Thursday 18 July 2019

Swift and professional follow-up is vital to make the most of trade show


The number one learning is that you must be proactive about engaging with visitor. Stock image
The number one learning is that you must be proactive about engaging with visitor. Stock image

Problem Solver: Feargal Quinn

Query: I work in the service industry and our business is planning to exhibit at an international trade show for our sector in January. What planning should I be doing?

Answer: I have visited hundreds of trade shows over my lifetime. There are lots of examples of great exhibitors, but even more examples of those who miss a big opportunity.

The fact that you have made a decision to attend the show, probably dedicate a large budget to both renting your space, flying to a foreign location and to providing accommodation, etc, will all involve a big investment. You are doing this with the objective of reaping rewards and growing the business and therefore need to take a very strategic approach to the planning.

Firstly, think of the last time you attended a trade show yourself as a visitor.

In my experience, you could walk several of the aisles with little or no contact from the exhibitors, and then, every now and then meet an inspiring exhibitor who engages you in conversation.

The number one learning is that you must be proactive about engaging with visitors.

Preplanning who you are targeting to meet at the show is also very good advice.

This can be done well in advance of your trip. And whether you are inviting specific guests to visit you at your stand, or targeting those you know already to be attending, is all part of the preparation.

Your display unit needs to stand out, whether that is through the use of printed material or some props associated with your business. You need a display that will be both eye-catching and practical for the service you are selling. There will be far too many stands at the show that look almost identical, so do put some thought into this.

At the show itself, being good at assessing the needs of the person standing in front of you is very important, and the gathering of information is also critical.

You don't want to get back to your hotel room that evening with 10 business cards with illegible handwritten notes scribbled on each one.

Use your tablet or notebook to record accurately what it is that the buyer is looking for. I am always impressed by the one or two exhibitors who email you the same day summarising the follow-up they are going to do - it certainly keeps them top of your mind.

Finally, where most trade shows go wrong is in the follow-up phase.

You are going to be away at the show for three or four days and probably return to a big pile of work on your desk. You will also bring back with you dozens of leads to be followed up, I hope.

Knowing this now, put some resources into place that will help you follow up tasks.

Remember, when you talk to a buyer, you have their full attention at that particular moment; however, within 24 hours they will have little or no recollection of who you are and you are almost starting from scratch with them again.

Swift and professional follow-up is essential and I would challenge you to have all of your follow-up complete within 48 hours of returning from the show.

I have probably been guilty of this myself, but sometimes I met really interesting people at a show and genuinely wanted them to follow up, but failed to give them correct contact details for me to get in touch. Do make sure, as each interested party walks away, that you have accurate contact details.

You should engage with the likes of the Irish Exporters or similar agencies that will have a wealth of experience to share with you.

  • Feargal Quinn, Problem Solver Send your small business questions to

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