How to Attract Attendees to your Trade Show Booth

Exhibiting at a trade show takes a lot of planning.

It’s trade show season. That time of year when you and other salespeople attend trade shows in hopes of gaining more leads.

Your bags are pack.

You’re ready to go.

But before you hit the road, you need to make sure you have a game plan in place to ensure your trip will be worthwhile.

While there is a debate in some corners on whether vendors should invest in exhibiting at trade shows for not, most companies will attend at least one event each year. There are hundreds of state and regional conferences each year, but unless you are working for a major corporation, most vendors will select at least one or two “must go” big events.

Exhibiting at a trade show is expensive. Besides paying the registration fee, you must consider transportation, hotel, and meal costs. Some trade show sponsors will nickel and time you to death, by forcing you to pay high prices in wi-fi access, rental furniture like chairs and tables, carpeting for your exhibit space, electricity and much more.

So, your goal is this – how do you get more bang for your buck? Or, to put it in another way, how do you ensure that you will attract as many high qualified attendees to your booth to convert them into paying customer later?

Here are some tips to help you –

1). Plan – you can’t wing it when it comes to exhibiting at trade shows. You need to review your plans at least two (2) months in advance. One way of doing this is to create a checklist. The list should include what you should bring (e.g., swag, power strip and extension cords, presentation media, business cards), who should attend, a summary of all expenses, where you will be staying and much more.

2). Target key attendees – if you are lucky, you will receive an attendee list at least a week or so in advance of the trade show. However, not all trade show sponsors provide these lists to exhibitors. And even if they do provide lists, sometimes you must pay extra to acquire the list. If you are fortunate enough to receive an attendee list, review it carefully and determine which attendees you would like to meet at your booth or in a designated area for private meetings.

Attendees are like cattle – you need to make sure you steer them in the right direction to your booth.

3). You don’t have an attendee list, now what? Let’s say the conference sponsors are not providing attendee lists, or the lists are too expensive. No worries. As a skilled sales or marketing professional, you should already know who the key players are in your niche industry. Reach out to them at least two (2) months in advance and see if they are planning to attend the event. Sure, some may fall through the cracks, but hopefully, you will find enough to make your participation at the conference worthwhile.

4). Pre-Show Promotions – there are several ways you can promote your exhibit at the conference. Email campaigns will help. Plugging your attendance on social media, like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook will undoubtedly draw a crowd. And don’t forget using YouTube to get the word out. And depending on your budget, you can send targeted direct marketing pieces to critical prospects. The underlying goal is to create buzz before the show begins. If you wait too late, most attendees will have already been overwhelmed with promotions from your competitors.

5). Flyers or Leaflets – most conference sponsors will give attendees a “goodie” or tote bag filled with conference agendas, trade show maps, and swag. For a fee, you can have your company’s brochure inserted in the bag, or available at or near the registration desk. And finally, you can hire a flyer distribution service to insert your brochures underneath doors at hotels where you feel most attendees will be staying. (I’m unsure if this is legal or not, but I know one of my employers used that tactic effectively at a few conferences).

Exhibit booths should be inviting and open for attendees.

6). Booth display – You need to stand out, but you don’t want to overwhelm attendees with your message. Your goal is to attract people to your booth, have a short conversation, scan their badge or acquire their business card, and determine next steps after the conference. With that said, avoid too many flashy or ostentatious signage. Instead, simplify your message so that when someone walks by your booth, they will immediately understand who you are and what you’re selling.

Also, make your booth inviting. Try to avoid having a table between you and attendees, because it makes it appear that you are setting up a barrier. Instead, go with open spacing and have tables on the side for handouts and swag. Having a monitor on the edge of your display showing a short video (2 minutes tops) will help. You can also use the monitor to provide a brief demonstration of what you are selling.

You must remember that the attention span of most attendees is short. They are dealing with information overload. They have a limited time to visit booths. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone plans their attendance on who they want to meet in advance. So, it’s your job to get their attention quickly and plan next steps.

