During my years as a salesperson, I worked for several smaller companies. Being a smaller company often means that there aren’t enough finances to exhibit at trade shows, which forced me to get creative. In order to find a solution, I asked myself. “How do I still have the benefits of exhibiting at trade shows without spending all of the money?”
Here is how I answered that question:
1.) I identified all of the key trade shows and their locations.
2.) I created a list of every major prospect and their contact information.
3.) I purchased items related to the location or theme of the trade show. For example, if the event took place in Orlando over the summer, I’d purchase sunglasses, suntan lotion, and some other fun summer time items. If the event was going to take place in Las Vegas, I’d purchase a fun visor and some casino chips. I was able to make most of these purchases at places like The Dollar Store or Target.
4.) Once purchased, I’d mail these care packages with a brief handwritten note to my top 20 prospects, letting them know that I’d be at the show and would love to meet.
5.) I followed up by phone 3 days later asking them their availability.
This process worked absolutely beautifully, and I was shocked by the number of people that would answer my call and say, “You’re the guy that sent me the care package.”
Through this solution, I was able to secure a huge number of meetings. Those that I didn’t meet with typically responded to let me know that they wouldn’t be there. In many cases, I was still able to manifest a phone call with those prospects.
When it came time for the trade show, I never even stepped foot inside of the event. Instead, I would typically sit in the lobby bar or restaurant for most of the day, where I would meet with prospects. Even during periods of time that I wasn’t meeting with companies, I’d sit there because I knew that there was a good chance of spotting someone that I knew and could meet with.
The resources required to carry out this process were drastically less than would have been needed to actually exhibit at the trade show. For example, in Vegas my expenses looked like this:
3 Nights in Hotel: $300
Taxi/Transportation in Vegas: $100
Tax/Transportation in Chicago $100
20 Care Packages with Shipping: $500
Bar/Restaurant Tab: $200
After an event like this, I would typically walk away with six figures in annual recurring revenue. Not a bad ROI, is it? Much better than the $50,000 it would cost to exhibit.
The lesson here is that small businesses should get creative when looking for ways to make themselves known without the budget required to actually exhibit. Don’t let your lack of immediate resources distract you from your goal because you can still compete with the larger companies without spending all of the marketing dollars.