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Using Trade Shows to Strengthen Key Business Relationships

February 4, 2015

In today’s overworked, understaffed world, it’s harder than ever to get face-to-face with your key B2B audiences. That’s why so many companies exhibit at trade shows – to build relationships with key audiences through meetings in their exhibit.

And when buyers do show up at the show, they are further in the buying cycle, having already done initial research on the internet before visiting your booth. They want to get to know your team, or even close the deal, which is another reason why more meetings happen in trade show displays.

So who are we trying to reach? Salespeople, marketers, and business executives are all eager to host meetings in their trade show booths with:

  • Existing customers, to maintain their relationships and to upsell/cross-sell them
  • Key customers, to ensure they keep their business and get feedback about performance
  • Top prospects, to help close the deal
  • Industry alliance partners, to save time and travel expense, because they are all at the show already
  • Distribution partners, to promote new products and discuss current issues
  • Press, bloggers, and analysts, to gain precious public relations opportunities

Now that we know there are many strong business reasons for strengthening relationships in your trade show exhibits, let’s share how to design an exhibit that helps you best to host meetings. Here are 4 factors to consider when creating meeting spaces in your exhibit:

  1. How many people will be in the meetings in your booth – will people be visiting you individually, or in pairs, or in larger groups? Remember to include seating for your side of the table – will one person be talking to them, or a group as well?
  2. How many meeting spaces – will there be so many meetings going on that you will need more than one meeting space? You don’t necessarily need to have enough meeting spaces for the very busiest time of the show, but for the majority of the show.
  3. What level of privacy do you need – open meeting spaces, semi-private, or private? That’s driven by how much either you, your guests, or both want to not be seen talking together in your booth, or by how much you want to minimize distractions, or host hidden presentations or negotiations.
  4. What level of sophistication do you need – will bare walls do, or do you need some decoration or graphics or cool architecture or technology for a presentation? Do you want to put them atop a double-deck, or add a ceiling? This is determined by the value to your business you get from these meetings – is it a good investment to create a more welcome meeting space?

Building Relationships with More than Exhibit Design

Beyond your exhibit design, you can also strengthen key business relationships by the promotions you do and the booth staffers you bring:

Promotions – Whether it’s by phone or other means, invite your key audiences to meet you in your booth, and set meeting times in advance. You can even book people into specific meeting space you’ve designed into your booth. Since you are focusing on having longer meetings with fewer, but more valuable people, ditch the $1 giveaways and invest in higher-end gifts you can use to reward or entice key buyers and customers to visit. Similarly, rather than put out a bowl of hard candy, upgrade your hospitality to drinks and a real snack or treat for your valued visitors.

Booth Staffers – This definitely is not the time to send your new low-level employee to a show for training. Bring your senior management, business development managers, and the account execs who manage the key accounts coming to your booth. Bring people who can answer their technical questions, but do so with warmth and genuine charm, creating tighter bonds between your visitors and your company. You want your key booth visitors to feel like they’ve been well taken care of and that they met with their equals or betters, so they head home tied even stronger to your company and brand.

No matter which key audience you are targeting, be it key clients, prospects, partners, or the press, your trade show exhibit can be a platform for building stronger bonds between you and your most prized people.

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