7). Have someone walk around with a sandwich cardboard sign – yes, it’s tacky, but it works if you want to stand out of the crowd, especially at a significant event. The sign walker could also hand out cards announcing times for upcoming drawings, or special presentations. It wouldn’t hurt to have someone walk around with a funny or eccentric costume, and hand out cards describing your company and showing your exhibit location. Again, the goal is to get people to your booth.

8). Show sponsorships – For a fee, vendors can help sponsor themselves by purchasing Gold, Silver or Bronze sponsorships that will be displayed in conference literature or website. Sponsorships might also include promoting your company’s logo on an attendee name badge holders, lanyards, coffee or lunch break tables/carts, opening reception, outside tote bags, or charging stations for cell phones.

Also, trade show sponsors may receive special treatment, such as earlier access to attendee lists to help promote yourself sooner over your competitors.  Overall, the goal of sponsorships is to enhance your company’s image and brand…and get more sales.

Exhibiting at trade shows can pay off by helping you attract the right prospects who you can convert into sales. Just make sure you do enough planning and preparation to make it valuable experience without breaking your budget.

Credit: Top Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Middle Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

Sales & Marketing Conferences for 2018

Happy New Year!

And with the new year now here, there are several upcoming sales and marketing conferences you might want to consider.

With so many conferences and so little time, how do you select the ones that will best help you in your sales and marketing career?

sales conferencesHere are some tips

1). Networking opportunities – which event will help you make the right contacts to help your career or business?

2). Good Planning – does the sponsor have an agenda, a floor plan for trade shows (if there are any), and plenty of time to meet people.

3). Discounts – are there any early bird discounts and low hotel reservations available?

4). Speakers – are you going to have an opportunity to finally meet those thought leaders and experts that you read about?

5). Company compensation – if you can swing it, will your employer reimburse all or part of your expenses?

6). Attendee List – as an attendee, your sponsor should provide you with a list of people attending the event. This will help you network better.

7). Location – is the event being held in a city where the location is nice, and you will have interesting sites to visit?

Meanwhile, here are a sample list of conferences for your review –

Sales

AA-ISP Digital Sales World 2018
Dates: Feb. 1st, June 20th and September 6th
Locations: San Francisco, Atlanta and Boston

Revenue Summit
Date: March 1st
Location: San Francisco

Rainmaker
Dates: March 5 – 7th
Location: Atlanta

Sandler Sales & Leadership Summit
Dates: March 12th – 16th
Location: Orlando

Sales 3.0 Conference
Date: March 12th – 13th
Location: San Francisco

Inbound
Dates: September 4th – 7th
Location: Boston

Dreamforce
Dates: September 25th – 28th
Location: San Francisco

For a more comprehensive list of Sales Conferences, please go to this link –

16 Top Sales Conferences You Should Attend in 2017 & 2018, by Leslie Ye for Hubspot

Marketing

GrowthHackers Conference
Date: February 6th
Location: San Diego

SXSW Conference & Festivals
Dates: March 9th – 18th
Location: Austin

Social Media Week
Dates: April 24th – 27th
Location: New York

Gartner Digital Marketing Conference
Dates: May 15th – 17th
Location: San Diego

DigitalSummit
Dates: June 12th – 13th
Location: Portland, OR

Growth Acceleration Summit
Dates: June 18th – 20th
Location: Boston

Seattle Interactive Conference
Dates: October 17th – 18th
Location: Seattle

B2B Marketing Forum
Dates: November 13th – 16th
Location: San Francisco

An Event Apart
Dates: December 10th – 12th
Location: San Francisco

For a more comprehensive list of Marketing Conferences, please go to this link –

2018 Marketing Conferences: The #1 Marketing Events Guide, published by The Bizzabo Blog

Note: If you like this post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career

How to Sell to Vendors at Trade Shows

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to exhibit at a trade show. There are various reasons for this. Maybe the exhibit booth fee is too high, or only a handful of the attendees are your target audience. Regardless of the reason, you feel that the vendors exhibiting at the show are your real best prospects.

But how do you network and solicit business from vendors without being a pest? After all, put yourself in their place – if you are exhibiting at a trade show, who would rather speak to – a potential customer or another vendor?

