It’s time to take a new approach. The traditional round of tricks have already been tapped dry – everybody is doing them. Everybody has a huge booth with a fancy logo printed on a fancy-looking pen (but the ink runs out within the first three days, right?), and a local 4-star restaurant is booked solid the week of the trade show for big wigs meeting with even bigger wig clients. Am I close?

If everybody is using the same method, how is anybody standing out? And if nobody is standing out, how does a client decide who to go with? The answer is: they choose pretty much at random. Maybe they liked the green logo better than the orange one. Maybe one booth had better-looking staff than another. Maybe they wanted a lanyard instead of a pen. Are you willing to be reduced to being chosen at random?

You can do better than random. You can earn your clients the old-fashioned way: by working smarter, not harder. Use these five tricks to stand out from the crowd and gain clients that actually want you, not just your trinkets.

  1. Step away from the booth! We get it. You spent a lot of money making that booth perfect, right? I’m sure it is perfect. But a booth isn’t going to sell your message. You are. Get yourself a shirt to match your booth and go walk around.
  2. What do you think really sells your message? Like I said – you are. This means you have to foster great relationships. This doesn’t mean you should ditch quality signage, no no no. Instead, you should keep a reasonable amount of marketing materials and invest more in your own attitude. Are you personable? Are you friendly? Would you hang out with yourself at a barbecue? If you answered no to any of these, you either need to change yourself or find someone who is a 3x “yes”. Plus, after you create these relationships you need to work hard after the show to maintain them. Follow-up and maintain these relationships.
  3. If your content isn’t worthwhile, no amount of flashy signs or contemporary logos will earn you credibility. People need to know that they can count on you to get things done. They need to know that you have something worthwhile to say. If they know this, they will come to you.
  4. Make friends with the board members of the trade show. They know who’s who and who will be there. A friend on the board gets you an advantage that nobody else has. You can prepare more thoroughly for specific targets and expect a few personal handshakes from your new friends. A handshake is a much better client magnet than a pen.
  5. Take a risk and let yourself have a little fun. Sure, it’s about business. But at the end of the day, who wants to spend their time with a business who is serious all the time? Most people don’t. A solid strategy and a great attitude will take you further than any giant booth could.