Successfully Marketing Yourself at a Trade Show

      An ever increasing portion of my work comes from clients in the trade publication industry. This past week I attended a trade show for my industry. I knew this was going to be an amazing opportunity to network, make connections, and, fingers crossed, make some new clients. I realized I needed to come up with a strategy that would set me up for success and assure that I got the most out of my experience. A made a list of ideas to try out. I took the ones that worked the best and developed this simple five step plan that will make your next trade show visit a beneficial one.

      Industry trade shows are pretty intense and can be intimidating. If you are going to one with hopes of promoting yourself and strumming up new business, you don't want to do so blindly. The beauty of going to an industry trade show as a photographer is that every company or brand there is a potential client because everyone uses images to market themselves. Without a positive strategy you could end up spending a ton of money and walking around for miles and miles a day with nothing to show for it in the end. Obviously, the quality of your work will play a part in your success, but everyone knows that your business skills also play a major role in your success as well. Hopefully you can take these tips and apply it to your next trade show visit.
      Plan, Plan, and then Plan Again

      I think one of the most crucial things in anything business related is planning. Having a plan gives you structure and gives you something to work towards. Without a plan you may very well end up wasting hours, if not days, at a trade show. Most large trade shows have a list that show you every exhibitor that will be in attendance. These list are usually available long before the actual event is held. What I do with this information is make my own list of potential clients I want to try to connect with. The first list I make is based on location. Most companies would much rather work with a photographer that is local to their area so they don't have to pay out as much in travel cost. My first list is always potential clients in my state. By mentioning to them that I also live in Georgia, I instantly create common ground with them. My second list is made up of "dream clients." These are usually clients that I know are a long shot but having the opportunity to work with them is worth taking the risk. Once you have created these lists it's a good idea to go ahead and try to reach out to someone at the company via email or a phone call. It's always going to be better to set up a meeting beforehand rather than to try to get one at the actual event. It is, however, sometimes difficult to get a response this way, so don't be discouraged if they seem to ignore you. You'll get another chance at the show.

      You are also going to want to set up your travel arrangements and hotel arrangements as far in advance as possible. If you try to book a hotel last minute at a large event that will bring in thousands of travelers, you may find there aren't many, if any, rooms available. You could end up having to stay in the next city over and that is just going to cost you more money and time. Trade shows often have official event hotels that offer discount for show attendees and exhibitors. These hotels will often offer free transportation to and from the event as well. This can end up saving you a good bit of your hard earned money.
      Create A Memorable Leave Behind

      Business cards are great and serve a purpose, but they are somewhat lacking. The truth is, you may only get 15 to 30 seconds to speak to someone. If all you have is a business card to give them it's just going to get lost in the stack of the other 500 business cards they get during the week. We are creatives, so let's be creative! What I did was create a small eight page booklet. It was basically a mini-portfolio. I wanted to make sure that it was visually intriguing as well as informative. I wanted to get across what I bring to the table and what makes me good at what I do. Below you can see my cover and some of the spreads from my booklet. I was able to design my own booklet for the most part, but I also used some template pages that I got from graphicriver.net. If you aren't too savvy when it comes to graphic design, it would definitely be worth the investment to get a graphic designer to put something together for you. I was able to get 1,000 8.5x5.5 inch booklets printed for less than $700, including shipping, using nextdayflyers.com. You don't have to make the exact same thing I did, but definitely create something memorable. Almost every person I talked to would ask me if I had a card. The great thing about my booklet was I would say, "I have something even better," and give them my sample. Eighty percent of the time this would cause them to spend an extra 2-5 minutes talking to me and asking me questions. This was great and allowed me to build even more rapport. The more face time you can get with someone, the more memorable you will be. That's the key here. You want to be remembered.

       


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