Exhibitors: 39 Advanced Growth Hacks to Boost Your Trade Show Sales (2019)

Andrea Anderheggen  

Written by Andrea Anderheggen, read by Samuel Fleming, December 2018

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In this podcast, you are going to learn 39 growth hacks to make your trade shows insanely successful.

These ideas are the result of 14 years of testing all sorts of ideas and learning from other exhibitors at hundreds of trade shows and expos I've attended so far.

Some growth hacks helped our companies generate millions of dollars in revenue!

The Shopgate Booth at the IRCE

The Shopgate booth on the IRCE at the McCormick Place Convention Center.

But as with every success:

Our beginnings were humble.

When we started exhibiting on trade shows, we were struggling.

We invested a lot of money in good looking stands at retail shows, we sent our best salespeople, and our products were great!

But that wasn't enough!

We always felt like missing a ton of prospects walking around the exhibitor halls.

And many trade shows didn’t even pay off the time and money invested!

Needless to say:

I was frustrated.

It was clear that trade shows could grow our business a lot more!

After all, the benefits of trade shows are clear:

They often represent the most amazing meet-ups in your industry!

Now, after 14 years of testing, our trade shows have become consistent drivers of sales growth!

Depending on the trade show we are now closing 5-7 times more deals compared to when I started!

And I visit trade shows for all sorts of other ideas to grow my company.

My secret?

I started to treat tread shows like other marketing channels – as you will hear later in this podcast.

I tested as much as I could, to make trade shows more successful!

There are four parts to consider here:

  • (A) Growth Hacks When Preparing the Show
  • (B) Growth Hacks when Creating a Booth
  • (C) Growth Hacks During the Trade Show
  • (D) Growth Hacks After the Trade Show

And that’s how I will present you the following ideas.

You’ll learn about the best ideas for every part of your trade show exhibition.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right into some of the best growth hacks.


Overview of All 39 Trade Show Growth Hacks

Click on a growth hack title to read more about it.

(A) Growth Hacks When Preparing the Show
01 Appointments, Appointments, Appointments!
02 Set Goals and Measure them
03 Trade Business Contacts with Other Exhibitors
04 Share Landing Pages to Book Appointments with Other Exhibitors
05 Make Allies: Agree with Other Exhibitors to Recommend Each Other During the Trade Show
06 No Matter What: Announce Your Company to All Exhibitors
07 Network with the Trade Show Organizers
08 Communicate Your Participation Through All Channels
09 Test the Trade Show as a Visitor First
10 Organize a Workshop Before the Show
11 Create an Insanely Valuable Magazine and Distribute It on the Show

(B) Growth Hacks for Your Booth
12 Book a Booth Location Dominating the Entire Floor
13 Think of Your Booth as a Marketing Landing Page
14 Produce Video Footage, a Lot of Video Footage!
15

Offer the Right Swags to the Right People!

16 Be a Leader, Sell Ice-Cream
17 Mobile Chargers Paid with Business Cards
18 Your Wi-Fi HotSpot Accessible Through a Smart Password
19 Meet the Selfie Generation: Offer Digital Photo Booths
20 Organize a Lottery to Win the Coolest iPhone or Any Other Insane Price
21 Always Speak at the Event
22 Get Inspired by Others
23 Winning a Porsche 911: One Last Crazy Booth Idea We Tested

(C) Growth Hacks During the Trade Show
24 Drive Traffic to Your Booth Using Hyper-Local Online Ads
25 The Main Thing You Sell is You
26 Organize Your People Well
27 Gamify the Lead Gen Reps Job
28 Create Competition Among Booth Ladies
29 Penalize Reps Sitting down Alone at the Booth with a $5 Fine
30 Approach Visitors Proactively and Listen to Them
31 Build (Real) Relationships
32 Invite Prospects or Partners for Dinner
33 Give Business Cards a Scoring
34 Use Trade Shows to Scout Talent
35 Learn from Competitors
36 Send out Emails the Very Same Day You Get the Business Cards

(D) Growth Hacks After the Trade Show
37 Think of the Follow-Up as a Retargeting Campaign
38 Review the Trade Show 1-2 Weeks Later with Your Team
39 Book the Next Trade Show ASAP

Which of these growth hacks do you like best? Please comment below.


(A) Growth Hacks When Preparing the Show

01 – Appointments, Appointments, Appointments!

It’s obvious, but it remains a critical success factor of every trade show:

Make as many appointments as possible before the trade show even begins.

Appointments

Time and again we waited until the very last days because we were busy with other stuff and didn’t have the trade show in mind before the week it started.

