How To Make Trade Shows Work for You

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At some point in their careers most financial advisors have taken part in a trade or consumer show. For many though, it can be a time-wasting, tiring experience that yields nothing more than prospects who are searching for the highest CD rate or the cheapest term life insurance.

You need to separate yourself from the crowd and make the best of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of attendees who stroll past your wares. Follow these steps to maximize the opportunities present at these venues.

Where To Find Them. Most mid-size and large metropolitan areas host trade and consumer shows several times a year. Watch your local newspapers; contact civic centers or other facilities in your community that hold such events. They usually have schedules one year in advance. Additionally, your citys convention and visitors bureau will have a schedule.

Also, try Tradeshow Weeks online directory–that will let you sort through upcoming trade shows by industry and dates for your area.

What To Look For. Senior fairs can draw big crowds of retirees looking for financial information, but theres going to be a good chance that every broker and insurance agent in town will be there as well. So, be prepared for rate-shoppers and tire-kickers. The same might be said for “Financial Expos” that are held in shopping malls.

You need to be creative. How about targeting expos for expectant parents held in your local hospital? Attendees might see the need for more life insurance or to start a college-funding account for their soon-to-be-born child. And maybe expectant grandparents will be there too.

Health fairs can also be a good source of leads. Try to get your space next to a chiropractor, podiatrist, or health clinics booth. Frequently these popular exhibitors are swamped with visitors who want to take advantage of free adjustments or blood pressure tests.

Did you ever think about exhibiting at boat shows or construction equipment trade shows? If people have the money for boats, it stands to reason that there may also be some dollars to invest. The same could hold true for construction equipment buyers. Attendees will often be the owners or upper echelon of companies that need retirement plan and other financial advice.

In your search you might come across some groups that you never even knew existed. The funeral, home improvement and dry cleaning industries all have trade shows. And the more obscure the group, the better the chance that youll be the only financial rep there.

And dont ignore national shows. Sure, therell be people attending from other parts of the country. But the odds are that the majority will live close by.

How To Work The Show. Your goal should be lead generation. Youre there to get names–names to call for appointments, for your seminars or for your newsletter mailing list. Be polite, but avoid getting into long-winded conversations with prospects. To get names, offer a prize to people who fill out a form with their address and phone number (and other information you may want to collect).

For example, offer a weekend at a local resort or dinner for two at the best restaurant in town. You can usually offer a gift with a cost of $300 or less that will get you an abundance of completed entry forms. Have a large sign at your booth advertising the drawing so that everyone walking by sees your enticement.

Dont get into the habit of sitting behind your table, talking to the guy in the next booth, or waiting for someone to come over and see you. Say hello to everyone that walks by; comment on something to start a friendly conversation. Ask if theyd like to sign up for a free drawing for whatever youre giving away.

Try to have someone help you manage the exhibit. You could handle it most of the time on your own, but if a group of people stops by you dont want any of them ignored. And, youll need a break every few hours. You can work with another advisor from your firm and share the expenses and the leads. A better choice would be to have your assistant work the booth with you. The prospects will get to meet him or her if youre not available, and youll get to keep all the leads.

The construction of your exhibit can vary from extravagant to simple. A booth supplied by a large, financial services firm can be impressive. It might have backdrops, banners, fancy giveaways and anything else to get the passerbys attention. However, if you are an independent advisor, dont let the big guys discourage you. A simple table can be just as effective if you are outgoing and personable to the people who walk by. Use it to display your newsletters, articles youve written and books youve published.

Two or three days of working a show can be tiring. Your feet and legs will ache, and your face will hurt from smiling too much. But remember: Its a numbers game. All you need is one decent sale to make it all worthwhile. In the meantime, youve walked away with a stack of good leads.

, CPA, CSA, RIA, MBA, is president of NF Communications, a Walnut Creek, Calif., firm producing marketing systems for financial sales professionals. His e-mail is lklein@nfcom.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 6, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.