When a client — whose company develops vertical business software — asked me to help with the booth messaging for an upcoming trade show I was stumped.
Although I had done a ton of work over the years helping clients generate booth attendance for trade shows, I had little experience writing booth signage. So I turned to colleague Ruth Stevens and her book Trade Show and Event Marketing: Plan, Promote and Profit. What a life-saver. After reading it I learned that the trade show booth should be treated like any marketing piece and, like a headline, the booth visitor should know what that company offers instantly from seeing the sign. Since then I’ve noticed how often trade show exhibitors don’t make their product or service clear in their signage.
In today’s down economy, several clients and associates have been bemoaning how they cannot justify the cost all of the trade shows where they should be exhibiting. So, once again, I turned to Ruth for guidance. Here’s the insight she shared:
“If you are a start-up, or you’ve burned through your marketing budget for the year, or you’re simply a cheapskate, there are still plenty of ways you can take advantage of a trade show. When you consider that a trade show offers a concentrated opportunity to interact with many potential buyers over a few days, you’ll recognize the need to be there, budget or no budget.
- Register as an attendee and use the trade show as a networking opportunity. You can do plenty of business by wandering around.
- If you’re really cheap, buy only an exhibit hall ticket. Make appointments with your current customers and prowl around the hall together.
- Apply for a speaking opportunity on the trade show program, which will get you into the trade show for free.
- Host an off-site breakfast. The cheapest — and possibly most productive — meal of the day. The event will give you concentrated face time and the chance to pitch your wares.
- Crash parties. Ask your friends and colleagues what parties or business events they’ve heard about. Stop by those booths in advance and wrangle an invitation. As long as you’re polite and not a competitor, you’ll stand a good chance of making useful new contacts — and conserving your meal budget.
- Treat your attendance at the show as a full-blown marketing campaign. Review all the possible target audiences — attendees, exhibitors, and speakers. Set up appointments in advance, qualify prospects as you meet them around the show, nurture leads on your return to the office, and track and report on business closed. This campaign has to demonstrate an ROI like any other.”
Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention for B2B companies through her company eMarketing Strategy, and is the author of Trade Show and Event Marketing: Plan, Promote and Profit. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.