There's No "I" In Trade Show TEAMWORK!

November 29, 2017

Speaking (unfortunately) from experience, there's nothing worse than expending a ton of time, energy and money on a trade show that is a complete flop. (Unless it's in Las Vegas, then hey, at least it was fun.) I can speak from experience that having the right team combined with the right training and goals will make your trade show accomplish the best possible results.

An example that comes to mind very quickly- we attended two trade shows for the exact same target market exactly one year apart.  Same city, basically the same prospects, same time of year. So essentially the same trade show but 12 month in time difference.  The first one was a wild success.  The second a total failure.  We offered the same products, pricing, literature, displays and collateral.

Why was the first a success and the second a failure?  Our conversion for the first show was insane. Our sales team was meeting after the show each day throwing down piles of contracts that were written at the show!  The excitement and enthusiasm were off the charts.  The second show was the complete opposite.  No contracts, no excitement, a very negative atmosphere.  It was horrible.


Our trade show sales people were not as effective in the second year as the first.  Different people, less aggressive (which is probably the wrong word, but basically in the second year, we took sales people who were extremely passive, and our numbers suffered dramatically.) The first year, our "A" Team sales reps attended. They were out-going without being too aggressive, created rapport and trust with prospects, and ended-up writing a ton of business on the floor as well as converting many follow-up leads.  In the second year, our "passive" sales people basically stood at the booth and handed out business cards and catalogs.  We did receive many qualified leads that eventually converted to sales, but it was a completely different experience.

What are your expectations for  your trade show? Have you experienced wildly successful trade shows, then for some reason, experienced a few (or many) money and time wastes? Training and relying on a goal-oriented team is the key to making every show a success. Whether you're a "one-person show," or have twenty marketing and sales team members helping, it's imperative that you and/or your team covers each of the following Five Vital Trade Show Essentials!

1) Research

Your team in charge of researching and choosing which trade shows to attend MUST understand your target market.  Attending the correct trade shows with the highest number of qualified attendees is vital. Why attend a trade show with a low number of qualified prospects? Trade shows exist for virtually all types of prospects.  Proper research will help your team members in charge of selecting shows find the best opportunities.

2) Planning

"Let's Plan To Plan!"
Getting your act together well in-advance in these seven areas will make your travels to success much easier.

  1. Setting Goals.  What are your goals for this trade show?  Are you going to try to close $X in sales at the show? Are you trying to get 100 new qualified leads? Or are you just showing-up 'because you always do?'  There's a lot more gold in them thar hills than most marketing and sales reps believe.  If you have a qualified prospect standing in front of you, with the authority to purchase, and "they're sold," then why not write-up the order on the spot?  If you don't convert on the spot, than why not secure the lead for future follow-up?  So unless you're goal is "just to attend," than maybe give some thought to sales (conversion) and secured qualified leads. Other than branding and goodwill, what else is there?
  2. Assigning Responsibilities and Expectations.  Who's responsible for what? Who's attending the show? Who will make arrangements (booth rental, travel, hotel rooms, set-up, tear-down, show team member schedules.) Which people can you count-on to pull through to meet the deadlines? Who is doing what?  There's a lot to do, and each part is important. What is EXPECTED from each team member? Is it acceptable for Mike to stand behind the table at your booth and pass-out business cards, quit at 3pm, and pass-out again later?  Or are your reps expected to initiate conversation, attend social functions, and try to make contacts? Setting expectations and goals can often be the biggest factor in experiencing a high conversion rate AT THE SHOW!
  3. Who's preparing the trade show display? Who's designing and printing the collateral (brochures, flyers, business cards, lead-forms, prize forms, etc.) Call this your Trade Show Marketing.  It's what attracts possible prospects to your booth. A professional looking display combined with organized and friendly reps will give you the best chance of initiating prospect contacts.  (Side Note:) Have you ever noticed that at trade shows, booths that are empty usually stay empty, while booths that have a lot of prospects hanging around generates excitement? One or two sales reps standing behind a table with no one in site is scary. Tables with 5 or 6 or more prospects standing there is inviting.  I witnessed one booth at a trade show we attended that had a 20 person deep line in front of their table.  They were giving away a custom product if you just signed-up. No pressure, no purchase, just a free sample. But is was ingenious.  Giving away a free custom product kept a line of prospects at this vendor's table all day.  And imagine the sales they generated from all the interaction with these prospects!  We used to give away several high-priced items at our shows ($300 to $500 range.)  While not having a line of people there all day, we did receive hundreds of entries which made it easy for sales people to interact with prospects.
  4. Who's in charge of creating the system for tracking leads and sales? Can be as easy as a fish-bowl for business cards or (better-yet) scanning attendee's badges for future mailings or follow-ups. A system for tracking these leads and actual conversion is imperative.  Nothing worse than being unorganized and losing leads or contracts.  Where's the data going after the show?
  5. Which team members are responsible for getting to the show first to set-up?  Are they trained where, when and how to set-up the displays? Will they be able to easily communicate with your team member who did the initial work to arrange the show?  Do they need to pick-up shipments from display vendors? If there are hanging banner displays, do they know how to handle any installation issues?
  6. Who's working the show?  Which team members are to work which hours? Who's in charge? Who's attending the social meet-ups?  Who's responsible for an after hour meeting to discuss results? If someone can't make a shift, who's covering?
  7. After the show, who's responsible for tearing-down the display and transporting or shipping the display/collateral back to your office? What are the deadlines? How many people are needed so Sara isn't expected to tear-down seven Pop-Up Displays by herself?  Teamwork is essential.  Many hands make light work.

 3. Marketing

Marketing is the "fishing pole" for your show.  It's what lures the prospects to your booth or table.  Which team member is responsible for designing and securing the most effective marketing display(s) and collateral for your show?  It could be as simple as a table with a custom table throw and a banner on the wall, or as exotic as 5 $200,000 sports cars sitting in a row in front of your 10,000 square foot booth.  But someone's gotta be on the ball for this one.

4. Conversion

Conversion=Sales.  Whether or not you expect to write contracts at the show, you should at least consider it.  Qualified Prospects + Money = Possible Written Orders NOW!  Do yourself a favor: if you expect to close some business at the show, take your best, qualified, personable sales reps to the show.  Give them big goals and exciting incentives and let your sales team work wonders.  Sending passive sales reps to a show will not help you (see above.)  Sending your "A" team gives you the chance to write orders at the show which can often instantly pay for the show or generate revenues far in excess of your wildest dreams.

5. Follow-Up

You're certainly going to get leads from the show.  Hopefully your team member in charge of creating systems to track these leads did her/his job effectively.  But once the show is over, these leads are the "back-end" pay-off for everyone's hard work.  Where do the leads go? How are they tracked?  It might take 6 months to a year or longer to analyze if this show paid-off in terms of investment. Without a proper tracking and follow-up system, you will never be able to know if this show was worth the investment to attend.  How nice would it be that in 3 years you could pull a report from your tracking system that shows the exact return on investment that every show netted?  Maybe you should attend this show each time.  Maybe it's a waste of time. Maybe you need different team members involved. But without a proper follow-up system, you will be driving with a blind-fold firmly secured to your head.

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