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It’s going to be a big deal for many of us to attend a large trade show like IPC APEX EXPO again. In fact, this was the last show I attended before locking down in early 2020—and that feels like a decade ago.
With that in mind, going to IPC APEX EXPO this month will probably be the most important and valued trade show experience we have had in a very long time. We should all be doing everything we can to make this trade show experience as beneficial as possible.
Here are some tips on how to make this show, as well as any other show you attend, a meaningful experience so that you will be sure to get a great return on your investment.
- What are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish? Why are you exhibiting at this show? Why are you spending all that money? Make sure you have the right answers to these questions before you even think about signing up for a trade show.
- Develop the objectives. Are you there to sell equipment? Is this the right audience? Will the right decision makers, be there? Are you there to sell your services to other exhibitors, or are you there because you’re worried people will think you have gone out of business if you’re not there? (This is a terrible reason to exhibit at a show, by the way). Are you introducing a new product and want to deliver a white paper at the show? (This is a great reason to attend a show.)
- Develop a comprehensive plan for when you and your team will be at the show. This means developing a daily schedule of who will be tending the booth and the times they will be there. But the schedule is not only about booth coverage. You also need to plan who will attend the sessions and why they will be attending them as well.
- As far as booth coverage, make sure you have salespeople accompanied by technical people so that together they can handle all the inquiries from the right booth visitors, especially those ad hoc meetings from interested people who are just stopping by to learn more. Many a sale has resulted from these chance meetings
- Leave room for booth visitors. Don’t have so many of your own people and their friends in the booth that a visitor is made to feel like they are crashing a party. In short, make room for the right people you want to meet and sell to.
- Be prepared with collateral material. Have well-written print material to hand to your visitors. If your product is small enough (like PCBs), make sure you have a good array of product samples to touch, feel, and learn about. The better these are displayed, the more potential customers will be impressed by them and with your company.
- Schedule business meetings. A large IPC APEX EXPO is the one time of the year when, chances are, everyone you want to meet will attend. You will all be in San Diego at the same time for the better part of a week. This is a great time to get together with customers, partners, reps, salespeople, and even competitors. Use all your time wisely, not just the classroom time or the exhibition time, but all the time. Plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings. Plan on meeting the right people for drinks. Make every meal and minute, count. This is an expensive exhibition in one of the most expensive cities in the country; you cannot afford not to make use of all your time in San Diego.
- Don’t wing it. The opportunity is too serious. Plan and set up meetings well in advance. Develop a planned schedule of appointments before you even arrive in San Diego. Create a log on your calendar of who you will meet with, when and where you will meet them, their contact information, why you want to meet with them, and what you want to accomplish in this meeting. I cannot emphasize this enough.
- Tell people you are going to be at the show. Send out press releases to the media. Send out email invitations and newsletters to your customers and potential customers letting them know that you will be at the show and where your booth is located. I strongly suggest that you give them a reason to come to your booth. Offer a free consultation, a free sample, or a free demo. Make the right people want to come your booth.
- Use the media at the show. Take advantage of any opportunity to talk with the media. If someone like I-Connect007 offers you an interview, take it. If they don’t, then ask them for one. This is critical. Get as much publicity as you can from the media outlets at the show.
- Create a follow-up plan. After all, the real reason you are at this show is to mine the right contacts. Take notes of what they are interested and the questions they have asked. Then refer to them in your follow-up emails, letters, and phone calls. Speaking of follow-up, make sure it’s done promptly. You should send the prospects you meet an email that very evening and then a longer, more comprehensive follow-up package within a week of meeting them. This plan should also include adding the booth visitor’s name and contact information to your company database. Finally, distribute those contacts to your sales team, giving them the names/leads of those people and companies in their territory.
- Do a post-mortem within 48 hours of leaving the show. Make a list of what worked and what didn’t work. What should you do next time? Should you attend again? Is there anything you did not bring that you should have? This is an important and often overlooked point. And in the spirit of underpromising and overdelivering, here is one more to make it an even bakers’ dozen.
- Have a great time!
See you in San Diego.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group and an I-Connect007 columnist. To contact Beaulieu or read past columns, click here.
This article appeared in the January 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine.