Trade shows are the best face-to-face sales and marketing venues in the world. Thousands of current clients and future prospects are gathered in one place, and they’re all focused on industry-wide problems that your company solves. The sales and marketing activity doesn’t have to stop when the show floor closes, however.
Hospitality suites and customer events represent a largely untapped opportunity. Everyone is going to eat dinner, go out for drinks and probably seek some kind of entertainment – why shouldn’t your best clients and prospects do that with your sales team?
Whether you’re hosting a huge party for a thousand guests or a simple, off-site dinner for your closest clients, here are seven reasons you should do some kind of a hospitality event during your next trade show:
People buy from people they know, like and trust. The biggest advantage you can give your salespeople is the opportunity to build real rapport with your clients, so they can cross the threshold from “salesperson” to “friend and trusted advisor.” That’s hard to do in a sales call or on the trade show floor, where everything revolves around a “buyer/seller” mentality. At the hospitality, we’re here to have fun and relax together, which lets your sales team connect with your prospects as friends.
Convert Your Competitor’s Customers
Successful hospitality events introduce guests to new venues, new food and drink, and new experiences. Research shows these events are “mind opening” – when we try new things and enter new worlds, we see ourselves differently and open ourselves to trying even more new things. By inviting your competitor’s clients to these special events, you open their minds to new perspectives about your industry, your products and your company. This can help your sales people “get their foot in the door” with clients who would normally be firmly committed to your competitor.
Drive Traffic to the Trade Show Booth
Clients need a good reason to stop and engage with your trade show booth staff. By displaying your equipment in the hospitality, mentioning the problems it solves in the welcome speech and on signage, and even integrating these messages into your entertainment, you can help your prospects make a plan to visit your booth and learn more.
In casual conversation at a hospitality suite, your sales team can ask a few casual questions about your customer’s business, identify some pain points and then schedule an on-site meeting, a phone call or another “next step.”
There is no greater referral tool than a hospitality suite. When your best clients bring their friends and colleagues to your hospitality space, they are literally introducing these people to your company, your products and your sales people. It doesn’t get any smoother than that.
You could offer a special deal for guests attending the hospitality or trade show, but you can also use your event to offer free white papers and research, complimentary test-drives of software and portal websites, and complimentary need analyses. This could be done as part of a speech or explained on a card or one-sheet in a gift bag. Using opt-in forms, you can tell which of your prospects took advantage of the offer, so you know who your sales team should follow up with and what they should talk about.
Of course, people do like to feel appreciated. Don’t forget to thank your current customers for their business (while you commit them to a next step).
Hospitality events are a tremendous opportunity to connect with your ideal clients. Creating a memorable event that connects your sales team to your prospects, positions your sales team for effective follow up, and really drives bottom-line results, takes strategy and forethought.