10 Tips to Grow Your Trade Show Prospect List

by Kevin Jackson

Kevin JacksonIAEE offers some great CEM courses, including Exhibition and Event Sales. The course teaches vital marketing and sales techniques to ensure the success of an exhibition. But the foundation of a strong sales program is just part of the process. Before you can close the sale and get a new exhibitor in your show, you have to find the right prospects. That can be a daunting task, especially when money is tight and your time is stretched in 20 different directions. There are only so many competitive shows you can poach.

So what can you do?

  1. Content MarketingDon’t just send a prospectus to help close the sale. Distribute it so potential exhibitors can find you. SlideShare is one of the most visited sites available and it is nothing more than a free hosting service. Make sure industry keywords are clearly identified in the prospectus and you include contact information. Distribute a press release when the prospectus is available. If you don’t have a PR person, there are ways to submit a press release for free.

  2. Social Media: Are your current exhibitors using particular keywords? Search for those and see what other companies use them. Join LinkedIn groups targeted to your industry. Be active in the group. But be a solution provider, not a sales person. There’s a difference between posting about your event to the same group every day and replying at appropriate times when your show could be a solution for their needs.

  3. Google Alerts: Set alerts to get information on your industry, follow large clients, etc. Depending on how broad you make your alert, this can quickly become overwhelming. But after a few days you will learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.

  4. Google Search: Search for your 10 largest customers in Google. If the company is large enough, you will see a description of the company on the right side of your screen...including a list of their competitors in the “people also search for” section.

  5. Buyer’s Guides: This ranges from finding an online database of products and services for a particular industry to scouring Etsy for consumer goods, if that’s applicable for your show. Actually, Etsy, E-Bay and Amazon could be invaluable if you have consumer products at your show. And look at local, state and federal government bid sites as well.

  6. Paid Search Ads: It’s not free, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Set a small budget and test to see if it works for your needs. If someone is researching your industry, they may be a good prospect and you can send them directly to your exhibitor page.

  7. Your Attendees: Give them an incentive (e.g., drawing at the end of the show for a registration discount for the following year) to tell you companies they work with or would like to see the next year. Post a similar opportunity on your attendee registration site. You can then leverage the demand for companies to participate to help close the sale.

  8. Newsletters: Register for industry newsletters, even from your competitors. Who is advertising? What companies are mentioned in the articles?

  9. Your Site: Yes, you have information about exhibitor opportunities hidden under the exhibitor tab on your show’s webpage. But where else are you promoting the show? Do potential exhibitors use your site for industry research? Do you send them an email when they download your whitepapers? Even if it’s primarily attendees visiting your site, they may know potential exhibitors. Include information about your show in appropriate places.

  10. Email Signatures: In addition to showing the date of your show, include links for potential attendees and exhibitors to get more information.

What are some ways you find new prospects?

Are you interested in submitting a blog? Submissions can be sent to IAEE MWC Chapter Coordinator, Elizabeth Haley at [email protected]