By: Jenny Schweyer
Participating in trade shows offers businesses significant exposure in the marketplace. In fact, for businesses which don't operate out of a store front (i.e. web-based businesses) it may be one of the only venues in which to put a physical "front" on a business. Whether your business is store, home or web-based, participating in a trade show can raise your profile in a community or sector and infuse your cash flow with sales and new accounts.
When you book your spot at a trade show, it's time to start planning your strategy. First, be sure to order promotional giveaways. Promotional giveaways give trade show visitors a tangible reminder of your business and of their interaction with you. The last thing you want is for a potential customer to decide he or she wants to do business with your company, only to find that he or she can't remember your company's information.
You should choose your promotional giveaways based on two things: the type of business that you have, and/or the type of trade show that you are taking part in. For instance, if you're business is hardware, you may want to invest in hardware-related promotional giveaways (i.e. tools, flashlights.) If your business is electronics, choose electronic promotional giveaways. Not only will this help visitors remember your name, it will also solidify your business' image in their minds.
The next step is to establish some goals. What is your main purpose for participating in this particular trade show? You will develop your goal based on this purpose. Your goals should be measurable and attainable.
Let's say that you are a brand new web design company, and your purpose is to let potential clients know who you are and what your business is about. You might decide in view of this that your goal is to hand out at least fifty promotional giveaways to viable prospects. Of those fifty, your next goal is to turn at least ten of them into new, regular customers or accounts. Establishing a goal or goals gives you something to aim for. It will also help keep you energized and motivated during slow times when visitor traffic is low.
Next, plan your strategy. In other words, how are you going to accomplish the goal or goals that you've set? Referring again to the example above, how are you going to identify fifty viable prospects? One strategy may be to ask leading questions of your visitors to determine their interest level in the services that you offer. A visitor who already has a contract with another web-design company may not be as viable a lead as someone who is planning to start a business and is interested in consulting with a web expert. Asking the right questions is one way to determine who your best prospects are.
The final step is to measure your success afterwards. You set a very clear goal: to talk to fifty viable prospects. After the trade show is over, make a determination: did you in fact identify at least fifty potential clients? Did you hand out those fifty promotional giveaways? If so, how are you going to turn ten of those prospects into new accounts? If not, evaluate what kept you from attaining that goal. Did you set your standards too high? Was trade show traffic slower than you had anticipated? Did you hold back too much? How many of these factors were out of your control, and how many could you have controlled by working harder or setting more realistic expectations of yourself?
By evaluating your success afterwards, you can save yourself from disappointment and use what you've discovered to fuel your motivation to participate in the next trade show. You can also use this as an opportunity to celebrate your success. And celebrate you should. Reward yourself for every trade show success, no matter how small. You don't have to go out and buy a yacht. Reward yourself with an afternoon of golf or by sleeping in one extra morning. Rewarding yourself will also keep you motivated as you seek to build your business.
Jenny Schweyer is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She specializes in business advertising tips.
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