Yes. Go to one! What are you waiting for? Go, go, go!
What’s that? You also want to know why they’re effective, and how to get the most out of them? Alright, I guess we can talk about that, too.
Trade shows can be a great way to build leads, brand recognition and your professional network, but there’s a lot more to them than just sitting at a booth. For starters, make sure – or at least make an educated guess – that the value of the leads you can generate outweigh the cost, in both money and time, of attending. Even if you have no past results of your own to look at, research can give you a sense of whether the event is worth it.
For starters, advertise the event. If the show is worth it they’ll be advertising as well, but why passively rely on them? Spread word through your social media channels and encourage people to come visit your booth, and you may lock down some leads before you even set foot at the show.
Second, prepare your sales pitch. You no doubt already have a pitch you bust out when you meet a potential lead in person, but are you used to using it a dozen times an hour? Practice, but also be prepared to go off-script when someone asks a question or changes the conversation topic. That sounds obvious, but when you’re in your 32nd conversation about kitchen tile in the past 90 minutes it can be easy to forget how a proper talk works.
Of course, first you need to get those conversations started. Don’t sit passively at your booth and hope that your displays will do your work for you – get on your feet and engage people as they come by. Or turn your booth over to your employees for a bit, hit the show floor, and proactively track people down. Remember, everyone is present to discuss home improvement. No one will object to having a conversation with you as long as you’re not rude or aggressive.
While your focus should be on talking to potential leads, don’t forget to network as well. It’s easy to treat all other businesses as “the enemy,” but if you’re a roofer it never hurts to chat with a plumber and learn more about the show, swap tips and potential leads, and maybe even work out a business deal. If you’re unsure if you should talk to someone at a trade show, just go for it. What’s the worst that could happen?
Finally, don’t hesitate to follow-up on leads. If someone who approached your booth is enthusiastic, don’t tell them you’ll be in touch in a few days – get them in your calendar right away. Take email addresses, phone numbers … anything that will allow you to follow-up with leads as soon as the show is over.
There are many other nitty-gritty details that you can read about, including how to appear professional and how to set up your booth. But follow these basics and you’ll have a good start towards generating leads and building your brand name, and maybe you can score some sweet swag from other booths while you do it.