BIG MISTAKE!

Think of an exhibition as a free product webinar you would do online.

What is your priority before the webinar?

Right:

You start advertising it well in advance to get as many participants as possible!

So here’s what you should do, step-by-step:

First, organize a meeting with your sales- and marketing team 90 days before a trade show.

Agree on all the actions you'll take to gain appointments beforehand.

Then let your sales & marketing people report the progress every two weeks.

Help them, if you feel they are not moving fast enough.

Lead by example:

Take some time to make appointments yourself!

If you feel lazy about it, consider this:

What would you do, if I’d offer you 50 demos with hot leads?

And this is what it’s all about:

An appointment is like a demo sign up for your products on steroids!

You’ll get the opportunity to meet and sell in person in a vibrant environment!

It really can't get much better!

Bottom-line?

Use your salesforce, your content marketing, and all of your distribution channels to get appointments!

02 – Set Goals and Measure them

Set Your Objectives

Sure, trade shows may have an intangible branding value as marketing people explain over and over again.

However, even if the ROI of a trade show is not fully measurable, you should still set your goals and measure your success.

You should treat your investments on trade shows like those of any other marketing channel.

Set goals like:

  • Generate 100 Leads
  • Hold 20 Sales Meetings
  • Collect 500 email addresses
  • Close 5 deals originated in the trade show in the next 2 months
  • Close 10 sales originated in the trade show in the next 6 months, etc.

This is important to bring more discipline into your team and to prioritize trade shows in the future.

If you’re a tech-savvy performance marketer, you may even check out some of the exhibit technologies mentioned in the blog post 7 Top Tech Ways to Measure Traffic at Trade Shows.


Let’s now move on to the next ideas:

The next few ideas are about boosting your sales through channel partners available at every trade show:

The other exhibitors!

Let me explain:

03 – Trade Business Contacts with Other Exhibitors

Let’s do the math for a minute:

  • Let's say your team collects 500 business cards.
  • Let’s further assume the trade show hosts 10,000 attendees.
  • That means that your team only gets 5% of all the attendee's cards.

In other words:

You miss 95% of the vistors in your industry!

And here's a great hack to change this:

Agree on mutually sharing lead data with other exhibitors.

Share Business Contacts With Other Exhibitors

This really works!

Let's say you're able to trade 500 business contacts (or any other number) with 500 contacts they gathered.

Now, you almost doubled the number of business cards!

Sure, the lists may have some overlaps.

But the numbers suggest that the overlaps will stay in the range of 5-10% only.

Try to arrange such deals with as many other exhibitors as possible.

You're going to get hundreds or thousands more contacts from your industry!

And you may boost your revenues by adding tons of prospects to your sales funnel after the tradeshow.

If you are looking for a list of email addresses of exhibitors, head over to SalesGrowth.io and check our Trade Show lists.

If your trade show is listed, you are going to save hundereds of hours of research and get direct contact information to decision makers of your fellow exhibitors.

04  – Share Landing Pages to Book Appointments with Other Exhibitors

Here's a must for every exhibitor:

You should always announce your trade show events to your existing customers.

Because on trade shows you may personally update and assist them on all matters regarding your products and services.

That may lead to fantastic upsell opportunities and stronger relationships.

And here's another deal you can do with other exhibitors:

If you announce your appearance at a trade show, why not sharing that marketing space with other exhibitors targeting the same customers?

In other words:

Offer a recommendation for other partners in exchange for a recommendation from them.

Make sure, you’ll create a great landing page to book appointments!

Create a Landing Page to allow Attendees to Book an Appointment

Or even better:

Create mutual landing pages together with your partner, and let customers from each other book appointments with everyone!

To create landing pages, I always recommend using InstaPage (www.instapage.com).

They beat all of their competitors in regards conversion rates, especially on mobile devices.

Make sure you provide the following information on such landing pages:

  • what the products are all about,
  • the opportunities or value of the products for the customers,
  • why it makes sense to visit the booth,
  • trust signals such as customer logos, awards or certifications, and
  • free tickets to the first 20 appointments to accelerate the response times!

05  – Make Allies: Agree with Other Exhibitors to Recommend Each Other During the Trade Show

Recommend other Exhibitors

Here's another idea of cooperating with other exhibitors:

Once you finished your talk with an attendee and agreed on the next steps, recommend another exhibitor.

Make a deal with the other exhibitors to do the same for you.

If you want to measure the effect of such a deal, create lead-lists of people they send over and provide them the same back!

