Trade shows can be a real boost not only for finding prospects but for your overall visibility as an organization. Before you go though, you need to be well prepared. Good prep means finding the right audiences, setting realistic budgets, getting high-visibility booth space and determining who and what will be in your booth. Now is the time to think about using good public relations tools to boost your visibility and build your business. Here are a few items you may want to put on your to-do list:
1) Get the attendees roster in advance. Decide what constitutes a qualified prospect. Make a list of all of the companies you want to communicate with and assign each person on your team a share of the targets to approach. Ask show organizers, current customers and colleagues to make introductions on the floor.
2) Cultivate press proactively: Get the press list a week in advance if possible. Choose the top 10 reporters (start with trade publications your prospects read most). If you have news – or at least a product or service that is newsworthy – call ahead and try to set up interviews. If you have a news release or a factsheet, put a stack in the press room – a fat press kit is not necessary.
3) The “Show Daily.” Most big conferences distribute a daily newspaper or newsletter to attendees. If you have news, give the information to editors at least week ahead of time so they can publish it on the day you make the announcement.
4) Make your booth project professionalism and business. Don’t fall into a comfort zone of constantly chatting with co-workers. Invite interest. Open your booth physically as much as possible; make it easy for people to walk in without feeling trapped. Once they step in, tell and show them quickly what your product or service can do for them. If you have a tangible product, get it into their hands as soon as possible.
5) Take photos. Invite notables into your booth and snap their pictures surrounded by you and your staff in logo shirts with your booth in the background. These will play well on your Web site with a descriptive caption.
6) Make follow-up with attendees a fast but formal project for the team. Use contact information while it is fresh and prospects are still interested. Prepare a short template follow-up letter in advance and have it ready to mail-merge with your list of new contacts as soon as you get back. Send follow – up letters within seven days of the event.
7) Send a follow-up email to all registered reporters – even those who did not attend the show. Call the ones you made contact with, offer additional information and ask whether they plan to write anything. Keep track of potential articles so you will see them when they are published.
8) If it’s the right show, your competitors will be there. Now is a good time to see them up close. It’s not spying; it’s market research! Pick up their marketing materials and listen to their pitch. Nothing wrong with that — you can be sure they’ll be doing the same at your booth.