Seven Secrets That Successful Trade Show Exhibitors Do Not Want You to Know

Gloria Berthold

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Why are certain companies consistently successful at trade shows? They understand and practice the processes of targeting and follow-up. You can increase your return on investment by utilizing the same secrets that successful companies want to keep hidden.

1. Understand the primary reason you are participating it the trade show

You can use a trade show for many purposes. You may want to introduce a new product or service, announce updates of classic products that better serve your clients, search for new prospects, scope out the competition or perform market research. Successful companies realize that they can only focus on one or two issues per trade show. They make easy-to-understand offers with which targeted clients and prospects can immediately identify.

2. Plan for your target audience

One main reason a company will fail to have a positive return on their investment from a trade show is because they expect to talk with all of the attendees who walk past their booth. They are not clear who their best prospects are, how to identify them or how to quickly qualify their purchasing needs. These companies have the “yank them in” mentality. They want volume, and waste time with poor prospects while the solid gold prospect get frustrated and leaves.

3. Pre-invite targeted customers and prospects

Once you know what products or services you are featuring at the show, you can contact the appropriate clients and invite them to visit your booth to give them a special preview of your offer. This is an excellent opportunity to cross-sell your existing customers and ask them for referrals. Successful companies realize that existing clients are a fantastic source for increasing sales, without the investment in time that developing new clients require.

4. Give them a real reason to visit you

If you use candy and gimmicks to attract people, you will get people with sweet tooths who like gimmicks, not good prospects who want what you have to offer.

The real reason must be clearly stated and benefit-oriented to the customer or prospect. They do not care if you have the latest or greatest product or service, they want to know how they will benefit from it. Unsuccessful companies (generally 90% of exhibitors) spend a great deal of time and money telling everyone who will listen how great they are and how good their service is. The 10% of companies who are successful forget their ego and focus on the customer’s benefits.

5. Don’t waste their time (or yours) at the show

Use the brief time you have with a prospect to ask them questions about their company and qualify them. Practice with your colleagues so that you will be able to determine if the booth visitors are appropriate prospects within 30 seconds. If not, practice thanking them for stopping by and excuse yourself.

If you determine that they are a good prospect that will benefit from your offer, ask for permission to contact them the week after the show. Make an appointment for a phone call. Keep that appointment. You will be the only person who does, and they will be impressed with your professionalism. Use that phone call to further qualify and set up a meeting or demonstration.

6. Do not plan to give demonstrations at your booth.

While it is appropriate to have your equipment or materials at the booth, it is not the place to give in-depth product demonstrations. If you want to have the ability to give a 10, 20 or 30 minute demo, rent a separate room and set up a quiet place (with refreshments) so that your customer or prospect gets your full attention (and you get theirs). They will love and remember the VIP treatment.

7. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up

You will dramatically improve your return on your trade show investment simply by staying in touch with the customers and prospects you have qualified at your booth. Most companies incorrectly assume that the prospect will remember them when they are ready to buy. If you stay in touch with them regularly with informative direct mail, faxes and personal calls, they will automatically think of you when the time is right.

These seven secrets are the keys to increasing the return on your trade show investment. Successful companies understand that it is necessary to involve all of their staff in the preparation, execution and follow-up procedures discussed here. Growing the profitability of your company can be assured when all of your team members understand the goals and can contribute effectively.

Gloria Berthold is president of Marketing Outsource Associates, Inc. , a firm specializing in targeting profitable prospects and planning a cost-effective follow-up schedule. For more information visit


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