5 Questions You Must Answer Before Setting Your Trade Show Plans
“You don’t have a clue, do you?” Rick asked me. Rick was my first marketing mentor, I was fresh out of school and into my first marketing job. I took it personally, of course. I was a hot shot, great at explaining Porter’s Five Forces. Still thinking Creative was the most important thing. Surely trade show promotion was not brain surgery.
Over the next few years I learned there was a big gulf between marketing theory and real-world marketing. Looking back I know Rick was just trying to get my attention. I’ve learned a lot in the 20 years since that verbal exchange. Based on this experience, I’ve distilled my list of the five most important questions you must answer before you set next year’s trade show budget:
1. Do You Need a Trade Show or a Consumer Show?
Have a new product in a new market? Then you need a consumer show. I know this sounds wrong. Your first inclination is to show your great new product to as many chain store buyers as possible.
However, the retail chain buyers you covet have little or no interest in you until they‘ve heard about you from their customers. You must earn attention by building up consumer demand. Retail chain buyers don’t care about your product claims, they only want something they know will sell because it’s already selling somewhere else.
When they hear from their customers, or their boss, that they should check out your product, then they’ll start returning your calls. Until then, don’t expect a chain store buyer to give you the time of day. Focus on consumer shows and sell direct until you make some breakthroughs and find yourself on the chain buyer’s radar.
2. Do You Have a Show-Stopping Staff?
Whether you’re at a trade or consumer show, no one stops at your booth unless you make them stop. You spent a load on great graphics, beautiful brochures and a stunning candy bowl. But if you don’t have a couple of fearless sales people in your booth, you’re wasting your money.
We’ve all seen the clueless exhibitors, the ones sitting down doing crosswords, trying not to fall off their chairs from boredom. Set a clear rule that your people cannot sit down for more than 10 minutes every hour. They are there to generate leads and sell your stuff. So show them how to stop people and generate leads and sell your stuff. Set the example. Give them a role model.
3. Have You Set Goals for Leads And Sales For Each Employee?
Stopping prospects as they cruise the aisles is a challenge for a lot of people. Even normally outgoing types can suddenly go shy on the exhibit floor. One way to motivate your team is to set challenging goals for the number of leads or orders you expect from each employee. Hold them accountable. Give them an incentive to earn. Make it fun and rewarding. Your staff will find this much more enjoyable than drifting into a catatonic state.
Your trade show personnel need a 10 second traffic-stopping speech and they need to be out front pitching it to every one that walks by. The attendees are all on sensory overload. You need to break them out of that zombie mode by asking questions as they pass: “Have you seen our new widget? It’s the best thing going to solve __________ problem.”
4. Are You Giving Away Something of Value to Capture Leads?
Running a simple sweepstakes is a breeze. You print a thousand entry blanks and you tell people what they can win just by filling out an entry blank. Everybody likes having the chance to win for free what you are selling. You generate a new set of a thousand leads. Qualify the prospects as they are filling in their information. You can always add notes to the back of their entry blank.
I know a lot of show rules say “No sweepstakes allowed.” I recommend you do it anyway. I’ve never been stopped from doing it and I’ve exhibited at hundreds of shows. The key is not to make entry into your giveaway contingent on a purchase. That’s always a legal violation. Relying on your candy bowl to stop prospects is always a marketing violation.
5. Have You Trained Everyone To Conduct A Simple Market Research Poll?
This borders on having too many objectives, but done right, you’ll gather valuable insight into your product or service. The key is to set a priority sequence for your team. First you stop the prospects. Then you demo your product. Then you close the sale. Now you can probe on objections or you can choose to move the prospect to the sweeps entry blank.
Once they are at the sign up point, have one or two questions you want answered, like “Do you find the price high, low or about right?” “Which color is your favorite, or would you prefer a different color?” The range of questions is endless. The key is to have a tally form handy to record the responses.