06  – No Matter What: Announce Your Company to All Exhibitors

Announce Your Company to All Exhibitors

This is important for whenever you participate at one of the largest trade shows and conventions in your industry.

Here is why:

First of all, it helps to spread the word in the industry.

Second, other exhibitors may discuss specific pains with their visitors that you may solve.

I experienced that many times!

Third: THEY may come up with exciting partnership proposals.

All partners want to know how you can help them grow their sales and if they can trust you when recommending you to their customers.

So, you should address these two items the best you can:

A.) Show them that you have a strong and broad customer base that may buy their products too.

And:

B.) Make sure you include trust signals such as well known brands in your client list, good press coverage, valuable content or awards.

07  – Network with the Trade Show Organizers

Here’s an idea I have neglected for a long time in my career:

It’s not only about partners and leads at trade shows, but also about the managing directors and their board organizing the trade show.

Network with the Trade Show Executive Directors

They know many of the exhibitors and key speakers personally.

So, they may provide you with highly valuable intros. 

And there’s almost no better publicity at trade shows than an executive director opening the show and mentioning your company.

Think about if there is any relationship you could build with such executive directors or organizers.

  • Can you help them to become successful?
  • Can they make use of your product?
  • Can you help them market the show?

If you get them on your side and build great relationships, you are more likely to be considered to become a keynote speaker or receive recommendations for the next show.

This is an idea you must invest in for trade shows that you are going to attend more frequently. 

 

08  – Communicate Your Participation Through All Channels

I am actually surprised about how many exhibitors don’t show an event page on their website.

I mean:

When you’re exhibiting at a trade show you’re opening your company to a broader public, right?

And you’re showing that you belong to those successful companies in the industry that can afford a booth!

So why not list all events on a dedicated page of your website?

sample-banner-exhibition

Besides, do what most exhibitors do:

Add your participation and a call to action to email signatures, newsletters, social media accounts and, if it pays off, into paid ads.

09  – Test the Trade Show as a Visitor First

Research Trade Shows

Before exhibiting at a trade show the first time, do your thorough research.

Visit the trade show as a regular visitor.

Try to understand, if the trade show is worth the investment next year.

Besides: 

Even as a visitor you can make great deals at trade shows:

Get to know the other exhibitors and build a relationship to lay the foundation for partnerships as outlined before. 

So it’s always a good idea to check a trade show first before investing thousands of dollars.

 

10  – Organize a Workshop Before the Show

Organize a Workshop Before the Exhibition

Think about it:

People anyway will travel to the main show.

And they want the same as you do:

Get the maximum out of the expensive travel and hotel costs.

So why not organizing a workshop or a road show the day before?

Although I have never organized such workshops myself, I know many other entrepreneurs and friends that ALWAYS invite their customers and prospects to pre-show events.

Sure, it takes some additional time to organize and market such roadshows.

But:

If you’re able to energize participants on such a pre-show event and provide insanely actionable insights, you are going to have even more people on the floor speaking for you!

And you may even close deals before the trade show even begins!

11  – Create an Insanely Valuable Magazine and Distribute It on the Show

Most exhibitors invest time and money to create beautiful image brochures.

They all look fantastic.

But here’s the problem:

Except for your marketing team, nobody cares about image brochures.

Image brochures are boring.

Instead, consider creating an insanely valuable trade show magazine as a giveaway to your visitors.

Magazine for a Trade Show

Now, you can really keep it simple:

Just collect the very best blog posts you wrote to put the magazine together.

You may even ask other publishers of amazing posts if you can use their content in such a magazine. 

Just make sure, the content is not an annoying advertisement for your company only, but provides extreme value to readers in your industry.

Distribute your must-read magazine to everyone on the trade show!


(B) Growth Hacks for Your Booth

12  – Book a Booth to Dominate the Floor

Booking a stand at a trade show can be tough!

You may have to compete against big brands with a long lasting tradition of securing their spots on the trade show floor.

The common way to search for the right spot is to look for a place where leads a likely to come by. 

But here's the real deal:

If you were able to form alliances with other exhibitors as outlined in the growth hacks 3 to 6 mentioned before, you may even dominate large parts of the entire exhibition anyway.

Booking the Right Booth Place

So the best advice here is to:

A.) Always try to book a booth next to another exhibitor that you consider to be the trendsetter or “the cool kid” in town with lots of PR. 

Their popularity may help increase yours.

To find out who's the "cool kid" in town check the latest exhibitor news available on the expo websites. 

And:

B.) Book a both in the center of your allies.

