We’ve all heard the sayings “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” or “You can’t have too many friends,” or “If you want to go fast go alone, and if you want to go far go with others.” These are all very true. In business, the contacts we create and maintain are essential to our success.
With the everyday rush to get things accomplished, hectic meeting schedules, and our rapidly repopulating email inboxes, creating and maintaining contacts can easily fall off of our radars. However, to continue to grow our business, constant effort and attention needs to be allocated to making new contacts, building relationships, and nurturing friendships. Attending tradeshows and conferences within your industry can be a great way to do this and can provide many levels of benefits to your business.
Here are some tips to help you maximize your time and investment:
Do Some Research and Develop a Plan
Before the show or conference, take some time to identify who will be attending. This should include current and potential customers and clients, competing and non-competing companies, and various members of the media. Think about the relationship (if any) you have with each, and how making contact with each could positively affect your business. Develop a list of the contacts you would like to make. Prioritize it, beginning with the most important or most critical, and begin there at your first opportunity.
Bring Several Members of your Staff
It may seem like a practical, cost saving idea to attend a tradeshow or conference by yourself. However, there are many advantages to having several members of your staff with you. First, it’s good for them. It’s good for them to meet customers they may not usually have the opportunity to meet face-to-face. It’s good for them to meet and develop relationships with people in the industry and members of the media.
Having several members of your staff with you is also good for you. It allows you the freedom to talk with more people on the list of contacts you have developed and could really benefit from making contact with.
Prospect, Prospect, Prospect
Tradeshows and conferences are a great way to develop business. To continually develop your business, it’s important to stay in front of potential customers and clients. This way, even if they are not ready to act at that specific time, when they are, they’ll think of you. Handout as many business cards as you possibly can. Talk with as many potential customers and clients as you possibly can. There is no downside to doing this. Most business relationships begin with a simple conversation.
Seek Out Best Practices
Tradeshows and conferences are a great opportunity to learn from others. Take advantage of the opportunity to visit with other companies within the industry that may be faced with similar challenges and learn how they address them. Visit with customers about what they like or don’t like about how you or other companies are doing things. Talk with members of industry associations to gain insight on new developments within the industry that you may not be aware of. Absorb all you can and apply all the information gathered to making your business better, helping it grow, and taking it to the next level.
Making contacts and exchanging business cards is the easy part. Building relationships and nurturing friendships takes much more time and dedication. Go through the stack of business cards you have acquired after an event and make the appropriate follow up communications. A handshake and a smile goes a long way, but a handshake and a smile and a simple follow up email “Hey, I really enjoyed meeting and visiting with you at the conference…” goes even further.
How do you utilize tradeshows and conferences to benefit your business? Do you have any other tips to share?