Best Ways To Sell At Trade Shows And Fairs?
Nov 30, 2018

Best Ways To Sell At Trade Shows And Fairs?

This week while I was doing my readings and news round ups I stumbled across an article written by Clifford Chi over at HubSpot about strategies for selling products at trade shows, fairs, festivals, and other events such as these. Clifford wrote a simple and informative article that I thought had some great tips for marketing at conventions or large trade shows.   Clifford laid out five different strategies to employ as a business at these large events:
  1. Attract attendees with engaging entertainment or free unique merchandise
  2. Target specific audiences in attendance
  3. Sell an experience, not your product
  4. Make sure your credit card machine works
  5. Treat everyone who visits your booth like a paying customer
  I like Clifford’s list because all of his advice was actionable and something anyone running a booth or selling a product could do given a little bit of creativity. The thing about these trade shows is you are going to be in an absolute sea of businesses all vying for the attention of a finite amount of trade show attendees. Some of these businesses will be just like yours in what they sell and how they sell it, so competition for eyeballs and attention during the window of trade show hours is important and contentious. If you are attending a show or festival such as this, you would be doing your business a disservice if you did not do as best you can to stand out from the crowd.

My Corner

In my personal time away from work I am a youth soccer coach. Every January I attend the United Soccer Coaches National Coaching Convention in that year’s selected city. One of the big things featured at the convention each year is the business expo. Hundreds of soccer related businesses ranging from apparel to technology to leagues and many other things congregate in one area of the convention center with the goal of showcasing their products. From my personal first hand experience I can say with certainty that I do not go and visit every single booth. There just isn’t enough time to stop by every booth and give each one my undivided attention. I think it is reasonable to assume that the average convention goer does not stop by each booth either.   So which booths did I visit? Well upon reflection, I visited booths that handed out free things like goodie bags or stickers and I visited booths that had interactive displays that I could participate in. Just like Clifford spelled out in his article. Simple tiny things like a free pen or a free sticker was the difference between me stopping by one booth and walking past another.   One of the largest booths at the business expo was a giant interactive soccer shooting machine that one business had brought in to showcase their product. That one large booth had a huge crowd around it every day at the expo. Now sure, they probably spent a considerable amount of money on that spot and not every business has the luxury of being able to do that, but with a little bit of creativity and ingenuity that same framework can be followed by any business to attract more eyeballs. This is also ties in to Clifford’s third point about selling an experience and not a product. The example Clifford used was a organization called Charity Water created a booth where attendees could carry 40 lb jugs of water across a 50 yard platform just like African villagers do in their daily lives. In a trade show environment where there are hundreds of booths all trying to push their products, a genuine experience is going to stand out more and be much more memorable.
Clifford also brings up a great point in his article about targeting specific target audiences in attendance when designing your booth. He uses an example where Hubspot used a marketing ranking tool to rank and display the companies that would be in attendance at the convention. When the companies saw their names up on the rankings that peaked their interest and led in to some conversations about how they could improve their marketing. It is a nice twist and makes a lot of sense. If your product or business can, then finding a way to target a certain audience with special interests pertaining to your business is a brilliant way to get eyeballs to your booth. Not just eyeballs either, but eyeballs that are more likely to have a vested interest in your product or service.   Once you get the audience members to your booth that is where some of Clifford’s finer points ring true. Things like making sure your credit card machine works and treating everyone like they are a paying customer go a long way but they are also easy to gloss over. When you have a potential deal ready to be secured you have to make sure you have the means to complete the transaction right there. Otherwise that sale is most likely never going to happen. Treating each person as if they were a paying customer seems like a no-brainer, but when you are in a convention or trade show environment seeing and talking to hundreds of people, a lot of whom are not interested, it can become exhausting and it is easy to forget or slip up with your booth manner.   In total, most of Clifford’s tips seem obvious after reading, but I think in the moment preparing for a trade show they are actually things that you might not consider initially while your head is too busy spinning from getting everything in order. Take the time to consider your strategies going in to a trade show. Don’t just print out some business cards, set up a booth and call it a day. You’ll never maximize your booths full potential and if you’re not doing that is it really even worth the time? Giving small ideas such as Clifford’s careful consideration can go a really long way for your business.  
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