Networking at trade shows
There are countless opportunities for business growth at trade shows and exhibitions. You’re in a room filled with like-minded businesspeople or consumers with interests related to your products or services who are actively seeking people like you.
At its core, your appearance at the show is simply networking and as we’ve previously discussed, there are many benefits (read our post on why you should be networking here**), but whether you are an attendee or an exhibitor, you can utilise this experience and gain valuable connections and opportunities – IF you do it right.
Understand what the show means
Before even thinking about a show attendance, in any capacity, you need to think of them as a completely independent business development strategy. Yes, your other efforts feed into this, but it is its own beast.
As with most outbound marketing tasks, you should to be prepared for the long haul. Trade shows are unlikely to result in a quick sale, but rather an incredibly valuable opportunity to form and build relationships. This is not a supply/demand scenario – while the audience pool will be very large, and chances are your ideal client is right there; not everyone will be requiring your services at that very time, which means the time between meeting and closing a deal can be quite long. But the hard slog is worth it.
Know who you are looking for and why
The concentration of relevant delegates is going to be an amplified number in comparison to most of your other efforts, but tapping into this pool is only effective if you know who they are to begin with. Therefore, step one is to make sure you have a very clear understanding of your target audience – delve deep and pinpoint exactly who your ideal client is. Who do you want to use your products or services? Think about everything from their financials to their MO, including what they are currently trying to achieve and how. Arming yourself with this knowledge before trying to make a connection will vastly help you gauge whether this will be a good use of your time.
Next, of course, make sure this persona will be attending the show. The best way to do this is to simply ask. Reach out to your social media followers and email marketing database and find out who is going to be attending. Most big events now will have their own event hashtag which can be utilised for your research as well as informing people of your attendance also.
Reach out to the show itself and ask for a media pack – this will contain valuable information and statistics of the types of delegates they are expecting. While show organisers are not able to give names of attendees out, they will actively share information about the exhibitors. This information can be used to see who THEIR target audience is and see if this aligns with your own. Audience research is the key to getting your conversations right and worthwhile.
Challenging the frustrations
One of the biggest frustrations that delegates face is the sheer volume of information and people to cover in the space of a day or so. Shows do all they can to cram a lot in so it’s valuable for all attendees, but often it’s difficult for the delegate to navigate around this in an efficient way.
The Business Show 2017 is championing the change in how shows help their delegates networking and make the most out of their show by introducing more ways to come face to face with potential customers.
In its 38th year, the Business Show is the first show of this kind to embrace location-based technology by announcing GeoBiz App as its official networking app. GeoBiz App uses location technology and a unique algorithm to show users potential connections and opportunities wherever they are in the world – in this instance, Olympia in London.
Shane Ransom, Senior Marketing Manager for the Business Show said:
“We [GeoBiz and the Show] share the same vision in wanting to provide businesses with the opportunity to grow, connect and develop fundamental skills to satisfy their every need.
“GeoBiz is a comprehensive, new innovating platform enhancement that we believe has the right ideas and potential to become an essential tool for businesses of all kinds and we look forward to bringing [it] to our show”.
Attendees at the show can download the app and open up a world of connections. By searching the surrounding area, the user can connect with other users at the show and start talking, or use this information to find them at the show and introduce themselves. This completely eliminates the awkward introduction and trying to gauge whether the conversation is worthwhile.
Location-based software is hugely important to many businesses as it provides unique data on specific locations and activities. This information is important to those networking at shows of this ilk as it give a clear guide on who they should be connecting with, and – more importantly – where they are.
This is a powerful insight that can significantly improve the effectiveness of a networking marketing initiative. This is useful tool for those exhibiting at the show as well as visitors, as it will help narrow down the pool of people to approach, and increase the chances of those connections converting.
Arfan Qureshi, founder and CEO of global networking app GeoBiz says that networking at shows of this calibre is “Its extremely important as it’s the best way to make new connections, source new suppliers and customers, meet current customers and also to know and understand the industry’s latest developments to stay one step ahead of the competition.
“This [show] is one of the cornerstones in the event calendar which every business should attend. It’s great to see the fastest growing and most progressive business show in Europe embracing our type of new technology to maximise new networking opportunities during the show for their visitors.”
The show has also introduced a Speed Networking – pre-registered intensive session of one-minute mini-meetings. This corporate take on speed dating is the perfect place to start making contacts with people from a range of different sectors and industries. Delegates meet 40 individuals over 40 minutes – it’s minimum input with maximum impact.
The show also hosts a Business Connections wall. It’s always a huge draw for the show as it’s an instant way to get your business noticed. Delegates will post what they are looking for and other business have the opportunity to pin their business cards to the request to show they are able. It’s the quickest and most succinct way of shouting about your business. The Wall has different time slots of different sectors, so be sure to check out schedule.***
While the positives of attending a trade show are endless, there are of course some negative factors if you attend solely for networking. It’s unlikely you will be able to attend keynote speeches and seminars as they aren’t a valuable use of your time – unless you are the one speaking, of course. The best way around this is to plan your time very carefully. Utilise the show’s website and marketing materials to make the very best of every moment there.
As previously mentioned, show attendance can be costly. Chances are you cannot spend the time or money attending everything, so research is your friend here. Look into all of the shows relevant to your business and narrow down your selection to pinpoint the best shows to suit your business. Don’t attempt everything, it can’t be done.
It cannot be stressed enough – follow up after the show! Whether it’s on social media, via email, or whatever your most effective method is, make sure you continue to engage with your potential customer regularly (but not too regularly!)