There are two basic Trade Show strategies: gather or filter.
If your primary objective is increasing brand recognition, getting the word out about a new product, or attracting the majority of the show's attendees, you probably want to gather.
If your objective is to attract top prospects, increase face time with highly qualified buyers, or search for those hard-to-find A-level leads, you probably want to filter (a technique that places quantity on the back burner, opting instead for fewer, but more qualified, leads).
The following tactics will help you implement the approach you choose, and ultimately land you the quantity and quality of leads you're looking for.
Option 1: Gather
If you're looking to create a rush to your booth, you'll want to let everyone know what you've got planned. Pre-show e-mail campaigns are designed to do just that: reach as many people as possible for as little as possible. Send e-mails introducing your company and letting attendees know where your booth is located and why they should add it to their must-see lists.
To gather attendees at your booth, you need to create a reason for them to come. Build traffic by distributing promotional items, hosting an in-booth contest, activity, or presentation -- anything that will pique attendees' curiosity and get them into your exhibit.
The layout of your booth should be open and inviting: no walls that block attendees, no imposing barriers such as counters or tables. Signage should be bold and eye catching. If there's not a line or crowd in your booth at all times, you're doing something wrong.
Your booth staff should be trained to collect leads efficiently. Now is not the time for long sales pitches; you're focusing on the sound-bite speech. And, with so many attendees expected to pass through your exhibit, a quick, reliable lead-capture system is vital.
Option 2: Filter
The first step when filtering attendees is to determine whether there are enough valuable leads attending the show to make it worth your while to exhibit. If there are, then you'll need to find out who those leads are, design a marketing strategy to reach those individuals, and get enough of them to visit your booth -- and ultimately purchase your product or service -- to pay for your presence at the trade show.
At the least, you must identify and contact the attendees you'd like to see and let them know you'll be at the show. At best, you can set up appointments ahead of time with key prospects and VIP clients.
If you're not sure who your top prospects are, devise a plan to cull those few qualified attendees from the herd. E-mail all attendees a link to a Web site where you pre-qualify leads via an online survey. Then target the most promising respondents.
While no one wants to be seen as unfriendly on the trade show floor, your booth should not go out of its way to attract everyone. Here, barriers to entry are not only acceptable, they might even be preferable. Meeting rooms are probably necessary. Signage should allow attendees to self qualify rather than attracting every Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Consider a high-priced or high-quality promotional giveaway, something of greater value than the branded pens or T-shirts you might use if you were gathering. Remember, since you're exclusively focusing on a handful of attendees, you can afford to spend more per attendee than if you were targeting the show's entire pre-registration list.
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