Reaching Top Decision Makers at Trade Shows

Reaching top decision makers is usually a major priority for trade show exhibitors.  Jeffrey Blackwell, president of The Rogers Company recently contributed to 1-to-1 Media on the topic.  His article, Reaching Mr. or Ms. Big outlines ten strategies for achieving this goal.

Reaching Mr. or Ms. Big
Blanket Branding is Great, But How Do You Reach the Top Decision-Makers Walking the Trade Show?

Trade shows are a great way to get your brand out there, meet new prospects and customers, and simply have a presence at a long established event. But what about that top decision maker that you'd like to reach: the CEO or the Senior Vice President or the manager that needs to see your product? How do you entice him or her to visit your booth?

If you think that trade shows aren't an appropriate medium for establishing this type of connection, think again. High-level decision makers are incredibly busy, but asking them for 10 minutes of “floor time” is a lower threshold than setting up an initial appointment at Ms. Big’s office that might wind up getting bumped down to a lower level person. Here are some strategies for reaching the select group of high-level decision makers that are essential to building your business:

1.) Be Proactive Use pre-show mailers and/or pre-show invitations to pave the way toward getting Mr. or Ms. Big to come to your booth at the show. Don’t leave it to chance that they might show up or might have heard of your company. Send them something that will motivate them to visit your booth. For some ideas as to what this might be, keep reading.

2.) Two Part Give Away Imagine getting a remote control, but no TV. Or a pair of high-end head sets, but no iPod. Or a golf bag without the clubs.  In other words, a valuable gift with a vital missing piece with an attached note promising the rest of the gift at the show. Sounds silly but it works.   Direct mail companies are reporting up to 75% response rates from this type of promotion. The threshold for response is pretty low – stop by and get the gift. The gift has to be premium, but this type of marketing is very targeted.

3.) Educate Your Audience Education is a powerful sales tool. People love to learn stuff – that’s why so many of us watch the DIY or food networks; use your trade show display to both introduce and train attendees on what your product or service can do for them. Use in-booth demonstrations, video presentations, or live presentations. And if your budget can handle it, hire relevant celebrities or spokespeople to appear in your booth. Having a famous expert in your field tout your product in front of a live audience is a great motivator, regardless of whether they’re famous or a key member of your team. You might even consider having your CEO or COO present a high-level talk on the impact your new product or service can have on your client’s business. If you do this, be sure to include it in your pre-show marketing.

4.) Create an Inviting, Comfortable Space A place to sit down and relax is actually rare at a trade show. Having booth space that is comfortable with food and drink available (if trade show organizers allow it) could be a welcome respite from a busy day at the show...and a good time and space for you to connect with "The Bigs."

5.) Sneak Peek Often, companies focus on trade shows as a place to launch new products and services. Suppose you gave decision makers a preview of a product launch that may be a few weeks or months away? This could be anything from a closed, invitation only demonstration to a select group, to a one-on-one presentation. Invitation only previews at trade shows give you the chance to connect at a high-level with a company without having to get past the usual gate keepers.

6.) Hold an In-Booth Party Take advantage of show approved in-booth events such as cocktail hours or breakfast breaks. Send invitations prior to the show but also bring some eye-catching printed invites along to put in the hands of decision makers when you see them at the show.

7.) Know Your VIP’s Create a list of VIPs and make sure that your booth greeters at the reception desk are in charge of that list at all times. This ensures that when a decision maker stops by, they are engaged promptly and concisely. You only have one chance to impress someone at this level.

8.) Let the Benefits Do the Talking Business decision makers always look for benefits. Tell them how your product can save them money or increase market share. Doing your homework with companies also goes a long way. “Dear Mr. Smith: I believe that I can help you increase your line speeds by more than 25%. I would do this by...” Give them some information but always leave things open to discuss further at the show.

9.) Offer Special Event Promotions Force decision makers to decide. 25% off equipment purchased at the show in an exclusive invitation sent directly to your target prior to the show, can be a strong impetuous to buy. A promotional offer, especially one that has an element of exclusivity to it, can help create a personal connection that may be valuable down the road. If you do take orders at the show, both iPhone and Amex have an APPS for automatic credit card purchases. Or make certain that you have order forms on hand for filling out and signing off. This ‘seals the deal’ and gives you instant ROI, (and sometimes and an instant raise from your boss!)

10.) Connect Online Many decision makers are on LinkedIn and other social media sites. Connecting with them there is a great way of getting past the stream of email they get every day. Also, you can connect with them through groups instead of direct contact (which can be a taboo if you don't actually know them). Join groups associated with the trade show or with your industry and then look through the other members. Usually groups in LinkedIn allow you to message other members.

Overall, targeting individuals to come to your booth requires planning, execution, and a real commitment to making it happen. Building long term relationships with these folks will be better for your business today and tomorrow, so it’s vital that Mr. Big or Ms. Big know they’re important to you. Utilizing some of the tips provided here can go a long way toward achieving your objective of building the relationship with key decision-makers that will help propel your business forward.

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