My First Trade Show and how I Survived
As a young guy growing up, I was a big dude. So big in fact that I used to work security and door watch for a couple travelling toy conventions that used to come through town. I wasn’t unfamiliar with trade shows; however, I had never worked one as a vendor. That all changed recently. It was a great time and I’m going to tell you all about it!
Before we get into my experiences running my first vendor booth, I’d like to address something quickly. Cash Flow Celt is expanding scope! I was having a lot of trouble writing ‘just’ personal finance articles. It felt like a narrow approach because I’m passionate about small business and marketing as well. I also felt like I needed to start a NEW blog and add a NEW item on my plate to go forth with real estate marketing and making a spotlight for local business (not to mention more hosting and domain fees). That’s when I got the idea to just use the platform I have and just link the two. Consequently, you’re going to see an expanded breadth of content where I really just write about whatever the heck I want to write about. If you want to see a really well put together blog that covers multiple ideas tied into the same theme, check out jackcatchem.com! He’s a Marine who served time overseas, came home and is now a police officer in California; all the while writing – as an aspiring blogger – on a quaint little smart device from his patrol car. His blog format is why I felt I could be successful with this CFC refocusing.
Now back on to the show!
Heroes Air Show
As most of you know, I work as a dispatcher for a local sheriff’s office. As such, I tend to be pretty up to date on fun stuff to do for law enforcement. I found out about the Heroes Air Show through an agency wide email blast that was marketing it. I took the initiative to ask our contact if they had any more booths available; in an effort of good will, he said if I sent an e-mail blast out to my contacts, he’d let me have a space for free! There is no such thing as a free lunch, but a 15-minute email blast isn’t a bad cost. This trade show featured a ton of aviation units from around the state: that includes helicopters from local sheriff’s, search and rescue, medevac, fire, news crews, and even some working Vietnam era crafts.
My agency showed up in force with our special forces units and we showcased our traffic units, our armored SWAT vehicle, and a weapons showcase. Mini-Celt also met a really cute female there and got his first French kiss! This girl was about his height, reddish-brown fur and, oh yeah, she was a bloodhound!
As part of my real estate services, I offer commission rebates for public service members. As this trade show was sure to be full of families of law enforcement and military, it seemed like a no-brainer to attend. And wow was I correct. I got a lot of foot traffic around my booth (more on that later), and picked up a bunch of leads. Not to mention it was great fun!
Preparations for the Trade Show
I’m a rookie to the trade show routine. Consequently, I had a lot of upfront costs that won’t be there each time. I bought a solid folding chair which I didn’t get to use all day and I also had to have a brochure designed and printed. I made the brochure a multi-purpose marketing tool though so I can also use them as door knocker material. Ultimately though, family came through and I got a lot of materials donated to me from various things laying around the house. As far as the tent, my firm has a professional tent they lease to their agents – and that was a huge money saver.
Next, I had to come up with a way to get people to my booth. I’m a Realtor – that’s boring. I’m a kilted Realtor, that’s mildly interesting. This was a family event, and families mean children, and children eating doughnuts and gummy snacks means parents that are held hostage in front of my booth. So I bought food! The Trade Show Gods are obviously Irish though, because the grocery store had 50% off Entenmann’s baked goods on sale. I bought two boxes of doughnuts and two boxes of cookies. On top of that I also had 90 fruit gummy snacks. The food brought in tons of traffic for me. I wouldn’t allow kids to grab the food without getting permission from mom or dad. I had children literally dragging their parents over to my booth. That’s called a win.
Finally, a trade show, like real estate is all about location, location, location! And I had that too. I got there pretty early and it was fairly empty. Empty except for a lone booth near the main entrance. A booth….that was a pet rescue and had two litters of brand new puppies to be adopted. I floored the gas and raced another car to the spot. I won and collected my spot next to the people magnet. As people would leave the puppy den, I would collect them and grab some leads. Seriously, for anyone who does trade shows, GRAB THE BOOTH NEXT TO THE PUPPIES! I made the best decision all month right there in that split second.
Overall the trade show was a success. For the amount of people that came in, I gathered around 20 leads. These leads weren’t people I spoke to and gave my information – that was easily hundreds. Thease leads were people I had meaningful dialogue with and they voluntarily gave me their contact information. On top of that, I’ve had a handful of people reach out to me on their own terms to talk business. I feel confident I may genuinely close business on at least two of these leads with a few more I’m working with on credit counseling who may or may not pan out.
I had such great luck with this trade show I’m hoping to do one once a quarter. If I had to change anything, I would have bought two boxes of the gummy snacks and I would have also brought so more paper weights. We had gusts up to 15 MPH and my brochures would occasionally grow wings and fly away. I also felt I wasn’t aggressive enough getting people’s information. Yes, I had about 20 signups, but I think I left a bunch on the table (or off in this case) by simply hoping people would sign-up. I still had a blast talking with the community and look forward to my next trade show!