Allies are those exhibitors with which you made agreements to help you boost your trade show success, as outlined in the growth hacks 3 to 6 in this list. 

 

13  – Think of Your Booth as a Marketing Landing Page

Think about, how to create a high converting landing page for a paid ad campaign on Facebook, Instagram, or Google.

What would you include on such a landing page?

Here’s a typical list:

  • Headlines optimized for keywords or interests of your target customers.
  • A short, but powerful list of benefits and opportunities for customers using your product,
  • Trust signals such as logos of well-known brands, media covering your company, certifications, and awards,
  • A crystal clear call to action, and
  • The best user experience when visiting your landing page.

And here's the growth hack:

You should apply the same principles of a landing page to your booth.

Treat Trade Show Booth like Landing Pages

Don’t just display the product category in the headlines of your booth.

(A) Create headlines that sell!

If you don’t know which headlines sell best, try them on real paid ads through Facebook or Google ads first!

(B) State the opportunities your product represents for your customers.

(C) Add all sorts of trust signals and testimonials.

(D) Make people understand precisely what you want them to do next!

(E) Make sure your booth and your staff provide the best visitor experience possible.

14 – Produce Video Footage, a Lot of Video Footage!

Videos are not the future of marketing; they are the present!

People spend billions of hours on YouTube, Netflix & Co. every day!

YouTube is already the 2nd largest search engine after its mother company Google.

Furthermore, videos of public appearances and customer testimonials, always increase trust in your company.

Videos of your company surrounded by many people are ideal for delivering social proof on your websites and online ads!

Create Video Footage

Therefore make sure to assign a team member job of collecting high-quality video footage during the entire trade show!

Let your best customers recommend your company.

Or ask people a question you will address in your next exciting blog post.

In other words:

Use the trade show to produce video content you can later use in marketing.

Trade shows are fantastic because they show your company in a situation of high demand.

Pro tip:

Be careful with the light.

Nothing is more frustrating than recording lots of great videos to end up with low-quality results and horrible light!

Test the light!

And if necessary create your small video corner and organize some extra lights with high flash outputs.

Studio Light

Make sure your videos have enough light. Consider buying a lightening kit with high flash outputs.

 

Pro-Tip 2: 

Let your marketing team back home edit the videos and publish them on social media almost in real-time!

A video is a powerful ad format and provides way more visibility than simple text copies.

15 – Offer the Right Swags to the Right People!

Almost every exhibitor invests in trade show merchandise and swags the wrong way!

For a long time, we were no exception:

We tried all sorts of swags:

Sunglasses, cheap phone accessories, funny gadgets, pencils, blocks and the more expensive stuff like T-Shirts, USB sticks, coffee cups, and more.

We even created a mobile shopping app to order swags for free!

 

Shopgate Swags

Like most exhibitors we offered a set of swags we distributed to everyone.

And here’s the problem:

If you distribute the same swags to everyone, they can’t be expensive.

Otherwise, it is going to cost you a fortune!

On the other hand, if your swags are worthless, their marketing power tends to be worthless as well!

And here’s the solution:

Instead of giving away everything to everyone, consider this:

A.) Produce the usual, less expensive swags as giveaways to everyone.

AND:

B.) Create some really awesome, valuable swags like high-quality T-Shirts, USB sticks or even Holiday Coupons, etc. for those visitors that you consider to be great leads for your company.

Hide those swags and only hand them out after a great talk with a real lead!

In other words:

Always offer swags, but differentiate the quality of the recipients.

This will allow you to provide real value to those visitors you appreciate most and that have the best potential for your company.

Pro Tip:

As a business leader, you need to set clear rules for your team.

Otherwise, chances are, they will distribute even the more expensive swags to visitors with zero business potential for your company.

There's an easy way to control this:

Make sure the number of valuable swags you gave away does not exceed the number of business cards with a 3-5 stars rating as explained in growth hack number 28 in a few minutes.

 

16 – Be a Leader, Sell Ice-Cream

There's this saying:

“If you want to make everyone happy, don't be a leader, sell ice cream.”

Well, at trade shows that quote is wrong!

Sell Ice Cream at Trade Shows

Trade shows are often loud and hot. 

People barely sit down and stand for hours, invest a lot of energy, and feel the heat.

Thus, everyone tends to get tired, thirsty and hungry.

Ice cream is perfect to help visitors get refreshed! 

It refreshes your attendees, makes them less hungry and less thirsty at the same time!

And almost everyone likes ice cream!

So bringing along your small little ice cream or soft ice machine is always a great idea and makes people like you more!

soft ice machine

Important: Let visitors pay their ice cream with their business cards or contact details! 

