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Should You Market Your Services at a Trade Show?

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.

As a fundraiser for a homeless shelter, I did lots of trade shows. It's a lazy, "attraction" method that works, but not the way you might like if you're keen on the numbers and speed.

Actually every time I go out, anywhere, I tend to get a client. That's what I learned as a fundraiser.  Get Out. Of course I had more  staff and budget then, but I went to anything I could get into - chamber luncheons, non-profit banquets, plumbing trade shows, church anniversaries. Mix and mingle.

Wear a name tag. Think marketing. A fundraiser should never be in her office. Nor should you on your “marketing” day.

If you’re a non-profit and go to a Construction Trade Show, you will attract the curious and the bold, and those with time on their hands, and what's not to like about that? “Well,” they say, “what on earth is a homeless shelter doing at a construction trade show ... let's go see!” [“Coaching? What's that? Why are
they here?”]

I would recommend doing it a couple of times to see if it works for you – if you’re the kind of person who can work a trade show. An old tradeshow trick is to hire a beautiful young woman to staff your booth.

Maybe you are a beautiful young woman, or have  a peaceful demeanor, or a broken arm (I hope not) something that attracts people. You have to know yourself. I have a big charismatic smile and know how to use it though I am neither beautiful, nor young, and I get a kick out of people and it shows. (Also good EQ.)

If it just isn’t your cup o’ tea, hire someone through your local Temporary Agency. In ways it’s more “professional.”

Try different things. Now, I have brought along a book and sat there and read. I do Internet  marketing. I have a book with HTML in big letters on the cover, and that gives them a conversation entry. I take it on plane trips and have gotten clients that way.

Invest in some promotional stuff. I have a nice classy t-shirt with logo on it. I have a fun one that says "I'm a coach. I solve problems."

I've used a nametag that says "Susan Dunn. Ask me about coaching." I wear that when I'm out and about. (Get a kit at Office Max and make some different ones and see what works.) Standing around in intermission at the symphony, people get real boooooooooored.

A soft, non-threatening demeanor works well. Everyone's timid to approach. But you learn all this experientially -- how to work the eye contact. Get some coaching if this is a puzzle for you.

The crowd is one thing. The other vendors are another. The employees of the convention center are yet another. To me, where there are people, there’s business.

Here are a few tricks if you decide to do it:
  • What’s that about “no picture book album? Of course you have things to attract people. There are small display boards you can buy (heck, it's an industry – here’s one ). Photos. Your brochures and business cards. A picture album of success stories. Be creative.

  • Go to a trade show and look around. You'll get all the ideas you can stand.

  • Make a home video, bring along a t.v., and run the video (people, faces, ADS) on a loop.

  • Make a PowerPoint, or let these folks do it for you: .

  • Invest in a table display. Check out some  here:

  • My cousin does wedding videos. He has lots of free time on the weekend and he and his wife go to anything that’s open. He’s gotten at least one customer each time, and that makes him over $1000 for 4 hours of sitting around gnoshing. (How do you value your time?) He teaches 3rd graders, so to get out and mix with adults is a kick for him.

  • Have a drawing - the business card in the fish bowl thing. If you walk out of there with 100 new email addresses for your ezine, that’s gold.

  • The candy bowl – have something people can come by and pick up free, but be original. Maybe at  a trade show what people are really looking for is a "wipe it" packet to refresh their grubby hands, or a pen to write with (with your name on it), or a single rose, just 'cuz, or a booklet of inspirational quotes, or a coupon for one of your ebooks free .... I don't know what's current, as I haven't been in a while, but I'd consider it a worthy challenge to figure out something besides "candy" for heaven's sake.

  • On the other hand, chocolate is chocolate.

  • Staffing a booth can be learned. It’s all about eye contact and your personality. Work with a Marketing Coach.

  • I have a VA here in town and I send her around to office buildings with my brochures. She loves it; I don’t.

  • Have a notepad where they can leave their name and email. Some people would rather do it that way.

  • Take the mountain to Muhammed. Get up and walk around. A lot. Mix and mingle.

  • Wear something interesting.

  • If you’re in a field like coaching, for instance, you’ll be promoting the field, which needs to be done. There are still lots of people who don’t know what coaching is. Whenever we raise awareness, one of us will benefit. Your turn will come!

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2003

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

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