My sister is staying with me for a couple days while she works a trade show near my home in Saratoga Springs, NY. Her company targets school districts and school officials seem to enjoy these events. Golf, cocktail parties, a Bon Jovi concert – hopefully with some time spent visiting the trade show floor and allowing my sister to deliver her company’s value proposition.
In my previous sales endeavors (most of which was spent as an insurance agency producer), I worked trade shows in all the standard locations: Las Vegas, Anaheim, Orlando, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, New Orleans, and did I mention Vegas? The goal was always to come home with as many new prospects as possible. But as my sister is learning, I often spent more time buying these prospects Coronas than I did talking business.
I understand the value of rapport building, and I recognize that trade shows are a rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with dozens (maybe hundreds) of prospects who are in-profile and likely there to find something to buy. But to justify the extravagant cost of attending a trade show and working a flashy booth, I need a clear ROI – not just a list of names on a napkin from the hotel bar.
The greatest ROI we achieved at a trade show was to offer insurance quotes right there on the floor. This was challenging but very slick. If a prospect brought their current policy and spent 5 minutes with me (and a sharp CSR back in my home office) we would provide a “pricing indication” that was contingent on loss history and various other factors. Prospects loved this. We were almost as popular as the guys who brought models to work their displays and pass out their chotchkies.
In the 30 days following this show I think I wrote 8 new commercial accounts that covered my quota for several months and paid for the trade show many times over – delivering that compelling ROI we craved. But as you can imagine, insurance companies were not very comfortable with these “pricing indications” floating around and gradually restricted this practice until it became ineffective. Without the gimmick, we were often relegated back to rapport building which does not provide the direct and concrete results we wanted.
So what can you do to avoid ineffective trade show costs?
- Be selective. Choose 1 or 2 trade shows each year that will give you direct access to your best prospects. These may be regional shows or an industry segment. In my sister’s case, she is going to be talking to business officials from schools in NY – target contact from target prospects in target area. Highly focused for fastest ROI.
- Be visible. Obtain a list of trade show registrants (not hard to do) and email them 60, 30 and 7 days prior to the trade show. Tell them why they need to talk to you and how you will provide value to them during a short visit to your booth. Those who actually show up will be buyers.
- Be virtual. Trade shows cost a fortune. So minimize their costs by developing your own virtual trade show booth that is open 24/7. Put a PPT presentation, client testimonials and your giveaway on a web page. Then promote it using social media outlets. This will cost almost nothing and could produce better results. As a 100% virtual company, we successfully do this at StartUpSelling.
Trade shows can be fun and they can be great prospecting opportunities. I would be interested in hearing stories of how you have created pipeline activity at a trade show and how you produced a positive ROI. Hopefully the ideas above help you to make sure you are investing in new prospects, not just supplying them with Coronas.
Posted in: B2B Marketing
, Insurance Agency Lead Generation
, Insurance Agency Marketing
, Small Business
, Social Media
, Virtual Business