Home Business Tips – Attending Trade Shows

Trade shows are events which allow businesses to market their products and services to a variety of individuals.  These can be setup in locations as small as a school gym, or as large as a convention center.  The question becomes:  is it worth your time to setup a trade show booth?  That’s exactly what I want to discuss.

Over the years, I’ve participated in my share of trade shows.  So what I want to do is to relay my experiences with them and provide you with some firsthand knowledge to assist you in deciding if it is something worthwhile.

There are 3-types of trade shows I have participated in:  Health Fairs, large shows setup in a convention center, and smaller local shows at schools.  The main advantage of trade shows is the traffic they usually generate.  I say “usually” because there have been trade shows with very little traffic.  In both of these cases, they were smaller, local trade shows.  Obviously, the more traffic at the trade show, the more people you have coming by your booth to get information and the more contacts you make.

Depending upon the size of the show, there will be a different cost.  A smaller show may not cost much, but the side effect is that it may not generate much traffic either.  A larger show which advertises the event would probably generate a significant amount of traffic, but you can expect to pay more for that traffic.  So you need to weigh the costs involved.  Personally, if you are just starting out you may want to consider a smaller trade show to “get your feet wet”, as it is a completely different type of marketing.  Think of it as speed-dating for your home business.  You need to spend an adequate amount of time with each contact to generate interest, but not too much time so you miss out on making other contacts.

If you decide to setup a trade show booth, I would recommend not going overboard.  You will usually be given a 6′ table to use, so make sure you cover it with at least a nice table cloth.  Add some literature to the table, but not too much.  You don’t want to overwhelm the people coming through.  I remember the first couple we did.  We had so much information on the table, people really couldn’t figure out what we were trying to promote.  Less is more.

If you sell some type of food product, try to have free samples available.  Individuals who attend trade shows LOVE free samples, and if you have good food samples the word will spread.  If you are selling another type of product, try a small display of some of the items you offer.  For instance, if you are in nutritional supplements you may want to setup a small display of various bottles.

Another MUST HAVE for your booth is some type of contact list.  Maybe you have a newsletter and would like to give people the option to join your mailing list.  However, the best results I have seen is to have some type of giveaway.  Put out a fishbowl, slips of paper, and a few pens.  Then put up a sign advertising that you are giving away a product or service.  Remember, attendees LOVE free stuff.  But this has an added benefit…when people sign up, you obtain their contact information.  You just generated a phone or email list for the small cost of whatever prize you are giving away.  To make that information more valuable, include additional information on the sign up slips such as interest in your products, overall interest in your industry (health, jewelery, books, etc), or even if they would be interested in hosting a party (if that is something you do).  Basically, any information you feel would help you “close the deal” should be included on the slip.

Remember, your main objective here is to make your booth visually appealing.  You want all those people walking through the trade show to be drawn to your booth.

If your booth is setup right, and the traffic at the trade show is decent, you should be drawing quite a few visitors.  I’m not going to lie to you.  There will be some people who will only want to enter themselves in your drawing.  At one trade show I actually had a lady come through with address labels.  She told me flat out that the only reason she came to shows was to enter all the drawings.  She pasted her address label onto an entry form and moved on to the next booth.  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you be rude to any individuals like this.  You want to treat everyone with respect and be pleasant.  I know this should be commonsense, but it bears repeating.  The last thing you want is for word to spread throughout the show that “someone at the so-and-so-booth was very rude”.

As people come up to your booth, try not to be to intimidating.  Many times, they just want to see what your booth is all about.  Think of how you feel when you go to a store and are constantly hounded by salespeople.  That’s a perfect example of what you don’t want to do.

Instead, make them feel comfortable as their guard is going to probably be up.  You don’t want to jump right into a sales pitch.  Bring up something unrelated to your booth such as the weather, something they are wearing, or how the day is going.  At my last trade show there happened to be a Brewers game going on at the same time.  When someone would approach our booth, I would simply ask “Hi, how’s it going?  Say, do you happen to know how the Brewers are doing tonight?”.  What this did is drop their defenses.  You were no longer someone trying to sell them something, you were just a person they were having a conversation with.  You would not believe the number of times I would finish a quick conversation with someone and they would then say, “So, what have you got going on here?”.  There’s the opening you want.  You now have their interest.

The last item I want to bring up is actually the next point in that conversation.  When they ask what your booth is about, don’t go into great detail.  Give a very brief statement that creates some interest, followed by a question directed back at them.  You want to keep the conversation going.  So for instance, “Well, I market natural products for people with high blood pressure.  Do you know anyone like that?”.  This has two effects:  First, you are giving a very quick synopsis of what you are doing there, and second, you are trying to keep the conversation going w/o putting them on the spot.  If they don’t know of anyone, then you try to keep the conversation going with another question.  But as I said before, you don’t want to spend TOO much time, otherwise you’ll miss out on other opportunities.  You’ll be able to tell within the first couple minutes whether or not they’re interested.

Hopefully this has given you some insight into the world of trade shows.  Whether or not to attend one is a personal choice, but I think it’s worthwhile trying at least one time.  If the cost is a little high, maybe consider splitting the booth with another individual or two in your organization.  Not only will it be cheaper, but you’ll be able to make more contacts.

If you have attended a trade show yourself and want to relay your experiences, please feel free to add a comment.

Scott Huff is a professional network marketer and personal branding authority.  If you are interested in our unique opportunity and being part of our team, please take our free video web tour.

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