Trade Shows–Traction Channel #16

Trade Shows give you more direct interaction with customers, partners, and press in a short period of time than most other traction channels. This channel has the potential to provide traction in a matter of days. Trade Shows are a chance for companies to show off their products in person. These events are often exclusive to industry insiders, and are designed to foster interactions between vendors and their prospects. Early on, you can use this traction channel to build interest in (and demand for) what you’re building. As you get more established, you can use trade shows as an opportunity to make a major announcement, sell big clients, seal a partnership or as an integral part of your sales funnel. Picking and Preparing for Trade Shows Almost every industry has large number of trade shows: the tough part is deciding which ones to attend. The best way to decide whether to attend an event is to visit as a guest and do a walkthrough the year before. Attending as a guest allows you get a feel for an event without straining your budget. If this isn’t possible, the next best option is to get the opinions of people who have attended previous events–how crowded was it? How high was the quality of attendees? Would you go again? Cost vs. results?  These are important questions that will help you decide if an event is right for your startup. Brad Feld, a partner at Foundry Group, suggests following these steps when deciding which events to pick: (from Traction by Weinberg and Mares)

  1. Set your goals for attending trade shows this year. For example, are you trying to get press, lure investors, land major customers, work out significant partnerships, or something else? Your goals should drive your decisions about which events to attend and how to approach them. Write down all events in your industry.
  2. Next, evaluate each event in the context of your goals. In particular, think about the type of interactions you want and whether these interactions take place at each event. For example, if you need to have long conversations with prospects to do customer development, seek out an event with an intimate atmosphere. If your goal is to interact with as many potential customers as possible, a crowded event would be a better fit.
  3. Figure out how much you can spend per year and allocate this budget by quarter. This allows you to align events on your schedule with your budget while also giving you flexibility to reallocate in later quarters if company goals change.
  4. Finally, work backwards to see if attending a particular event makes sense given your quarterly budget. For example, let’s say you are attending Traction Trade Show and your goal is to increase sales. When you receive the attendee list from the conference organizer (ask for it if it is not provided), you see that 10,000 people are going. However, only 30% of those people fit the profile of a potential customer, so your total number of people to target is 3,000 people. If it will cost you $10,000 to attend this trade show and the price of your product is $5,000, it may make sense for you to attend. That is, your trip will be profitable around the third sale with these numbers, so then the decision comes down to what other opportunities you have right now. However, if you are selling a  $50 product, you probably won’t sell enough to make attending this trade show worth your while.
TradeShow Preparation Goal of Preparation-To determine how successful you will be. This is one of the few times during the year where nearly everyone in your industry is in one place; you’ll want to be at your best. To prepare:
  • Make a list of key attendees you want to meet at the trade show.
  • Schedule meetings with them before you attend the event.
  • Send well-researched emails explaining what your company does and how the technology could benefit the people you want to meet.  Attached a one-pager with more information about the company.
  • Determine where you want to be located on the show floor. If your goal is to reach many attendees (as opposed to targeting a few high-value prospects), you need visibility. That means you want a booth in a well-trafficked location and a marketing plan to get people to take notice.
  • When constructing your trade-show budget, take the cost of your booth and multiply by 2. For instance, if your booth costs $10,000, then a bare bones budget for your trade-show should be $20,000.
Trade Show Tactics at the show Goal during the Trade show-To have great booth traffic, substantial leads, and new industry connections
  • No matter what your location, you will want to put together an impressive display. Having a big banner that says what you do, nice-looking booth materials (tables, backdrops, etc.), business cards, and a compelling demo are the basics . If that seems like a lot to put together , there are many vendors that help companies create trade show materials.
  • Be creative, but calculating how much you spend on advertising give aways. Much ends up in the trash. Make sure whatever you do gives you time to explain or demonstrate your product selling.
  • Take your best people, founders, marketers and engineers to specialist trade-shows for one day each to learn from the competition and to meet potential users and thought leaders in the field.
  • Go to where the coffee and drinks are being served and the crowd is milling around, strike up a conversation and it there is interest, invite them back to your booth for a discussion and demonstration.
  • Have an inbound and outbound strategy for your booth. Structure the inside of your booth (including what you say) around your particular goals. Include a strong call to action on every item (e.g. business card) you give out.  Don’t wait for visitors to come to the booth if it’s slow.
  • When you do engage a person, each of the materials you give out should have a specific call to action.  In Traction they give the example:  if someone picked up a business card at your booth, it should have a compelling offer (e.g. download a free industry guide), along with a unique link to that download (e.g. http:// tradeshow). Make sure this page is mobile optimized, as most of your visitors will be accessing the page from a mobile device. Having a CTA (call to action) lets you track how many people from the show went to your unique page and adds a few people to your email list.
Trade Show Tactics afterwards to garner the most benefit Goal after the Trade Show
  • Once the show ends, the work is just beginning. Tracking down leads becomes harder as people return to normal life. While a trade show does a great job filling the sales pipeline, the conversion of leads to paid clients will ultimately validate our success.
  • Follow-up trade-show leads with personal insights and create value for the prospect with suggested next steps. These are leads where you had an actual conversation and you wrote notes to remind you of the conversation on the back of their card or in your note-book after speaking to them.
The Trade Show traction channel can be very productive and a fun experience as well. The key is to be prepared to receive the greatest benefits to impact the success of your startup. Resources ]]>