Marketing: it’s critical for success in any business, especially small businesses. But every small business has limited resources – both in terms of time and money – to spend on marketing, so make sure your marketing dollars and hours are being spent where they’ll do the most good.
Where do I spend most of my resources on marketing in my own company? It may surprise you, but it’s on exhibiting at trade shows and conferences. Why? Because, over the years, I’ve learned that trade shows and conferences give me the most bang for my marketing buck. It’s the best marketing ROI (return-on-investment). I’m not alone. In a recent survey by Staples, 71% of small businesses said they were very or somewhat likely to exhibit at a trade show in 2017.
Here’s why: trade shows are where you’re likely to find your best prospects. Those prospects typically come to shows looking for new products and services, so they’re ready to buy. If you exhibit at a trade show, you’ll have time to meet with prospects one-on-one, either at your booth or during meals and breaks. You’ll also have time to connect with current customers, as well as finding vendors, referral sources, or potential strategic partners. That saves a ton of time.
What’s the secret of trade show and conference success for small businesses?
- Choose the right show. Look for conferences or shows where customers you’re targeting are likely to attend. Ask your current customers which shows they go to.
- Let people know you’ll be there. If you’re an exhibitor, many trade shows will provide you with a pre-show list of registered attendees. Send attendees email and physical mail ahead of time, with your booth number, and, ideally, an incentive to come by. For our biggest trade show, we send out a physical brochure with a once-a-year terrific “show special,” and we see customers show up to our booth, brochure in hand.
- Create an effective booth. Every attendee who walks by your booth, even without stopping, should immediately see the name of your company, and an image of your product or service. At minimum, have a banner made with your company name, perhaps a picture of your product. Banners can be made easily with Staples Print & Marketing Services – they even have industry-specific templates to help you design your own.
- Remember give-aways. Your most important give-away is your print collateral: business cards, a brochure, catalog, sales sheet – all of which can be created and printed via Staples Print & Marketing Services. If you make sales on the show floor, have order forms ready. Don’t forget swag. People love free stuff! Just make sure your product name and website is printed on everything you hand out.
- Make the first move. Don’t sit back in your booth, waiting for people to come to you. Stand up, say hi to people passing your booth, be friendly.
- Hone your pitch. You’ll often have only thirty seconds to capture someone who comes by your booth. Have a quick sentence or two prepared that lets people know about your product or company.
- Take care of yourself. Remember to drink plenty of water, eat breakfast, keep breath mints on hand, and take breaks. And absolutely remember to wear comfortable shoes.
- Follow up. Your first inclination when you get back to the office is to tackle everything that accumulated in your absence. Before you do, schedule a few hours just for trade show follow-up. Contact all leads as quickly as possible. Most shows will later send you a list of all attendees – that’s another good time to send a mailer to everyone who attended.
Through 3/25, you can get 15% off on banners, posters, business cards and more at Staples.com using coupon code 76353.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2017