Sales ? exhibiting at trade shows

Be selective in trade shows you attend
During the spring, we attend quite a few trade shows. I’m not really sure what we gain from the shows that we attend. Are trade shows effective?
Answer: If good exposure and sore feet are all that you expect to gain from your trade show exhibits, you’re missing the boat. While name recognition is certainly important, it’s only a small part of an effective trade show marketing plan.
I recently attended a trade show in search of specific products and services for a new home that I am building. I was appalled to find that very few exhibitors asked about my current situation. None asked for my name and phone number for a follow-up.
Should you attend trade shows?
Let’s look at a few statistics about trade show attendance that may surprise you. First, the attendees are mostly empowered and motivated buyers. According to recent surveys, the percentage of trade show attendees who have final say, specify suppliers, or recommend for purchase ranges from 77% to 90% of all attendees. And 59% of those trade show attendees plan to purchase within 12 months of the show.
Trade shows can certainly be effective, but only with the right planning.
In preparing for your exhibits, be sure to address the following key points:
Deciding which shows to attend Choose shows that are targeted to your potential client base. Exposure is great, but exposure to the wrong audience is a waste of time and money.
What is the expected attendance? Just because a show is targeted doesn’t necessarily mean it will be well attended. As an exhibitor you have a right to know and definitely should ask how the show will be promoted. Will it be through direct mail? Radio? And how much?
What is the expected traffic flow?
Will lists of participants be provided for follow-up? Before? After?
If you’re unsure of the show, contact some past exhibitors to see how the show was for them.
Planning for the show Be certain to set goals prior to attending the show. How many people do you plan to talk to? What dollar amount do you expect in sales from the show? (Be sure to allow for follow-up time).
Capturing leads Shows are a great way to create exposure for your business. It’s important that this is not the main goal, however. Prospects are talking to hundreds of vendors, possibly thousands. They probably won’t take action on your product or service until you follow up. Be sure to have an accurate means of capturing leads.
Luring prospects to your booth Pre-convention mailings give prospects a reason to seek out your booth.
Lists of all attendees might be available from the convention organizers. But don’t solely rely on such contact lists. It’s still most effective to generate your own leads. Be sure to talk to your prospects about their specific needs and interests and jot down notes for follow-up.
Setup and display Practice setting up your booth prior to attending the show. That will give you an opportunity to make adjustments.
Don’t take too much with you. Limit your handouts to those pieces that will make the most impact.
Choose your best people to work your booth. Make sure your people are knowledgeable about your products and services.
Make sure that your booth is open and inviting. Don’t place a table in the front like a barrier. Make it easy for potential prospects to feel at ease and walk into your booth.
A plan for follow-up is as important to the show as any initial planning. Through proper follow-up, you will realize the financial goals that you have set for the show.
Set a date for follow-up to be complete.
Determine the method of follow-up.
Prepare a return-on-investment report detailing exact expenses and income.
Keep a show summary for future reference; that will help you decide if the show will be worthwhile attending in future years.
Marcia Gauger is president of Impact Sales in New Berlin. Small Business Times readers with a sales or marketing issue they’d like discussed in this column can contact Gauger at 524-1144 or via e-mail at
April 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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Dr. Daniel A. Schroeder is President/CEO of Organization Development Consultants, Inc. (ODC). ODC serves regional and national clients from its offices in suburban Milwaukee. Additionally, he teaches in the Organizational Behavior and Leadership (bachelor’s) and Organization Development (master’s) programs at Edgewood College (Madison, WI), programs that he founded and for which he served as Program Director.

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