WHY EXHIBIT? Part 6: Business Rapport

Part six of our Why Exhibit? blog series looks at trade show planning when one of your goals is developing or maintaining business rapport.

Although not usually considered a key goal when exhibiting, creating and maintaining business rapport, as well as developing your company’s profitability, can be a strong secondary goal. Business rapport is not something you can sell in a magazine or on a billboard. It doesn’t come from Twitter feeds or LinkedIn updates. It comes from meeting people face-to-face and staying in touch on a personal level.

Setting Your Goals

You can’t put a price tag on good rapport. When you’re building your trade show strategy you might want to consider how these other goals can factor into your plan:

  • Nurturing long-term business relationships
  • Maintaining a steady market presence
  • Offering on-site customer service
  • Recruiting qualified employees from within your industry
  • Training and familiarizing new employees with your product & industry
  • Forming partnerships with related businesses in your industry
  • Putting your name in the press

Even if these aren’t your key goals, they’re worth considering. For example, if your business is growing and you’re looking for experienced new employees, you can do on-the-spot interviews without the cost and timelines associated with traditional job postings.

Meeting Your Goals

Focus on making your booth space comfortable. Developing business rapport, meeting with potential partners or employees, or providing answers to customer questions all require a place to sit down and talk. Make provisions for private or semi-private meeting areas in your space, and really make that space yours. Use finishes, textures and printed graphics to incorporate your brand, and add comfort items like soft lighting, plants or flowers, and a bar fridge to supply refreshments.

Don’t cheap out on the seating in your booth. If you’re going with a boardroom style meeting area, rent the good ergonomically-correct padded leather seats. If you’re going with more informal, relaxed seating, make sure your couches and sofas are comfortable.

Although show services might complicate matters, consider what kind of food and drink you can offer. Coffee is always a good idea (unless your show is in the heat of the summer) but what kind will you serve? Are you bringing in Tim Hortons or Starbucks? Offering a variety of Keurig or Tassimo selections? When it comes to those kinds of decisions, don’t be afraid to spend some money. You want the people you expect to meet at the show to really enjoy themselves in your space.

Consider what you can do to go the extra mile for your customers, leads and partners. Can you offer a smartphone charging station? An air conditioned meeting area? Think about who you’ll be meeting with and get creative.

You might get lucky with press coverage as well, but this is also something you can plan for. Make some calls and see what you can do about getting press coverage at the show—it can go a long way towards enhancing your brand awareness.

Measuring Success

You’ll need to rely on your salespeople to help gauge your successfulness here. Start by emailing thank-you notes to everyone you met with, once the show is over. See what kind of response you get—were they happy to see you? Did they sing your praises for providing an air conditioned space to meet?

If you were recruiting or training new employees, look to your salespeople to determine how successful they think they were. Did you hire anyone based on show floor encounters? Does your new staff feel more familiar with your product after having helped exhibit?

You may not be able to put a number to how much business rapport you gained from your exhibit, but when you combine it with other goals you should get a good feel for how successful you were overall. In our next (and final) Why Exhibit post, we’ll look at how to put together all of these different goals and turn them into an effective, hands-on trade show strategy.

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