What’s an even better source of leads than paid traffic, social media, SEO or anything else online?
Talking to people in person (*gasp*) at marketing conferences.
But I’m not just talking about buying a day pass, schmoozing and collecting swag bags.
I’m talking about exhibiting. Making the investment to rent a space, set up a booth and show off your wares.
Now, most companies shy away from exhibiting. They claim it’s too expensive and not worth. While it can be expensive (sometimes $5000+ for a tiny space), it’s definitely worth it.
- Conference attendees tend to be pre-qualified as customers. Example: Your company sells SaaS software that helps advertisers improve their ad campaigns. Someone who attends an online advertising conference is in your target market.
- Attendees have money to spend. Most conference passes cost $1000+. Someone who has that kind of money to pay for a conference ticket can probably afford your product.
- Your leads are already warm. There’s no better way to heat up a lead up than by shaking their hand and meeting them in the flesh. People are more likely to answer emails from people they met in person.
- Higher life-time value.In our experience, theLTV of people we meet at a conferences tends to be higher than customers found through other channels. People who we met at conferences years ago are still customers to this day.
- Quite simply: they’re fun. A lot of us spend way too much time behind a glowing screen (guilty as charged). Conferences are the perfect reason to venture out into the real world and meet other folks who have that same passion for business.
There’s not a shadow of a doubt that exhibiting at conferences is a great way to increase revenue.
However, there is good news and bad news about exhibiting at conferences.
The bad news: A lot of businesses exhibit in a way that’s NOT conducive to making sales. They end up wasting all that money to exhibit and proclaim that “conferences suck and are a waste of money.”
(Or worse, they continue to pay for conferences and continue to see poor results.)
The good news:
Most of these errors are easy to fix.
This blog post will show you 5 key things all exhibitors must do in order to see success on the showroom floor.
Some of these might sound a bit simple (because they are).
But you’d be surprised just how many exhibitors get it wrong.
Tip #1: Have a Compelling “Headline” on Your Booth.
There are sometimes hundreds of booths depending on the conference.
Attendees are rushed.
Between key note speeches, sessions and schmoozing, they can’t stop by every single booth.
Therefore, they choose the ones that appear to be the most interesting. This means you need to make your booth stand out and attract attention.
Now, I’m not saying you should construct some flashy booth with plasma screens, “booth babes” and blinking lights. You don’t want your booth to look like a miniature version of the set of The Price is Right.
In fact, simpler is often better. Our booth tends to be quite minimal, yet we get a lot of people that come out to our booth.
Because we took the time to think about the text that goes on our booth.
Most exhibitors have their logo with some sort of buzzwordy tagline below it.
Something like, “Acme Corp: The Innovative, Turn-Key Solution That Fits Your Business’ Needs.”
Taglines like these mean absolutely nothing. No one will understand what your business does because it’s just a mashup of marketing lingo.
What should you do instead?
Think of the text on your booth like the headline of your landing page.
What happens to visitors when your headline is boring, confusing or unclear? They leave. The same goes for your booth.
Get attendees’ attention by telling them in one succinct phrase what your business does and how it can help them. It should attract attention and get your prospect emotionally excited to hear more about your product, just like the headline on your landing page.
Heck, you can even use the same headline from your landing page and use it on your booth. We use “Instantly Uncover Any Advertiser’s Online Strategy” and it works really well. We get a lot of people coming up to the booth just from that line alone.
If your headline on your landing page gets people excited to learn more about your product, then it’s quite likely the same headline on your conference booth will evoke the same reaction.
Tip #2: Stand Up and Give a Crap
That’s right. Stand up.
Innovative suggestion, right?
Well, you’d be amazed at the number of people who just sit at their booth, lean back in a director’s chair and kick their feet up on the table.
People will assume you’ve got nothing interesting to show them if you don’t look interested yourself.
You’ll often pay $5,000… $10,000… or even $15,000+ to exhibit at a conference.
The very LEAST you can do is stand up and look like you want to talk to people.
Tip #3: Engage People Who Stop and Stare
People should show interest in your booth if you follow tip #1 (“have a compelling headline”).
However, not everyone will take the initiative to walk up and ask about your product.
Here’s what usually happens:
- People walk by and are intrigued by your headline.
- They stand 10 feet away from your booth and stare at you.
- 10 seconds later they walk away… IF you don’t engage them.
So what do you do?
Get out from behind your booth and go talk to them.
You don’t need to schmooze them like some manic used car salesman.
I recommend a more simple approach: say hello and ask them about their business.
You can even steal our script:
“Hey, how’s it going? Do you do anything [related to your product]?”
Get them talking about their problems. Figure out how your product can help their business.
Simple but effective.
Yet, do you know what’s even better than telling people about your product/service?
Tip #4: Have a Few Big Screens
People don’t want to read a flyer or hear you gab about your product.
There are two key things people respond to MUCH better:
Seeing your product in action.
Interacting with your product.
You can satisfy these two desires with one simple item: a computer screen.
We notice a difference in engagement between booths that have computer screens and those that don’t.
Now, some of the bigger booths with have these 100 inch plasma screens set-up in the background.
This can work, but people seem to really prefer to interact with your product.
You’re showing off your product, but they’re unable to interact with it.
Here’s what I’d recommend instead:
Set up 1 or 2 computer monitors on a table in front of your booth. (We use 27” iMacs, but you can use whatever you have. Many conferences even rent out monitors.)
Have a keyboard and mouse set up so your customers can come up and try out your product.
Let them click around your software, browse your product catalog, or just play around with with your product.
Now, maybe your product isn’t “sexy”. Maybe you sell payment processing software or a physical product.
You should still have a monitor or two set-up.
You can show off the backend, show any extra features your software has that your competitors don’t, show how you can export data, let them browse a catalog of all your physical items, etc.
The point is to get your prospects involved.
Screens tend to be the best at getting the job done.
Tip #5: Forget About Swag Bags and Stress Balls
I’m a bit hesitant to give this tip out.
Because I LOVE to walk around and collect the useless junk people give out.
However, I’m not the target customer for 99% of these businesses. The same goes for just about everyone else who grabs a swag bag.
Every time I take another stress ball or swag bag, another dollar of theirs goes down the toilet. They know this. I know this. Yet, people continue to give out swag bags.
The bottom line is this junk attracts the wrong people. Most people just like taking free stuff.
Now, perhaps your business is flush with cash and giving out this junk isn’t a big deal.
“Eh… what can it hurt? Stress balls for everyone!”
However, what’s even worse than wasting your money?
Wasting your time.
Because here’s what happens:
Mary Marketing comes up to your booth.
Mary says ‘hi’ and takes one of your stress balls. Mary says ‘thanks’ and goes on her merry way. No harm no foul.
However, Sammy Software is more polite.
Sammy takes a stress ball and starts asking you questions about your product even though he could care less.
“Uhh… so what do you guys do?!”
Sammy feels obligated to listen to your spiel because he took one of your stress balls.
You start telling Sammy how wonderful your product is and how it can help him.
Yet, in about 10 seconds, you notice Sammy’s eyes start to glaze over.
Sammy doesn’t want to listen to you. Sammy doesn’t want your product. He just doesn’t want to seem like a rude freeloader.
Moral of the story?
You don’t want to waste time talking to people who have zero interest in your business.
This tends to be a lot of people who walk around grabbing swag bags.
Spend more time & money outfitting your booth and less on swag bags.
There’s no better place than a conference to meet and chat up current and potential customers. Follow the tips above and make your exhibiting worth your time and money. Most of all — have fun! That’s what conferences are all about.