For years now, at Rocket Driver, we’ve advocated for attending events such as home shows and trade shows to get leads and make connections, and many have heeded our advice and done fantastically. In this guide, we’re going to uncover some of the secrets to attendance that can separate you apart from the crowd.
No Booth Necessary
The first important thing to recognize is that you don’t need a booth to attend an event like these; in fact, it would usually make little sense that you had one. The idea is not to participate in the tradeshow or sit in a static, fixed position; the idea is to attend while moving around and socializing.
Depending on the type of event, there might be people dressed very casually; however, our advice to you is to do the opposite. First impressions matter, and if you’re going to a home show or trade show to meet prospects and contacts, dressing down is not a good idea. What you want to do is come off as a consummate professional that anyone would be happy doing business with.
Leads Come Later
You must understand that the overall value of lead generation from events is not AT the event – it’s after. Once you’ve attended an event like a home show or trade show, the people you meet there can and will take your calls afterward – making it dramatically easier to book demonstrations. Does this mean you can’t sell right then and there? Hypothetically you can sell anywhere, but it’s not likely you’ll ink deals on the tradeshow floor.
At various events, people get bored and, let’s face it, lonely. If you attend a trade show and show up at a booth getting sparse traffic, it’s easy to get stuck in a conversation that may drag on for a long time – cut it short and remember – leads come later.
Talk To Everyone But Focus
When you attend an event, it’s a good idea to browse every single booth and talk to as many people as possible, but this doesn’t mean you should be entirely devoid of focus. No, your focus should be upon the booths that cost the most – because it shows they have a marketing budget. At many events, the aisle endcaps and central island booths can cost many times more than back aisles and out-of-the-main locations.
Cards, Pens, Brochures, or?
It seems elementary you should have cards, but what about pens or other memorabilia? What about brochures? My advice is to stick to cards – pens make you look desperate, flyers get thrown in the trash. Remember, the people at this event are busy too, and your goal isn’t to pitch anyone on the floor.
The way you approach people at a home show or trade show is not that important – it’s one of the few venues that it isn’t, and that’s because they will likely flag you down. What is important is how you segue into telling what you do while giving them a business card. There is no single right way to do this; it often just happens as a courtesy, i.e., “Let me get one of your business cards, would you like one of mine?” – they will take your card.
Time is precious at these events; owners of businesses often shell out substantial sums to be there. You must respect people’s time and avoid giving mini-pitches to people.
You have to be mindful of the hierarchies you are looking at, at these events. In a booth situation, some people may ask you buying-type questions while the owner is silent – trying to nudge you away because they want to focus on other prospects. This is something I strongly advise respecting; after all, would you buy from someone who ate up your time at a tradeshow yakking about his web business? No, but I might buy from a respectful consultant I met at one.
Show Up Early & Late
The very best time to talk to the core audience of business owners and stakeholders at events is earlier in the day or later on. Early in the day, when the booth is being readied for the deluge of attendees and foot traffic is slow, this is the ideal time. Walk up and strike up a conversation; many are bored and will be more than willing and able to give you the time of day. The end of the day is almost as good in terms of time availability, but always beware of people wanting to leave – standing for 10 hours is no fun.
I’ve noticed throughout the years I spent attending tradeshows that you can often spot trends early. At these events, you’ll see what booths are swamped and which ones aren’t; you can learn a lot by listening to people and asking probing questions about their business, industry, etc. This kind of boots-on-the-ground research may sound old-fashioned, but it’s still as viable today as it ever was.
Event marketing, in general, is not very scientific when it comes to marketing strategies – and that’s what makes it great. You can attend a single home show and make connections that turn into partnerships, business deals, and even friendships. If you decide to pursue this venue, do it with an open mind and a light heart.