Once you’ve planned your trade show calendar, set aside time to identify other trade show vendors who plan to attend. Most exhibitors are so focused upon designing their booths, training their staff, and preparing their marketing materials that they neglect the immense value of networking with other exhibitors. By approaching other trade show vendors and getting to know them, you can lay the groundwork for building a referral system that delivers an ongoing stream of leads. Below, I’ll explain how to identify worthwhile candidates, how to approach them, and the factors that contribute to building a mutually beneficial referral system.
Working Together For Mutual Value
The advantage of establishing these relationships is that they represent a simple lead-generating vehicle that you can leverage. And you’re not limited to exploring these relationships during the event. A trade show vendor directory is an ideal resource for finding like-minded businesses with whom you can create a referral system. Plus, many of these businesses cater to other trade show vendors. For example, they might supply exhibitors with high-quality promotional giveaways. Or, they may be a popular resource for trade show attractions. In both cases, they can introduce you to other exhibitors.
Walk The Trade Show Floor
If possible, arrive at the event hall early on the first day to set up your booth. The more quickly you can set up your exhibit, the more time you’ll have to roam the convention floor before most of the attendees arrive. Your goal, as you walk the floor, is to scout other tradeshow vendors, identifying those who might offer complementary products and services to your own. When you find them, introduce yourself. You should be wearing a badge that includes your name and that of your company.
If you can do this before attendees arrive, you won’t have to divide your time between meeting other exhibitors and addressing the needs of your booth visitors.
Focus On Trade Show Vendors’ Goals
Noted speaker Zig Ziglar once said that the “quickest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.” When you approach trade show vendors, focus upon how you can help them build their businesses. Ask them about their products and think of ways in which your own products might fit within the long-term goals of your respective customer bases. In other words, complementary products often cater to the same customers. If you can communicate the value of working together by showing other exhibitors that you’re considering their goals, you’ll improve your chances of building a mutual referral system.
Build The Relationship
People enjoy working with those whom they like. Take the time to learn more about your potential referral partners. You can do this during breaks, lunches, or lulls in floor traffic. If you’ve spent time training your booth staff, they can watch your exhibit while you continue networking. If you’re attending a multi-day event, suggest dinner after the show, or even breakfast beforehand. When speaking with other trade show vendors, explore areas outside the normal scope of business and sales.
A relationship that exists solely to further mutual business goals can be beneficial, but it pales when compared to a growing friendship. As you get to know other trade show vendors better, you’ll begin to intuit referral strategies that they’ll be open to exploring with you.
Build Your Referral System
Eventually, you’ll need to begin cementing plans to send referrals back and forth with your new partners. When you’re meeting them, take notes regarding the types of products they offer and the long-term needs of their customers. Share the same information about your products and customers with them. As you share this type of information with each other, you’ll start noticing opportunities that are well-suited for referrals.
Don’t underestimate the value of networking with other trade show vendors. They can be a rich source of pre-qualified leads that can result in increased sales and the long-term growth of your business.
About the author:
Jonathan Edelman provides helpful advice about trade show strategies. With years of experience in the trenches, he is an expert on booth displays, follow up techniques, and using trade show marketing strategies to boost revenue.