Startups often lack the credibility and legitimacy required to convince customers. Trade show appears as an easy way to face these prospects and demo the efficiency of a product, even though it is among the most expensive and complex marketing & sales strategies. This is why, as a startup founder, you must carefully plan early on for your next trade show and pick the right strategy and tools to reach your goals.
Here are the top 10 reasons why you should upgrade your trade show strategy:
1. You can’t be a tech startup and use pen&paper
It doesn't matter how loud you claim being a tech startup, you will lose all credibility if you take notes in your booth with a pen & a notebook. Upgrade your tools right away and record your prospects details digitally – it is not just about credibility, it is also about efficiency.
2. Better planning
You cannot dedicate three complete days of your busy schedule being at a show and not have planned anything ahead. Pick the right booth location, design catchy decorations, arrange additional lighting, plan a few meetings in advance, inform your friends, partners and customers you will be there, get your samples ready for demos, have a backup plan in case things go wrong, etc.
3. More sharing
Have all your marketing collateral (flyers, leaflets, brochures, catalogs, etc.) uploaded to the cloud and have a list of links ready for easy sharing. Dropbox and Google Drive offer you sufficient free space to have all your files on the cloud. Have some QR codes ready to make it easy for your visitors.
4. Lower expenses
A better strategy means lower expenses. Make good use of "early bird" prices: confirm your booth early on, book your electrical sockets, furniture and internet a couple of months in advance. If your event is abroad, get plane tickets, hotel rooms and samples shipment ready, you could save hundreds of dollars easily!
5. Better communication
Trade shows are not just about what happens at the event – the weeks before the exhibition count as well. Update your team's email signature with information about your booth number, inform your partners, customers, friends and family, post announcements on Social Media, etc. Traffic drives traffic: if you can have a small flow of people you know come to your booth it will tickle people's curiosity and bring you additional visitors.
6. Better lead capture
The two most important resources for a startup are time and money – this is exactly what you are about to spend in large amounts. If your objective is to generate new business, you will need to capture leads. Do it the right way! Collecting business cards is a bad idea: you won't remember anything about their owners. Take complete digital notes including who they are, what they want, why they need it, do they seem serious, etc. Add as many details as possible and use a business cards scanner to make it faster: Camcard can be a good solution to achieve that.
7. Less resources
If you get all your leads in a digital format immediately, you will save lots of resources. You will save time (no need to spend days trying to read your handwritten notes and re-enter all details in a excel sheet) and money (no need to employ a part-timer to sort out all your leads). If you had carefully budgeted your expenses ahead of time, you should not overspend and therefore save quite some money as well. You can use Excel or OpenOffice to manage your budget and record your expenses.
8. Faster follow-up
The key to success at trade shows lies in the quality of your leads capture and your ability to follow them quickly and thoroughly. If your leads were captured digitally, you will have no difficulty sending a follow-up email within 48h. Keep in mind buyers have talked to tens of people, visited hundreds of booths and seen thousands of products – chances are they won't remember you after 48h. Make it count by being fast! If you can, automate the process with email templates – you can use SendInBlue, as efficient but much cheaper than MailChimp! However, remember that a customized message always feels better than an auto-response. Also make use of a CRM to manage your sales funnel efficiently. HubSpot offers a good and free basic CRM.
9. Better data
Having a good trade show strategy and being prepared also means you will be able to capture data. Data is essential if you want to estimate your results and be objective about the outcome. You can't exhibit at trade shows just because "others do it too". You must make data-driven decisions. Get a clear picture of your expenses, number of leads captured, contracts signed after the show and gross revenue generated within 6 months after the show. Such information will enable you to make data-driven decisions, compare your events and know where you should put your focus.
10. You save the planet!
While this might not be your main concern, trade shows waste tons and tons of paper each year. All the lead cards, brochures, flyers, leaflets, catalogs that are printed, distributed then trashed represent a huge waste and a burden for our planet. Early planning and good exhibition strategy will enable you to do digital lead capture and digital marketing material distribution, reducing your use for paper. And don't worry, it isn't only great for the planet! It will reduce your expenses (less printing, less logistics) and increase your visitors' satisfaction (no-one wants to carry tons of pamphlets around a trade show).
Exhibiting at trade shows is not an easy task. It isn't just about showing up on the event day and returning to the office. There are plenty of elements to consider and plan for and your job doesn't stop after the show – following-up is the most important part of your job and all your efforts are wasted if you do not manage this step correctly. And keep in mind: plan your trade show 6 months in advance if you want to be in control and remain on top of things!
Guest post from Julien Rio
Julien Rio is the Founder and CEO of myfairtool, which offers a complete solution to manage every aspect of your show, from early planning and budgeting, appointments scheduling, setting targets, managing marketing collateral, scanning business cards & capturing leads, following-up and monitoring results, all integrated into one system. As a startup, this could be your best chance to reduce your burden and expenses while increasing your outcome.