As Seen in AMEX Open forum, USA Today, The Charlotte Observer, America's Premier Experts, the Daily

As Seen in AMEX Open forum, USA Today, The Charlotte Observer, America's Premier Experts, the Daily

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lessons I learned from my first trade show

Does your market niche gather at a trade show?   

My niche market definitely did and going there was a great move for my business.  However, here are some critical lessons I learned from my first experience that will make yours go smoothly. 

Trade shows are a VERY effective way to reach connectors in certain markets.    Still, trade shows are exhausting ways to make money.

Here are 5 tips for making your money go the furthest so that investment  boosts your business up! 

1) You need a system to keep track of and follow-up with all the contacts that you'll get. 

 Believe me, even if you don't ask for them (and you should) you'll still get tons of cards.

You need a system, set up AND communicated to everyone working the booth beforehand to remember key points about each person so you can make the most of these contacts later.

  • Was this person a potential distributor? 
  • An end user who loved the product and gave you a testimonial? 
You need to keep these straight.

 2) There are peaks and valleys in foot traffic - treat the show as a marathon and NOT a sprint. 

The hours of these trade shows vary, but they are all exhausting.

Tip: Take plenty of water and quick snacks you can eat between potential contacts so you stay energized.

Whatever you do, wear very comfortable shoes that won't give you blisters on day one.  You don't want to be miserable for the remaining 2-4 days of the conference!

 3) Booth location matters... a lot. 

You may have paid full price for your booth, but if they put you in a corner out of the main walkway, you will NOT sell as much or meet as many people.  Usually a map is provided so ask who is close by your desired spot before you sign on the dotted line.

We were back-to-back with a speaker company once.  We had to yell over their music all weekend.  I will not be in that position again if I can help it, so I always check who our neighbors will be and ask to be moved if there is someone objectionable.

Tip: Pick a booth location that people can see when they enter the room.  Ideally, your booth will be in the direction people will be walking when they enter the room.

Make sure you are marketing ideally for the space you have. If you need banner stands so they can SEE your fabulous banners and signs from where they're coming from, buy them and make sure you have ones that turn/raise up if your customers won't be looking at your booth straight on. 

4) If you are selling items at your booth, us a tablet and/or smart phone and data plan to make transactions cheaper and easier. 

I have found that using an application like SquareUp, Intuit's Go Payment, or Paypal's PayUp where you can scan customer's credit cards and send automatic emailed receipts to be so much less expensive than traditional methods of taking cards. (Believe me, people don't usually want to pay cash, so be ready)

** Caution: most of these applications will not give you access to these customer's email addresses in the future.  If you intend to build your email list, you will have to add another process, like a email sign up form on the table** 

Save $: Using an IPad's data plan is often much cheaper than paying for a dedicated power and phone line to be put in your booth.

Make sure to have a couple of these devices in your booth so multiple transactions can be processed at once.  You want a small line, but not a HUGE line of people just waiting to use their cards.

5)  Small crowds draw more people because of the element of social proof.  

Use small crowds to your advantage!  If you can work an area into your booth that will cause people to crowd/hang around just a few moments instead of staying on the other side of the table and walking on past, other attendees will notice and will come by just to see what everyone else is looking at.

The result is that getting the first person into your empty booth is the hardest so try not to let your booth seem empty.

Trade shows are an essential part of launching a successful business in many industries.   For my first business, Slip-On DancersTM, it was a proving ground that launched  into licensing deals, distributorships, and testimonials let alone giving me the cash to really get the business rolling. 

Goodness knows these aren't all the tips you need to guarantee success at your first trade show, but hopefully these will help you avoid the major pitfalls that I found myself in when I started.

Comments? Questions?  Talk to me.

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