17 – Mobile Chargers Paid with Business Cards

Besides hunger and thirst, most visitors at a trade show face another personal issue:

Low batteries of their mobile phones.

Now, that’s another pain you can alleviate:

Offer a charger station for mobile phones.

Mobile Chargers

You may organize a charger station on a table including clear signage.

Or:

Offer a secure locker charger as sold by eventrecall.com

Allow attendees to charge their mobile phones if they leave their business cards and quickly explain what they do.

18 – Offer Your Own Wi-Fi HotSpot Accessible Through a Smart Password

It’s unbelievable, but in 2019, Wi-Fi is still an issue at Trade Shows.

Even at technology trade shows online access can be rare.

And here’s another growth hack for your booth:

Offer your own, fast Wi-Fi hotspot.

Wi-Fi at Trade Shows

And:

Set a password that includes your main message.

For instance: “data-and-insights” (for SalesGrowth)

Again: 

Allow users to use your Wi-Fi only if they give you their business contacts and quickly explain what they do.

19 – Meet the Selfie Generation: Offer Digital Photo Booths

And here’s another part of your booth helping out visitors with their basic desires:

A digital photo booth.

People love doing selfies!

In my experience, a photo booth is always a highlight for visitors.

Let them take pictures of themselves.

Pictures, including your brand, of course.

There are plenty of companies renting a photo booth for such occasions.

One of them is TapSnap.

The best part?

People usually have a hard time throwing away pictures of themselves, even if your brand is on it.

20 – Organize a Lottery to Win the Coolest iPhone or Any Other Insane Price

A good trade show will most likely cost you between $10K and $100K or even more.

So, organizing a lottery to win a brand new iPhone, amazing holidays vouchers or another insane price is a comparably small percentage of a trade show investment.

(Sidenote: Don't go for iPads. They are far less appealing than an iPhone on a trade show.)

Most importantly:

Everyone (even the Android fanboys) probably would love coming home from a trade show owning a brand new, hot iPhone worth hundreds of dollars!

Win an iPhone

And here’s what you should do:

  • Buy a brand new iPhone.
  • Fix it on a drawing box where people can enter their business cards.

Business Card Box for Trade Shows

  • Create a large enough poster or roll-up stating the rules of the lottery.

Important: Make a BIG announcement before the trade show begins on all possible channels.

The rules of the lottery are:

  • Business cards are accepted until 5 pm on the first day of the show.
  • You are going to take a random business card out of the box on the same day at 5 pm and select a winner.
  • If the person whose business card you select is not there, you’ll choose another business card.
  • Send a reminder SMS 30 minutes before the selection of a winner. (Make sure someone is taking care of that in your team.)

Needless to say:

If you’re giving away a fantastic price and make it crystal clear that you’re going to select the winner at 5 pm that day, you are going to have a crowd at your booth!

And if you’re able to get a crowd at your both:

Take pictures and shoot videos showing dozens or hundreds of people standing at your booth…

These are extremely valuable assets for all of your future marketing materials!

21 – Always Speak at the Event

Always try to speak at an event.

If you can't speak on a keynote or on a workshop at the trade show:

Create your own speaking corner on your booth.

Andrea Anderheggen speaking at the dmexco trade show

Always speak at the trade show. Here: Andrea Anderheggen at the dmexco trade show in 2017.

Let the most charismatic of your staff members do a non-stop demo, even if only a few people are listening.

The reason:

This will add a sound level that makes visitors aware of your booth.

But not just a dumb sound level:

A sound level that sells your product!

And if the speaker is really passionate about your company, that will attract an audience for sure.

Emotions sell.

Deliver a fantastic, emotional story including:

  • A hero: One or multiple specific customers of yours (name them!)
  • The problem the hero faces.
  • The solution the hero finds with your product.
  • The impact or opportunity that solution provides to your customer. In other words: A clear, measurable impact in % of sales growth, in cost reduction, time-saving or whatever the impact of your product is. Focus helping people succeed, never start listing features only. It’s all about the opportunity your products represent to your customers!
  • Call-To-Action: When you’re done with your story never forget your call to action! – Ask yourself: What do you want the audience to do next?

22  – Differentiate Yourself: Get Inspired by Others

Sure, you may book a booth like you always did before.

Or:

You invest an hour or two and do some research on what ideas you could invest in to make the booth really special.

Just search on Google for "Best Ideas Trade Show Booth".

You'll find another 100 ideas to make your stand look amazing!

