Top Ten Ways to Get Qualified Clients from your Tradeshow Exhibit

Donna Gunter

Visitors: 498

Typically, doing a tradeshow isn't an inexpensive proposition. There's a great deal of investment of money in your setup and materials, as well as the time you and your employees invest in staffing the booth. If you're working solo, you're doing the bulk of the preparation and staffing alone, which adds to the anxiety and tension.

My recent tradeshow debut caused me to think about how to approach the situation, make it productive for me and fun for my visitors. These are the ten tips I've followed in my preparation process:

1. Determine your primary goal for being an exhibitor in the tradeshow. I know that my email newsletter is a great marketing tool for me. Therefore, my primary goal is to add to my readership. I'm doing that by sponsoring a giveaway - a free enrollment to an upcoming program. Last year when I attended this same event, I noticed many vendors giving away hefty gift certificates ($100 and up) to local restaurants. While I think that's a great way to attract attention and get people to give you their contact info, I wonder if it's effective in getting qualified prospects. So, I've decided to give away a program that I do, a program that's ideal for business owners. I think those who would like to win this are much better qualified prospects than those who want a restaurant gift certificate.

2. Don't overwhelm your visitors. I know, from having visited many tradeshows, that I tend to return home with lots of info, most of which gets thrown in the trash. I can't imagine I'm the only one who does this, so as I planned my collateral material for the show, I decided that “less is more" and that my handouts would be copies rather than color brochures or flyers. This enables me to give something away to visitors (in addition to my biz card) but lets me keep my costs low. And, I've limited myself to 2 handouts, and my biz card. That's it.

3. Make your display warm and inviting. Nothing is worse than trying to get into a booth where you're concerned that you're going to knock something over, or try to get through a maze to see what's available. I've decided my display will be pretty simple: a tabletop display board, a doorprize bag, a candy dish, and two standing displays with my 2 flyers in them. On the side I'll have an easel with a 18"x24" color poster highlighting one program with special pricing for the show. I've purchased some stars and garland at a party store to add a little pizzaz to the table. I like to travel light, so I've managed to get everything in a larger plastic tote and in my display board and carrying case. I'm hoping for easy setup and takedown.

4. Keep yourself well hydrated. I know from past experience that when I talk alot, I tend to start coughing and start to lose my voice. Even though my drink of choice is Diet Dr. Pepper, I've discovered that caffeinated beverages make the situation worse. Therefore, I'll have a couple of bottles of water on hand, which should help me be able to talk throughout the day.

5. Ask your visitors open-ended, compelling questions when they enter your booth. I've been wondering what would be a good conversation opener for my visitors. I don't want to say something lame like, “How are you enjoying the show?" My plan is to ask one of two questions: “What kind of business are you in?" and “What are your top 2 challenges in being in business/getting your business started?" (depending on whether they're a seasoned business owner or a newbie entrepreneur). I'm definitely interested in the latter question, as I can determine if I'm on target with what I think are the challenges of business owners, and can modify my program offerings accordingly if I get info that's different than I expect to hear.

6. Determine your contact management strategy. One thing I've found very overwhelming when I've done trade shows in the past is how to deal with and manage all the contact info that I collect. I always plan to enter the info myself, either through manual data entry or through scanning cards in my card scanner. And, of course, I rarely do this. I've discovered that if I make a plan and hire someone to do this, the task is much more like to be completed. So, I've told my data-entry person In Nevada that I'm doing this show and that I'll be overnighting her all the cards from the conference. She's assured me that she can return the completed data file to me in a matter of days. What a great burden that is off my shoulders!

7. Make a list and check it twice. I've now gotten this tradeshow stuff down to an art form. I've created a packing list on a Word doc, and each time I have a display at a show or organizational meeting, I simply pull out my list and ensure that I have all of my supplies in my tradeshow box, or replenish what's missing. I tend to get very rushed before an event like this, and don't do my best thinking and planning when I'm rushed, so having a list already prepared where I have taken some quality time to plan in advance is a godsend.

8. Have an effective follow-up plan in place. On my doorprize form, I remind people that by completing the info on the card, they're signing up to be on my email and snail mail lists. Furthermore, I have 2 check-off boxes: one to do a followup for coaching and one to send them a free ebook. Upon returning home, I'll be adding all the email addresses to my newsletter database, emailing the ones wanting the special report with a copy of the ebook and the followup letter I've written, calling the ones wanting to get more info about coaching, and then sending a followup snail mail letter to those who didn't give me an email address or didn't check off one of the boxes, just to remind them that they visited my booth and remind them about my newsletter and free ebook.

9. Create a compelling call to action. I know that in reality, tradeshows aren't really the time to sell. They're better used as a time to generate prospective client lists. However, for that small number that are compelled to buy at a tradeshow (without needing the usual process of getting to like, know and trust you), I like to make them an irresistible offer for something that they have to purchase during the tradeshow to take advantage of special pricing. My “show special", as I refer to that offer, is a $100 discount on an upcoming marketing program. From this call to action, I'd like to generate 4 registrations for this upcoming program.

10. Have fun! You can certainly work yourself into a frenzy with lots of planning for a show, and still be so frenetic that you pounce on visitors to your booth and scare them away. Before the crowds arrive, take a few deep breaths, get centered, put on your best smile, and get ready to just enjoy meeting very cool people. If you're relaxed and “show up" as natural and relaxed (rather than going into full-blown salesperson mode), you'll have a better time, your visitors will enjoy themselves more, and you'll achieve your goals without even thinking about it!

Copyright 2005 Donna Gunter

Online Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed professionals make more profit in less time online. To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE ebook, TurboCharge Your Productivity: 50 + Tools To Help You Automate Your Business and Make More Profit in Less Time Online!, visit her site at


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