Q: I read one of your recent Ask Intronis posts on how to get the most out of attending tradeshow. I’ll be exhibiting at an upcoming tradeshow this fall, and I was hoping to find some tips on how to maximize my tradeshow sponsorship. Do you have any advice on how to make my sponsorship pay off?
Generating leads and creating opportunities is essential to growing your business, and maximizing your efforts at a tradeshow is a great way to get some new business. Attending tradeshows, is extremely helpful for MSPs—and having a booth at the right show can be even more beneficial to growing your business.
To help you get the most out your tradeshow sponsorship, we talked to Erin Shaw Crowley who is the event marketing manager at Intronis MSP Solutions. Erin is a tradeshow pro. After planning and attending more than a hundred conferences and events, Erin has it down to a science, from luggage tips to how to make your booth stand out. She shared best advice on how to maximize leads and, more importantly, help your experience go smoothly.
Plan before you go
Planning is an essential component when exhibiting at a tradeshow, and the more you plan, the smoother your experience will be. When you’re selecting a tradeshow, find a sponsorship that you’re comfortable with and that will give you the most bang for your buck. Pick a tradeshow that caters to your audience and can help you maximize your leads.
Once you decide on a tradeshow, find out what your sponsorship entails—and whether or not you can pick your table location. Most tradeshow sponsorships will allow you to pick your location yourself. If you can get one, booths near any food locations or the bar are the best. While you might be smelling delicious food all day, this gives you the opportunity to talk to people when they’re waiting in line. If that’s not possible, try to get as close as you can to an exhibit hall entrance—and catch people when they’re coming in and out of breakout sessions.
I highly recommend having checklists for each component along the way, including your sponsorship contract, flights, hotel rooms, and things you need to pack. The more detailed your lists are, the less likely it is that you’ll forget an essential component—like booking your hotel in advanced. Believe it or not, hotels often fill up months in advanced when a tradeshow is announced, so the sooner you get that squared away, the better off you’ll be.
If you have to travel on a plane, ship your materials in advance—with plenty of time to arrive at the location. The last thing you want to do is carry unassembled parts of your booth on the plane—or lose it when you check it with your other luggage. Just in case something goes wrong with shipping, carry a printed list of your tracking numbers—so you won’t have to fumble around looking for them in your email.
Finally, before you leave for the tradeshow, meet for 10 to 15 minutes with the team you’re bringing and discuss the agenda, dinners you’re attending, and where they should be. This guarantees that everyone is on the same page before the event.
A good booth starts more conversations
We all know that conversations can turn into leads, but to start a conversation you need a way to attract people to your booth. Try to incorporate something cool or different at your booth—something that gets people’s attention and makes them want to stop. However, make sure that whatever distinguishes your table is consistent with your messaging and somehow represents who you are as an MSP. This could be a standout color in your logo that you can use for balloons, a tablecloth, and polos to make your brand recognizable at the event.
Some forms of sponsorship allow you to align with a keynote speaker, and this creates opportunities for book signing, pictures, and ultimately an additional way to attract people to your booth.
Bring materials and collateral that best explain who you are and what you have to offer. We like to bring our Intronis brochure, which highlights all our product offerings. It has enough to start a conversation, but it doesn’t give everything away.
People can see how much effort you put in, and throwing a booth together last minute won’t go unnoticed. Make sure your booth is presentable, and that it’s clear you’ve put in some effort.
One way to maximize leads at a tradeshow is to have a fun giveaway item that you can hand out to people who stop by your booth. It could be a T-shirt, bag, or another branded item that they’ll take home with them after the show. This is a fun way to give people something to remember you by.
You can also raffle something off! Raffle items are a great way to get people to your booth — and a great way to collect business cards. Make notes on the conversation you had, and then give them a call back once you’re in the office.
Most tradeshows have an opt-in list that sponsors can receive after the show. It will generally have most of the attendee names and can be used as a way to introduce yourself to someone you might not have had a chance to meet. Often, there are scanners you can rent and use to scan people’s badges when you talk to them. If this is available, take full advantage. After the show is done and the scanner is turned in, you’ll get a full list of names and any notes you made about the conversations you had.
To make the most of the leads you get, have a follow-up plan in place. Plan how you’ll contact people who want to learn more and what collateral you’ll send them. Stay on top of this, and follow up while you’re conversation is still fresh in their mind.
When the big day arrives
While you may be exhibiting at a show, make time to view presentations or pop into product demos with vendors when you can. It’s a good way to understand where the industry is going and where you should take your business next.
Before you go, check the dress code. You want to dress presentably and don’t want to stand out in a bad way. You want people to feel comfortable approaching you, so look the part! Even your body language conveys a lot. Stand in front of your booth to show you’re open and available to anyone ready to talk!
Tradeshows are fun, but can be tiresome due to the long days. Try to keep a smile on your face and stay excited about being there. This as an opportunity to share your story in person and let prospective customers know what your company is all about.
Tradeshows are a big investment, but it’s an investment that will pay off. Following these tips will help your experience go smoothly and make your first tradeshow experience a success!
Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.