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After the merriment of the holidays comes a harsh reality: trade show season. The first major show of 2016 (ASI Orlando) finished yesterday and the “granddaddy of them all,” PPAI Expo starts on Sunday. Throughout the remainder of the winter are numerous regional shows, the TOM Shows, and finishing with Expo East in March. As a distributor attending trade shows, are you doing the right preparation to get the most out of shows you attend?
This is not your typical “wear comfortable shoes” or “drink plenty of fluids” trade show post. Rather, here key strategies to focus before, during, and after the show to maximize your investment:
Before the Show

  • Know exactly what you want to achieve at the show. Going to a show hoping to see “new ideas” is a quick way to minimize the impact a show can have on your sales year. Instead, look for specific products to solve specific challenges for specific clients. In other words, be specific.
  • Plan your booth visits and organize them as “must see” and “want to see.” There are many time vampires at trade shows; so by prioritizing your booth visits, you can assure yourself that you will see the most important suppliers and service providers.
  • Attend education sessions. At almost every show there is free education to help you grow your business. View the available sessions online and attend the ones you feel will have the most impact on your business.

At the Show

  • Be laser focused on what you want to accomplish. There will be countless opportunities to socialize outside the show hours. Work your plan and avoid the casual chatter that can derail that plan.
  • Stop waiting in line at crowded booths. If a booth you have on your target list is jam packed, move on. Waiting in line for even five minutes is a complete waste of your most valuable asset – time. Instead, go to the next booth on your list and make a note to come back to the busy booth later.
  • Carry as little as possible. Dragging around 28 pounds of catalogs won’t do your back any favors and will only serve to slow you down. Ask exhibitors to scan your badge and to send you the catalogs you feel you need.
  • Leverage technology. If you see a great idea, use your smartphone or tablet to take a picture. Then, so you remember why you took the photo in the first place, send it to yourself as an email attachment with a few notes so you can draw it back to a specific client project.

After the Show

  • Implement select key learnings from education sessions. Trying to take in and apply all the information you learned at education sessions is like drinking from a fire hose. It’s far better to take one or two ideas that will truly and positively impact your business over the following three months.
  • Follow up with your clients. This one is both obvious and overlooked at the same time. Far too often distributors try to follow up with all their clients the day they get back from a show. Plan to follow up with a few a day until you’ve communicated with each and every one.
  • Follow up with exhibitors. Similar to following up with your clients, get with exhibitors after the show to ensure you receive the samples or information you need to add value to your clients. With their hectic travel schedules, they will appreciate a friendly reminder.

Taking some time to plan your time at a trade show can dramatically improve the quality of the information you receive while you are there. If you don’t institute – and execute – a strategy before, during, and after the show, your ROI will vary greatly.
Have a great show!

Bill Petrie

About brandivate
Bill has over 15 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. In 2014, he launched brandivate – the first executive outsourcing company solely focused on helping small and medium sized promotional products enterprises responsibly grow their business.
A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, Vice President for the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients.