Setting business goals in advance goes a long way to maximizing your time and return on investment at these events.
Our industry has a few tradeshows every year, and it’s a big investment. Who do you send? How much is the registration fee? Are there accommodation and travel costs? How can we measure the return on investment? It can be overwhelming, not to mention exhausting, with all that walking and chatting. At the end of it all, is it worth it? I recently spoke with Nikki Pett of Sigma Promotions, an expert in strategic tradeshow promotions, and here are a few tips for getting the most out of your next tradeshow attendance.
Go to your next tradeshow with a specific game plan (find three new products, learn about two services that will improve shop efficiency, source two training courses for technicians, etc). Most tradeshows publish a list of vendors so you can go through it ahead of time. Be specific about why you’re attending: are you finding a new product, service, tool, or are you attending the training and development workshops, making contact with suppliers, etc? Look at your team and discern who might be the best one to attend the show. Would your service advisor benefit from learning about the differences in the quality of parts at the tradeshow? Is your technician the right person to talk to the equipment representatives, since they’ll be the one using the product? You’re going to make the final buying decision, but this is a good way to get your staff’s input where they’ll be exposed to various options. Setting specific goals doesn’t mean that you won’t visit other booths. It’s just one way to help you manage your time when you’re there.
“Setting specific goals doesn’t mean that you won’t visit other booths. It’s just one way to help you manage your time when you’re there.”
Don’t underestimate how many business cards to bring. You’ll want to give them to vendors and industry peers, and tradeshows often have door prizes that you might enter into by submitting your card. Have a budget in mind of how much you want to spend at a show, as some vendors will have in-show specials that you can take advantage of right away. Always be ready to do business!
Debrief and follow up
Spend some time after the show to go over materials that you’ve picked up. Sort through the business cards that you’ve collected and follow up within one or two weeks. Yes, the tradeshow rep should follow up with you—after all, don’t they want your business? But life gets busy and things slip through the cracks. I don’t want my shop left behind just because there was a gap in following up, even though I’m the prospective buyer. If your staff attended the show, setting goals is especially important as it’s easier for you to follow up with them and decide whether their time was worth it.
Vendors put a lot of effort into setting up a booth and drawing you in. Be intentional and stay focused. Resist touching and looking at all the bright, shiny stuff (I’m also talking to myself here!). There’s a real time and monetary cost to attending a tradeshow. As much as we love seeing and networking with industry peers, at the end of the day we want to make the most out of these shows.