It can cost thousands of dollars to stand a booth at a tradeshow – a simple 10’x10′ cage staffed in great hope of landing a new client or two. But for the overwhelming majority of those exhibiting, the cost is never covered by the activity, leads, and sales generated by the effort.
I’m not down on having a tradeshow booth, depending on the show and events in your company, a booth can be a great leverage point for publicity and creating buzz. But often a booth isn’t necessary and not having one at every show can ease your ability to attend more shows and extend your brand through a few guerilla activities. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Get a Suite at the Hotel – Get a suite at the hotel hosting the tradeshow or one nearby the main venue. Use the room for one of the people in your party to sleep at night and turn it into a conference room during the day. Ask the hotel to remove some of the furniture if need be or replace some furniture with a small conference table and chairs. Stock the refrigerator with refreshments.
Host client and prospect meetings in the room. You can even host small workshops and seminars, built around the conference schedule.
I’ve used this tactic many times. A really nice suite, with a terrific view and a great feel is often surprisingly inexpensive and effective.
- Work the Floor – Network the exhibit floor and learn as much as you can from every booth. Don’t hesitate to visit your competitor´s booth and ask questions about their products, services, and market experience. You never know who is in their booth and what they’ll tell you. I was in a competitor’s booth a few years ago at SuperCOM and had an Engineer answer every question I could think to ask about they latest product. Incredible!
Look for partnerships and JVs. You may be able to exchange leads with others at the show. If you find a booth that is a prospect, introduce yourself and ask who in their company you should speak to about your offering…get leads from the people in the booths and follow-up using them as the referring party. This works!
- Work the Workshops – Attend as many workshops as you can and look for leads as well as information. I keep two ears open in every workshop I attend – one for good information from the presenter and one for prospects in need of my solution. Look for leads by the questions asked…approach people after the workshop.
- Promote Your Attendance – It’s surprising how many companies never tell their prospects that they’ll be attending a tradeshow. Attending a tradeshow is a great opportunity to speak to a prospect, update them on your activities, and ask for an appointment. Tell them you have a meeting room and would like to speak with them. It’s so easy and effective… yet too often overlooked.
BTW…Follow-up with your prospects after the show, even if you didn’t meet with them or they weren’t there. Update them on what you did and learned at the show. Again, it’s another reason to talk to your prospects.
- If you really feel you need to be in a booth, but don’t have the budget for the show, an option may be to partner on a booth. Go to the show with a distributor or approach a company with a complimentary product and ask if you can share a booth. As long as your booth buddy is complimentary to your offering this is a great strategy to have the best of two worlds – a booth at half the cost!
The bottom-line from me is you don’t need a booth at every show to get something out of it. Promote your attendance, schedule meetings with prospects in advance.
One last thought from me on this subject and then I’ll turn it over to you. When you have a booth, don’t take too few people. I’ve been with companies that staff a show with a bare minimum, just enough people to stand watch over the booth. What happens in this case is you never get enough out of the show – you only get what comes to you. The show happens outside of your booth…be sure you’re part of it.
Okay, what’s obvious that I overlooked? What works best for you at a boothless show?