Why sales are just one piece of the trade show puzzle.

In my years as an event producer and exhibit manager, I’ve worked with a number of different types of exhibitors and clients.  In the more corporate environments, trade show exhibitors may or may not have actual product on site.  These trade show participants are, in most cases,  building relationships for future business development and strategic partnerships.

As the creator of the Victoria Yoga Conference, we host a two or three day trade show, and work mainly with small entrepreneurial businesses.  The principles for success are the same, whether you are a solopreneur or a multi-million dollar corporation, and I can not emphasize the benefits of building relationships enough . . . When we start businesses, we put a long range plan in place.  Small businesses, participating in a trade show must factor more than the amount of sales produced in the two or three days into their goals, and how they measure success at a trade show.

This summer, I wandered through the Vernon Farmers’ Market, primarily to pick up fruits and vegetables for my vacation week in Kelowna.  While I was there I met a vendor, we engaged in conversation, I shared some possible locations to sell her products on Vancouver Island, and some marketing ideas.  I spent $15 that day – not a lot.of money.  But… that conversation is going to translate into $100’s of dollars in sales for her.  Plus the item that I bought was a set of three that I then gifted to three different people who now know about her products.    She gave me an even better gift, the gift that spurred this post.  She said,  “I debated about coming here today but know now that I’ve met you, that it was a good decision.” .  She gets it – the value of the relationships we build is such an important part of our business.

Now, I get that every dollar invested needs to count towards our end goal, but I urge you to consider the following when you are setting your goals, and not make it all about the number of units you sell at your booth.

  1. Get yourself out there – show what kind of person you are, share your values, have some fun.  Meet some people you would not have met before – you might do business with them, you might strike a friendship and do business with their friends three years from now.
  2. Get input – demo future products, ask questions and get direct feedback on what your customers and future customers want and need.  Using this time for product development ideas is invaluable and can really pay off in the long run.  Some ideas you might want to try are having a mini-survey on a prize draw form, having a member of your team stand in the aisle with a clipboard with a few questions, have a ‘which scent do you like better for our Summer release’ testing station, etc.  Just simply asking people what their needs are, and really listening could be your next big thing!  Make sure you get their name and email address so that you can follow up to thank them, offer them a coupon or discount for future items.
  3. Increase brand awareness – you are networking and connecting with direct and indirect customers that share your values and interests. Use the time to build relationships not only in person but via social networking, showing you are at the event, sharing what you are doing, but also those around you.  Use the event hashtags and people will find you, even if they are not at the event themselves.   For those you meet in person, ensure you have marketing materials, including business cards to exchange so they can follow up and purchase with you afterwards.
  4. Build relationships for collaboration – people do business with people, not companies, and if they get to know you and begin to like and trust you, then an online (social networking, email etc.) relationship is much easier afterwards.
  5. Look for ways that you can support others.  I have referred teachers and studios to media partners and product suppliers to studios and stores, creating win-win situations for everyone.  Be the person that people think of and they will also remember your business or product.
  6. Collect contact information and make a note of the conversation you had with someone – be sure to follow up with them afterwards. We have all heard ‘the fortune is in the follow up’ but many people don’t go this extra step…be the person who does.