Having a booth is a great way to increase the likelihood of sales, but all of the principles of networking still apply. You are promoting your business, but you are also out there making valuable connections that may lead to sales or future referrals down the line. If you do decide to take the next step in networking, consider these tips for having a successful experience!
Set your goals ahead of time!
You can get a lot out of an event, but you have to have a good idea of what you want to get out of it. Do you want to collect 50 random business cards, or do you want to really talk to people and end up with 5 genuinely hot leads? Perhaps you want to make a sale that night, or set up a meeting that you are confident will turn into a sale. Maybe you just want to impress some industry leaders and make strong connections with them. Whatever it may be, you should have some way of measurement so when you leave you can know you if experienced a successful evening.
You could just decide you want to treat the event as a market research opportunity. Ask verbal questions, or get people to fill out a short survey to enter in your prize draw. You can use paper surveys as well as surveys on a tablet for entry into two separate draws! Ask attendees industry-specific information to give you an idea about the marketplace, or business-specific things to find out which logos, banners, website, or tagline they respond better to. There is a great value to this kind of access to your target market, so don’t waste it!
Promote the event as though it were your own!
This is a great time for you to reconnect with old customers or potential customers, as well as business partners or other associates. Don’t leave the marketing completely to the event management team and just hope that your old connections will learn about the event and feel compelled to go! Increase the chances of gaining more leads by helping to spread the word. Use your blog, newsletter, and social media to advertise your attendance at the event. Mention any on-site promotions, raffles, prize draws, or door prizes that you are giving away. Even better if you can run a giveaway for a free ticket to the event (that you either purchase yourself, or receive from the event manager, as they often give more than one free ticket to booth sponsors). Make sure to tell everyone to bring a friend! Also, keep an eye out for the other sponsors and vendors that may be promoting the event, and cross-promote with them to give your audience even more reason to attend.
Connect with fellow vendors and event hosts, as well as the event sponsors.
Before the event be sure to make the rounds and meet everyone who is setting up their booths or setting up for an event. It makes a good impression if you prepare a special goody bag or treat for them. It can be as simple as a candy bar with your logo sticker on it, or a little bag with your brochure, business card, a pen, and a cookie. Not only will you be making new connections, but you are also likely opening the door for them to refer attendees to you through out the night, now that they know who you are and what you do. Not only that, but who knows what referrals they may send you way at a later time. It pays to connect with influencers!
Build Brand Awareness
It goes without saying that you should have complete branding – banners, table cloths, brochures, business cards, and even your clothing or fashion pieces. What more can you do to get attention and be remembered at an event?
Start by standing in front of your booth, smiling, and making eye contact. People usually feel comfortable approaching friendly-looking booth sponsors. Invite people to sign up for your door prize, take a snack or swag item, and ask them how they are enjoying the event. Remember that running a booth does not mean it’s time to become a salesman. It’s all about making the event attendees feel comfortable and at-ease, so ask questions and don’t just pitch your business.
Interactive displays are always a great way to get people to have more interest in your booth. If you have products, let people pick them up and try them out. If you are service-oriented, prepare a slideshow on a large monitor, or on a tablet that people can pick up and flip through. Conversation pieces are also great. Consider Abacus, the Accountapotamus hippo mascot, or Gerome the Giraffe from Creative Equilibria! These are great ways to encourage people to tweet or Instagram a picture and increase your business visibility! Make sure your handles and the event hashtag are somewhere handy.
You can also get more people to your booth with food! Make sure that the event doesn’t require a food permit of some sort, and then plan on bringing chocolate, cookies, cupcakes, or other treats that will pull people in. Also remember that if you are giving away swag, it should be relevant to the event attendees. The more likely people are to use the item, the better you will be achieving brand awareness.
And don’t forget the follow-up!
Connect on LinkedIn right away, and have a newsletter ready to go out the next day. Ask your newsletter subscribers to like your Facebook page, but also make sure this newsletter is knock-their-socks off great, chock full of valuable information that will impress them and ensure they want to stay connected with you to continue to receive such great tips and tricks to grow their business.