Connecting with clients and prospects face-to-face remains a highly effective sales method – especially in our technology-laden world. Trade shows, however, can be rather expensive which may deter small companies or companies on tight budgets. With a little strategic planning, you can make a splash and get noticed without blowing your entire marketing budget.
1. Buy Local
Depending on where and how many people, the travel / lodging /dining aspect of trade shows and expos can be the most expensive part. Do a little research and see what trade shows and expos in your industry are local. Check with your trade publications for names of shows in your industry. Also, websites like Tradeshowz and Expo Database (among others) are home to comprehensive lists of expos. This can help you get in front of your target audience without spending money on plane tickets, hotels, and meals.
If you are new to exhibiting at trade shows, or you exhibit infrequently, display rentals allow you to afford a splashier display at a fraction of what it would cost to purchase one. Of course, you have to purchase the custom graphics, but they can be used at future shows (if you rent the same hardware) or even displayed in your conference room or lobby. Renting also enables you to try out different displays before you commit to making a purchase.
3. Host a Contest
Many exhibitors give promotional items (i.e., pens, stress balls, etc.) to everyone who stops by their booth. This is a perfectly sound idea, but it can get a little costly. Instead, you could have a drawing for one of your products or services. Prospects can enter the drawing by attending your demo, answering a couple of qualifying questions, or dropping their business card into a fishbowl. Because the prize is your product / service, you have very little out-of-pocket cost.
4. Get Social
Take advantage of low-cost and no-cost ways to promote your booth before the show. Use all avenues of social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) at your disposal. Send invitations to your booth or free passes to the expo floor. Promote your drawing or give some sort of teaser. Do the same with email by sending these notifications to your database of clients and prospects. Many shows will even provide a list of attendees, enabling you to contact them as well.
5. Size Matters Not
The bigger booths get attention because they are bigger, not better. Make the most of your small booth by creating phenomenal graphic design and creating a booth experience. Use color and striking images to draw in attendees. Or go minimal on the design and use dazzling lighting. Look to your vendor to provide you with suggestions on design and trade show experiences that make a difference.
Exhibiting remains one of the best ways to reach a targeted audience– and it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. Think back to your guerrilla marketing days, and come up with new and creative methods for making the most of your trade show presence.