This spring I’ve been to a few trade shows, and this week I’m heading to the Amerimold show. As I go from booth to booth talking to people, I ask them, “What’s new?” Sometimes they say something like “Oh, nothing much. We bought three new presses,” or “We just added three seats of new software.” They say this like it’s really nothing that anyone needs to know.
When I ask them if they have a prepared press release on their new equipment or company expansion, they give me a blank stare. Okay, so no press release because you fail to see the importance of getting the word out.
If you’re going to spend several thousand dollars on a booth, then spend time and more money getting staff to the show and manning the booth, you need to plan how you’re going to promote your company at the show, and generally, to your customers and potential customers.
Why promote your attendance at the trade shows at which you exhibit? Well, some of your customers just might be planning to come to the trade show, especially if the show is in their market niche such as packaging, medical, automotive, etc. If they know you’re there, you can get a personal visit with them, and show them that you’re really into their market.
Even if your customers and potential customers aren’t going to the particular show in which you are exhibiting, they need to know that you’re out there; that you’re proactive in putting your company’s name into the markets you serve.
Many trade shows offer ways such as Constant Contact that you can send invitations to your customers and potential customers, so take advantage of that. Your customers will realize that they’re doing business with a top-notch company that thinks about business growth. And potential customers just might want to get to know your company better.
Check out the Exhibitors section of the trade show you’re attending. Typically there is a section where you can post a press release so that when magazine editors check out the press releases of exhibitors, you’re there. Don’t worry if you don’t have a big announcement. Create a release that announces who you are, what you do, why you’re at the show, and what you can do for people who stop by your booth. Can you discuss a new project with them? Have a give-away of some sort for those who register with your company? Something is better than nothing, which means you could spend a lot of time standing around in your booth talking to yourself.
Put press kits or your brochures in the press room. Most trade show have a nice press room where you can place your company’s information – a CD or thumb drive is a nice format, but if you use those, make sure they are attached to a postcard or flyer of some type so people will know what they’re getting. But, a small brochure or a page or two printed on letter-head paper gives the media a quick way to see who you are and what you’re about and where your booth is located.
Business cards are still important. This might be the electronic age, but everyone still has business cards. Don’t even ask me how many times I’ve asked someone I’ve just interviewed for an article for their business card, only to be told they are either a) out of cards (“I didn’t bring enough and ran out the first day.”) or b) they forgot their cards completely.
In fact, carrying business cards wherever you go is always a good thing. You never know who you’re going to run into on the show floor, or in the restaurant that evening or in the airport. I’ve met so many people in these casual places that have turned out to have great stories about their companies. Grabbing a business card so that I can call them when I have time is a great way to reconnect with them later.
Never underestimate the value of preparing your promotional activities when getting ready for a trade show. It makes it easier on the media who cover these shows if your information is out there, ready to be picked up and reviewed. Most of us don’t have time to hunt down everyone and ask them “what’s new.” But if we do, don’t say, “Nothing much. We just added three 500-ton presses to handle the $3 million in new business we got.”