 

23 – Winning a Porsche 911: One Last Crazy Booth Idea We Tested

And here’s another crazy idea, that we used once on a booth at my first company SOFORT.

We made a competition to win a Porsche 911.

A real one!

Yes:

The car worth 200,000 dollars!

Porsche 911 Exhibitor Booth SOFORT

To win the Porsche, people simply had to kick a ball three times through the upper hole and three times through the lower hole of a soccer goal wall from a 5 meters distance.

I'm not sure, if you know how a soccer wall looks like.

It's a wall in front of a goal, usually with a hole on the top left and one on the bottom right.

Soccer Wall – A Game for Trade Shows

The good thing about it:

It’s simple to understand but very hard to accomplish.

In fact, it is very unlikely that anyone succeeds in doing this.

But to make sure we would not have to spend 200,000$ we asked an insurance company to ensure that game.

And yes, some insurance companies to do such bets!

We paid an insurance premium of $2,000 in total for that idea.

They sent a notary as an observer and put a video cam to make sure no fraud would occur.

And everyone was invited to try it out.

Next to the soccer goal wall was a spot where we parked a brand new, really awesome Porsche 911.

Needless to say:

Our booth was packed! We were non-stop under siege!

As expected, nobody was able to win the Porsche.

Sure, that idea needs a lot of preparation and agreements with trade show organizers, insurances and a car seller lending you the car for a day or two.

But it was by far the most attractive booth we ever had. 

It brought us an insane level of PR and social media attention.

After that show, every participant of the Show knew who SOFORT is, and our brand was starting to get associated with speed... 

Bottom-line:

To stand out in the noisy and shiny world of trade shows, you need to think about what insane value you can deliver to visitors!


(C) Growth Hacks During the Trade Show

24. What You Sell is Who You Are

Remember, that the most important part you sell on a tradeshow, is not your product, but YOU and YOUR TEAM. 

In a face-to-face selling situation, people mainly buy your products because they like you.

Make sure your staff looks energetic on trade shows!

Everyone wants to work with successful, energetic people.

And that’s exactly the impression your staff members should leave to everyone attending the show and visiting your booth.

Make sure your staff looks happy, energetic and willing to rock the show!

25. Assign Clear Roles to All Team Members

First of all you NEVER EVER use a trade show participation as a bonus for an employee, if his presence does not make sense.

And second:

Make sure every visitor speaks to the right people in your organization.

Time-and-again I witnessed how sales reps from the small-and-medium business unit –the SMB group of my sales teams – talked to enterprise level prospects.

They were trying to sell our product to the enterprise level leads the quick way: Offering low prices and "great discounts"...

But that’s not how it works.

Enterprise customers with complex requirements and complex decision processes may need a completely different sales approach.

They are not there for a quick deal or to save money, but to find long-term sustainable partners and solutions.

So it’s vital, that these type of visitors speak to the appropriate account executives, VPs or even a C-Level member of your team!

If you bring tech guys along with little or no sales skills, let them answer tech or support questions only.

In a nutshell:

Organize your people well and assign the right role to everyone.

26. Create Competition Among Booth Ladies

On countless occasions I saw exhibitors represented by good-looking booth ladies, nicely smiling at their booth.

Now that can attract people indeed, but probably for the wrong reasons.

However, you can turn your investment in booth ladies into real value by doing the following:

Let the booth ladies earn a bonus of $50 if they collect more than 200 business cards.

Creating incentives for booth ladies can result in awesome outcomes!

Create a Competition Among Booth Ladies

27. Gamify the Lead Gen Reps Job

This one is also simple, but often overlooked:

Gamify your trade show!

Gamify your Show Among Sales Reps

Again:

Consider offering an iPhone to the rep delivering the best performance in terms of meetings held, deals closed, business cards collected or other performance indicators.

Don't offer money, offer something people like to brag with.

Invite your reps to shows and watch for the ones who earn their pay.

The others can stay home next time.

Have contests, set goals.

28. Prepare for a Clever Follow-Up: Write a Score on Each Business Card

Part of every trade show is to collect as many business cards as possible.

However, not every attendee giving you a business card represents a great business opportunity.

And there is a big difference between attendees and the level of interest for your company.

Rate Business Cards

Here are the 5 typical stages:

(1) No Match with your product. Will most likely never buy anything from you.

(2) Is interested in a partnership.

(3) Has a customer relationship with your company already.

(4) Good match & started to get aware of your company.

(5) Hot Lead: Is already thinking about buying your products or a competitor product.

It does not make sense to treat them all the same in the subsequent follow-up.

