Trade shows offer one-stop marketing

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Published on 11/12/07

There is no better way to establish effective marketing relationships with prospective clients than by establishing a presence for your firm or your practice at industry trade shows and association meetings.

By properly researching and targeting your audience, you can meet more prospects in one day than you might otherwise meet in months. And by physically being present at these meetings of potential clients, you demonstrate that you know their business, understand their concerns, and are serious about offering solutions.

Trade show attendance, if done right, requires renting booths, setting up referral arrangements with other exhibitors, speaking at event sessions and, above all, spending otherwise billable time in the booth actually meeting and talking to the attendees.

Large firms may have a marketing staff to help with this. Smaller firms and individual practitioners typically do not. But any lawyer can develop an active trade show plan.

First, make sure you get the attendee list so you can evaluate and single out your targets. Conduct pre-meeting mailings (letters and e-mails both) to let these targets know you'll be there and invite them to your booth or display.

Identify other vendors who are prospects you want to meet. Find out which trade publication editors and reporters are planning to attend the event so you can get on their calendars and talk about your industry views and experience. When you meet with them, share some new piece of news; tell them about where your firm is going (strategically); and offer to help them in anyway you can.

Remember that your purpose in attending the show is to actively identify, meet and pitch to potential clients — not just look for leads. Know in advance whom you want to speak to and what you want to say to them. Do your homework about the industry so that you can speak intelligently as you walk the aisles and participate in sessions and events.

At the show, the emphasis should be on you, the individual lawyer, and your performance in meeting others. That's where the importance lies — not in a flashy booth, giveaway contests, glossy brochures and all the rest. If a prospect wants to use your services, it will be because of the attitude and interest you convey, rather than what catchy gadgets you give away.

Several reminders. I recently manned an exhibit booth at a bar association conference and was amazed at how many attendees (a lot!) did not carry business cards, and at how many business cards lacked e-mail addresses. Either lapse is foolish and unnecessary.

And don't forget that all the effort in the world will be wasted if you don't do the appropriate follow-up. Review every business card that you received, having made notes about each person who spoke with you, and contact the person by phone within one week of the show.

Don't wait, and don't use e-mail. The objective is to build on the personal relationship you established at the show.

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