Trade shows are a lot of work, and they can quickly swallow up your time and resources. That said, they are also still one of the best ways to connect with current customers, while also adding some new clients to the books.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done before the show itself begins, and it all starts with reserving a booth at the event. You then need to create presentations, manage sponsorships, and set up meetings with existing customers, as well as any potential new ones who may be interested in what you have to offer.

If you take time to properly manage your business at trade shows, they can prove to be an excellent source of great leads. It is, of course, all about getting the best return possible on your investment, and I have 10 tips that will help ensure your time and resources are properly spent when your business hits the trade show circuit.

1.   Get your trade show conversations underway before you arrive.

Whenever you make a new contact at a trade show, those names should be kept on file for as long as needed. Six weeks prior to the trade show is when you should start getting in touch with the contacts that you have amassed over the years. Social media is a big part of doing business today, so think about using LinkedIn, Facebook and other social platforms to reach out to people and get the conversation started before the show begins. It’s important that you do not spam potential customers, but instead take time to talk to them and start building a positive relationship.

2.   Stay sharp, alert, and kind to your guests. 

It’s important that you and your staff take time to talk to everyone who stops by the booth. Don’t sit at the booth and make sure no food or drinks are left laying around. Even if you know that a booth visitor is not likely to become a customer, still take the time to talk to them and treat them with respect. Negative comments about your behavior and your way of doing business can very quickly get out, with social media once again the place where people go to voice their displeasure.

3.   Work the show and trade leads with all the other vendors.

Some businesses believe they need to guard their leads with their life, but this is a rather antiquated way of doing business. If you were able to pick up 1,000 business cards, and just one other vendor did the same, you would suddenly have 2,000 leads in total. Sure, there will be a little overlap, but you still get a ton of extra leads without putting in a ton of extra work. You may even find that some of the other vendors will turn into excellent prospects or partners.

4.   Grow your business instead of pitching your goods.

If you have been running your business properly, people are going to be flocking to your booth to talk to you. Not approaching your research and content in the right way means constantly being in pitch-man mode at the booth, which is usually a turn off to the vast majority of visitors. If you deliver solid content that delivers value to the consumer, they are going to come and seek you out without having to sit through a hard sell.

5.   Make your executives available to meet people.

Chances are that your executives will be present at the show, so why not put them to work. You can do this by setting up appointments for them to meet potential customers who stop by your booth and show an interest in your products or services.

6.   Brand your business using cool promotional products.

There are some people at trade shows who go for no other reason than to pick up free promotional goodies. It’s fine to have some pens and lower ticket items for those people, but the really cool promotional goods should be reserved for those who sit through a presentation and show genuine interest in learning what your business is all about. Your goal is to create interest in what you have to offer, and you can get people interested by giving people a reason to stay at your booth and take a few minutes to listen to your presentation. Good salespeople will make the most of that time.

7.   Make your booth one to remember, but be relevant.

Putting together a big splashy booth is great, but if it has nothing to do with your business, people are going to remember the spectacle and not the company that put it on.

8.   Have some fun putting your lead generators to work.

Bring your sales reps with you to the trade show and keep an eye on how they perform. Make a competition out it, with the ones that deliver the goods getting to make the trip to the next trade show, while those who fail to deliver stay home.

9.   Imagine that the trade show is an event you are hosting.

While there may be hundreds of other businesses in attendance at the trade show, you should treat it as though you are the host. Invite as many people as you can to every show that you attend, and consider paying for passes for attendees that you believe may turn into future customers.

10.  As soon as the trade show is over, start getting in contact with the people you saw at the booth.

Your sales reps will probably have a nice collection of business cards on them when the show is over. If you are unable to set appointments during the show, get in touch with potential customers as soon as possible, as it’s always a good idea to strike while the iron is hot.

These are all tips that are incredibly easy to follow, so think about putting them into action when you are preparing for your next trade show.