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How To Increase Exhibition Leads

Posted By: Stephen James

The whole purpose of attending an exhibition is usually to get quality leads, and a lot of companies book stands without having a clear strategy to achieve this. Here are 12 tips to increase the quantity, quality and conversion rate of leads at your next show.

1) Location, Location, Location
It is self evident that the more footfall that walks past your stand the more people you can engage with. You don't want your stand to be at the end of an isle that does not go anywhere, you want to be in a spot that most visitors walk past at least once. I once did a show where there were two staircases to the main show floor, they put me at the bottom of one of the staircases which meant I was only catching half the footfall. The next time I did the show I got them to put me in the main hall on the circular route everyone walks around and I spoke to lots more people. You are paying good money to attend shows, so don't let them position you in any old place or be afraid to push for a optimum spot.

2) Data Capture
Don't be the stand that just hands out literature. Follow up is critical to converting show leads to sales, and you need the people's data in order to do this. Also, and the bigger your marketing database gets the more effective your campaigns will be generally. So make sure you capture the data of every worthwhile lead you chat to.

3) Automate Follow Ups
When people join your database put them into a workflow so that the communications are sent to them automatically. The reason automation is important is that you want to hit your leads with the right messages at the right time. For example, you may want to hit them with emails or SMS messages during the show, or schedule it for 10am on the day after the show when they get back to their office and you are fresh in their minds. You can play around with sending different communication workflows at different shows (A/B testing) so you can see what workflows lead to most conversions. This approach also saves a lot of time - let's face it, after spending a few days at an exhibition you will have enough emails and work piled up at the office without having to remember to email all the leads as well.

4) Bring The Right Staff
I was once doing magic on a stand for a big company and pulling in footfall for them to chat to. One of the staff members was an awesome salesman, he was just great at stopping people and pulling them into sales conversations in a likeable way. There were other people on the stand who just stood around and their body language screamed "I am a little bored and don't really want to be here". Walk around any show and you will see stands with people sitting on chairs looking bored. When you pick the team for your stand don't just drag random employees out the office, take the extroverts and top salesman who are amazing at engaging with people and promoting your products.

5) Scrap Rubbish Giveaways
Walk around any show and there will be loads of giveaways. Occasionally I will have a client who has a really effective giveaway that actually causes people to stop on the stand. However 99% of the time the giveaways are boring things like pens, rubbers, socks etc. These things get thrown away, lost and forgotten. Your budget should go into things that mean you chat to more people and capture the data of more leads. Budget is better spent on hooks and incentives, which brings us onto the next tip.

6) Have Hooks & Incentives
A hook or incentive is something that you can use to persuade people to stop at your stand or engage with your team. A classic one is a coffee machine, once you get chatting to a potential client offering them coffee is a great way to make them stay and chat to you. Other examples include VR games, mobile bars (people love a free wine or beer) or a sports car people can sit-in. Having the hook or incentive by itself is not enough though, you still need to be engaging with people who walk past to entice them with the hook or incentive.

7) Have An Effective Marketing Goal
One of the first exhibitions I did was unsuccessful, it was for a fashion brand and they wanted people to browse their clothing line. People I stopped would walk around the stand, have a browse and leave. This was a valuable lesson for me, there needs to be a effective marketing goal and people just browsing the clothing products was not one. An effective goal would have been "Engage suitable fashion buyers in product conversations and capture their data". With this goal I could have then used magic to connect with fashion buyers, introduced the buyers to the sales people, then these sales people could have shown these buyers the product lines relevant to their market segment and then taken their contact details for follow ups. This was a valuable lesson for me and now whenever I chat to a new client I always make sure there are clear marketing goals.

8) Don't Over Or Under Spend On Stand Design
We have all seen those stands where there is a crappy pop-up banner behind a table. Now in some places this works fine (I have a popup banner at wedding shows), but if you are at a trade show with clients from multinational companies and competing with stands that have huge marketing budgets, you need to at least make sure your stand doesn't look bad in comparison. On the other side of the coin, don't blow huge budgets on the stand design either. Sometimes, I walk past stands at shows where the exhibitor has obviously spent £50k-£100k+ on a huge space with an amazing stand, but they could have spent half that on a cheaper stand design (that still looks great) and engaged with the same amount of leads by using hooks, incentives and the right sales team. This significant saving could have been used for other revenue generating activities.

9) Focus On Quality Over Quantity
Another important question I ask my clients is who their target customer is. When I engage footfall I only bring people in who I have checked qualify as potential customers. Some companies will employ agency staff who will capture the data on anybody and everybody just to hit a target, and this is OK if you want to just play the numbers game. But most of my clients would rather have 50 leads of people who are potential customers than 150 people who are random and would not necessarily lead to a sale. Focus on quality leads!

10) Make Sure Stand Staff Know What To Do
Every employee on your stand should know what the goals for the show are (tip 7) and who the target customer is (tip 9). So make sure you tell them who you are targeting, what the key message is and what process you want each lead to go through (this is usually sales chat and then data capture). The staff members need to know that they are there is achieve a purpose and how to do it. Just putting a employee on the stand and saying to "talk about the products" is not enough if you want to maximise leads and conversions.

11) Track The ROI
Most managers I chat to wish that they could track ROI on exhibitions more accurately. Because of the nature of shows it is impossible to track the full impact of attending, but you can do some limited metrics to get an idea. When you capture data at shows make sure the show you met each lead at is logged on the database, whenever you take an online order have a field where the customer can put where they heard about you and whenever you chat to a new lead on the phone ask them the same question. If you procedurise capturing this information at as many touch points with the customer as possible you will then be able to query your database to get an rough picture of the ROI from past shows.

12) Most Importantly - Have A Magician
So obviously I have an alternative agenda with this tip, if you have a good trade show magician on your stand it can increase the amount of leads you engage with by 20%-60% (assuming there is at least a half decent footfall). My approach is very simple - throughout the show I engage people walking past the stand, win them over using magic, qualify them and then connect them with your sales team if they are potential customers.

If you have an upcoming show, I would love to chat with you about how I can use magic to help you significantly increase the amount of leads. To get in touch with me please email stephen@stephenjamesmagic.uk

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