3 Tips for Turning Your Tradeshow Contacts into Customers

April 7th, 2009 by | Print



Before we jump into this post, it is only appropriate to mention that Paul Pennel, the successful solopreneur behind Minnow Web Design, inspired and co-authored this piece.


Have you spent all day at a convention or fair pitching your products and services to a plethora of people with the hopes of hooking in new clients? At the end of the day, your feet and back hurt, you have the mental fortitude of a zombie, but your hopes are high that you’ve made some solid contacts. Yet, over the next several weeks the expected uptick in sales never materializes.


Your investment of time and money were high, but your return of new customers and sales were low. You question whether the convention was a gathering of time wasters and trinket collectors or if there was something in your pitch that put people off. Here are a couple of methods for converting those contacts into customers.



It’s All About the Bennies

A business card is nice, but it often ends up lost in a purse or wallet – or even worse – it goes straight to the waste basket.  Remember that at the end of the day, most convention goers are drained, too. Sitting at home or in a local bar while unwinding, they leaf through the dozens of cards trying to remember which card they wanted to keep. A great way to differentiate your contact info from the cards that are doomed convention fodder is to hand out a tip sheet.


What is a tip sheet? A tip sheet typically consists of four to eight tips related to your field of expertise and contains your contact information. A tip sheet isn’t a sales tool to tout your product. It is a list of helpful hints telling potential customers that you are an expert in the industry and that you go above and beyond a sale. It creates the impression that buying into a relationship with you comes with benefits.


Each tip is usually only a couple of sentences long. Make them visually digestible. The eyes need to convince the brain to read on. People are less likely to commit to searching through long paragraphs in the hopes of finding helpful nuggets of information than cruising through a quick list.


Each tip should be associated with the use of your product, but not about your product. For example, let’s say you sell photography equipment – cameras, lens, bags, etc. A common tip list may talk about features of a particular camera that you have on sale – more of a user’s guide. It can be helpful and certainly better than handing out just a business card, but not as powerful as a tip sheet on six secrets from a pro on mastering daylight for family vacation photos.


Now, not only can a customer buy great photo gear from you, but they get the added benefit of becoming more adept as an amateur photographer. With your tip sheet, you create the possibility that they will hold onto your contact info and come back to you as they develop their passion for taking great pictures.




Catch Them with the Web

When was the last time that you seriously considered working with a business that didn’t have a web site? Maybe the home-based handy man can build a business off of word of mouth alone. But, if your 14 year old has a MySpace page, there is little excuse as to why you don’t have a web site.


Your website does not need to be a masterpiece in ecommerce like Amazon.com or a traffic hog like YouTube to be effective.  It does, however, need to embody some basics even if you don’t sell directly from your site. It is another forum for communication when prospects don’t feel like picking up the phone. Once the tradeshow attendee goes home, you have a better chance of converting them into a customer with a web site than hoping they call a number off of a card.


For helpful hints on the basics of creating an effective website, check out The Solopreneur’s Guide blog post, “9 Tips to Change a Website from ‘Created’ to ‘Completed’“.



You Need a List to Last

Giving away your tip sheet is big improvement over lining wastebaskets with your business cards, but you can increase your chances for converting contacts into customer exponentially by getting their contact info.


When dating, if you weren’t necessarily interested in the other person, you gave them your number – or a number. But, if you didn’t want them to get away, you got their number. Taking contact info allows you to take control while giving it away – well you get it.


Hopefully you’ve got your game on and can woo the prospect to turning over their digits – or even better their email address. With email, you can create very effective, cost efficient marketing communication pieces to convert customers and build a long term relationship.


However, if you find that some of the tradeshow herd are a little bull-headed about handing out their info, create a contest or raffle where the winner will be contacted after the show. You will need to cure their concerns that you will not give away their info and that you will not hound them ten times a day for the next ten days until they buy something from you. Otherwise, not only will they turn your email into spam, but you will lose all chances of getting them back in the future.


Conventions and fairs are hard work. When you look back at the time commitment and investment of marketing money, do you regret the effort? Take heed of these helpful hints to turn those tradeshow contacts into customers.


All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


3 Responses to “3 Tips for Turning Your Tradeshow Contacts into Customers”

  1. Michelle Says:

    This was very helpful. I wish I had read this back in October when I did my first trade show at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC. I was exhausted and I didn’t get too many buyers afterward. I did do the free sweepstakes and got as many email addresses as I could. However, I like the idea of a tip sheet.

    I am attending a fair on Mother’s Day weekend so I’ll be more prepared. Thanks!

  2. Paul Says:

    Perfect picture to go with the article.

  3. How I Lost Thirty Pounds in Thirty Days Says:

    Hi, interesting post. I have been pondering this issue,so thanks for sharing. I’ll certainly be coming back to your posts.

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