It’s Show Season! ISVs Share Effective Event Strategies

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By: RSPA Niche & Startup ISV Community

There’s no question trade shows are effective at helping retail IT software developers recruit new partners. But how to execute at events – that’s up for debate. During a recent meeting of the RSPA Niche & Startup ISV Community, software executives shared some of their most impactful trade show strategies.

To Swag or Not to Swag?

  • If we spend a bunch of money on Yeti tumblers, is that a waste of money? Or do you think it’s good to have something with our name on it to give away?
  • I think swag is counterproductive on many levels. People come to your booth just to grab that stuff. Giveaways are effective only if they’re based on engagement. It should be a thank you for engaging with us rather than an enticement to stop by your booth.
  • We have nice notebooks we hand out when we’ve talked with someone for a while. It’s something they’re actually going to use, and we don’t just hand them out to everyone. I don’t know of anyone who ever got a stress ball or ChapStick or pen and then called to say, “We want to do business with you.”
  • I worked for a big global company, and we had a $250k budget for giveaways. During COVID, that was first to get cut. Today they’re beating all their sales goals. They don’t give anything away, but everything is fine.
  • I like to give away mints and chocolate kisses. We save mugs and T-shirts for those we do demos for.
  • We plan to do 10 shows this year, so that adds up. Our budget for this is only $10k, and I’d rather buy wine for the partners we already have.
  • We may give away mousepads with our shortcuts listed on it. That’s the only swag I’m considering.
  • We put on our promo items an offer for 20% off our software for the first year. It caused them to call back. It said something like, “Call with this code and get 20% off.”

How Important is Booth Placement?

  • We feel it’s important to be on an end. For RetailNOW, we want to be close to the RSPA booth.
  • I think placement is really important – on a main aisle, near the restrooms, or near the food.
  • We think booth placement is important, and we have two rules: (1) be close to our partners, like our hardware provider and our credit card processor, so we can hand people off to each other. We answer a lot of questions that way. (2) I do not like to be near my competitors. We work hard to be different from them, and if we’re next to their monster booth, we don’t want any confusion we’re affiliated with them. Also, we would get overflow traffic that’s not helpful.
  • Make sure you have enough staff members – at least two – attending the show so one can work the booth and the other can visit the other booths.
  • Interact and engage as much as you can on and off the show floor: education sessions, meals, etc. Be fully immersed in all the activities and then you’ll bump into people. Don’t rely only on attendees finding your booth.