So, I would advise you to put numbers on your business cards, next to the name of a person.

Score your business cards according to the 5 criteria mentioned before.

This will allow your marketing and sales team to follow-up much better.

And it will also give you a sense for the quality of your trade show investment. 

29. Issue a $5 Fine for Staff Sitting Alone on a Booth Chair

Here’s an idea your people may not like, but that may help your company:

You should make sure, none of your reps is sitting alone on a booth chair, ever!

Sure, sometimes your staff has to rest.

And if they need to rest, I recommend sending them to the show’s restaurant or somewhere else to sit down.

Furthermore, they are allowed to sit down when talking to an attendee or a partner visiting your booth.

But they should never sit down alone, and worst of all: 

Play with the mobile phone while sitting there.

It makes a horrible impression to all attendees.

Think from a customer point of view.

Would you like to be served by people sitting on a chair and playing with their mobile phones?

Simply a NO-GO!

Make that clear before the trade show even begins.

And if you’re serious about that, put a box somewhere behind the scene:

Each time a staff member sits at the booth without a customer, she or he must pay $5 into that box!

5$ fine for sitting alone on a booth chair

I guarantee you: 

They will stay on their feet for 12 hours in a row if necessary!

30. Drive Traffic to Your Booth Using Hyper-Local Online Ads

Facebook and Google offer targeting options in their ads program down to 1 mile.

If you're experienced with paid ads, you can target trade show visitors and dominate their news feed.

Try to enter the exact trade show location AND combine it with interests in your industry.

Facebook Ads for Tradeshows

Then create an ad to targeting trade show visitors.

Refer to the trade show, tell people why visiting your booth represents a significant opportunity for them and let them book an appointment.

Needless to say:

At this point, it’s essential to offer a super-fast, mobile-optimized landing page.

Always test multiple ads to see which one drives the best results.

Pro tip:

Use AdEspresso to understand which ads work best. 

If you don’t know how to create Facebook ads at all, watch the awesome video by Kevin David on YouTube: Facebook Ads in 2019.

 

31. Approach Visitors Proactively and Listen to Them

Many visitors look at your booth and try to understand within 2-5 seconds, what you are doing and if it’s worth a chat.

But that may not be enough time to understand the value and opportunity of your product.

Hence you should ask your sales reps to proactively approach all visitors and listen to them first, before trying to sell anything!

Make them fully understand the background, the pain and the interests of the visitors.

Don’t let them explain your products in lengthy monologues, to find out later that all of that is not relevant for the visitor.

If you listen better you sell more.

Besides, if your staff knows what the pain of a visitor is, they may specify the opportunity of your product better and sell more. A LOT more!

32. Build (Real) Relationships

No matter if your selling to consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B), it always an H2H (human to human) relationship.

Human to Human – Build Relationships

Just because people are labeled with their company name, does not mean they don’t have private lives taking care of their health, their loved ones, and their career.

Find out if people are open to private talks as well:

If they are you should try to build a relationship.

Relationships beyond business are far stronger and sell much better than a simple sales-prospect relationship. 

I once had a young, talented sales rep in my team.

He was a huge basketball fan.

In fact, for some reason, all of my early American employees were a lot into basketball.

On a large trade show that young sales rep randomly approached a visitor.

At the time he had little to no sales experience.

And I let him test the cold waters...

So he talked to that random visitor.

And it turned out that this guy was managing the online store for a basketball team that would win the NBA just a year after!

The two guys barely spoke about business at all but shared their passion for the game instead.

He literally spent two hours talking to that guy.

But when he finished, it was clear that he had laid the foundation for a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and helping us gain recognition through a big brand.

Later the two guys frequently chatted over Skype to talk about basketball. 

And that client became one of our best and most active supporters.

That story showed me how powerful relationship building can be.

And the fact that you meet face-to-face at trade shows is an opportunity you almost never have in marketing!

Think about how to build relationships!

33. Invite Prospects or Partners for Dinner

One way to build relationships is to invite prospects and partners for dinner.

I did that regularly and used to invite prospects to Smith & Wollensky's when attending trade shows in Chicago.

Invite Prospects for Dinner

Why Smith & Wollensky?

Because they sell the very best steaks I know in Chicago and some of the best in the world!

The more general point here is:

Make sure you invite people for dinner in an excellent place, they will remember.

Food is always a great way to connect with people. 

And the better the food, the better your relationship later!

34. Use Trade Shows to Scout Talent

No matter what: 

The success of every company depends on the talent of their employees.

Trade shows can be a great source to get to know the talent in your industry!

At least for the sales & marketing part. 

