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This post was written while sitting around the old horseshoe, waiting for the Interactive Discussion Group: Strategies for Making the Most of Your Tradeshow Investment to begin. The session was led by Bob Knorpp, president of marketing consultancy for The Cool Beans Group. Bob also is part of the MPB2B "pit crew" and is collecting key takeaways to present tomorrow at the conference wrap up.

For those of you who were there, here are my notes. If you couldn't make it, here's what you missed.

Bob says the most important thing to remember is that the show is not about the booth, it's about the relationships. Everything needs to be done with the goal of building the relationship. For best results, you should start to do this long before you get to the show, with marketing and PR promotions that will raise your profile with the show audience.

In terms of booth size, a big booth is good, but it's not absolutely necessary. If you have strategy in place in terms of touch points in and around the show, booth size becomes less important. A good strategy will take you to places a booth can't. A good-looking booth does not close deals; that happens (or does not) as a result of what happens inside the booth.

Key points:

  1. It's more important that your booth be memorable than informative. And the people working the booth should be actively collecting information that will provide some context for the follow-up contact. Bonus: Have soft floors to soothe aching feet.

  2. Set up levels of engagement. Put one person in front to hand out stuff and draw people in to be scooped up by a "demo person" who will then hand them off to a "closer." This process will create a sense of motion even in a small booth. Think "theme park." When you're in Disney, you go from one world to another.

  3. Sell to sales before you sell to the customer. If you can "pain sell" to your sales people, you can sell to anyone. (Pain selling: Identify customer's pain, commiserate, then show your solution to pain.)

Think of your booth as a web-experience. Before people leave a page, their eyes will go to the right column, so you want to make that sticky. Create a "destination" experience; manufacture involvement. This is more effective than just handing someone a brochure. From the audience: "Decision makers don't want stuff to carry, but they may want an experience." Consider putting information on jump drive; it's a premium, and easy to carry.

Next up: pre-show promotion or, the most important thing you can do to ensure your success.

Postcards usually say, "Come to our booth; see us at ... " This is where a having developed a recognizable brand can help a lot. If you don't have a strong brand identity, the visual cues become critical. Make sure people can connect your promo to YOUR booth, otherwise it's a waste of money. Audience example: "I have a card with lightning and that also is in my booth. No mistaking it."

Don't worry about drawing generally (unless at a targeted show),;you can qualify people in the booth. Three ways to qualify are: forms, card swipe and business card. B-card is the most reliable because people sometimes lie on forms.

Buy advertising in a hot industry newsletter, before and after event.

In show promo ideas: Buy a wrap for the show daily. Buy door hangers. Buy video loop on shuttle buses. All kinds of ops in-show to drive people to booth. Purchase paid ads in social media (e.g., a Facebook page), mention ad and get premium. Bad example of using Twitter is a spamming key word "visit us at booth #999."  A good example is: "Come to booth #999 and ID woman and red, you get (premium)." Do whatever you can do to get your name to turn up frequently.

As for giveaways, make sure it's relevant. Audience: "We do a bright orange bag with our logo;  bags end up displayed all over the show.

Most importantly, make sure you're doing something with the information you've collected. Give sales people specific things they can bring up in the follow-up call, i.e., what they mentioned they were doing at the event, if they mentioned their kids, etc., some kind of personal data so the contact is an enhancement of the relationship.

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Helena Bouchez is principal and owner of Helena B Communications ( Reach her via or follow her on Twitter (@HelenaBouchez).