Trade Show Secrets
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jeff Patch from Mass Integrated Systems, an LCD and electronic component distributor give us 7 keys to making trade shows work for you.

• Do it for the right reasons. Tradeshows like CTIA Wireless are always great place to get face-to-face with both your customers and your prospects. The same is true for media, industry analysts, investors and even suppliers. On the other hand, participating in tradeshows such as CTIA  Wireless just because you always have, your competitors are, or you’re afraid everyone will think you’re in financial trouble if you aren’t there, is not a good way to invest marketing dollars.

• Make sure shows like CTIA Wireless and other conferences are right for you. Be sure these shows attract the people who are part of the buying process and your target customer. Sure, you can check with show management to see who’s expected to attend; but also ask your customers and prospects which shows they attend. Audiences change, so even though a particular show may have delivered a good audience for you in the past doesn’t mean it still does.

• Invest in some pre-show marketing. The CTIA trade show organizers will conduct a marketing campaign to build attendance for the event, but that won’t necessarily get the right prospects to your booth. I’ve found that direct mail, email, telemarketing and press releases are great avenues for giving prospects a reason to see you at the show.

• Go for quality. Meeting a handful of well-qualified prospects is infinitely more important for your future sales than collecting the names of 100 people who could care less about your product or service.

• Capture the right data. CTIA trade show and other shows are a great opportunity to find out as much as you can about the prospect or customer’s needs. Many of our clients use it as an opportunity to conduct brief surveys. In any case, a fish bowl of business cards with no notes attached makes qualifying and categorizing leads back at the office a daunting task.

• Follow up! Research (and experience) shows that an astonishing number of CTIA trade show and other show exhibitors never follow up with booth visitors – even if the visitor requested additional information. What a waste!

• Qualify leads before passing them to the sales team. This may be the greatest secret of trade show success: Do not dump trade show “leads” onto the sales force. Only those prospects who qualify as “hot” (by your company’s own definition) should be sent to sales. Put the others into the marketing pool for on-going development.

After the show the real work begins
This year we took Mass Integrated Systems in to CTIA 2009. We had 4 of our top salespeople, “hit the dance floor”. After 48 hours, countless hand shakes and meetings, the Vegas night turned into Trade Show mornings. At the end of it all we had our leads and now the real works begins to make our gold.

It’s tempting, after the preparation to get ready for the CTIA trade show and the hours on the trade show floor, to come back to the office and just collapse. But the real value of being at a trade show, like CTIA Wireless — why it’s worth your money — comes when you follow up on the leads and contacts you make.

According to trade show industry resources, up to 80% of trade show leads aren’t followed up on. That’s a huge waste. Fortunately, here at Mass Integrated Systems we have countless hours of trade show experience and resources from trade show secret books. We developed a system that works. Using the above and below steps, your next show should be able to be a great success.

• Organize leads while still at the CTIA trade show. Most people return from a trade show with a stack of business cards. At best, they’ve written something on the reverse side of the card to remind them why a contact is important. At worst, business cards are stuck in different pockets or purses, often getting lost, and you have no idea who Charlie Patch from Patch Industries  is or why you have his or her card.

• Start tracking contacts and leads as you get them. For every trade show, we bring a separate bound notebook stapler, and pens. We staple cards into the book as we meet contacts, making notes about who they are and why we should follow up. We NEVER let that notebook out of our sight; it’s like gold. You can also create “lead cards” or keep a computer in your booth.

• Start the follow-up process as soon as you get back to the office. Yes, you have a stack of phone calls to return, e-mails to answer, and you’re exhausted. But don’t lose the momentum you’ve created. Many attendees come back from trade shows re-energized about their own businesses, so it can be a good time to move fast. If you wait more than 48 hours to start following up on trade show leads, there’s a good chance you’ll never do it.

• Have a follow-up “summit” in your office to review leads. Bring all those who will have follow-up responsibility together to discuss the leads, make follow-up assignments and set deadlines. Turn those business cards into an action plan.

• Make the first follow-up. The easiest way is to send each lead an e-mail. Thank them for visiting your booth, remind them who you are and what your company does, and tell them they’ll be hearing from you again soon. Personalize your message and don’t be too vague in your subject line, so they don’t think your message is spam.

• Do what you’ve promised — immediately. If you’ve had good interactions with strong leads and promised to do something for them when you get back in the office, do that right away. For instance, send a catalog or sample and get them some prices or a proposal as soon as you get back in. Remember, these are very strong leads and you must move fast.

• Add all your new leads and contacts to your company’s mailing list and contact management system. The people who aren’t in the market for your product or service immediately are still involved in your industry, so they’re most likely to know others who may be interested in your products or services.

• Follow up again. Of course, many of your contacts will also have been away from their office and will need some time to catch up, so you’ll probably have to follow up more than once. Don’t be discouraged.

I hope these CTIA Wireless and Trade show in general pointers help you out at your next show. We hope to see you at a few. Thanks to all the writers that help me make this article and to you for reading it.

Article originally appeared on Display Alliance (
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