To get a better return on your trade show investment, set measurable objectives. Don’t focus on the reaction from senior management. That’s not an accurate measurement! After all, you go to a building product trade show to sell something. If the exhibit results in a measureable sales increase, then it’s a lot less important what the boss thinks of the booth.
Set Measurable Objectives
1. Decide what you are trying to do – for instance, up-sell existing customers, introduce new products, or convert customers to your brand.
2. Focus on either new customers or existing customers. Your tone and messaging should be aimed at your primary audience. You’ll still cover the other audience; it just won’t be your primary goal.
3. Set your objectives and make them measurable. For example:
Convert 20 builders who each build 100 or more homes per year.
Gain at least one spec each from 25 architectural firms.
Get 100 contractors to trial your new product.
4. Set a date, like six months after the show, to measure your progress.
Now have your sales force help you identify the key prospects, usually no more than 100.
Let’s say you have 20 sales people and your goal is to convert 100 customers. Have each sales person tell you their top five prospects who are attending the show. They now have a vested interest in the show knowing the results will be measured.
Now get them to your booth. Use invitations from the sales person who should make it an appointment. As an incentive, use the boss. It’s amazing how effective it is to tell a customer that the President would like to meet with them.
Another method is to provide a powerful incentive. For example, send 100 target customers a key to a Harley Davidson. Tell them there are only 100 keys and one of them will start the motorcycle in your booth.
Don’t waste your time using bulk direct mail. Sending out 5,000 postcards is like throwing money away.
You’re now ready to measure your increase in sales to see if you are happy with the return. The increased sales may not cover the entire show expense, but you can get a measurable return on part of your investment.
How to Pitch Customers
Now that your customers are in the booth, close the deal. You’re going to get only a few minutes of their attention, so be prepared. Ideally, you should trial your presentation on some of your current customers to see if it resonates with them.
Finally, ask them if they would use the product or at least trial it. Get their contact information and make notes of your conversation. At the end of each day, recap the results with the trade show team.
For the prospects who said ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’, organize a follow-up process. Keep track of them over the next six months to see if they are using your product. You need to keep this information in its own database so it doesn’t get lost with all the other sales leads or data.
At your deadline, tally the results. Confirm that customers are using your product and ask them how many jobs they do per month or year. Almost every building material has an average amount of product that is used per project. Use that average number of units times the total annual volume and convert it to dollars. You can now measure the financial gain against the cost of the show. This is just a component of your overall sales performance, but it enables you to start to measure the results of those big trade show costs.
To make the trade show pay off even more, apply to deliver an educational seminar or be on a panel. Make sure your senior management spends time with key customers and key targets. Make appointments with the media and give them a tour of your booth. Make your event or party a memorable experience or don’t do it. And finally, a trade show is a great place to recruit new employees.
If you step back and take a fresh look at your approach to trade shows, you can change it from “The boss liked it” to “We sold $5,000,000 of product.”