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Trade shows are based on face-to-face interactions and can be much more valuable to building brand recognition and expanding distribution than targeted email, phone, and social media campaigns, but there is a lot of energy that goes into planning a successful trade show. No matter how funny or beautiful your team members are, you will be sorely disappointed if you think that standing behind a booth and handing out samples is all you have to do to generate solid leads.
Modern day trade show marketing and lead generation need to be comprehensive and utilize all available tools and resources. Pre, live and post event social media presence, targeted email campaigns, pre-scheduled meetings, focused communication programs, purposeful sales literature - these are just a few of the ways which you can generate leads at a trade show. The real trick is how to successfully follow up on the leads you generate.
Getting your winery, brewery or distillery ready for a trade show means preparing your team with a clear mission, communicating your message across multiple channels and developing proper training programs on how to convert leads into buyers. Here is a clear outline on how you can prepare for your next tradeshow.
Prepare your Communication
The first step to determining how to best present your company at your next trade show is to list your strengths, determine your goals and develop messages that will resonate with your targeted customers. Whether you are attending the trade show to build recognition or find new distribution partners, you need to strike a chord of high notes that your brand truly represents. Some good company traits that trade will focus on are:
• Superior account services and programs;
• Up-front cost savings;
• Premium ranges;
• Competitive Pricing;
• Large marketing budget;
• Designer packaging;
• Experienced staff and reps who understands successful distribution strategy;
• Large local sales network of loyal customers.
These strengths can demonstrate that your beverage company is set above the competition and should be bundled into easy to understand language which can be delivered effortlessly across multiple channels by your team members. Here are a few ideas to keep your message simple:
• Use customer testimonials;
• Write a list of short catch phrases and short descriptive sentences to give to your team;
• Design strategy flow charts based on potential visitor profiles (buyer, media, consumer, potential partners, etc.)
Train your team
Take your catch phrases, flow charts, and visitor profiles and train your team on how to fluidly handle the various scenarios that they will be presented with. You want your team to be able to seamlessly pitch your product. They should understand how to listen and ask questions so that they frequently find themselves able to offer your product as the best option to fill a gap in your buyer’s portfolio.
Propagate your Message
Once you have given your team the proper attention and outlined your game plan, work with them to develop multiple ways in which to communicate your brand strengths. Develop social, email, phone and traditional marketing campaigns dedicated to your trade show attendance. The earlier you start and the further you push your message, the easier it will be for you to hammer home your sales pitch when you are talking with visitors at your booth. Do your background research on who it is you want to connect with at the event and why.
Social - Research and connect with as many attendees as you can. Buyers, VIPs, media, fellow and competing brands – these are the accounts you need to be following and interacting with so that you can stay informed and network properly leading up to the event. Keep yourself top-of-mind with engaging content and soft reminders of what you have to offer your potential partners and customers.
Email – Target important visitors that you will benefit speaking with at your trade show and send them personalized emails inviting them to meetings at your booth during the trade show and dinners and events after trade show hours.
Phone – Sometimes phone calls are just the personal touch that is needed to secure a meeting with a VIP, so gauge your list of important visitors accordingly. Some of them might be email friendly, some not, but whatever the case be ready to call on your most important prospects and extend an invitation for them to meet with you (incentives work best.)
Traditional Marketing – Clearly identify the objective of attending your trade show and generate a plan and sales literature that accurately markets your brand to your target audience. Use your marketing expertise to bring simple (but clever) gimmicks to the trade show to make your brand memorable. Tablets, displays, food samples, merchandising, etc. – these little extras can generate more traffic to your booth, so use them wisely in order to generate awareness about your brand. The idea is to show your potential buyers that you understand what it is that sells, whether it is at the trade show or in the retail world.
If you and your team have developed your plan together and have been working hard towards generating proper awareness about your attendance, then the event should be chalk block full of valuable meetings and visitors dropping by your booth. The hardest part will be taking good notes on who you met, feeling out which meetings went best and prioritizing your follow ups. Here are some absolutely essential things to remember about your tradeshow:
Don’t oversell, over give. The more you give, the easier it for you to keep your visitor’s attention. Focus on naturally dropping your skill set in casual conversation over drinks and food rather than pushing your strengths on them as soon as they arrive.
Your product is only as good as your sales skills. Treat every visitor as though you are at a meeting. Every elevator pitch has demonstrated elements of sales, marketing, and distribution – your trade show presentation should be no different. Be casual, be gracious and give them every reason to purchase your product.
Always have purchase orders on hand. Even if can’t get buyers to fill them out, you’ll want to be able to send them away with your literature, your sales order and any other merchandise you can convince them to take with.
Profile the visitor. Always try and know as much possible about the person on the other side of the booth as you can and use it to your advantage. If you’ve been doing your homework, you’ll know where their company is and what kind of wine, beer or spirit they prefer and why.
Always give and get business cards. If there is heavy traffic or you are liable to forget about who your visitor was, quickly jot what it is that they impressed upon you and how you will be able to personally (something they said or a joke you made, etc.) follow-up with them in a notebook or on the card itself.
The trade show doesn’t start at 9:00 am and doesn’t end at 5:00 pm. You need to be actively seeking out possible leads (whether they are media, buyers, consumers, or partners) over breakfast, lunch, dinner and into the night. This means already having meetings set or finding out what events, hotels, restaurants, and bars are likely to be visited by event attendees.
Always have an end goal ready to deliver. Signed Purchase orders, scheduled follow up meetings at their main office or, at the very least, a personal business card should always be your goal. It might not feel natural the first time, but during every meeting make sure that you always ask for one of the above.
Follow-ups are a skill in themselves. Converting leads means accurately assessing each meeting and understanding the strengths and weaknesses you have to work with in your follow-up. The timing and method of a successful approach are often overlooked by overzealous brand owners, but it is important to understand that taking little steps makes the big leap easier.
When you do finally make the call (or email if you have determined it will have a higher chance of success) you want to be able to easily reference your meeting with a personal prompt. Remind them of your strengths and tell them of the measures you have taken to address any shortcomings they might have voiced. Always believe in yourself and conclude your conversation by mentioning that you will send a follow-up email with a purchase order and be ready to ask them for a future personal follow-up if you can't convince them to take you on.
Properly preparing for your trade show gives you and your team the ability to take full advantage of the investment you made in your exhibitor's fee, so take your time BEFORE and figure out how you can effectively present your brand to the people who matter most.