Hello All! My name is Arielle, and I am new to the MerusCase family. When I started last Monday, I was given the opportunity to go to the CELA (California Employment Lawyers Association) conference on Friday with other members of the MerusCase Marketing and Sales team. Having never gone to a trade show before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Well, now that I am (a week) older and (one trade show) wiser, here are some tips I have gathered for tradeshow newbies (and veterans) alike.
Let's start with the basics:
1. Location, Location, Location
The second you sign up for the show, start plotting. Where should your booth be situated? By a bunch of other companies that offer the same services as you do? At the end of a deserted fork? Across from the bathroom or next to a food/drink station? Just like someone would evaluate location for a brick-and-mortar storefront, consider the potential for foot-traffic. Try to orient yourself nearest to the hubs of activity. Maybe there is a spot across from the seminar hall where the keynote speech is taking place. Maybe there is real estate next to the entrance of the venue. Weigh the possibilities and consider your options. You may get a lot of foot-traffic heading towards the bathroom, but people tend to be fairly myopic in their biological pursuits. Being next to food might make your neck of the woods popular, but could also clog visibility for actual potential clients. At the end of the day, just remember that having big and flashy signs does very little for gathering interest if no one is able to see them. And on that note—
2. Know Your Audience
If you are going to have people see your signs, make sure your signs appeal to your audience. Do you know what kind of person is going to be at this trade show? What is the conference for? Consider the purpose of the show and make decisions based on those facts. For example, CELA is a conference for Employment Law attorneys, so we made sure to have a presentation specifically addressing Employment attorney needs. Similarly, CELA is a place where Employment attorneys come to listen to educational seminars, so an attendee's priority isn’t necessarily to peruse the vendors present. So how do you get people to peruse? How do you get their attention? Well—
3. Bring Your Merch A-Game
People love stuff. And what do people love more than stuff? Free stuff! So what if they already have 37 ballpoint pens laying around in their junk drawer at home? They still will want YOUR pen. This partly psychological because—free. But also because people want to feel like they are recouping costs of admission (and tangential costs like travel and lodging if they had to really shell out the bucks). A pen will totally help with that. Of course, not all merch is created equal. One can never have too many pen and pad sets (apparently). However, assuming that you have two booths side-by-side, one with pens as merch and one with a fidget spinner-merch, which would you rather visit? That being said, if you can’t be the one giving the fidget spinners as merch, it does help to be the booth right next to them (see above RE: location, location, location). But you can't really plan for that. If you do want to bring something that will (more than likely) entice over potential clients, my suggestion would be—
4. Give the People What They Want: SUGAR
Sugar is what brings people together. There’s no birthday without the definitionally necessary birthday cake (sugar), no Thanksgiving without pie (sugar), no Halloween without candy (sugar). Even if your audience may not actually be sugar fanatics, chances are that they will hear the sugar siren song mid-day between breakfast and lunch. Help make their decision to stop by your booth easy by offering cookies (extra points if it is homemade). Most people cannot turn down an ooey-gooey-melty chocolate chunk cookie. Now, you may interact with potential clients that are on anti-sugar diets (e.g., paleo, diabetic, generally healthy people). In my conversations with these kinds of people, they have suggested an alternative in the form of a meat-product (i.e., bacon). That is up to you. I would be interested in your experiences if you do end up giving out meat at a tradeshow. Hit me up.
But let’s be fair. A cookie may not be enough to sell your product—unless your product is cookies, that is. How can you ensure that your product is remembered well after the event? How do you reach the people you didn’t get a chance to talk to? You should—
If you exchanged information with a potential client, be sure to follow-up with a personalized email referencing the things you discussed in person. Address their concerns and deepen the conversation. Suppose they mentioned that they were having difficulty accessing their work remotely, and your product happens to solve that problem. Push that. Make that clear. Show them that you were paying attention and you remember them, so they should remember you. For the people you didn’t get to meet and/or the people you talked to in passing with no means of following-up, see if you can get your hands on a list of attendee email addresses. Send them an email with a photo of your booth. Tell them who you are and what your product is. Give them an opportunity to explore more of your company and product by linking them to your website and/or your blog. Post some interesting content so that you can capture their attention until the very end, until you can give them another opportunity to consider your product. Like this:
And then hope that it works.
Bottom line, trade shows are a fantastic opportunity for you to interact with potential customers and forge relationships with people. It is your chance to hear your potential clients’ concerns and experiences with competitors, and respond. In some ways, it is just speed-dating at its finest. Flash your pearly-whites, show them what you have to offer, and don’t wait for them to call you. Call them. This may be love.