By Monica Pitts

Increasing your customer base is important to growing your business and increasing company revenue. Tradeshows are a great place to scope out new leads from a big sea of people. Because the promoter of the tradeshow already did the dirty work to herd a crowd of interested people into the expo center, all you need to worry about is attracting those people to your booth and initiating conversations.

So how do you maximize your tradeshow presence, generate leads and attract the best prospects for your business? These 8 suggestions are your keys to success at this year’s tradeshow.

Be inviting to attract people to your booth and be kind while interacting with potential clients.

1. Attract and Interact
Staffing your booth with people who are inviting and kind is one of the first steps to generating solid leads. Man your booth with active, smiling representatives who are eager to talk to people, not just employees who sit behind the table and look bored out of their mind. Having a staff that wants to be there will help attract prospects to your booth.

2. Make it a Team Goals Game
Just because tradeshows are professional exhibitions doesn’t mean your company can’t throw some fun into the mix. Make your tradeshow experience a game for your team. Get competitive and have your booth staff set goals for the number of leads they wish to earn with a specific outcome in mind. It’s important for your team to set goals and know in advance exactly what they want to achieve. Winging it isn’t really a good game plan: if you arrive empty handed, you’ll leave empty handed. If you want to walk away from the tradeshow with a bucketful of solid leads, have your staff arrive prepared with rehearsed pitches and questions that will further engage your prospects

3. Design your Booth with your Buyer Persona in Mind
Don’t include things in your booth that have nothing to do with your business or the types of clients your business aims to attract. The way you design your booth should attract your buyer persona, not the trick-or-treaters attending for the freebies. Keep in mind that your goal isn’t to attract every attendee at the tradeshow but rather the people most likely to benefit from your services who may become future customers.

4. Have Cool Swag
Offering cool swag is a great way to initially get people to your booth. What you offer should be intentional and related to the products or services you offer as a business. Remember that not every ad specialty is the best choice for every business. If you’re a B to B company, it makes sense to offer potential clients a pen with your name on it that they can use around their office. If you’re a B to C company on the other hand, a refrigerator magnet or chip clip branded with your name would be useful around their house. The longevity of the product and it’s usefulness at the event itself are other important factors to keep in mind when choosing your swag. For example, offering bottles of water branded with your company name on the label will definitely quench the thirst of the tradeshow attendees but may end up in the trash by the end of the day. However, offering a bag with your name on it that show-goers can use to carry around their freebies during the show and then also use around the house or at the grocery store will guarantee visibility of your brand even after the show is over.

5. Put Prospects to Work
Once you’ve decided on the cool swag that will be most beneficial for your business, come up with a plan to make prospects work for the prize. Have them take a quiz or be part of a contest that ultimately leads to them sharing their contact information with you. Avoid simply luring people in with candy because if that’s the only reason they’re visiting you then they aren’t attracted to your booth for the right reasons. However, knowing that trick-or-treaters exist and not everyone is a prospect, you may want to consider a low cost giveaway in addition to the “grand prize” ad specialty item that visitors will have a chance to win if they participate in your lead gathering activity.

The most beneficial engagement activities are ones that will stimulate conversation in a direction streamlined toward your services. For example, we’ve done a before and after website renovation competition where people rated the before and after designs of a website telling us if they think the re-design was successful or not. This activity got our potential clients thinking about the services we provide and ways we could help them. It also gave us a chance to show examples of our work, gave customers a reason to contact us again and opened an opportunity to invite them into our marketing community.

Give out data and information packets relative to your industry to prospects during a trade show to help educate them.

6. Offer Help, Not Hype
Participating in a tradeshow is about gaining exposure for your business. Only a very limited number of businesses can sell their product directly at the event. If you’re not one of those few, focus on offering potential clients information and data they can take home and put to work. Consider offering them documents containing relative industry information and knowledge in exchange for their contact information or business card. Show people that you have solutions to their problems and questions so you can start building a trusting, consultative relationship. By presenting your company as the industry expert they can come to for information, you’ll jump start your professional relationship.

7. Speak Up
If you have the chance to speak at the tradeshow, take advantage of it. Doing so helps build your credibility and shows your expertise, which will attract new leads to your business. But don’t forget that speaking opportunities should still focus on offering industry information to potential clients, not just selling your product.

8. Follow Up in a Timely Fashion
One of the biggest mistakes your business can make after a tradeshow is not following up with the leads you generated during the show. Contacting your leads after the show is how you move the sale along and ensure that you capitalize on your investment in the tradeshow. But you don’t have to wait until the show is over to reach out to your tradeshow leads. You can set up appointments at the show or have a calendar ready to set meetings with prospects. Don’t wait until there’s a lull in business activity to contact people a few months later. Establishing that contact as soon as possible while they’re still in a business building mentality will ensure that your conversation is fresh in their mind.

Monica Pitts is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of MayeCreate Design. She spends her days constructing a marriage of form and function; creating art with her design team to grow businesses through websites and online marketing. Monica considers herself an artist, marketer and web dork with the ability to speak geek and English.