You see my point?

selling to vendors at trade showsVendors are spending a lot of money to exhibit at trade shows. For example, not only are they paying for exhibit booth registrations, but they are also forking out money for travel, meals, hotel registrations, and miscellaneous expenses like swag and marketing literature.

In some cases, vendors don’t appreciate other vendors approaching them at trade shows because they feel you are hurting their ability to generate new business. And they may also resent that you are not an exhibitor, and see as an interloper interfering in their business transitions.

So how do you approach a vendor without hurting his sales, and developing a win-win situation for both of you?

Here are 14 tips to help you –

1). Trade Show Traffic – it’s better to approach vendors during slow times of a trade show. This will give you a better opportunity to meet them without hurting their business. Slow times are usually early in the morning, mid-morning and afternoons (when workshops are going on) and late in the day. The busiest times are usually when coffee breaks and lunch is being sponsored in the exhibit hall.  Depending on how long a trade show will last, the first day is generally the busiest time. Why? Because most attendees want to take a quick peek at the vendors before going to workshops or general sessions.

2). Booth Traffic – are vendors busy speaking to customers at their booths? If yes, stand back and wait for traffic to slow down before approaching a vendor. Nothing is going to undermine your ability to get a sale more if you hurt your customer from getting a sale himself. Trade shows can be very stressful for vendors. So don’t take it personally if they quickly reject you, or only half listen to your introduction. Most of the time, they are looking over your shoulder to talk to a “real” customer – not you. Take it in stride and try to return to the booth later when traffic dies down.

3). Target – depending on the size of the trade show, you may only have a limited amount of time to visit vendors. With 300 or more vendors exhibiting at the trade show, are you really going to have time to visit each one? Not really. So the best solution is to target key vendors that you want to speak to, and hopefully generate sales down the road. This requires research. Do your homework. Most organizations will provide lists of vendors prior to a conference. And if you are lucky, most organizations will send you a list of all exhibitors, along with their contact information like phone numbers and email addresses. Use all of that information to your advantage and select which vendors to meet. If you are fortunate enough to meet everyone on your top list, then go to your “B” and then “C” vendors, and so on.

4). Appearance – how to dress when you attend a trade show can sometimes be hard to determine. Unless you attended the same event before, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether you should wear a suit, go business casual, or go completely casual. I usually prefer to take the middle ground and wear a nice sports coat with casual business pants, which the option of wearing a tie. I’ve never worn suits while attending a trade show (either as an attendee or exhibitor). It’s a judgment call. As the old saying goes, it’s better to dress to impress. You will be taken more seriously and you will feel like the true professional.

5). Knapsack – I always bring a knapsack with me when I attend trade shows either an attendee or vendor. It’s easier to carry around all the literature and swag that you know you will pick up. Also, it’s easier to carry around your laptop if you want to give a quick demo of your product or service.

business cards at trade shows6). Business cards – this goes without saying, but always make sure you bring plenty of business cards with you. Also, rather than carry around large stacks of fliers, bring a postcard instead depicting what you are selling. Postcards are easier to carry, hand out and most people will read and keep them.

7). Be Honest – don’t try to pretend that you are a potential customer. Tell trade show vendors upfront that you are a salesperson too. Believe me, they will appreciate your honesty. Just let them know that you stopped by to learn more about their business, and see if you could schedule a call or online tour after the show. Of course, exchange business cards, maybe pick up some of their literature, take a quick look around their booth, and then leave. Don’t be rude and take their swag – that’s for customers. If you really are eager to bring home swag, wait until the end of the trade show. Most vendors would rather have the leftover swag given away to attendees than pack it up and take it back home.

8). Small notebook – Do you have a great memory? If not, bring along a small notebook and pen with you to jot down notes or ideas.

9). Attend workshops – not all your potential customers are going to be exhibiting at the trade show. Some will attend workshops. Review the agenda beforehand and select workshops where you feel you have the greatest chance of meeting good prospects. Or better yet, if you know that a key customer will be speaking at a workshop, as a matter of courtesy (and good business sense), attend his event. After he speaks, go up and shake his hand and congratulate him on a good presentation. Or better yet, if you can swing it, ask if you could speak at a trade show or participate in a panel discussion.

