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MARKETING

5 tactics to try at the next trade show to bring in new business

It’s inexpensive. It hits the exact market the firm wants to target. And it provides face-to-face contact with potential clients. 

It’s the trade show exhibit.

It’s a small investment with a good return says Linda Bishop of Thought Transformation, an Atlanta sales and marketing firm.

As a trade show exhibitor, an attorney can reach several hundred people who have direct interest in the firm’s services. Get just one client out of it, and the investment has paid off.

Add just a few out-of-the ordinary tactics, and the payoff can be far greater.

1. Write a question on a whiteboard

One of those tactics is to set up a whiteboard, Bishop says. And on it write a question to catch the attention of the people walking by.

At a trade show, people usually spend no more than 10 seconds looking at each booth, and what they see looks pretty much the same from booth to booth.

There has to be some attraction that makes them stop and say ‘I’m interested in what you have here. Tell me more.'”

A whiteboard question is a walk-by interrupter. It gets read. It forces people to think about the issue. And it gets people to stop.

Ask a question that hits the heart. And make it a show-stopper such as If you pass away today, will your money go to a) your children? b) your spouse? c) your spouse and children? d) the government? e) none of the above? or Do you know what to do if you get sued for wrongful termination? or Do you know what the courts say is the best defense against harassment claims? or Do you know what the parental rights are in this state? They’re very different from what other states have.

2. Remember the motive behind every gift

Another good traffic stopper is give-aways such as candy, pens, or notebooks.

Firms usually have good ones, she says, yet they often give them out for naught for failure to put information on them.

To be of any value, give-aways have to carry the firm’s name, address, and contact information. Their sole purpose is to remind people of the firm after the show is over, so without that information they’re a waste of money.

Along with that, the give-aways have to be things people will keep for a while. The longer the shelf life, the longer the marketing.

Candy is good, but far better is a tin of mints. That will stay in somebody’s purse or desk drawer for several weeks. Better still is a computer screen cleaning cloth. “That might sit on somebody’s desk for three years,” and with the firm’s name on it, that’s three years of continuous marketing.

Because the best give-aways are not cheap, Bishop recommends giving them only to the people who actually stop and talk with the attorneys long enough to indicate they are truly interested in the firm.

There’s no need “to spend a lot of money on people who aren’t going to buy.”

3. Get names now and business later

Gathering names and contact information is an essential exhibitor tactic—and also the tactic firms tend to overlook.

No one can expect to secure business right there at the show, Bishop says. The purpose of being an exhibitor is to gather names and contact information of potential clients and referral sources. It’s the aftershow follow-up that brings in the business.

There are creative ways to get that information.

Have a drawing for something—and make it an attractive something such as an iPod. Then have people fill out a form to win it.

Ask people to sign up for a free information package that targets the conference topic such as the forms for a living will or organ donation or “10 questions you need to answer before you do your will” or “Find out about your state’s laws on parental rights” or “How to protect your legal rights if you’ve been in a car accident.” Put out a sign saying “we’ll mail it to you free of charge,” and if the package can be sent electronically, ask for the e-mail address as well.

And the ultimate: offer a free 15-minute consultation on one legal issue and give people six months or a year to take advantage of it.

4. Talk with ʻcaringʼ words

Then there’s the art of establishing rapport with the visitors who come by.

“Human beings like to buy from people they have actually met,” Bishop says. They also want to buy from people they like. So the first step to getting new business is meeting people and “being likeable.”

She recommends having some questions ready to ask such as “What made you stop by our booth?” or “Tell me about your situation” or “I’ll give you the answer to that question, and is there anything else you have in mind?”

The questions aren’t for gathering information but to get people talking, because the more people talk, the more comfortable they are and the more they trust the firm. By contrast, “when the attorney does all the talking, the client doesn’t connect.”

Once the conversation gets going, it’s okay to make “one smart elevator speech” about the firm’s services and the attorney’s experience. But in the process use “caring” words, she says. Instead of “we represent clients in X area,” use “we help people in X area.”

Then go back to the person’s particular issue and ask “do you have an attorney to help you with that?”

Whether the answer is yes or no doesn’t matter. The point is to create an opening for an invitation: “Well if anything ever comes up where you might need us, we’d be honored if you consider us.” And then hand over a business card.

5. Know who’s attending the trade show

In addition to all that, before the firm ever commits to being an exhibitor, ask the trade show planner for a list of the people who plan to attend. That’s good for two purposes.

Up front, it’s a good screen, because it shows if the attendees will be people the firm wants to do business with.

And after the conference, it’s a good list to use for sending out follow-up information.

Conclusion

Bishop adds that the people who come through the exhibit hall aren’t the only potential customers. The people manning the other booths are also worth making contact with. “They need lawyers too.”


Editor’s picks:

Five simple ways to kill every tried and true legal marketing effort


Six rules for selling without a sales pitch

Marketing your practice: How to attract more clients by positioning your attorneys as “thought leaders”


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