Simple and effective ways to stand out from the crowd
Business owners everywhere are anxious to get back to in-person events after a long year away, and that excitement means merchant service providers have a great opportunity to engage with potential clients.
Before you jump into sponsoring a trade show booth or attending a Chamber of Commerce meet-and-greet, there are some things to think about to ensure you maximize your ROI.
Start with a Plan
Some basic questions you want to be asking yourself before you attend any event:
- Why do I want to be at this event?
- Who is my target audience by attending this event?
- When I walk away at the end of event, what do I want to be walking away with?
Set your goals for an event and a plan on how to achieve them. A plan helps you stay focused on how to maximize your ROI.
There is a wide variety of events where merchants can be found. Large industry-specific trade shows where the attendees are mainly merchants are the most obvious, but also consider smaller events where merchants may be the exhibitors and you are the attendee (such as a farmer’s market). The beautiful thing about selling card processing, is that everyone needs to do it. For every event, consider who you want to appeal to, and the best type of attendance to foster that relationship. If you are a SignaPay Partner, a state-by-state listing of prospective merchant events can be found on your Partner Portal.
Once you’ve decided on an event, be sure to register early. If you’re exhibiting, registering early gives you the best options for a booth space. When selecting booth space, a good rule of thumb is to stay away from the back or very sides of a tradeshow floor. The higher-trafficked areas are usually seen in the central region of the floor, closer to the entrance doors.
Another thing to consider is whether to become a featured sponsor, which can offer opportunities to have scheduled time slots as a speaker to engage with attendees. If you decide that’s not a good fit for you, hosting off-site events such as dinners or cocktail hours can be an excellent substitute in narrowing your focus.
Engage Before the Event
Letting your contacts know you are attending an event this year is the first step to engagement. Using social media and email announcements targeted at that event’s audience is an incredibly effective tool to creating buzz about your appearance at an event. Most tradeshows will offer sponsors and booth participants an attendee list a few weeks prior to a show. Use this to schedule on-site meetings, direct marketing towards specific companies or people, or simply as a lead-generation tool. Show lists are a great way to establish touchpoints with prospective clients, even if you don’t meet them at the actual event.
Running a pre-event communications campaign can dramatically improve your level of interest at the actual show. Tools like Calendly provide booking links you can insert into any email for leads to book time with you. It syncs with your google or outlook calendar so you can easily manage your time while at the event.
You want to get noticed by attendees on the trade show floor, and a plain looking booth isn’t going to catch anyone’s eye. But you also don’t want to be too flashy, or you may put off some people with how loud your booth can be. Start with signage. You want to identify yourself and your booth with something bigger than a standard sheet of paper. Going with large pop-up banners or signs to help identify you. If you have the budget for it, you can also have targeted show-specific signage and banners that help drive home that you are a solution for the clients you are appealing to. For example, if you are at an association event for plumbers, using signage targeted to the plumbing industry is more effective than generic ones. TRT Banners offers a wide selection with reasonable pricing.
You might also consider small branded promotional items to give away. Sites like Discount Mugs or VistaPrint offer a wide variety of items you can customize with your own logo and information and then order in bulk.
If you are a SignaPay Partner, you can log into your Partner Portal and peruse a selection of pre-branded PayLo giveaway items and event materials with the option buy trade show displays or borrow them for free.
Engage at the Event
Setting up a booth and handing out business cards is one way to do a tradeshow, but it would be the most ineffective way to spend your time. Engaging with the attendees on the show floor with a hook will give you better results. Position yourself from the start by making sure the representatives manning your booth are personal and presentable. They should also be a subject matter expert on your product, and it doesn’t hurt to have some knowledge of the industry for which the event is targeted. Visitors will have questions on how your product relates to their industry, so be prepared and do your research ahead of time.
Another great way to engage people to speak at your booth is with interactive elements like a prize wheel or demonstration. If you’re doing a prize giveaway at the end of the event, consider doing digital prizes, like gift cards, that are easy to transport. If you want to give larger items, ship them directly from the store to the winner after the event. Your visitors will appreciate not having to lug that 45” TV home and it’s less stuff for you to have to transport to the event.
If you have the staff for it, consider having someone walking the event floor and engaging with potential clients. Invite them to come to see your booth or to an off-site cocktail hour or dinner to further develop the relationship.
Think also about your standard business needs: notebooks to track names and contact information, fishbowls for business cards, and of course, your own business cards to hand out!
More modern tradeshows will offer a phone app that will scan and store QR code data on show badges direct to a spreadsheet for easy download later. You may even signup a few merchants at the event, so be prepared with an electronic or paper application.
After the Event
When the event is over, it doesn’t mean the work is done. Usually, the event organizers will send off an updated attendance list of those who did attend, sometimes including attendees who didn’t pre-register for the show. Follow-up emails, social media posts and cold calling are all ways you can take advantage of these lists and talk about the event and your products. Contacts you had spent some time with deserve some love too, sending a thank you card or follow-up phone call after the event really go a long way to signing new business.