10). Social events – All conferences and trade shows have social events. Again, review the agenda and select ones that will give you the greatest chance to meet clients.

11). Your Mother was wrong. Do talk to strangers –  When you were a child, your mother offered you good advice about not talking to strangers. But as a grownup sales professional, you need to talk to strangers to network and generate new business. See a lunch table with an open seat? Ask if the seat is taken. If not, sit down, introduce yourself, eat, and maybe find a customer. Standing in line waiting to use the restroom? Introduce yourself to the person next to you and strike up a conversation. You rarely are going to find a lot of potential customers in one setting than at a conference or trade show.

12). Scott Ginsberg is right. “Surrender your agenda”Scott Ginsberg, author, and speaker made a very good point in an interview published in an article on How to Network at Conferences and Trade Shows: Mini-Guide by MarketingSherpa.

Rather than attend trade shows with a hard agenda, Mr. Ginsberg recommends that you try to be more approachable and have fun. In the interview, he states that “people can usually tell when you have an agenda, and that’s certainly not being approachable. Surrendering your agenda puts you more at ease to be yourself.”

Unless you spoke to a vendor in advance of a trade show, you rarely are going to get a sale on the spot. Sure, prior to attending the conference, you may want to schedule some meetings while at the event. It’s not unusual for attendees to be sponsors and lease a small makeshift office or table for conversations or demos. But try to set the right expectations for yourself. You should focus on generating relationships with the goal of scheduling more time after a conference for extended conversations, online tours, free trials and eventually getting the order.

BTW, when you have a chance, please read his book Hello, My Name is Scott.

13). Avoid the hard sell. When you are working at a booth, you usually can’t avoid doing the hard sell. Time is money and you want to meet as many attendees and potential customers as you can. But when you are a vendor visiting other vendors, you have to take the soft sell approach. Don’t go in with guns blazing and tell everyone about your company or product. Instead, show some interest in what they are selling. Ask good questions. Take some notes. Remember, your goal isn’t to sell on the spot, but try to get an appointment after the show.

14). Be social. That is, be on social media and follow vendors before you attend the trade show. Follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites. Let them know that you are showing interest in the company, and hopefully, in return, they will show interest in you.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Here are some articles that can help you –

“How to Network at a Trade Show” by WikiHow
“How to Work a Trade Show” published in Entrepreneur
“Top Ten Networking Tips at a Trade Show” by Chaz Brooks

Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Sales and Marketing Conferences for 2017

We all have busy schedules. But no matter how busy you are, it’s important to attend at least a couple of conferences or trade shows a year. Conferences and trade shows help you network and stay in tune with the latest news and trends in your industry.

To help you find the best sales and marketing conferences for 2017, I have compiled a list below from several sites for your review.

Here are the links –

Sales Conferences

From PeakSales Recruiting

The Top 14 Conferences to Attend in 2017

From Sales Summit

2017 Sales Conferences

From Maria Milea

The Complete Guide – Marketing and Sales Conferences 2017

From the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP)

AA-ISP Event Calendar

(I’m an active member of AA-ISP. I attended the Boston event last year. There are always great opportunities at their events to network and learn new skills).

Marketing Conferences

From Brafton

12 Marketing Conferences to Mark on your 2017 Calendar

From OnSpot Social

Top 2017 Marketing Conferences to Book Today

From Digimarcon

2017 Marketing Conferences

From RedStag Fulfillment

Ecommerce Conferences for 2017

Tips for Attending Conferences

1). Register early, you usually get better deals.

2). If possible, obtain an attendee list so you can schedule meetings with key people (Note – not all organizations provide attendee lists).

3). Trade Shows are usually part of the event. Review the list of exhibitors and plan which booth you would like to visit. If there is a vendor that you are interested in, try to contact the company prior to the event and schedule a meeting during the conference. Vendors tend to be very busy, so having a scheduled meeting may save both of you time.

4). Make your airline registration early to receive low fares.

5). When attending an event, especially if I’m walking around during a trade show, I prefer using luggage with skate wheels and a retractable handle. Why? Because besides carrying your laptop, business cards, pens and notebooks, you will also be given a lot of swag and free literature to take home with you.

