give away. The conference crowds are a captive audience, and they are sure to make a beeline to you if they have your postcard.
If you are exhibiting at a public event, you can’t know who will be there. A list is not possible. You can still be prepared by advertising in the program for the event or in the local insert for the event or promotional website. Make use of whatever tools you can to drive traffic to your table.
One Month Before the Expo:
- Make sure you have plenty of business cards. Don’t be cheap with this, order 5,000 or more and have them ready to hand out at every turn.
- Update your hand-outs and make sure you have trackable information on everything in order to know later how useful your investment was after the event is over.
- Invest in something that will set your booth apart—lighting; a new huge colorful banner; a sign spinner; or an inflatable character—whatever you believe will work. You are already investing your time and money in the table. Make it work.
At the Expo:
- Never sit behind your table. It’s a barrier. Move your table to the rear and stand in FRONT of it. Everyone will talk to you there. They will NOT bother to stop by if you are sitting and looking at your phone or reading a magazine This may be the most Important tip of all.
- Offer a free give-away (separate from the “special gift” which is only for those with the postcard). Make them give their name, email and phone number to get the chance at the give-away.
- Engage people with a friendly question of “something or something”. If you ask Yes or No questions, the conversation stops there.
- Take place cards with appointment dates and times already printed on them. This way, your prospects can set a consultation with you right at the event. Tell them your staff will call them on Monday to get the rest of their information to mail out their pre-consultation package and confirm the appointment.
After the Expo:
You have a gold mine of leads, a cache of appointments and an opportunity to reach the people who missed you. Create a way to touch each of these groups—have your sales consultants (this may be you) call your leads. Direct your staff to confirm the appointments. Prepare a mailing to the list of those who do not fall into the first two groups. Use a testimonial letter. It will prove to be even better if you can have a known speaker at the conference pen the letter. . If you can’t secure that, do it yourself. Offer them another chance to connect with you.
And remember, follow up until they Die, Buy or Unsubscribe. Expos and conferences can give you fodder for new business or they can be a huge drain on your capital and your time. Take the time to get it right.