Done properly, trade shows are a great way to generate leads. Done poorly, they can be a tremendous waste of time and money.
Trade shows represent a unique opportunity for both networking (one-on-one) and/or gaining exposure (one-to-many). And unlike most other methods, trade shows can be very personal. Where else can you spend a few days and be in contact with so many industry leaders, influencers, and potential clients?
A trade show is a business opportunity, not a boondoggle. Corporate employees often see a trade shows as a company paid vacation. As a small business person, however, you simply can’t afford that. Rather than goof off, you need to WORK the trade show. Here are some recommendations:
1. Decide who you want to meet. Industry leaders often attend trade shows. So do influencers, like magazine editors. Want to write for a magazine? A trade show is an excellent way to make the initial contact. Certainly more personal than a query letter. If you really want to meet someone, make a “date” for breakfast, lunch, or even just coffee.
2. Volunteer to participate. This is a good way to meet the “movers and shakers” in your community. Your help will be appreciated, and you will be remembered. Just be careful not to bite off more than you can chew, particularly when starting out. As the old saying goes, do a little – do it well — you’ve done a lot.
3. Support the tutorials. If you present, make it a tutorial session rather than a formal paper. Tutorials expose you to the “newbies” most in need of your services. While others are busy trying to impress their colleagues, you’ll be in front of potential clients.
4. Visit the vendors. Ask about new products and services in your industry. Don’t spend all your time in technical sessions — you can read the papers later. Furthermore, vendors can be a great source of recommendations to potential clients. I always enjoy my time with vendors.
5. Attend the social events. Remember, “all work and not play…” Besides, this is a great chance to meet people on an informal basis. That includes hitting the bars. Even if you don’t drink, you’ll often find interesting discussions going on — particularly later in the evening. (Offer to buy a round and you will be most welcome to join in.)
6. Exchange business cards. Yes, I know they may see old fashioned in our electronic age, but trade shows are all about live personal contact. After the show, send an e-mail or note to those of interest to you. Invite them to join you on LinkedIn — add them to your data base. Don’t just throw the cards in a pile.
Remember, leads are the lifeblood of the consulting business. No, the world is NOT going to beat a path to your door — you need to light the way. Too many consulting businesses have crashed while waiting for business to walk through the door.
PS- Been a little lax here is going through my list of 20 lead generators. We’ll work on picking up the pace. In the meantime, any topics you would like to see?
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