Every year contractors across the country sign up to attend a home show. If you are planning to be one of them, remember to do your homework before the event to make it really pay off. There is more involved than just standing on your feet for 2-3 days. As you plan your home show strategy, consider some of the following suggestions to help you make the most of your investment.
MEASURABLE OBJECTIVESBefore you reserve your space and write the check, decide what you want to accomplish. Have specific objectives in mind, and measure the results. For example:
Measure Foot Traffic - If the reason for going is simply to introduce a new product or service, then tracking the number of people who came to the booth is a reliable measure. If this is your goal, think about activities that will encourage people to stop in.
Measure Leads - If you are looking for more than just traffic, be sure to have a way to collect names. Consider a drop box or sign-in sheet. Encourage people to register by offering a chance to win a prize or a gift for signing up.
Track Sales - For 30 to 60 days after the event, track sales. Did any of the leads become sales. Consider making a special offer or distributing a coupon at the home show as a way of tying customers back to the show.
Two other measures that are less direct, but also helpful are:
Post-show Impressions - Consider surveying for perception to determine if you have raised the awareness of your company by participating in the show.
Track Existing Customers - Keep a count of existing customers who stopped by, perhaps with a friend or colleague. In pre-show communication, offer an incentive, like a free book or movie gift certificate, if they stop by with a friend. Have a special giveaway just for customers who stop by to say hello.
THERE ARE NO BAD LOCATIONS, ONLY BETTER ONESNot every location in the room is equal. Selecting a good location will help you make the most of your investment. So register early because the best spaces go fast.
Spaces That Do Work:
To the right of the door - As people enter any room, assuming there is no natural barrier, they will tend to migrate towards the right. If you want early visitors to see you, place your booth on the right side of the door.
Birds of a Feather - Consider placing your booth near your competitors. It may sound strange, but this clustering strategy works for McDonald’s and Burger King, and can work for you as well. These restaurants place themselves near other fast food restaurants so when people are hungry they know where to go. The same works in a home show. By locating near your competitors, you make it easier for customers to find you.
Corner Locations - Well-lit, high-traffic corners are good because you get the benefit of traffic converging from two directions. This may work against you if the room is very large, as people may not walk all the way to the very back, unless there is a lot of activity in the corner. Check to see who else will be located on your aisle.
Hall Perimeter Locations - People tend to walk around the room and may not walk every aisle. An outside location will work well if you follow the rule above. Be sure you are located near other interesting booths.
Spaces That Don’t Work:
Front and Center - People typically cluster in the front of the building as they come in, standing in front of your booth, decreasing visibility and traffic.
Near the Necessity - You do not want to be located near a public restroom, food station, or bar. People who are on the way to the restroom are usually on a mission and will not stop to talk. Despite what conference organizers tell you, proximity to the food and bar does not help. These stations will generate traffic, but the crowd that forms is more interested in food and beverage. They will cluster in front of your booth, blocking it from the people who really want to enter. At the same time, your space will be littered with empty plates and glasses.
Near columns, stairs, and obstacles - Review the layout chart carefully to be sure the visitors have a clear view of your booth and signage.
UPFRONT PLANNINGOnce your reservation is finalized, it is time to begin planning your promotion strategy. Be smart. Preplan before you walk in the doors. Below are a few suggestions to help you get started:
Create direct mail (print or e-mail) inviting your clients to stop by your booth.
Provide a link with home show details on your company’s Website. Work with home show organizers to get show logos for both printed and electronic communication.
Make phone calls to your clients personally inviting them to the event. Here again, prizes and incentives are a good way to encourage people to stop by.
If your company has a newsletter, promote the home show in the months leading up to the event. This will enhance employee awareness along with customer awareness.
Offer a prize, which attendees must register to win. This will allow you to collect names and contact information for your follow-up list.
As you design your booth - think simple. Large, eye-catching graphics, like a billboard on the highway, allow people passing by to grasp the key message, even if they don’t stop. Want to give more detail? Put it in a handout or better yet, a follow-up note.
DO'S AND DON'TS DURING THE SHOWLittle things can make a huge difference as you try to attract people into your booth. It is easy if you avoid a few common mistakes:
Don’t sit down. This sends the message that you are too tired to talk to them.
Don’t talk to colleagues. You can do this back at the shop. Potential customers may be unwilling to interrupt you to ask their question. They will just walk by.
Don’t line up in front of the booth so people cannot walk around you or see your sign. Also a few simple things will encourage people to stop in, ask questions, and sign up for your lists:
Always wear your name badge. People will feel more comfortable asking questions and talking to you if they know your name.
Smile and nod. Simple body language will encourage visitors to continue the conversation.
Stand slightly in the aisle in order to make eye contact and say hello.
AFTER THE SHOWThis is the most important part of your home show planning. As you walk out the door to attend the show, your follow-up plan should already be in place, ready to launch when you return.
Create your follow-up packets in advance, so after the show all you have to do is attach the label and postage.
While your competitors are still trying to figure out what to send, your prospects are already reviewing your information! Just as a reminder, follow-up packets should be in the hands of the attendee 3-5 days after the home show.
Before you return to business as usual, take a few minutes to review your trade show performance. Were you happy with the results? Why or why not. Think about what you could do differently, make notes while the show is still fresh in your memory. And ask your employees for feedback as well.
Publication date: 05/21/2007