It’s happening. With vaccination rates rising and the more severe effects of the pandemic trending downward, several industries have announced in-person trade shows for later this year. Meanwhile, over the summer, businesses will likely see marketing opportunities in other events such as “sidewalk days” and local festivals.

Are you and your team ready to get back out there? Here are some ways to improve the odds that you’ll get a satisfying return on investment:

Do your research. Well before the trade show or event, contact the host city’s convention and visitor’s bureau or chamber of commerce. These offices often offer concierge services such as tours and free press releases. Determine whether any such perks could help you establish a strong presence early.

Reach out to top customers and prospects. Make sure those most likely to buy from you know about the trade show or event. It costs little to nothing to add to business correspondence: “P.S. We’ll be attending the XYZ Association Conference, September 16 through 19. Please stop by Booth #1234 and see us!” Have your customer service staff mention the trade show or event in phone calls. Add a banner to your email signatures.

Arrive ready to do business. Don’t assume a trade show or other event will be all talk and no action. Bring purchase order agreements, contractual paperwork, point-of-sale devices — whatever you need to close a sale should the opportunity arise.

Go easy on the freebies. All too often, trade shows or other events devolve into trick-or-treating for adults. Handing out goodies with little or no conversation isn’t cost-effective. Even if you ask visitors to fill out a questionnaire, they may write down bogus contact info to avoid follow-up calls. Generally, it’s best to start with a conversation. If that discussion goes somewhere, then your staff member can ask for contact info and give the person one of your cards as well as an incentive gift.

Strategize sales pitches. The most productive trade show or event interactions tend to be conversations in which the visitor leaves the booth feeling like your business could solve a problem. Work with your staff to devise strong opening lines and a concise “elevator pitch” for the products or services you’ll be focusing on.

During discussions, ask open-ended questions. Which features of our product could help you the most? What challenges do you face that our services could enable you to overcome? Inspire prospects with the real-world advantages of what you do rather than force them to sit through a canned speech.

Devise a winning game plan. Trade shows and other events are usually like competitive sports. You’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. The most important thing is to come up with a cohesive game plan — including a sensible budget — and stick to it.

© 2021