5 things manufacturers get wrong at trade shows

Trade shows are sensitive times. Without taking the proper steps, you could be throwing a lot of money and time away. But more importantly, the impression you leave will last.

Here are 5 common mistakes to avoid while planning for and attending a manufacturing trade show.

1. Too little, too late

Planning is essential before attending a trade show. 12 months is an ideal amount of time to prep for your next show, especially if you’ve just wrapped one up, while the ideas are fresh in your mind about what to avoid and what to improve on.

Planning and goal setting go hand in hand. Without an overarching goal, you can’t really know what to plan for. Be specific with your goal. Set a realistic number of leads to achieve or target new partnerships.

Without an overarching goal, you can’t really know what to plan for. Be specific with your goal. Set a realistic number of leads to achieve or target new partnerships.

Your staffing needs are a huge part of planning both in selecting the best fits for the job, or providing training.

To fully grasp your staffing needs, you need to understand the show and your metrics. You could over-staff and suffer financially, or deal with the immediate and long term stress of understaffing.

2. Poor marketing

Pre-show marketing is essential when attending a trade show. Don’t just show up unannounced to your potential buyers.

Use social media. You can do a lot of your marketing online for free, and besides, everyone is there watching anyway. Above all, social media is the most cost and time efficient marketing resource.

Get their attention prior to the show. It’s called priming and allows you to plant your brand in their brains. Brand awareness and recognition can give your business a lifeline.

Potential investors, and partners, and customers do their research, as should you. Pre-show marketing allows attendees to learn who and where you are so you don’t have to rely on what you bring to the event.

Get their attention prior to the show. It’s called priming and allows you to plant your brand in their brains. Brand awareness and recognition can give your business a lifeline.

During the show, have plenty of swag in stock. The shiny stuff actually works. However, if giveaways are in your budget, make sure they are relevant to your business. Beyond a logo, your giveaways can be practical reminders of the importance of your business.

Manufacturing Content

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3. Out of place, out of mind

Along with planning, it’s important to select an appropriate show and the best space within that show. Some businesses suffer because they don’t take the time to research the show before attending it (also known as masochism).

Know the people and businesses that will be attending.

Of course, you want to stand out. But you don’t want to stand out of the line of vision. Choose your booth placement wisely to ensure you’re visible.

Additionally, if your booth is too flashy, tacky, or bland you could be overlooked.

Size matters. A booth that’s too small can become quickly overcrowded. This might look good for business, but could also scare shier prospectors away. A booth that’s too big can look deserted and even overwhelming. Either way, your size is telling about your expectations and attendees can tell.

Whether your booth size and your visitor count match up can also reflect your planning skills. Don’t take the risk of looking underprepared.

4. Overselling

This is your chance to tell them what they don’t already know. Get the basics out of the way but don’t waste any time.

In the blunder of trade show chaos, listening can be very hard. Conversations aren’t meant to last, at least not in that moment. They’ll continue when you follow up. One conversation will end before starting the same one up again with a new lead.

The members of your team need to understand their roles. Staff members need to be conscious of their presence, whether too dominating, obtrusive, indifferent, or terrified. Staff members shouldn’t be flocking together or walled off in personal conversations together. This can make potential visitors feel unwelcome.

Conversations aren’t meant to last, at least not in that moment. They’ll continue when you follow up.

However, your team shouldn’t be stationed like gargoyles at the borders of your booth either, or harassing passersby with the same phrase like alarm clocks. Train your staff to be approachable and knowledgeable. They should have resources on hand to help visitors understand your business.

It’s important to have unique hooks that can help possible clients understand the business and feel intrigued enough to approach. Keep in mind, you’re there for a reason, and so are most of the attendees. They’ve likely done their research and know what to look for. If they’re not looking for what your manufacturing service is offering, they won’t stop.

5. Not following up

It’s important you use any available technology. There’s no reason to write a lead’s information down. It can get lost, smeared, and it’s kind of tacky.

Instead, have them register some contact information digitally. This way it can’t be easily lost or destroyed (and there’s a handy copy & paste option to avoid misspellings). However, you should walk the lead through the contact form process to ensure it’s completed. Have a tablet reserved and prepared with a Google Forms or an app that scans business cards. Imagine the embarrassment of losing your top lead’s information. Big oops.

Follow up with customers within 24-48 hours after the event. Don’t treat all your leads to the same, generalized email. Be specific and welcoming. Convert those leads into customers.

Attending a trade show is an investment. And from an investment, you should see a return. If you have attainable goals, it shouldn’t be too difficult to measure your achievements and therefore any return on investment.

The show must go on

Whatever you plan, be sure to have a backup in case of unforeseen damages, delays, or faultiness in general. Technology is a fantastic resource until it’s not. Anything can happen, and if you’re not an expert in troubleshooting, you’d better have a Plan B.

Most importantly, remember to stay in contact with your leads and praise your team for its hard work. After a day (at least) of your team standing, persuading, and being polite, I can already feel the hangry spells kicking in.

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