Takeaways from the 2016 DC Annual Small Business Fair

This week Creative Analytics participated as an exhibitor at Rep. Eleanor H. Norton’s 2016 Annual DC Small Business Fair and it was a huge success! We decided to share some of our tips and strategies from the experience…

katie at 2016 dc small biz fair

1. Have a specific and measurable goal

Whether you are trying to generate leads, foster strong customer relationships, or simply increase brand awareness, setting measurable goals will help you track your progress and identify tactics for your strategies. Business fairs and expos are an incredible networking and learning opportunity. However, they can become overwhelming or chaotic without specific goals to focus your efforts throughout the day. Start by determining your ROI and then craft realistic, specific and time-constrained goals that are consistent with your objectives. Some goals examples could include collecting 100 business cards in a fishbowl for your giveaway, 50 survey responses at a iPad kiosk, or getting 20 people to schedule a product demo.

2. Be proactive and social

A friendly smile and an enthusiastic attitude can go a long way. Engage with passers-by and use warm, welcoming body language and facial expression to draw people into your booth. Find common interests with anyone who stops by and ask relevant questions to showcase your expertise. Building a connection with potential clients will ensure that they remember you. Active listening, maintaining eye contact, and using the “mirroring technique” can also help build the foundation for a respectful customer relationship. Finally, stay focused and be present throughout the day. Nothing turns visitors off more than an uninterested exhibitor absorbed in their electronics.

3. Have a giveaway to grow your contact database

Giveaways are a simple way to engage potential customers, attract people to your booth, and collect valuable information from attendees. Structure your giveaway so that it captures emails and any other data you need. For example, have participants drop their business cards into a bowl or fill out a survey with their contact information. Make sure the incentive is relevant to your event and company; a free iPad will attract anyone, but only qualified leads will be interested in services your organization offers exclusively. If you’re feeling ambitious and have the team to manage it, two giveaways are better than one. Having multiple giveaways with different entry methods is a great way to distinguish cool/medium and hot leads.

4. Use colors and visuals to attract attendees

Bright colors and well designed visuals can help you stand out in a room full of boring booths. At the Annual DC Small Business Fair, we wore the shade of magenta used in the Creative Analytics logo and were catching eyes from across the conference center. Attendees came up to us just to ask about our pink shirts, which gave us the opportunity to engage them with targeted advice and information about our services. We also set up a MacBook Pro with this looping presentation and a colorful sign with a list of our core services to answer the question: “What do you all do?”:

5. Send a team (Don’t go solo)

Business Fairs and Expos are bustling with activity and require hours of conversation and time on your feet. Send a dynamic team to man your booth so each employee can offer their unique perspective and help share the burden. Never send a new person to man your booth alone – you want a knowledgeable, experienced team member present to answer in-depth questions from a hot prospect. This doesn’t mean interns or new employees need to stay in the office. Our new Content Strategist used Rep. Norton’s business fair as a learning opportunity by listening in on real consultations and helping explain Creative Analytic’s services and strategies to curious attendees.

6. Don’t use takeaway materials like brochures and flyers as a crutch

Although it may be tempting, setting out a stack brochures and flyers to grab as attendees slip by is an ineffective tactic. You want to engage potential clients in meaningful conversation, not just hand out materials. How many of us have attended an event and collected a stack of materials from presenters and never looked at them again? Communicating your company’s services and objectives in person will allow you to tailor your explanation to each listener and begin forming a relationship — and help them remember you when they need your product or service. Have promotional materials available as needed, but don’t make them visually obvious or easily accessible.

7. Use Social Media

Integrating social media into your exhibition strategy can help you connect with attendees and other exhibitioners and make your presence known. If your event has a predetermined hashtag for social media, use it… in real-time. Search Twitter and Facebook on the day of the event to connect with others who are using it and post real-time messaging and images of the event and your booth/team. Make sure these posts include valuable content and knowledge from other presenters, when possible.

Twitter Post - 2016 DC Small Business Fair Twitter Post 2016 DC Small Business Fair

8. Follow Up Promptly

Using the contact information you’ve captured, send a welcome series of emails to attendees. This will help verify their information and solidify new relationships. The first email should be sent within 72 hours of the event (but the sooner the better) and include a free download or offer to keep them engaged and verify your position as an expert. Personalize your emails and include who won any giveaways so readers don’t feel like they paid with their contact information with no benefit.

Wrap Up: Making Your Expo Booth a Success

With these B2B trade show tips you’ll be able to plan strategies, engage attendees, and beautifully represent your business to make the most of any exhibition.

Presented at a trade show or expo lately? Comment below and tell us what strategies made your booth a success.