Trade Shows That Sell
Trade shows are one of the few places where we can generate leads immediately. However, they can cost between $3,000 upwards of $250,000 just for the booth space. Plus, there’s the cost for travel, lodging, food, supplies, the booth, drayage, and more. They can also take the entire team off task preparing–especially the first time (have to develop the booth, artwork, etc.
Like all promotions, we need to get a good ROI. Unfortunately, most are not profitable.
Typical Trade Shows
- No sales goal based on recovering our funds. No eye of the tiger, all hands on deck to achieve our goal. Many don’t even know where to set the goal.
- Passive booth. Salespeople stand around. Booth isn’t designed to “sell.”
- Too many people. Too many salespeople go, then only work the booth part-time (but bill to the show–increasing costs)
- No show in the trade show. No noise, nothing to draw them over (except the big booths–but the small 10×10’s are dull)
- Poor promotions. Nothing to draw folks in, or exchange for a lead form.
- No leads. Many just use the scan machines–useless since they don’t provide any qualifying questions. You might as well call the phone book.
- No post-show follow-up. Leads sit in piles and never make it to sales or the channel. Sales don’t want them anyway since they don’t contain pre-approach information.
- Poor system to follow up. Management can’t see what happened to the leads–no closed-loop system.
As a result, there is a temptation to shut down the trade shows. Then we hear the screams–we’ve been here every year. We need it for brand recognition (hint: brand recognition has little value (I know about Corvets–but I prefer a Lexus), only brand preference. The difference: they buy your product.
Don’t kill it–FIX it!
- Set a solid goal for the show. Start with leads.
- Everything is designed to get LEADS
- Secondary benefits – but do not require an expensive booth
- Meetings in the booth (can use meeting rooms or cafeteria table)
- Competitive research (can troll the floor without a booth)
- Market research (often best not to be associated with a booth)
- Meet the press (can meet at lunch tables)
- Alliance meetings (meet at their booth)
- Booth is optimized to generate traffic and LEADS (NOT sales)
- Mic up the demo stations. More folks crowd around thinking it is not a private conversation.
- Promotions to get to STOP at the booth
- Qualify & complete the lead form (not scanning their ID)
Setting Goals for Trade Shows
The show leads must be captured, qualified and then followed up on to ensure we get a positive ROI from the event. For example, if the tradeshow costs $10,000 and we make a 20% margin (before we have $10,000 back in cash), then we would need $50,000 in sales to break even (get our money back after we have paid the regular bills). If our average deal size is $1,000, we will need 50 sales. If our close ratio is 20%, we will need 250 “qualified” leads to break even. That’s the minimum goal–so EVERYTHING is designed to get the target leads.
Trade Shows – Lead Form
We can meet customers (but can use a suite or a table for that), do competitive research, find OEM and alliance partners, etc. at trade shows–but we do not need a booth. Our primary purpose for trade shows where we present is to get leads—period. Very few will ever buy at the show (unless a show promo), so stop trying to sell. Unless you have a big demo (where people can sit (and complete the lead form), then you should not demo–while you are spending 10-15 minutes showing, 20 or more prospects may have walked by. You end up with fewer overall leads and a lower ROI for the event.
To get leads at trade shows we can use the “swipe” machine, but it usually only gives us contact information (a name), not qualifying information (when they want to buy, if the person at the booth is the influencer or purchaser, who else they are considering, how big is the opportunity, etc.). As a result, salespeople don’t like trade show leads since they are not qualified and they can spend a lot of time calling people with no intention of buying (or the name could be a competitor)—hence, the leads don’t get followed up on and the show doesn’t get a good return.
So, we must qualify our visitors with a few questions. Those that are not qualified get just their card scanned. Those that are qualified complete a lead form. If we require this lead form to be completed prior to them getting anything from us (a promo item), then we still need to rate the lead afterward (A, B, C).
The lead form is required to get the give-away-item. Plus, it enrolls them in the drawing and allows people to qualify for any show specials. This way there is a triple incentive for them to complete it. It contains additional qualifying information that helps you determine how to rate the lead.
A B C Qualifiers
There is three classifications. A is circled if a prospect wants follow-up within the next few weeks. B is for those that will make a decision within the next 3-6 months, and C is for tire kickers–they are not qualified, just came for the promo, etc. If we had salespeople, we would never give them a C name–since they are not qualified leads, but are “names” that we will have to do more marketing activities with (drip campaigns) until they are ready to look/buy—then it is a lead.
We market to C’s (with e-mails, newsletters, etc.) until they resurface as a new lead (filled out the form on the website, etc.) and fit into the A or B category. As such, it is critical that we categorize each lead as we get it. Obviously, if they select “contact immediately” or “want Webinar” they are an A. We can also put any additional important notes that will help us remember the prospect.
