January 12th, 2009
Trade Show Do’s and Don’t’s
With the International Builders Show coming up, I thought I’d share some thoughts regarding getting the most out of a trade show like this. One of the basics is to remember your business cards. I’ve met scores of people at trade shows who had forgotten theirs. The reason to bring a business card is to get the other person’s business card. When a prospect stops by your booth, make sure to give them your card. If they don’t immediately offer theirs, say something non-threatening like “Do you have a card? We’d love to keep you posted regarding new products.” Very few people will turn down that offer.
On another note, if after a couple of swipes, your electronic card reader isn’t working, take their paper business card and let the prospect move on. After the trade show, be sure to follow up with each person. More often than not, when I swipe my card, I never hear back from the company. Perhaps that’s because they’re suspicious of the title “investment banker,” but I have a hard time believing I’m being singled out in all those cases. Another sin of follow-up is waiting so long after the show to send your “You stopped by our booth at IBS…” letter that it seems a little silly to even bother sending it.
On another note, I’m not a big proponent of everyone from a given company going to lunch together and talking only to each other. I make a practice of striking up conversations with others at lunch time and I’ve never been bitten as a result of it. If you’re stuck for what to say to a stranger in the lunch area, let me recommend, “How’s the show treating you so far?” Follow that shortly with “What do you do?” and you’ve got an instant connection. You never know what could come from those conversations. Another tip for that lunchtime conversation is to be careful what you say. It’s crazy to badmouth the new product or those idiots in shipping that have caused your lead times to climb or to say anything else that a competitor could use or that would cause a customer to think twice about buying from your company. You’re surrounded by both groups of people at a trade show.
Good luck at IBS. Keep an eye out for me there. If you see me, just ask me how the show’s treating me so far.