What trade shows make sense?
If you are considering exhibiting at a trade show as a part of your overall marketing strategy, the first question is: which trade shows are attended by prospects, buyers, and influencers that will be interested in your services?
The channels you sell to are: heath care, business and industry, education, government (law enforcement, public transportation, utilities, general administration), hotels/hospitality, recreation, and retailers. There are trade shows, both national and regional, for all of these audiences.
The people attending these business trade shows include the influencers and buyers of food services, OCS and vending services. They typically have the following job functions within the above channels: facilities, procurement, contract administration, property management, human resources, and auxiliary services.
All of the descriptors noted above must be considered in determining which trade show is right for you.
What does it cost to exhibit?
Exhibiting at a trade show takes money, time, effort, creativity, and work. Typically, a 65-square-foot booth costs $17 per square foot or approximately $1,105. You will also have costs associated with banners, literature, trinkets for giveaways, and maybe even video displays. Create a realistic budget that includes the cost of people being out of the office for a few days. Small “tabletop” trade shows are less expensive.
The materials in your booth make a difference in making that key first impression to attendees on the trade show floor.
Giveaway items are important so that people can take something away with your name and contact information on it. Pens can be purchased in bulk, with custom printing, for 30 to 50 cents each. Letter openers, lanyards, calendars, and mouse pads can also be used, but will be more expensive.
Having a food machine in your booth is a good display. Attendees can sample products from this machine using free vend coupons, which you hand out to prospects. And of course, free coffee representing your OCS service will be popular.
A number of companies specialize in trade show supplies. Ace Exhibits and Impact Displays in Los Angeles, Calif. offers affordable show supplies, which are portable and reusable. Booth packages are available for as little as $500. Your product suppliers, particularly bottlers, should be able to help you with free customized banners to be positioned in the booth.
How to work the show floor
Some of the same selling and prospecting rules used in cold calling apply in working trade shows.
Like any other business tactic, you’ll get better results if you begin with the end in mind. Are you going to the trade show to meet new prospects? To launch a new product? To take a leadership role in your industry?
As an exhibitor, you only have about 30 seconds to interact with someone walking by, so prepare a quick sentence or two to tell your story. You will need an “elevator speech,” a 1- or 2-sentence statement you can make in 15 seconds or less that introduces your company and your unique offer.
Here is a sample dialogue:
Potential buyer: “I am not familiar with your company; what is that you do?”
You: “We are Acme Food and Vending and we provide an extensive menu of reasonably priced, fresh products that your employees want, through state-of-the-art vending machines.”
The pace of a trade show is very fast. The people in attendance want to see a lot in a short period of time. You will only have a few minutes to make an impression before they are distracted or led away.
There should be no idle chit chat with “tire kickers” while potential new customers wait for your attention. Train your booth staff to qualify attendees quickly. The time and energy you devote to selling to an unqualified potential buyer is wasted. Meanwhile, potential new customers wait for your attention.
Some people who work at trade shows believe that they have to tell everybody their story. You don’t. Not everyone who attends the show is your potential customer, so quickly identify whether the person you’re talking to can actually benefit from what you have to offer. If they can’t, say goodbye as fast as possible.