Can we talk about trade shows for just a moment? During my product manager career, I have been to a countless number of these things. I must confess, I love them! The travel, the pageantry, the people that I meet all appeal to me. However, when it comes down to just exactly how successful they are for my product, well, that’s another question. Since none of our companies have unlimited funds, what can a product manager do in order to get the most out of a trade show?
You Have To Have Goals
First things first. If you want all of the time, energy, and effort that you are going to be putting into your next trade show to be worth it, then you had better have a very clear set of goals. If you don’t, then how will you ever determine if your time was well spent? I fully understand that depending on the size of your company, you may not be running the show when it comes to trade shows. No matter, you can still create your own set of goals for your product for the show.
This then leads us to the question: so what should a product manager’s goals for a trade show be? If you think that you are going to make any sales at the trade show, then perhaps you should think again. In my experience, this almost never happens so you should not be counting on it. Instead, you are going to have to take a much more planned approach towards what you are going to want to be able to accomplish during a trade show.
The most important thing that you need to realize is that you can’t leave anything to chance. This means that you need to plan out your goals. I’m going to suggest three that you may want to consider. First, have your sales team schedule meetings with prospective customers at your booth at give times. Promise to show them new features or put them in face-to-face contact with experts who can answer their specific questions. Second, you need to visit other booths and collect information on your competition. I have no problem talking with other product managers. They know who I am, but yet they are still willing to talk to me. Finally, use the trade show to meet with other firms who have booths who may make good partners for your product going forward. You are both in the same boat and so this is a great time for you to see if there is any synergy.
The Secret To A Successful Trade Show
These three tips will point you in the correct direction, but there is still the question of just exactly what you should be doing at your booth during the trade show. If you are like most other vendors, you’ll have some brochures, you’ll stand around, and you’ll talk with anyone who drops by. This is all fine and dandy, but it’s basically a waste of your time.
Instead, you are going to want to prepare for the times that your sales teams bring a high quality prospect over to you. This is really the whole reason that you came to this trade show. I’m sure that you are going to do a great job of explaining your product to them and telling them why it’s the best product on the market. However, it’s going to be how you stay in their imagination after your talk that will determine how successful you are at capturing the sale.
Here’s a secret that I like to use. Instead of giving away all of that silly stuff that gets given away at a trade show, I like to give away candy bars. The reasoning is pretty simple. All of the trinkets and other stuff will just eventually get thrown away without a second thought. However, if I give my prospects a candy bar, they are going to eat it. When they are eating it, there is a good chance they are going to remember who gave it to them. They will have a positive thought (because who does not like a candy bar?) and they’ll think of both me and my product in a positive sense.
What All Of This Means To You
Trade shows are a big, disruptive, effort for product managers. It takes a great deal of effort to get ready for them, to travel to them, and then to stand around at them. As a product manager, you need to come up with a plan for how you can best use your time so that you don’t waste it.
You need to go to your next trade show with a plan. Your plan needs to include how you are going to meet with prospective customers, how you are going to get information about the completion, and how you are going to find new partners. Make sure that when you do meet with prospective customers you make a positive impression – candy bars can help with this.
Trade shows are not going to be going away even in the highly connected 21st Century in which we all live. The actual meeting of people and striking deals is just too important. What this means for product managers is that we need to come up with a plan that will make our time at a trade show valuable. Do this right, and your product just might be the star of the show!
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that it is always necessary for a product manager to go to a trade show or can sales handle this function?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
What makes your product special? I mean if I put your product on a table (assuming that it would fit there) and put your biggest competitor right next to it, without looking at your product development definition could you tell me what makes your product better? I’m willing to bet that the answer to this question is “yes”, after all that’s a big part of what we do as product managers. However, how good of a job of clearly communicating what makes your product special are you doing when it comes to talking with your potential customers?