"How do I attract more exhibitors to my trade show?"
Well, to start with, you're going to use the hotbed of business leads: LinkedIn.
It's the hub for business people looking to expand their network with the right connections. This is the perfect environment for the kind of sales opportunities you're looking for.
Aside from all its other noted benefits, LinkedIn is the perfect place to sell exhibition space for a B2B event. Why? Because all the people buying exhibition space are there! Well, almost all – a few are still stuck in the dark ages.
But now you need to throw bundles of money into LinkedIn ads to get past first base, right? Wrong! There are smarter ways to reach out to potential exhibitors at your next trade show, and it will cost you absolutely nothing!
Use LinkedIn personas to find the right potential exhibitors to target. Here’s an example of a search for automotive sales people in London. Voila! Straightaway, you’ve got 4841 strong exhibitor leads you can reach out to!
Pro tip #1 – If you have Sales Navigator, use the ‘Posted on LinkedIn in past 30 days’ filter to find the most active people. It’s a bit pointless targeting people who haven’t visited LinkedIn with intent for five years. If you focus on pursuing exhibitor leads who are currently active, you’ll dramatically improve your response rate.
Pro tip #2 – Save prospects as leads and their companies as accounts to help you keep track of them and engage with them easier in the future.
Be friendly! Craft a personalised, non-sales-y connection message. If you can find a mutual connection, group or interest, mention it in the connection message – the more personalised, the better.
But don’t go too far. While it’s a bit like dating, don’t dive in with the business equivalent of tongue kisses before you’ve gone through corporate courtship.
Keep a list of all your leads you've sent a connect message to. Why? So you can track everyone who connects with you from your target list. Things can get confusing if you’re not diligent about your tracking.
This will also give you insight into the effectiveness of your connect messages. If you’ve nailed step 2, you should get a connection rate of about 50%.
NB: Please note to make a copy of the sheet in order to be able to edit it.
Pro tip #3 – Don’t send any “thanks for connecting" messages. They’re annoying, robotic and about as heartfelt as a Trump handshake. Save your love for your first subtle sales pitch.
As people connect with you, you’re one step closer to your pitch. But DON'T dive right in with the big sell straight away. They’ve let you into their world, but they’ll kick you straight out again if you come on too strong from the get go.
We recommend waiting at least 2-3 weeks before moving into "pitching mode". You can use these 2-3 weeks to build awareness. Visit their profile a few times so they see your name. Endorse them for some of their relevant skills. Like some of their posts and maybe even comment on them if you have an opinion. And post about your events which will appear in their LI feed.
Okay, now it’s time to go for the kill (figuratively speaking). Send a carefully crafted pitch message that outlines the benefits of exhibiting at your event. If you’ve done your lead-up work right, they’ll be super receptive.
Don’t worry if the person you’ve connected with doesn’t have the decision-making power you need. We’ve learned that simply asking someone to point you in the right direction can really get you places.
Don’t get ghosted! People are busy, so don’t take their lack of response as a sign that they’re not interested. If your leads don’t respond to your initial message, feel free to send them what we call a nudge message. It’s just a little reminder that you still exist and that you truly believe that your offer will benefit them.
Keep optimizing your approach! There’s no one-size-fits-all for social selling. Every audience is different, every industry is different and every event is different. Use a tracking sheet and if people aren’t responding to your content, tweak it.
**** Bonus Tip – use LinkedIn to connect with prospects you’re struggling to get hold of via phone or email.