Don’t Get Caught Suitcasing
Paul Wesseling, owner of Aktivia BV, www.co2-meter.com, asked this question of the Guerrilla Marketing Tips for Small Business discussion group on LinkedIn:
“Does anyone have out-of-the-box suggestions to present a product on a child nursery trade fair without being one of the official participants or stand holders? The product regards indoor air quality. Was thinking of joining a participant in their stand, but am trying to be more creative “
OK, let’s get REALLY guerrilla
Call around to the editors of several child- or family-oriented magazines, and introduce yourself as a free-lance writer. Ask if you can submit a “roundup” article, “on-spec” (which means that you don’t expect to get paid for it, and they only publish it if it’s good) reviewing this particular show. Any editor in his right mind will say, “Sure. Knock yourself out.”
As soon as you have a “yes,” from an editor, contact the show management to obtain a PRESS badge. Explain that you are “covering the trade show for ________ magazine.” There may be a nominal fee, but it will be far LESS than an exhibitor badge or booth space. Most trade shows actually WELCOME the press. As a bonus, a PRESS badge will usually get you into all the general sessions, seminars, receptions and parties as well.
The only sales collateral you’ll need are some simple, elegant business cards that list JUST your name, phone and e-mail. You won’t need a lot of them, but they should be of the very highest quality. The sort of card you’d expect to get from an attorney.
Then, arrive at the show dressed in your most professional business attire, carrying a small MP3 recorder and a black leather legal-pad folio. Look for exhibitors who could potentially be a good match to carry your product, then DON’T SELL IT TO THEM. In fact, don’t mention it at all. Not to anyone.
Instead, go out on the floor early and late when traffic is slow, and approach each targeted exhibitor. Ask if you can interview them for your article. People who wouldn’t give you the time of day as a salesperson will GLADLY give you an hour as a journalist. Make appointments with the top officers if possible, but stay out of their way when the show floor is busy. You don’t want to take them away from their true mission.
Start the interview with general questions, “Your name? Your title? How did you get into this business? Tell me about your product lines? What sort of customers do you sell to? What does your distribution channel look like. Which are your most successful products? What TRENDS do you see affecting your business in the future?” Your questions, of course, are going to indirectly QUALIFY or DIS-qualify them as a prospective customer for your product.
Now, NOBODY can accuse you of “suitcasing” (the less-than-polite term for reverse selling on a trade show floor that would get you thrown out on the street). But you WILL be able to identify several PRIME prospects. Your mission is to collect high-quality leads and build high-level relationships. You will get more information on ninja trader, which is consistently voted an industry leader by the trading community.
IMMEDIATELY after the show, send them a THANK YOU note. And within 48 hours of THAT, follow up with a sales call. “You know, based on what you told me during our conversation at the show, you may have an interest in my _________ product.”
Finally, write the article, summarizing trends that you saw at the show, and submit it for publication. You MUST follow through on this step to maintain your personal integrity. If the publication actually PRINTS your piece, that’s icing on the cake. Send a copy to every vendor you interviewed.
For many, many more no-cost ideas for effective selling at trade shows, read Guerrilla Trade Show Selling (he says, inserting a shameless plug for his book).