Use a Clipboard – NOT a tablet
Should you use a tablet or computer screen for the lead form? Absolutely NOT. First, we have several staplers since the form says, “Complete or Attach Business Card.” We prefer the business card since it has their real email (not a Gmail account) and often includes their cell–two forms of contact that we may not have received. Plus, it takes longer for the tablets or computer and we may not have five or so (unlike the forms on cheap $2 clipboards–we can easily have 10). So less waiting=equals more leads. So low tech is better.
Best Promo Give-Aways
First, should we even have giveaways at trade shows? YES!! I heard one CEO say that people only come by for the free stuff. First, if they are at your trade shows (expensive in travel and opportunity cost), then they are usually more qualified than most. Regardless, if 1 out of 5 is just getting the freebie, then 4 out of 5 also have an interest. If only 1 of 5 of those that just want the freebie turn out to be qualified (the freebie got them there, then they turned out to be a solid prospect), and you make $1,000 per sale–you can pay for your giveaways for the entire event. So, yes, it is worth it.
However, the promo has to pull traffic and help generate a lead. I use the following criteria when deciding promotional items for the booth:
- Inexpensive as possible. You want to give away one item per lead form–no lead form, no giveaway.
- Not perishable and won’t wear out. For example, one of my product manager’s wanted to give away cookies with our logo embossed. Question: How long will the brand last? About 30 seconds. Will it sit on their desk or be used regularly? Will it only be used a few times before the ink runs out (no pens) or it breaks? The longer it lasts, the more it can be used, the greater the chance that it will keep selling and making “impressions” with your brand and/or contact info.
- Active. Passive items get tossed in the bag—the same bag that might not be looked at for months (when they finally go through it later and decide what to toss). Something that they keep out of their bag and get attention will advertise you while at the show. Buttons with lights do this, but the lights stop working and seldom do these items last more than a few days when they get back home, so they get tossed.
- Light. Branded cups meet most of the criteria—but they are very heavy (imagine carrying 10 of these at a show), bulky, break and people say, “Can you send it to me?” Then you have a shipping cost.
- Novel. Something that is unusual gets more attention than something common.
So, what give-away items meet these criteria?
I prefer Aero Props from Aero-Motion.com (website looks basic, but they’ve been around for a while (I’ve ordered over 30,000 since 1992).
They are about 41 – 60 cents each (depending on volume, etc.), you can put your phone or website on them, they are plastic so they don’t wear out, they are lightweight, very novel plus they are VERY, VERY active.
Trade show visitors will come by the booth to get them and will continue to play with them while walking through the show—they are addictive (unlike squeeze balls that get tossed in the bag). They are also a toy, so they “say” they want one for their kids (it usually stays at their office) and MOST important—they can draw a crowd!
When members of your booth fly them high into the air they are seen for hundreds of feet around and people come over to get one. I consider them the PERFECT trade show giveaway item. Everyone, without exception, who has tried them agrees–they are a perfect draw (and cheaper than a magician, booth beauty, t-shirts or cups).
I especially like the Aero Props when the show gets slow and you want to entice people over to your booth. Be active with them and shoot them into the air (and have them float down into the hands of people in the aisle), play catch with them, etc.–they are like magnets and people come from all over to see what is flying (that’s why they work so well).
Also, everyone who wants one MUST complete the lead form–that’s the rule. One of my companies was at a trade show and LOTS of people came by asking for the Aero Props, but they didn’t want to fill out the form. They gave away 500 AeroProps and only got 3 leads. I was shocked. Instead, tell the visitors that “marketing” won’t allow them to have one without telling something about themselves.
Do NOT give away an AeroProp without completing a lead form. We don’t owe these people anything…without getting something in exchange. No lead form, no AeroProp.
Also, GUARD the Aero Props–prospects and other exhibitors will grab all they can (even an entire bag if they can). People are used to grabbing things as they fly buy–don’t leave them unattended or allow people to pick them up without the lead forms.
Leads, leads, leads, leads, leads, leads… this is all you want. Everything else is bait (your job is not to feed the fish, it is the catch the fish).
Follow Up after Trade Shows
Once the trade show is over, you should hire a temp to enter all the leads into your CRM (sales reps are too highly leveraged and should not do mass data entry). Then notify the team of the leads and follow up according to the rating schedule (A within 24 – 48 hours, B within 5 days). C names (that are scanned) do not get classified as leads since they will go into the marketing follow up process.
The trade show flyer should be given to everyone. They should also be told that they must enter the drawing (complete our lead form) for the promotional prices to be valid (that makes them stop and give us a lead). Of course, we’ll still honor it if they don’t (or won’t…we can decide (just so there is enough doubt now ;)–but we are using this clause to get the “hit and runs” to stop, fill out the form and give us a chance to qualify them.
