Most travel consultants have opportunities to participate in local trade shows. The Chamber of Commerce business fair, a wedding show or even weekly farmers’ markets featuring local businesses are good opportunities to meet prospective clients. Trade shows can be tremendous consumers of resources like capital, time and energy, however. You can increase your chances at having a productive trade show by stepping up your game and following a few simple steps in your participation.
Firstly, make sure the cost for participation is in line with a realistic return on your investment. By the time the cost of the booth space, display materials, personnel and any travel costs are taken into account the costs associated with a trade show are not always as minimal as they may initially seem. You can also get lost in a sea of other businesses and competitors with better positioning and displays, so carefully scope out the participation of your competitors. It is often a good thing if other travel consulting companies are in attendance, particularly ones that have participated in the past as this indicates a satisfaction with prior results. Speak with past participants about their results and whether the promoter’s projections on attendance is accurate.
Volunteering to assist with the trade show production if possible is often a good idea. Insiders who provide time, energy and effort at events often have their choice of booth placement, special considerations or even free booth space.
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Invite some of your current clients to visit with you at your booth. It is always a special moment when a prospective client has the opportunity to meet with a current client who can deliver a quick, on the spot, testimonial to your travel planning abilities.
The business persona you project at your booth is critically important. Remember to key your presentation to your mission statement – be true to your core values and brand. What will you be featuring? Product? Personality? Unique selling points and personalized care for clients? Develop a real identity that is solidified by your booth presentation, your handouts and your in-booth demeanor. Use your top people-oriented personalities in your booth. Train them in your brand message and then turn them loose to meet and greet. Make eye contact with the crowd and speak to the people as they pass by your booth. Have a hand-out and extend it to them in a friendly, offering manner. Ask a question as your hand off your materials that will peak their interest and cause them to pause for a moment at your booth. If you are handing out a promotional product like a pen or a mouse-pad, ask them if they would like one and then begin to engage them in conversation as you acquire it from the booth. Always exchange the promotional item for contact information – a business card or a simple form they can fill out. Make sure everyone with whom you speak leaves with your presentation materials, especially your business card.
Generate a booth presence that is memorable. Amateurish attempts at booth display will not represent you well, particularly if any portion of your brand is concerned with luxury or personalized service. Likewise, your presentation materials should be polished and professional in appearance. One good technique is to offer a free “travel personality profile” – you collect information on their travel history, preferences and ambitions and you will email them an analysis of how to achieve their plans and the best destinations to visit. Style all of your presentation in a client-centric manner – speak to their needs, their ambitions and to their benefit rather than focusing on the features of your travel agency.
Take some time during the trade show to investigate and study the other booths. Watch for especially busy booths and analyze what characteristics are drawing people to their display. Note their manner of meet and greet and listen to their presentation. You can learn a lot from watching others who have made trade shows an art.