Is Your IT Business Exhibiting at a Trade Show?
Exhibiting at a local Trade Show can be a great way to network and forge new business relationships for IT Solution Providers and Managed Service Providers (MSP’s).
Face-to-face contact with fellow local businesses, many of whom will be prospective clients for your MSP, can help you win new business, raise your profile and build strategic alliances with other like minded businesses.
But rather than just pitch up on the day with a stall and hope for the best, you need to plan how to make the most of your investment in costs and time out of the office.
The main benefit of an exhibition or trade show is it brings a large number of people together in one place. As an exhibitor, you need to plan ahead to make sure you maximize your investment in exhibiting at the trade show - ensuring that the significant money and time you’ve spent pays off.
Here are 3 tips for making the most of exhibiting at a trade show.
Research fellow attendees
Most trade shows will share the attendee list with you ahead of the event. Even if they don’t, you can ask them for a list of the fellow exhibitors - which is valuable in itself.
As an exhibitor, prior to the event scan the list of fellow exhibitors and find those companies who you think might be a good fit as:-
- Prospective clients
- Business who provide services your existing clients would be interested in
- Businesses who work with your existing clients
- Existing suppliers to your own business
- Prospective suppliers to your own business
It’s worth setting up appointments in advance so you can ensure you meet those people you’ve highlighted. The exhibition will be a busy time for you and your fellow exhibitors, so reach out to people before hand to organize a convenient time to meet with them. Failing to do so might mean you’re stood around at their booth, competing for their attention with other visitors. For those you’ve arranged to meet on the day, ensure you have their mobile telephone numbers so you can ring them in the busy exhibition hall.
Also remember to take plenty of business cards, a good supply of pens, and any literature you want to give to the people you are meeting.
While you’re exhibiting at a trade show to meet new people, it’s common for the show to have top quality speakers presenting on topics of interest to you.
Plan ahead and ensure that you make time to attend relevant events that are running alongside the show. This might mean that you diary time with your colleagues to ensure that your stall is manned while you are away attending the seminar.
Speeches by important industry figures, workshops, seminars and panel discussions can be informative and attract many of the key players in a sector. It also gives you a good point of conversation to have with others.
These events are ideal environments for networking. Introduce yourself — everyone is wearing a badge and is there to talk business. By taking the initiative, you can promote yourself and your business and make valuable contacts.
Prepare your Stall
You’ll likely make a significant investment in buying a stall at the Trade Show. Before the event, understand what that investment means.
- Where is the stall located in relation to competitors?
- How big is the stall?
- Does it have electricity?
- Can you get a mobile signal to demo online products to visitors?
- Is there space for your own roll-up banner?
Ensuring you understand what you’ve got to work with at the stall is very important. Trying to scramble to make the best on the day is a waste of your time and money, and will ensure you stand out as unprepared alongside those fellow exhibitors who have prepared!
Ensure you have printed literature ready to take away for those people who are coolly interested, but not ready to talk to you.
Create a competition for a prize - allow people to enter by leaving their business card OR a completed entry form (many people will run out of business cards) in a “goldfish bowl”. Follow-up by e-mailing all the competition entrants to ask them to subscribe to your free newsletter - describe the benefits of doing so.
Have a giveaway offer - a Whitepaper or a guide download available to those who leave their details. A good Whitepaper would be “How to Choose an IT Partner” and qualify the giveaway by asking “How do you currently manage your IT?”, “On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with your current IT”, “Are you looking to save money on your IT support costs?”
Finally, but often overlooked - bring packed lunches as the catering at events is usually very busy and overpriced. Don’t eat your lunch at the booth. Having a packed lunch means you can quickly nip away for lunch and not waste time in queues with other exhibitors. Bring a number of bottles of water to help you remain hydrated throughout the day.
The most important part of exhibiting at any trade show is following-up effectively afterwards.
Be prepared for any potential leads. Record any special details, timescales, who else they are considering and any buying cycles or budgets.
It’s also worth categorizing your leads, hot, warm and cold. If you have a large number of leads after the event then follow-up with hot leads first.
You should follow up with 24 hours of the event. Prior to the event, prepare a standard letter which suits most enquiries - thanking them for visiting your stand and advising the name and contact details of the person within your business who will be following up with them and when. If your event takes place over multiple days, then these letters could be sent out at the end of each day to the leads from that day.
Don’t make the mistake of getting back to the office, exhausted, and not following up. Those who follow-up effectively after trade shows will reap the rewards!
Exhibiting at a trade show or exhibition is a great way for your IT business to meet new businesses - not just prospective new clients, but also potential strategic alliance partners and local industry contacts.
Remember that Preparation is key! Prepare your stall, research fellow attendees before the exhibition and prepare for who you want to meet and see, and prepare your follow-up’s in advance. Prepare well and reap the rewards!
Richard Tubb works with MSP's to help them focus on what is important, free up their time and make more money. You don't have to do it alone any more!