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Tradeshows: Go In Ready, Come Out Winning

By Mike Michalowicz

Everyone is packed up, miscellaneous papers litter the floor, and the lights go out. CES is over. All that amazing energy, aggressive showmanship, hallway demonstrations, and handshake deals end after one insanely life energy sucking week. For many they will pack their bags with their electronic gadgets and save the sales pitch for CES 2009. And for many, that is a major mistake.

Tradeshows, CES or others, are way more than just going for the quick deals. And it sure isn’t your only chance to show off your wares. The biggest opportunities typically occur weeks or months after the tradeshow is over, you just need to play your cards right. Here are some tips on how to maximize the weeks and months after:

Going In

1. Preparation is a must. Many know this, but only a few execute on it. Find out who is going to be their ahead of time and determine who you want to meet and where you can find them.

2. Give ‘em a heads up. Weeks before the show, reach out to the people you want to meet and arrange a time to meet at the show. Don’t leave the key networking opportunities to happenstance.

3. Give them the materials now. There is so much going on at the show and so much being thrown around, that your stuff will probably go into the big bag of garbage literature. Send your materials and literature to key individuals ahead of time. Follow it up with a meeting at the show.

At The Show

1. Run a spread offense. The key here is teaming up and spreading out. You sure as better have a couple people manning your booth, and just as important your better have people walking the floor.

2. This is go time... Go and network. In addition to your prearranged meetings, go do a lot of rapid networking. Not card pushing, but networking. If you meet people that you can help or can help you, get their card and tell them you will follow up the week after the show.

3. Stand Out. You gotta be different if you want to draw traffic. But different doesn’t always mean outrageous. And in particular when everyone is being outrageous, you also being outrageous isn’t different.

4. Use the 80/20 Rule. Generally, 80% of the traffic coming to your booth is of no value and only 20% are real opportunities. To make matters worse another 80% of the qualified opportunities don’t even know you have a booth at the show. Make the odds in your favor by notifying key attendees in advance and by having a booth that is unique to their needs. Know the common traits of your prospects and have a booth that speaks to them – that draws traffic.

The After Party

1. You’ve just begun. Successful tradeshow events are followed up with consistent and persistent contact. During the show you should have identified key contacts, and now is the time to do the follow up.

2. It’s not just the next day, it’s the next year. Just like a bell curve, all the activity surrounding a trade show dies off a few days after the event. Keeping your follow up campaign going for the long haul is what will make you stand out.

3. It’s just around the corner. Next year’s event is at the most only a year away. Keep the key contacts apprised of what is going on after the event and keep them in the cycle for what you will be doing at next years event.

Questions? Comments? BigIdeaCES@CNBC.com