Volume 3, Issue 3 of RISBJ

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We’ve set our clocks ahead, the weather is warming up and the snow is finally starting to melt. All great signs that spring is finally here! The winter took its toll on many of us with some difficult travel and lost days of business. Now it’s time to look ahead to warmer weather and more hours of daylight.

As we enter the second quarter of 2014, it’s a good time to evaluate our networking and trade show schedule for the year. Over the next few months, we will see some great opportunities with the Statewide Business After Hours (March), Ocean State Small Business Expo (April) and Bryant World Trade Day (May). As you begin to evaluate these and other opportunities, I’ve provided my “7 Tricks of the Trade Show” on page 30 that will help provide some insight on having a successful event. This issue also contains helpful articles on promotional products, design, branding and communication.

Over the past 15 years I’ve had the opportunity to be part of dozens of trade shows, both as an attendee and an exhibitor. I’ve shared some of my top advice in the article, but there a few specific tips I feel have made the biggest difference to my return on investment.

Proper Staffing

Taking your “product experts” to a trade show might seem like the most logical choice for some companies that rely on technical expertise to sell their products. The challenge, however, is that in a trade show setting, you will only have a short amount of time to spend with each guest. I’ve always preferred staffing a trade show with my most outgoing staff members, who understand the product, but do not need to get into much detail at the show. Remember, it’s all about being memorable and generating leads for future follow-up. I would also bring enough staff so that we would be able to have at least 2 members of our team at the booth, with at least 1 person roaming the exhibition floor to make connections with other attendees. And remember, sitting down behind your table is not engaging to prospects! Stand towards the front of your booth and greet everyone that walks by. Welcome them to your booth, and let them know you are there to answer any questions they may have.

Data Collection and Follow-up

How many business cards have you collected at trade shows you’ve exhibited at? How often do you remember what the person was interested in, or if they had any interest at all? One of my favorite ways of collecting data at a show is to offer a raffle prize that people really want, and instead of allowing them to drop in a business card, they are required to fill out a short form. By keeping it simple, in addition to collecting the standard info (name, email, phone, etc.), I can also ask a qualifying question like, “Over the next 6 months, which of the following services do you plan on purchasing?” followed by a list of services I offer. That simple question provides much more value to myself and my sales staff. Within a week of the trade show, we can now follow up with specific information based on the response to the raffle entry.

I hope you find these tips and the many others throughout this issue of RISBJ helpful. Happy networking!

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