Each month, Toronto Business Times solicits expert opinions on a question of relevance to the small business community. This month’s question is about trade shows.
By Liana Ling
The idea of participating in a trade show is always exciting. There’s only one small problem: you’re never really quite sure where to start.
A trade show is a great opportunity to showcase your offerings and network with the right audience. If you plan well and implement skillfully, the returns can far exceed your expectations.
Here are some important things to keep in mind when preparing for a trade show:
• Always define your trade show KPIs: Identifying your target demographic plays a big role in the success of your trade show display. Carefully consider who your potential clients are as well as key industry contacts.
• Study previous trade shows: Looking at old reports will give you an idea of the usual vendors in attendance, your competitors, statistical results, the demographic of visitors, etc.
• Pick the right trade show: Different trade shows are held for different reasons. Make sure you understand, at the outset, the purpose for this particular show. Does it make business sense for you to be seen and heard at this show?
• Initiate a launch plan: Use online news releases and social media to get the word out and invite people to your booth. Be creative – think about how you can utilize print, the Internet and mobile marketing to connect with prospects.
• The runner: It’s the big day and you’re nervous and excited. Appoint a runner, because you will most likely forget something and won’t have time to run around for it.
• Make your booth stand out: Whether you decide to use bright colours, a catchy banner or something classy is up to you, but set up an attractive booth. Keep it simple, yet powerful. Tip: chocolates and mints work well – no need for fancy, expensive giveaways.
• Your station: Try to book a booth near the water-cooler/refreshments area or in a corner where you will get the best foot traffic.
• Lights, camera, action: Take plenty of photographs. You can use these in your newsletters, and add them to your blog and website.
• Presentation: A winning smile, confidence and creativity are elementary to a successful trade show. Make sure you are always standing in front or outside your booth. Visitors find it harder to walk away when you are in their face. Try conducting a fun contest at your booth and attempt to truly connect with your visitors.
• A follow-up for the win: As a small business owner, time spent at a trade show leaves a pile of work for you at the office. Don’t assume that once the show is over, your work there is done. You need to follow up. Write out a report while it is still fresh in your mind – a few pointers that will help you next time around.
• Nurturing relationships: Prepare a post-show email to the new contacts you made at the trade show. Quality communication and lead nurturing can go a long way towards conversion and sales in the future.
Most importantly, be realistic. Weigh your options and set a goal your team is actually capable of achieving. Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew.
Liana Ling is president of Power Up Strategy Inc. She helps business owners build their ideal business. Liana brings her passion and a wealth of experience to her clients as a lawyer, entrepreneur and marketing and social media expert.