We typically give them 5-10 working days after the show to respond (creates an impending event but allows time for them to get back and find the offer and get approval if needed).
For printing, we may wish to print them at the trade show–the high postage to ship them will usually offset any local savings. The lead forms should be printed with even edges (so the cut is down the middle)–if the printer paper is off they will not be centered.
The flyer is a single sheet. You should be able to print them at the hotel. Typically the cost is a little higher, but not when you consider postage or a taxi and time to find a place to make copies. I did the same thing (e-mailed the pdf’s to the business center) for one company and the hotel printed them for 10 cents each (down from 15 cents)–when I said it was too high and asked for a local Kinkos (nationwide copy centers).
Review the two sample promo flyers for trade shows–one for black and white (the ones you hand out), and the other that says “color.” (the “red” doesn’t come across bold enough in black and white copies). If you have a chance and they have a color copier, I would make two display flyers with the color pdf so you can tape them at your booth and people will see them.
You will want to create a trade show landing page to track all prospects and have them land on a page that corresponds to the special offer at your trade shows. It also contains instructions and reiterates the special offer code, plus it lists the additional promotions and had additional copy and links to overcome objections. This would be similar to an ad landing page.
You may wish to create something similar to the sample page I’ve created. However, one thing that we still need is a way to link them DIRECTLY to the specials. We may wish to link them to a special page within our shopping cart.
We should create dedicated pages that correspond to these specials or a single page that lists all of them–otherwise, folks may get confused if they are hunting for the special pricing on our home page and a confused prospect never buys (and we need the revenues to justify the cost of the event).
Trade Show Tips
Regarding trade shows, this information is extremely condensed coaching–but extremely critical:
Show demos. I typically do not get too far into the product demos on the show floor–people don’t have enough time (unless you have a big stage show and they will sit down to rest your feet (wear soft shoes). Those that do tie up all your time and don’t allow you the time you need to hand out promotional flyers, etc. to the passerby’s to get them to fill out the lead sheet.
Clothing. I HIGHLY recommend everyone working at the booth wear an oxford trade show polo shirt for the following reasons:
- NO suits! It is critical that everyone that comes near your booth knows who to talk to. Thousands of attendees wear suits, or white shirts–with or without ties. As a result, it is often difficult to know who to talk to. For example, two people are talking in your both–both have suits. Who do you ask? One may have a tag, but it is hard to see from the side or behind. I have been at a booth trying to figure out who to talk to and have left. There is no reason to make it difficult–they should pick the one with the similar colored trade show polo shirt. Plus, a suit means nice shoes–you will want soft-soled shoes since trade show days are long!
- Affordable. They are as cheap at $15 each (1 per 1 day, 2 for 3 days, 3 for 5-day shows). They can be embroidered, but tags work also.
- Available. They are readily available on the Internet. Fancy or plain color (can get at a local dept store).
- Easy to Find. Everyone looks the same so it is EASY, EASY, EASY to identify who is with the booth and who is not–why make it hard on prospects who may only stay for seconds.
- They are reusable. Everyone should wash and then bring it again to the next event.
- They represent your brand. It is also easier to prevent “wrinkled shirt ‘Dan'” who doesn’t iron his shirts–since they should all be wash and wear (versus a 100% cotton shirt that looks gray (forgot to bleach), tattered or wrinkled). Helps preserve the crispness of the brand.
- They look professional. In fact, uniform polo shirts are the standard trade show outfit in over 80% of the cases. When companies do not have a trade show shirt, they look like they were too small or unprepared enough to get them.
Lead sheet. The lead sheet is the MOST important reason for you to talk to them–you came for LEADS (reel them in). I would quickly qualify each prospect. If they look really hot, tell them you’ll contact them after the show to schedule an in-depth demo. If they are not hot, quickly hand them a lead sheet, tell about the drawing and let them fill them out.
- GET A LOT OF CHEAP PENS
- GET A LOT OF CHEAP PENS
- GET A …
You will need pens or prospects can’t fill out the lead forms–and people will walk off with them (since many booths give them away as freebies). Hotel pens are pricey (except the ones in the rooms ;-). I would hit a local store for about 20 or so of them.
Security. Do not leave your laptop alone for a second unless it is cabled to the table. Trade shows are favorite locations for thieves to pick up laptops in mass (we had someone steal 5 laptops from our booth in less than 1 minute–all were missing the cables. We even saw them store the last one (in a special carrying case designed to hide them)), but they exited and disappeared too fast to catch.
PowerPoint’s. You may wish to see the sample Chanimal PowerPoint’s that show trade show demos (product demos are separate). If your display is WIDESCREEN (unless you are using your laptop), you will need to re-format to 16/9 like these are.