A Simple Strategy to Supercharge Your Leads: Trade Show Success Secrets

If you are not growing your list of prospects on a consistent, systematic basis, I don’t care how much product knowledge you have, you won’t have a business.  In an article called, “How to Get the 80/20 Rule Right in Your Travel Business,” I write about the fact that travel business owners have the emphasis wrong between accumulating product knowledge and implementing client attraction strategies.  The grand majority of travel business owners spend 80% of their time, resources and money on accumulating product knowledge and, at best, 20% on accumulating and implementing client attraction strategies.  The point of the article is to encourage you to flip that allocation upside-down.  Imagine how much more business you would book if you spent 80% of your time, resources and money on client attraction and a little bit less time on product knowledge. 

When it comes to client attraction, the greatest blind spot for travel agency owners is list building.  What is list building?  It’s adding prospects to your database.  Why is list building a blind spot?  Because all of the marketing support provided by consortia and suppliers is for names ALREADY in your database.  So travel agency owners who opt in to their consortia marketing programs do a great job marketing to their existing clients, but what about getting new clients?  Are you growing your database of new prospects? If you are not, your business will grow at the rate of a snail. 

There are many effective list building strategies – but one, old school strategy that often gets overlooked is exhibiting at consumer trade shows, like bridal shows or local festivals. This is an effective strategy when done correctly.  But many people don’t know how to do them effectively or fail miserably on the follow up.  Recently, we hosted a webinar that had the same title as this article, “A Simple Strategy to Super Charge Your Leads.”  On the webinar, we walked attendees through the 4 steps to effectively exhibiting at a trade show.  In this article, I will summarize the material shared in the webinar. 

Step 1 – Pick the Right Show

The most important part of picking the right show is knowing who your ideal client is and where they hang out.  The only way to know who your ideal client is, is to have established your core, compelling message.  Basically, what are the benefits and solutions you offer, and to whom do you offer them?  Once you have that established, picking the right show is easy.  Just google it.  And then research the show itself.  How many attendees?  How are the organizers marketing it?  Do you get a list of attendees?  Reach out to other exhibitors who have exhibited before.  Do the research and pick the right show or shows.

Step 2 – Prepare

When it comes to preparing for a show, people are often overwhelmed with what they need at their booth.  You need a lot less than you think.  For the booth itself, you need a nice, clean tablecloth, great business cards, a stand-up banner branded to YOUR business (not a supplier’s) and a great bouquet of flowers.  Many people think you need a ton of brochures and hand outs.  Not true.  The point of exhibiting is to list build.  In other words, your focus should be to collect names and email addresses, NOT give out as many brochures as possible.  So keep it clean and keep it simple.  No need for tons of brochures!

Why?  Because once that person leaves your booth with a brochure, the follow up is in their hands and not yours.  You want the follow up to be in your hands.  So the best way to put the follow up in your hands is to give them a great reason to give you their name and email address. 

There are 2 great ways to do this.  First, you can create a prize giveaway.  For example, if you are a family travel expert like Jennifer Round of Slaydon’s Travel,  you can purchase an eye-catching kids suitcase and pick a winner amongst the names collected.  The second way to give them a great reason to give you their name and email address is to create an information product that you can give to everyone.  For example, GIFTE member Shannon LeBlanc, who is a romance travel expert, wrote a book called, “Say Yes to the Honeymoon:  The Experts Guide to Planning the Perfect Honeymoon.”  This is her free giveaway to anyone who stops by her booth.  When they give her their name and email address, she will automatically email it to them.

Thus, when preparing for the trade show, make sure you have some kind of a giveaway so that visitors have an incentive to give you their name and email address. 

Step 3:  Exhibit Engagingly

It’s the day of the trade show.  Make sure you dress the part.  If you want to attract high end, luxury clients, look like a luxury travel advisor!!!  Get there early.  When the show starts, step out in front of your booth or table.  If no one is stopping at your booth, start a conversation with the people walking by by asking them open ended, light hearted questions.  Or pay them a compliment.  When you have a lot of people – more than you can handle – invite multiple people into the conversation.  Politely shut down conversations that are overly negative or going into too much detail by offering to take the conversation further by phone at a scheduled time. 

Step 4:  Follow Up

If there is a step people fail at, it’s the follow up. The fortune is in the follow up.  Here is the greatest secret I can share with you about follow up:  do it before the show, NOT after.  And when I say do it, I mean write an entire follow up sequence that will last for at least 6 months after the show.  Use an autoresponder service so that all you have to do after the show is enter the names and email addresses into the autoresponder service and set the sequence to go.  Your follow up sequence should be at least 8 parts and include mostly content which will establish you as an expert in your specialty. 

Your Assignment: 

There you have it – the 4 simple steps to exhibiting effectively at consumer trade shows.  It’s an excellent lead source strategy, especially when it because a part of your yearly marketing plan.  My assignment for you is to commit to 2-6 trade shows in the next 12 months and do them exactly as described here.  After 12 months, see how much your business has grown. 

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