The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local Business

July 3, 2013

Susan Miller: Do more than just show up at trade shows

Woody Allen famously stated that 80 percent of success in life is simply showing up. That’s just another example of how the “real world” differs from show business.

Most every employee with any tenure knows that today’s competitive workplace requires more than showing up. The same holds true for industry events, whether it’s a trade association or an industry show. Gone are the days when you can slap on a “Hello, my name is,” tag and call yourself a networker.

Attending industry shows and events is a pivotal part of building relationships and cultivating customers. However, if your participation is limited to purchasing booth space or walking the aisles, you’ll marginalize your investment.

A profitable business networking experience is about more than a decked-out exhibit or expensive promotional giveaways. Over the past decade, I’ve seen start-ups with small tabletop displays outshine exhibitors with synchronized dancers, pulsating colored fountains and beer gardens.

What transforms a trade show from three eight-hour days in a convention center into a profitable, customer-yielding marketing tool? The following tips can help you maximize your business show investment.

-- Conduct research. There is no better venue for learning about your competition and your prospects’ needs than a trade show. Concerned that you’ll be recognized checking out the competition? Hire a few interns to conduct “man on the street” surveys among attendees. This strategy yielded insights that helped a security manufacturer move from start-up to No. 1 in market share in 18 months.

-- Work the on-site media. Contact the event sponsor and ask for a list of registered media. Then call these outlets and schedule chats with them at the show. This tactic helped a Geist-area software company generate exposure on a national cable home improvement show. If no media list is available, hang out near the press or media hospitality lounge.

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