Trade-show tactics

Trade shows, conferences and seminars are popular with business owners, but what do you get out of them apart from a bag full of pens, stress balls and flyers?

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your next professional outing;

Remember that trade shows often include only about 10 to 20 percent of your true target market, so target only those booths relevant to your business.

Have two presentations ready: one to deliver to representatives with the power to buy or influence buying, and the other for the “human vending machine” whose job is to smile and hand you a brochure about his or her company. Do not deliver your sales presentation to this person. He won’t remember and doesn’t care. Many times, as soon as that person leaves this event, he or she will fly directly to their next event somewhere on the other side of the United States. By the time he or she makes it back to the office, if ever, your business card and company flyer are gone.

That’s not to say that these people don’t have value.

You just need to know how to leverage them: 
1. Ask specific questions about divisions within their companies that would make buying decisions regarding your product or service. 
2. Find out the program manager and contracting specialist for that sector.
3. Uncover any challenges they may face regarding your area of service.
4. Find out if they have recently won or are currently bidding on any projects where you might fill a need.
5. Get quality contact numbers, and call them before you leave the conference. If the number is worthless, go back and try again. Always follow up within 48 hours of the conference with a personalized e-mail. Get lazy at this point, and you’re likely to blow all the money you invested going to the show in the first place.

Louis J. Celli Jr. is a retired Army master sergeant who has started and developed businesses, and has counseled hundreds of veteran entrepreneurs. He is CEO of the Northeast Veterans Business Resource Center. Readers can send questions for “On Point” to