Trade Shows: Retail Speed Dating

Everyone has a strategy for making the most of the trade shows. Some focus on giveaways, others on technology, still others on spectacle. Whatever your strategy, there are a few considerations that are universal and will help you make the most of your presence at the next exhibition.

Choosing which trade show to participate in can be a little like dating. There has to be something drawing you to a particular event, otherwise it will likely be a waste of time and resources. Call it intuition. Go ahead and be choosy about which events get your time and money. If you’re not positive you’ll get some returns, walk away. This can’t be a one-way relationship!

What’s the first date going to cost you? In other words, does participation in the trade show put you over-budget for marketing, advertising, or labor? That’s a 5-star restaurant you can do without. Are you relegated to a tiny table by the restrooms or do you have a central location where everyone will see you? The dating metaphors will stop soon, promise, but you’re getting the idea, right? The trade show is a relationship with your potential customers and you have to lay the groundwork for it to work.

Putting on a tie or Little Black Dress may not be appropriate for the venue of your first date, but how exactly should you look? Well, what do you want to communicate? Seriousness? Playfulness? Professionalism? Good ol’ boy? How your booth and staffers look will communicate all this in a single glance. The best tried-and-true route is simple, elegant professionalism. Clean lines, few colors, clarity of mission and purpose of product, clear marketing. These will draw customers and new contacts to your booth like no cheap bottle-opener giveaway ever will. And long after the bottle-opener has been tossed in the garbage bin, the image of your professionalism will linger. It’s your business they’ll remember, not your giveaway.

So do you call the next day? Absolutely. A well-equipped trade show booth will have mechanisms for capturing all pertinent information from every single person stopping at the booth. And that means following up with every attendee is a must. You’ve spent time and resources to make those connections, so now you solidify the relationship. And your contacts know they’ve meant something to you (not in the mushy, romantic way, of course, but in a valuable business context!).

Take the plunge. Invest in the right trade show with all the resources you have available and you’ll walk away with contacts, a glowing reputation, and a stronger hold on the steering wheel than ever before.