Getting Clients at Trade Shows

NASFT09Thus far, it’s been a month of trade shows. First as attendee, at the Fancy Food Show in NYC and then as an exhibitor at the Atlanta Gift Mart. I’ve met great people, created opportunities and seen some interesting behavior. I’ll post first on some observations from my perspective as a show attendee and write later about the view from the other side.

Exhibitors at the Fancy Food Show are companies with all kinds of food and beverage, as well as suppliers to the food industry. They’re selling to restaurants, caterers, gourmet markets, gift basket companies, catalogs, manufacturers, pretty much anyone with a connection to the food industry. (# of vendors) take up two full floors at the Javits Center for three days.

There were swarms of people walking the aisles, tasting samples at each booth. It’s pretty costly to exhibit, so you’d think that the people working the booths would be proactive in talking to potential customers and collecting contact information so they can follow up. Unfortunately, some of those companies are going to conclude that the show wasn’t worthwhile because their people committed the most deadly trade show sins.

At some booths, the rep was sitting in the corner reading or standing around talking to a co-worker. C’mon now, at the very least, you need to acknowledge people passing by, engage them in conversation, get them to stop. (I didn’t say accost, I said engage!) More than once, I approached a booth, looking to talk with someone and was totally ignored. One woman was clearly on the phone with a friend and handed me a business card and waved me away, perhaps so I would call her later? I threw it out.

Some of the people I did talk with never asked to scan my badge, which would give them all my contact info, or requested a business card. Follow up is key for trade show success. What are they thinking? I hope they’re not counting on attendees to contact them, even if they did hand out a pound of promotional material.

What kind of experience have you had recently as a trade show attendee?

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