Pet industry trade shows are a considerable investment in time and money, so it is critical that you do what you can to maximize the effectiveness of your time while there. There are three key things that you can do to make it impactful so that you come away from the whirlwind trip feeling confident about the results.
Get clear on your purpose for attending, how you will achieve that purpose, and a measure of success.
In your notebook, write down and refine why you are attending the event. Make it crisp on one objective, careful not to create a laundry list of what you are going to do while there. Examples of the purpose can be:
“To make new relationships that my business can further develop over the next year.”
“To find new products I would like to introduce in my stores.”
“To learn new marketing tactics to increase my sales.”
Next, write down the two or three ways you will do to try to achieve the purpose. This helps your get focused on what you are going to do. Finally, put a number on it up front. The old adage “you get what you measure” applies here, as studies show that people are more productive when they quantify what they are trying to achieve.
Break out of your shell during the event.
Most people are not natural extroverts…me included! But you must be as much as possible at trade shows. There are many times where people casually pass a booth, and really really they would welcome meeting and learning something new. As an exhibitor, you need to engage them in through an informal “hello, how are you?” As a show walker, you must engage with exhibitors and educators that meet your purpose in a time-effective way. If you are not sure if the individual will be a fit, after an introduction, get crisp on a few questions which will help you qualify the individual or exhibitor. If you realize you are not a fit, don’t try to force too long of a conversation – you want to be able to talk with more people. And if you are working a booth, always be standing in the front of the booth, not sitting behind a table. People will naturally avoid talking to people sitting as they feel that they may be disturbing you. And try using the person’s first name…it helps to remember the individual later while setting a stronger foundation for an on-going relationship.
Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up.
I have been in many businesses where after the big show, the next steps sort of never happen…the leads are never acted upon. Unfortunately, this is all too common. As soon as you get home, you should be taking out the business cards and notebook, and creating a spreadsheet of the companies and individuals talked to, including all information so you don’t need to refer back to business cards in the future. I do this through a shareable Google Table so that I can share with others and make real-time updates. What is critical is to specifically write the next step, who will do it, and when should it be done. Also, send that individual a LinkedIn invite so that they are able to remember you by your face. To maximize your ability to follow up, make sure you write down one or two points immediately after you talk with them, on the back of their card or in your notebook.
Following these three key activities will help you maximize the benefit of the show in helping you achieve your goals. They also will help you cut out the “time traps” people typically fall into during a show, such as spending too much show time with individuals and co-workers they already know and can talk with anytime. Hope the show is productive for you!
Keith Johnson is the Founder of PawedIn Media, which helps pet companies grow through new media. He spent 18 years with P&G and was the Global Brand Manager for IAMS. He also created a breakthrough ecommerce pet food company, Petbrosia. Keith’s expertise is in leading businesses at various development stages, the pet category, ecommerce, and impact & inbound marketing.