3 Ways To Attract Prospects On Tradeshows – A Checklist For Startups

Trade show floor
photo credit: NECA / Flickr

Tradeshow Success Requires Premeditation

The bottom line for success and noticeability at a tradeshow is strategy. You’ve got to think it out beforehand and approach the event with cautious, well-informed movements. Get to the show early. Stay late. Schmooze, but don’t be slimy. Give out free things. Meet clients and peers. Be noticeable.

If you do things like these, your first tradeshow will be a big success. Even if you don’t make any conversions, you have established a foothold in the tradeshow “scene”, and in subsequent similar events, your services will come to be expected, and will spread via word-of-mouth. With all hard work comes profit. Work hard at the tradeshow, and your startup will see profit either collaterally or directly.

To that end, following are three strategies worth considering as you go about designing your tradeshow booth.

Osaka Kawaii at Japan Expo
photo credit: ActuaLitte / Flickr

One: Visibility

If you’ve never used construction steers, MyLittleSalesman.com defines them as: “…speedy treaded assistants that can be outfitted to perform a wide variety of landscaping, agriculture, and construction tasks.” Add “tradeshow attraction” to that list. If you want to make a big splash, rent one of these and operate it near your booth.

You’ll have to justify it, of course; and you’ll likely need permission from the venue—but getting both are definitely doable, and you’ll certainly draw attention. However, if you don’t have proper justification, it just becomes a stunt; and outside its own novelty, won’t ultimately draw in clientele.

So what you want to do is make it something more. Perhaps you’ve got a licensed trainer and can take clients on a spin, then use the steer as a sort of malleable aide in communicating business advantage. There are a lot of options here, the key is to get seen, stay seen, and have a statistically tangible impact.

VR in a tech expo

Two: Technology

Something additionally worth considering is the mobile device component. At tradeshows these days, everyone will have a smartphone, a tablet, a smartwatch, or some combination of the three. Google Glass didn’t take off how you’d expect, but the tech is still out there; and tradeshows are the kind of places you’re likely to run into it.

You need to be prepared for whatever attractions you’ve designed to be noticed by the internet. As a matter of fact, this should be part and parcel to your strategy. You want to make an impact online so that your products and services are shared, hashtagged, retweeted, commented on, and otherwise promulgated digitally.

If you’re looking for a guide to using social media to increasing your presence on tradeshows, Social Media Daily has solutions; according to the site most business owners struggle getting traction on Facebook at some point. But luckily, there are great tactics to help you boost your efforts.

Everything is idiosyncratically designed today; or at the very least it appears to be that way. If you’re going to be visible at a tradeshow, you want products of a custom variety which set you apart from the competition. But you’ve got to be careful—whatever you do must be justified. Digital PR is a strange world today, and you want to come out in the green.

Since social media is a prime component of business today, what you do will make its way to the web whether or not you want it to. This is good if you’ve strategized operations for such an instance, but it’s bad if you haven’t taken this into consideration. Any press is good press…perhaps. There is also negative fallout which can implode a business. There is no institution too big to fail.

When you’re using technology to your advantage, you need to be creative. Have you heard of cloud computing? There are now applications available which optimize and streamline business, allowing you to have the same ability to access information and make business changes remotely as you do at the home office.

With the cloud, you can bring core operability to any tradeshow, directly demonstrating that which your business can do which others can’t. If you’ve got a new software program, you can even show it being worked on across massive screens in real time. Perhaps you’re a developer of software—you can show people what it does, and collect the data for actual use in your company later on.

Speaking of applications, a tradeshow can be a great place for you to launch and disseminate applications pertaining to your business which can be used in a mobile way. These days, mobile apps have become more of a digital “business card” than websites have. It’s almost to be expected that you’ll have some mobile app. Giving them out at tradeshows makes a lot of sense.

Trade show representatives
photo credit: E3 Expo

Three: Humor And Entertainment

Still, this is something easier said than done. Facilitating virality is difficult. One of the best ways to do it is through humor. People like to laugh—you’ve heard the term laughter is the best medicine? It turns out there’s some scientific basis for this; a giving heart is good for the body, and that’s the same place laughter comes from.

Well, you want to communicate with your potential clients on such an emotional level! Remember Budweiser’s “Wazzzzupppp!” campaign? Or how about Geico’s entire line of commercials for the last ten years? This is a technique that goes back decades.

You may not remember tall and skinny Abbot or rotund short Costello, but in their black-and-white heyday, this comic duo was presented by the Colgate toothpaste company in what was known as the Colgate Comedy Hour.

The advertisers piggy-backed on the entertainment, and themselves provided often comedic ads. At a tradeshow, you might hire some live comedy, or a band. You might provide some form of entertainment and piggyback on it to affect clientele. Remember: humor is a very good seller. So is sensuality; but that’s got a more limited market.

Do what You Can With What You Have

Now these suggestions do cost a little money, and as a startup you’re likely already in debt. So sometimes you won’t be able to afford something ostentatious. Sometimes you will—but most startups aren’t in that position. The next thing you need to do to get noticed at tradeshows is refine your services and provide an excellent experience for prospects.

You’re not going to convert every individual at a tradeshow to your services, but when you’ve got one on the hook, you need to reel that fish in. So have an attractively designed booth with visible colors that are pleasant to the eye. Dress well, and have the most skilled and charismatic among your organization pilot the booth(s).

Provide food, drinks, and swag. All three. Everybody wants candy. Everybody likes free things. And people get thirsty at tradeshows. Plus, there aren’t always going to be booths providing drinks. Maybe one in ten will. If you can be a source for water, you’ll increase traffic. A cooler and a thirty-pack of bottled water may be all you need.

Finally, you want to focus on peers, potential partners, and purchasing organizations who may be interested in either working with you or acquiring your business. What you’re willing to do will depend on you, of course; but if you can find an ally in the marketplace, through a sort of quid pro quo relationship, you may be able to help one another out. Remember: trade shows are an ongoing part of operations. The relationships you develop there will continue to blossom over time, if properly nourished.