A pair of male and female London bobby cops (complete with billy clubs, hand cuffs and fake British accents) saunter down trade show aisles, giving tickets to attendees. The “tickets” invite the holders to visit a booth and enter a contest to win a new iPad. People joke with the bobbies, who, being sales reps, are adept at learning their needs and persuading them to come to the booth.
I’ve exhibited at hundreds of trade shows in the course of my life as a marketer, and am continually amazed by how many exhibitors don’t know how to maximize their investment in a show. Exhibiting at a convention isn’t cheap! It’s important to be proactive and reach out to your potential customers, not wait for them to come to you.
The logo for the firm I worked for was a British bobby. It was a recognizable logo and a majority of people in the area were familiar with it. So, having the bobbies give tickets to attendees was one of the ways I was able to bring attention (and people) to my company’s booth. But we did additional things to ensure maximum exposure to our potential customers. Here are a few ideas to get the most from your exhibit.
- Make your exhibit space “open”: Do not erect any “barriers” between you and the attendees. So, rather than put your display table in front of your booth, put it in the back of your booth. That way, your staff is front and center and able to speak easily to potential customers. No matter how sophisticated your product may be, people still buy from people so it’s important that you start building relationships early.
- Talk to attendees as they walk by your booth: Don’t just sit and expect people to come into your booth. Have your staff stand outside your booth, in the aisle, and talk to attendees as they walk past. Anything can be a conversation starter – where the attendee is from or something they’re wearing, for example. The goal is to determine quickly whether the individual is a potential client and worth more time.
- Help your staff with conversation starters: To make it easier for your staff to approach attendees, give them a gimmick to help them open a conversation. It could be mardi gras beads, golf balls, super balls, flash drives, lip balm or something related to your business. Anything fun that gets people’s attention, however briefly, will give your staff a chance to determine whether the individual is a prospect.
- Have a giveaway contest that grabs attention: Even though a sexy giveaway (the latest iPad, for example) will attract people that aren’t potential customers, it will keep your booth looking busy (which always makes it more attractive to anyone going by) and give your staff another conversation starter.
- Design a booth that makes it easy to understand what your company does: How many times have you looked at a booth and wondered what the company did? A viable prospect should be able to look at your booth and understand what you do within a few seconds or you’ll lose them immediately.
Planning and managing an effective exhibit requires creative ideas and assertive people. But it’s a surefire way to maximize your investment in your expensive exhibit space.