In an age where people have become glued to their phones and technology is all but taking over daily life, recent studies show that humans crave real connections more than ever.
In the business world, trade shows may be the last way for business professionals to make those connections in person, face to face. Yet, with the development of new technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), we may be in danger of letting these oh-so-crucial connections slip.
We’ve recently discussed ways to integrate technology into your booth without letting it dominate your conversations. Yet, tactful use of tech isn’t the only thing you need to get right to start making real connections at trade shows. Here are a few ways to ensure they go deeper than a simple business card exchange.
1. Get Ahead of the Game
The time to start making connections is before the trade show actually begins. An email, a phone call, a message on social media — any way you can reach out to potential customers you know will be attending the show is a great first step.
These initial contacts should have a light touch. Your only goal is to put yourself on a customer’s radar and schedule a rough time for a meeting on the show floor.
Once a customer has an idea of where and when to find you, they’re more likely to actually check out your space at the show.
2. Don’t Just Sell
Just like in technology, things move lightning-fast on the trade show floor. This makes it tempting to jump into your sales pitch as soon as you meet up with a new prospect. But think about the last time a sales associate pounced on you when you were shopping for something you needed. You likely felt startled, put off, and unwilling to engage with someone who only cares about the dollars in your pocket.
The same goes for your prospects on the show floor. This tactic risks alienating attendees who are looking for someone to truly listen to their needs and concerns.
Instead, start your meetings by spending just a few minutes casually chatting with the attendees. Ask how their show is going, what they’re hoping to get out of the experience, and what their primary needs are.
By taking time for these real conversations, you’ll become more memorable to clients, create a better connection with them, and pick up insight about their challenges that can help you in the sales process.
After the show, as they look through their notes and business cards, your interaction will stand out against a sea of sterile encounters.
3. Get to the Point
Time, as they say, is money. Trade show attendees have a lot of stops to make and a lot of faces to see, so the last thing you want to do is make them feel like their time with you is wasted.
Remember, your goal is to make a connection, not necessarily a sale. Save the hard sell for scheduling a more formal follow-up meeting with potential customers after the show.
4. Provide Value at Every Opportunity
It used to be that trade shows were the only opportunity for clients to find out about new products. Now, that’s completely changed. The digital age has made gathering that information possible from nearly anywhere in the world. That reality has changed what makes trade shows truly valuable for attendees.
Today, trade shows offer a unique opportunity to find out things you never could have learned online. Focus on doing just that as you seek ways to provide value to your prospects at every opportunity.
Some of our favorite ways of providing value are to help prospects connect and network with other people that can help their business. Listen to a client’s needs and think of all the ways you could help them, not just the ways you could help that would also benefit your business.
5. Use Business Cards as a Conversation Starter
Business cards are the currency of the trade show floor, but they easily lose their value if you haven’t connected with the person you’re exchanging cards with. Here are five tips to make your business cards more meaningful:
- Make sure your information is clear on your card, so prospects can find and connect with you after the show easily.
- Don’t just trade cards, use the opportunity to ask a few questions about that person to make the meeting more meaningful.
- Once you part ways, jot down a few notes about the person to help you remember who they are when conducting follow-ups after the show.
- Send follow-ups and help remind the person who you are and what you talked about by providing a few notes about your interaction.
- Use the card to find and connect with that person on LinkedIn.
Making real connections at trade shows is the best way to create success for you, your brand, and your prospects. Think of it like a team effort, where the ultimate goal is to help each other create new, lasting partnerships that will help grow your businesses.
6. Follow Up as Soon as Possible
If you don’t make an appointment to meet while on the show floor, make sure you follow up with potential customers that same day.
Don’t wait until the show is over and you’re back at the office to reach out again. Instead, as soon as you’re done for the evening, take the time to follow up and try to schedule a meeting as soon as you get back to your hotel room.
Even a quick email tapped out on your phone at the hotel bar will go a long way toward keeping you from getting lost in the sea of faces and pitches customers wade through on the show floor.
Want more tips on knocking your next trade show out of the park? Check out our free guide: 7 Keys To An Irresistible Trade Show Campaign.