Do You Want to Improve Your Return at Trade Shows?

By: Copyright© Wendy McClelland


So you're going to have a booth at a trade show. How exciting - or how terrifying - depending on your state of mind.

First of all - remain calm - you're not the first person to do this. There's some easy to follow tips that will ensure success at the show, and give you follow up business too.

Preparation ahead of time is important. Gather all the supplies you'll need. Brochures, business cards, product samples, entry forms for a draw, professional signs and any audio visual equipment you'll need. Be sure to ask for electricity well in advance if you will need it - AND be sure to get an internet connection if you need that as well.

Also, make sure none of your marketing literature leaves your booth without contact information on it - people MUST know how to get in touch with you after the show.

Make your booth looks GREAT! It doesn't have to cost a lot of money - ask a friend whose got a sense of style to help you create something that is eye catching but doesn't "break the bank". Don't over crowd your display area because people get overwhelmed and pass by; but on the other hand, don't have so little that people think there's nothing to see. Make sure your sign is professionally printed and hung straight!

Once you've set up your booth, stand back about 20 feet and objectively take a look at it. Is it welcoming? Is your sign easy to read? Can people tell what you do BEFORE they get to your booth? These are critical issues that you need to answer before the show.

At the show be friendly - wear a name tag and smile. Encourage everyone who walks by to take a brochure, sample your product or enter a free draw. ALWAYS have a free draw - give away a good prize - it doesn't have to be expensive. Use the draw entry forms to follow up on with a sales letter, or put on a mailing list for future business. I'm always amazed at the number of business people at trade shows who don't have a draw, and then have no way to follow up with potential customers! Create your draw entry form so that it provides you with a little bit more information than just a name and address. Get the standard contact information, but also ask questions specific to your products or services. Something like: "are you planning to buy a product like ours in the next six months?" or "have you heard of our product before?"

Questions like that will give you a conversation starter when you call them after the show. If you worry about "bothering people" by calling them, you can add the following at the bottom of the entry: "___ I do not wish to be contacted." This allows those people who really only entered the draw just to get a prize to be easy weeded out, so your time isn't wasted calling them.

After the show - call or contact ALL those people who stopped by your booth, and indicated an interest in one of your products or services. Make sure you contact the people within 7 - 10 days! Keep track of those people who find you through the trade show and later buy from you. It's important to know how much business you gain from each show you participate in.

Figure out how much your expenses were to be in the show (include booth rental, your time, items for your display, gas to get there, parking, etc.) Now figure out the profit (deduct expenses for materials and supplies to make your product - don't forget shipping & packaging). Now you have your ROI (return on investment). THIS IS A CRITICAL number that will allow you to assess whether or not it is worth doing this trade show again.

Some trade shows prohibit direct selling at the show - they only allow you to take orders. In this case you MUST do follow up. Do NOT assume that people will call you - they WON'T! If you don't believe me - answer this: How many times have YOU called someone you met at a trade show, even if you just adored their product?

If you don't like doing follow up phone calls, hire someone to do it for you. If you're not going to do the calls at all - don't even bother doing the show - you're wasting time and money.

Send a hand written letter of thanks to the show organizers and make sure you're on the list for next year. Lastly don't expect immediate results - trade shows take time to pay off.

After the show sit down with everyone involved in the show and evaluate how it went. Was it time and money well spent. Were the people friendly? Did the trade show staff help when asked? Was the facility comfortable? What did you like/dislike about it?

Each trade show you do will teach you something ­ be open to learning. Smile, wear comfortable shoes, drink lots of water and get plenty of rest before and after the show!

Copyright © 2005 Wendy McClelland Wendy McClelland is a motivational speaker, marketing innovator and Certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach who specializes in teaching people to "think without boundaries!" She is a past nominee for "Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year" and her clients have included software developers, an Olympic athlete and a wide range of business organizations. She has spoken to 10,000+ conference attendees, about Marketing, Internet Business and Motivation. You can contact her through her website ­ www.thinkwithoutboundaries.com