I’m currently using EAGLE CREEK TARMAC 20 LIGHTWEIGHT CARRY ON BAG (BLACK) (see below).

I hope the above lists and my advice will help you.

Safe travels this year!

10 Trade Show Etiquette Tips

Having attended several trade shows recently, I’ve noticed some bad manners on part of salespeople that I would like to address.

The following is a list of 10 etiquette tips –

1). Don’t sit or stand behind your tabletop display. Instead, stand next to it. This will ensure more openness and hopefully more attendees coming to your display area. Sitting or standing behind your tabletop creates an artificial defensive barrier between you and the attendees you are trying to attract. By standing next to your table, you are signaling that you are interested in speaking with them.

bad manners at trade shows2). Don’t sit when the trade show is busy. Stand. Smile. Make good eye contact. Show that you are ready to talk, answer questions or do a short presentation.

3). Don’t use your cell phone or laptop when the trade show is busy. Most people are polite. If they see you busy texting or working on your laptop, they are less likely to visit you. You could end up losing a sale.

4). Don’t eat when the trade show is busy – even if other attendees are eating breakfast, lunch or other food in the trade show. If attendees see that you are eating, again, being polite, they may not stop by and speak with you. Wait until the crowd dies down before grabbing something to eat. (It’s always a good idea to keep snacks and bottled water in your exhibit area in case you have low blood sugar).

5). If you are speaking with another vendor and see an attendee walking towards his booth, immediately step away. The vendor isn’t paying good money to speak to other vendors. Like you, he’s there to make contacts, find prospects, and hopefully get some good sales down the road.

6). Arrive early to set up your booth. Nothing screams amateur more than arriving late to set up your booth area. Also, don’t break down until closing time. You will be surprised how many attendees will wait until the last minute to visit a booth or place an order. This is especially true at large trade shows where there is a lot to see and so little time to see it all.

don't scan and spam7). Don’t scan and spam. One of the biggest mistakes vendors make is scanning everyone who walks by their booth. This is a major waste of time. Sure, you may think you have a lot of “sales leads” when you return to the office. But in reality, most of those leads are probably duds because they were never really qualified. So now you’re going to spend weeks or months making phone calls to people who either aren’t interested in your services or products or don’t even remember meeting you at the trade show. And spamming? Please! Unless you have taken the time to speak with the prospect at the show, your chances of him responding to your emails are almost nil.

8). Index cards. OK, some trade shows don’t give you the ability to scan badges. And let’s face it, not all attendees carry their business cards or don’t have any left because they handed them all out. Now what? Have index cards available for attendees to write down their contact information. There, wasn’t that easy?

9). Have enough business cards. Don’t always depend on your trade show/conference department to pack your business cards for you. Bring your own cards. Because my trade show/conference department didn’t pack enough cards, I almost ran out before the end of a conference that I attended a couple of years ago. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

10). Smile. Smiling won’t crack your face. So smile, or you could lose some sales. Sure, we’ve all been to lousy trade shows. You know the ones where there is little traffic or the attendees are only interested in stealing your swag. Like a good trooper, just smile through it and do the best you can. Who knows – you might still get a couple of good orders from it.

Remember, the purpose of working at a trade show is to make sales. Don’t let bad manners prevent you from achieving your goal.

List of Major Sales & Marketing Events 2016

sales and marketing conferencesWhile I like to think that my Events Calendar is comprehensive, I know that’s not the case. There are hundreds of  national and international sales and marketing conferences and trade shows scheduled for 2016. In addition, there are many state and regional events to choose from. So as a service to my readers, below is a list of sites that include links to Major Sales and Marketing Events for this year –

The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (which I’m an active member)

Digimarcon Digital Marketing Conferences

Marketo List of Events

The Complete Guide to Marketing and Sales Conference 2016, from Maria Milea (A Blogger who writes about travel, lifestyle, fashion and online marketing).

The Best Marketing Conferences of 2016, by Marketing Insider Group

The Top 35 Must Attend B2B Sales Conferences of 2016, from Docurated

The Ultimate Guide to 160+ Business and Digital Marketing Conferences in 2016, by Kristi Hines (Freelance Writer and Blogger)