Have you ever attended a trade show? Set up a booth at one of those events where there are 30, 40, 50 or more small business owners just like you, all jockeying for the attention of show visitors? Do you, like me, not particularly enjoy this experience because it feels to “salesy?” If so, how do you set yourself apart from the crowd and what do you do to promote your business and still enjoy a positive trade show experience? Here are some thoughts on how you can promote your business and get “face” time with potential customers – all without being “in their face.”
October is National Small Business month so chances are you will be at, host or attend a trade show event at some point during the month. Designed to celebrate and promote small business, many local Chambers and / or Boards of Trade will be helping community business owners to share and promote their business to the larger community by hosting an event. Along with promoting your own business they are a perfect opportunity to liaise with government services to find out what’s available to the small business owner to help their business thrive. Look for booths hosted by the following:
- CBO – Canada Business Ontario
- BDC – Business Development Bank of Canada
- SBEC’s – Small Business Enterprise Centres / Entrepreneur Centres
- OSME – Office of Small and Medium Enterprises
As for your own booth – what are you doing to stand out in the crowd? In these days of social media we are all rapidly becoming professional at maximizing our social media presence or we hire someone to do it for us. But what happens in person, when “facetime” becomes actual face time? Here are just a few suggestions (especially if you don’t have a big, splashy budget) and we know our audience will have many more:
- If giving something away, ensure it’s branded and consider things like a hat or a coffee mug where your logo can’t be hidden away.
- Make sure your giveaway is actually useful. Thermal coffee mugs are always welcome, a small portable flashlight that gets lost in the bottom of a purse – perhaps not so much.
- When setting up your booth make sure your table is not something you hide behind but rather, encourages people to come “into your space” thereby interacting with you. Use it as a point of entry not a barrier.
- Host a game to encourage people to actually stop and talk. Given that I am in the business of words, I invite attendees to play Scrabble and win a prize. Longest word, highest scoring word, it’s old-fashioned but it gets people talking and they need to come back at the end of the day to see who won. As well, a bit of friendly competition starts to occur as I regularly post updates on what the current high score is and people come back to try and beat it!
- Speaking of posting scores – stay active on social media throughout the trade show so people know you’re there.
- Signage is nice but make sure it fits appropriately into the space and doesn’t overwhelm you. Photos should be current. There is nothing worse than standing in front of your banner and the people don’t realize that the person in the picture is you!
Other things to keep in mind include looking up. Don’t get caught with your face in your phone. Stay engaged and in the moment and resist the urge to check emails. Even when using your phone for social media to promote your presence avoid the pitfalls of tweeting so often you lose the potential to have a personal impact with the people right in front of you. Consider bringing a friend or business associate, both to help keep you company and help when things get busy. Make sure they are as up to date on your product or service as you and work together to encourage people into your booth. They are there to share the workload of promoting your business not for a coffee and chat so avoid getting engrossed in personal time. Having someone who has your back also allows you to duck out to take an important call or use the facilities if you need to! Don’t forget the follow up opportunity. Have something to collect business cards so you can then spend time after the show on the all-important follow up. You’d be surprised how often this step is overlooked.
Here’s hoping that National Small Business Month is good for your business. If a trade show is in your future, get creative and play a game, create an inviting space and oh yes, when all else fails and you’re hoping to generate good leads, good conversation and great face time – feed people! To paraphrase something we once heard in the baseball movie Field of Dreams, “if you feed them, they will come!” A little chocolate never hurts.
As Owner and Principal partner of “Writing Right For You” Sheralyn is a Communications Strategist – working together with entrepreneurs to maximize profit through effective use of the written word. Looking for web content that works, blog articles that engage or communications strategies that help you get noticed? Contact Sheralyn today. Sheralyn is also the mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens” and spends her free time volunteering for several non-profit organizations.
Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.
Writing Right For You
Communications Strategies that help you GET TO THE POINT!