Use Trade Shows to Scout Talent

I therefore always added a role up to our booth, that our company is searching for new talent including a list of reasons, why my company is the place to find your next job!

Furthermore, we invited our recruiters and HR staff to the trade shows.

But here’s important advice:

Your HR and recruiter team must clearly understand, what their objectives are.

They are not meant to stay at your booth, but quite the opposite:

Your recruiters must have to work through a list of exhibitors and visit as many booths as possible.

Then they should rate other sales reps and people they talk to.

Rate the talent they encounter:

(A) Very interesting talent.

(B) Potentially interesting.

(C) No match for your company.

Discuss that list with your HR one or two weeks after the trade show to see, if there is someone you should address.

And yes: 

They should keep quiet about their mission and listen carefully to what others have to say. 

35. Learn from Competitors

Yes, I’ll admit it:

I always tried to learn from competitors at trade shows.

Have a look at what your competitors do, what they offer, and how they attract customers to their booth. Understand how to get or stay ahead of them.

Learn from Your Competitors

If possible:

Talk to their sales reps to understand how they sell their products.

Ultimately: 

Get an idea of how to build, defend, or extend your competitive advantage.

36. Send out Emails the Very Same Day You Get the Business Cards

Follow Up Fast

Respond as fast as you can to all requests, and set appointments right at the show. 

Let your staff respond to business cards, the very same day! 

Or organize quick response time with your staff back home.

Sending a follow-up email out the very same day differentiates you from the dozens of other exhibitors bombarding their visitors the week after only.

And: 

It shows your prospects that you’re interested in working with them and that you serve your customers fast. 

You can always send another email to follow up again when the trade show is over.


(D) Growth Hacks After the Trade Show

37. Think of the Follow-Up as a Retargeting Campaign

Every online marketer knows that re-targeting is where the magic happens.

Re-targeting is the technique to address people that showed interest in your company or your products.

Think of your Follow-Ups as re-targeting campaign. 

A simple way to re-target trade show visitors is to send out emails.

Use these email templates from the blog post 5 Follow Up Email Templates for Trade Show Leads.

If you used Facebook or Google ads during the show (see the idea I explained before), re-target the visitors of your landing pages.

And make use of the information collected when scoring business cards as outlined before.

For for the better leads, the hot leads or even the leads you believe are still in the awareness stage, it may also make sense to call them up or arrange another meeting.

Follow Up Turns Business Cards into Money

Never send the same email to everyone!

38. Optimizing Trade Shows: Review the Learnings 1-2 Weeks Later with Your Team

Trade shows are like any other marketing tool:

If you want to make trade shows work well, you need to optimize your exhibitor performance time and again!

And part of this optimization process is to review the trade show 2-3 weeks later with your team.

Treat the trade show as a marketing funnel: Understand in which part the trade show contributes to your success.

Sales and Marketing Funnel

Discuss the results.

Discuss what went well and what you can improve in the future.

Make sure the marketing team members organizing trade shows take action on the next shows.

39. Book the Next Trade Show ASAP

If a trade show was successful, then book the next year as soon as you can.

Book the next trade show as fast as you can

Here is why:

  • Early birds often get lower prices.
  • You have more chances to get a better place.
  • You may improve your chances to network with the executive directors of the show (see my tip before).

So I recommend checking your trade show calendar and book your spot including your accommodation as soon as you can.

Have a look at the convention centers near you and their agenda. 

You may also use Google and search terms like:

  • largest trade shows in 2019
  • trade show near me
  • List of trade shows by industry
  • largest trade shows in us
  • industrial trade shows in usa
  • business to business trade shows
  • list of national trade shows
  • clothing trade shows
  • wholesale trade shows, etc.

If your product delivers value in many industries, I'd recommend checking the top 100 trade shows for those industries you can serve.

Then plan a simple visit first, as outlined above to check where it's worth investing in a booth.

 

Ok, these were my trade show ideas and growth hacks to make your next trade show insanely successful. 

If you like this podcast and want to learn more exclusive growth hacks head over to SalesGrowth.io and sign up for the Growth Newsletter.

It includes the growth tips, and growth hacks not shared everywhere else!

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Andrea Anderheggen

All the best, Andrea

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Your Comments

Now I want to turn it over to you.

Which of the 39 trade show growth hacks are you going to try first?

Are you going to sell ice-cream?

Or are you going to make a deal with other exhibitors to boost your email lists?

Let me know about your trade show or exhibitor experience by commenting below.

 

Andrea Anderheggen

Exclusive Growth Tips


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