I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz about connecting with people at trade shows and conferences. Industry trade shows provide many opportunities for business consultants to strut their stuff. Attending an industry trade show is a budgeting necessity for any consultancies planning for growth.
These trade shows or conventions are filled with prospects. Consultants can make personal contact with new and current clients. Hopefully, existing clients will proudly introduce you to new prospects and furnish on-the-spot references along the way.
Trade shows are big business. Some industries have a disproportionate number of these conventions. Prudent consultants do their homework and go to shows where the decision-makers will be in attendance. If decision makers are unlikely to attend a convention, save your money for another day – don’t feel pressured to attend a trade show just ‘to be seen.’
Without a clearly defined plan and purpose you’ll likely just be wasting your time.
To Booth or Not to Booth?
Many consulting practices take booths at trade shows. This strategy can generate many leads and create buzz around your consulting business name. It can also bring some needed energy and excitement in the practice. If you opt for a booth, make sure your staff are well trained and ready. Anticipate questions, have interesting materials and go high tech with visual aids that set your booth apart form the standard.
Booth personnel need to know how to conduct themselves. A pushy consulting representative can do more harm than good. Make sure your representation is in keeping with your marketing plan. First-time booth workers should experience a few test runs before being thrown to the wolves.
Overall, a professionally staffed booth at a decision-maker’s convention is a powerful advertising and marketing weapon. In advance of the show, find out who will be manning other booths and what industry members are expected to attend. Encourage your existing clients to stop at your booth as often as possible. This friendly atmosphere will help welcome new prospects and you will have reference on site. What could be better?
I’d be remised if I don’t put a disclaimer of sorts here. If you’re just starting out in the consulting business setting up a booth isn’t something you should be considering. It’s much more useful to set up appointments with prospective clients, wander the halls and get into discussions with your ‘target market’. You’ll find the flexibility of being able to walk around and approach people a real benefit that a 1 person booth can’t provide.
Speaking at the Convention
Let convention managers know that you will be available and that you will happily speak at their convention. Even if you are not invited to speak, try to get a spot on a panel or two. Prospects that go to these panel sessions are interested. Hopefully they will approach you during the convention. At conventions where you participate as a panelist or a speaker, make sure your contact information is prominently displayed.
Remember not to press your sales message while speaking in such a public situation. A slight mention is fine, but any clear promotion of your own product or service will be seen as unprofessional and self-serving – and you’ll find yourself without future offers to speak or join a panel session.
Be sure to have a strong understanding of the topic and make it clear that you have loads of valuable insight on industry trends and current events.
Conventions do generate leads so spend extra time getting new prospect contact info and then make sure to follow through with a personal letter immediately after leaving the show. Never wait for the phone to ring. As soon as you return to you office, build a line of communication with the new lead. If you do not, someone else will!