Just about every business owner will know the names of the dream companies that they would love their company to be doing business with.
These are companies who if they place an order can have a transformational impact on a business.
I call them the “High 5” wins. These are the orders that the owner’s sales team live to achieve and will celebrate mightily over when they win their first piece of business however small from one of these prospective giants.
In all of the years that I sold exhibition space to trade show exhibitors, I was never once asked by an exhibitor if any of these particular companies attended the show that I was selling and yet, I was in all modesty, hugely successful at my job.
The reason I was so successful was that I always asked who those “High 5” companies were for each of my clients. When I was able to show would-be exhibitors the people that attended our show from their dream businesses and others very like them, I always made a sale.
And when I say show them, I mean I highlighted the names of people, their job titles, the number of individuals attending from each company. I showed them to be real living and breathing people.
People that could be reached, could be pitched and could perhaps be sold to if the two parties were able to get together at the show.
Which brings me to the importance of pre-show marketing and a curious mindset among some exhibitors.
Trade Shows Hatch New Beings
If I told you that trade show organisers hatch completely new beings to be their visitors in advance of every show they run, you would wonder what I was talking about and yet, many exhibitors would appear to hold this belief.
They aren’t thinking clearly about how to use events to enhance and develop their list of prospective customers especially when it relates to those businesses that they are already communicating with.
They don’t see the value in alerting people within companies that they want to be doing business with to their presence at an upcoming exhibition or see that some of those same people might well be planning to attend.
When this is the case, it highlights a disconnect between ongoing marketing ambitions as laid out in a marketing plan versus a company’s trade show activities. Sometimes the two things seem to be only very loosely connected and this must be the reason why some exhibiting businesses undertake so little promotion in advance of a show.
The reasons most commonly given for this lack of pre-show activity are;
“That’s the organiser’s job” or more commonly “we just didn’t think it was necessary – we will be meeting lots of people at the show.”
Yes, you will meet people but you don’t have to wait until the show to be talking to many of those “brand-new” specimens. They have already been hatched. They are already out there in the world and that includes those mystical “High 5’s” you’ve been dreaming about.
Your Prospects Are The Show’s Prospects Too
A trade show is a platform, a platform that through the activities of the organiser generates a huge amount of publicity in advance of the event’s opening.
Organisers invest heavily to attract the best possible attendance to their events because the attendance is their product.
Pre-show messages from organisers to the marketplace can be both indirect or direct in nature.
Indirect messaging is designed to create awareness of the show, to highlight themes and reasons for visitors to attend. Direct invitations are issued when organisers contact their database of past visitors and people who enquired about attending previously (many direct invitations will also be issued by your fellow exhibitors at the show).
Given all of the activity highlighted above, if you don’t undertake any kind of pre-show promotion about your presence at an exhibition; alerting current clients; prospective clients; people from businesses that have recently asked your company to quote or to send them samples etc… then you are missing a big opportunity to set-up meetings and interactions at the show.
People (businesses) will be attending and people from the companies that you most want to meet and sell to may well be there too. Let them know that you will be there and why it’s in their best interest to visit your stand.
What Is My Client Doing On Their Stand?
Over the years, I’ve had conversations during shows with exhibitors who have expressed shock and dismay because they have seen a client (or clients) on a competitor’s stand or they have seen people from known, new business leads, walking the halls with neither group having been invited to the show by the dismayed exhibitor.
When you take part in a trade show, you will certainly meet people and businesses that your company has never met or dealt with before, this is one of the massive attractions of shows when it comes to developing new business.
But you will also have the opportunity and more importantly, an excellent reason to contact your current clients, your dormant clients, your hot prospects, your slower-burn leads, your would-be distributors, those friendly journalists and the many other people that you have already invested time and money in with a view to making them interested in some way in your business.
This is such a straightforward piece of trade show marketing, but it is so often overlooked and neglected and it will cost you sales if you don’t take the opportunity to alert people to your presence.
Trade Shows And Databases
If you are a brand new company just entering a market, then a trade show is going to be great for helping you build a database of prospective and confirmed clients.
I know and have known many exhibitors who use trade shows as the only form of marketing to build their enterprises.
For them, trade shows are the only form of marketing activity that their company undertakes (other than their website). They have never advertised, never run email or telemarketing campaigns, have done very little with social media but their businesses have thrived none the less.
If you have been trading for some years and you already have an extensive list of clients and prospects on a CRM system, then the names and details that you collect at a trade show will help keep your database up to date.
People move jobs and join other companies or they get promoted so job titles change. They may move locations or get married; their companies may acquire others… all these things can affect the data you hold and this information is what you rely on to develop sales.
The Most Active & Interested Companies Attend Trade Shows
Contrary to belief in some quarters, trade show organisers do not hatch new people for their events, but what they do very effectively, is attract the most active and interested specifiers in a market to their shows.
Anyone who makes the effort to travel to a show is telling you that they are on the hunt for something or someone that will solve a problem for them or help their business to grow or develop in some way. They are interested in finding solutions. They are in a buying frame of mind.
And many of these active and interested people will be the very same people that your business markets to throughout the year. They will be people and businesses that are on your sales database or CRM system. They will be from enterprises that you would like to know more about and that you would like to be talking to including your “High 5’s.”
They are real people. They can be reached. They can be sold to. So, stop dreaming and start selling.