Tis the season to be savvy…’tradeshow’ savvy that is

Most of us have experienced the ‘tradeshow’ in one way or another in our lives, whether on the selling end, the buying end, or the “I have no freaking clue why my boss sent me here” end. The truth is, tradeshows are not all that bad, and can be very educational and productive if you go in with the right mind-set.

I attended my first tradeshow in 2009…in Las Vegas. Now, first of all, why they choose cities like Las Vegas to host shows, I am still trying to figure out. BUT, one thing is for sure…it makes for fun evenings. I attended by myself, which meant I did not recreate any scenes from The Hangover, but I did take advantage of the food scene, the extravagant interiors of the hotels & casinos, a little bit of gambling, and of course the dancing water show at the Bellagio. More importantly, I was able to focus on the reason I was there…to find new products for my customers back here in Charleston.

Tradeshows can be boring to some and overwhelming to others, but the fact of the matter is that we all have to participate in them and should ensure that we get the most out of these events.

For the shoppers…

1) Map out your plan of attack: First and foremost, this will save time, and time is precious at these things. You probably do not care about seeing everyone that is exhibited there…your time should be spent with those that will provide you with the best resources for your business and customers. That “floor” is like a sea of vultures, and in my experience, if you don’t have your day planned out, distraction is imminent.

2) Take DETAILED notes: You have never had so much information crammed into your little brain in a matter of 8 hours. What makes the tradeshow concept so effective and productive also makes for a whole lot of information overload. Carry with you a journal where notes on each vendor can be jotted and easily found when back at the office. Personal Note: Take 30 minutes at the end of each day to recap and review your notes.

3) Spend time creating relationships: This may be the one time each year that you actually meet the people who you primarily interact with via phone and email. This face-to-face time can solidify relationships without you spending thousands of $$ and airline miles to visit each one individually.

For the exhibitors…

1) Reach out to your preferred customers and ‘Reach’ customers individually prior: Is there someone you have been hoping to reach, or is there a customer that is above and beyond a great customer that you never want to lose? Use the tradeshow to connect on a different level…contact these people prior to the show and personally invite them to your booth. Everyone wants to feel “special” and this will certainly go a long way…serve them champagne or chocolate and you will get even more brownie points 😉

2) Don’t be too “sales-y”, be informative: No one wants to be sold. The point of the tradeshow is yes, to of course sell your product/service, but in a positive and genuine way, not a pushy manner. Try the informative route; Listen to what questions your customers have about your products/service, and answer accordingly. Don’t just show your top 10 new products, but take the time to explain them in a way that your customers connect.

3) Promotional Materials: You knew I would throw that one in there, didn’t you? Well, it is true…almost immediately when you think tradeshow, you think cheesy key chain or pen being thrown at you as you leave. Let’s be honest, we have all received way too many of these giveaways that are useless..yes, I said useless. BUT, that does not mean you should not have giveaways at your booth. You should always have a take away for your customers and prospects, but make it something that YOU would actually like to receive. Consider putting together a tiered “closet” of items…some higher valued items for preferred or potential customers and some less expensive, but still useful, items for “browsers”. The bottom line is, no one will remember you if you give them nothing.

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