A Quick-Win Guide to Getting More Leads from Events & Tradeshows

By Sarah Gustafson, REALTOR® - Posted on
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Whether it’s a private open house, or a huge trade show, as real estate professionals we often find ourselves hosting or displaying at events. 

So, what makes an event display or exhibit space a success? Why do some displays get a bunch of interaction while others barely turn an eye? (Hint: The services you offer are actually a very small percentage of the success factor.)  

If I could give you one piece of advice it’s to STAND OUT!

Make the Most of Your Events

Let’s use trade show exhibits as our first example, and take some lessons from the millions of dollars already being spent promoting products and services at large venues around the world (I can tell you firsthand from my career prior to real estate).

Many exhibitors get the standard show package with a 10’ x 10’ space that includes an 8’ table, show carpet and location sign on the back curtain (usually dangling by a single piece of velcro towards the end of the event).  This scene is not inviting. 

Events are a visual and interactive experience. Attracting participants becomes less about your services, and more about appealing to people’s senses. What are you going to do that is different from everyone else? How is your display or event going to attract attention against the surrounding exhibitors?

First, ask yourself: Why? Why are you there? What are you trying to accomplish?
If you are in real estate, the likeliness that you will pick up a new listing or qualified buyer on the spot is relatively small. Does it happen? Yes. Is that why you are there? No.

Events & Tradeshows Serve 2 Purposes:

  1. Build Brand Awareness
  2. Generate LEADS


Second, ask yourself: How will I accomplish my goals?
This takes time and planning versus grabbing some business cards and printing off a couple of MLS listings before running out the door. Below are the steps to maximize the return of your event investment in both time & dollars.

Signage
Develop Signage that stands out, especially if it’s going to have to compete with surrounding displays to be in people’s field of vision. Options and budgets here are endless but it can be as simple as a foam core sign with a holder for support that is on the table. Less is more, so keep it  clean. This is the first thing people will see to draw them in. (Keep in mind when deciding how to design your signage, that you can use this sign for a lot of different things – making it more of an investment rather than an expense for a single event.)

Table
Placement here is critical. I’d say avoid, but I mean never, put a physical barrier between you and the people you are trying to talk with. Funny enough, that’s how this article came to be. Alex and I were commenting about how frustrated we get when we see a table at the front of a booth. It stops people from coming in and engaging with you, and frankly it’s an aggressive sell. 

Place your tables off to the side as a supporting tool to your display. This is where you’ll make your Raffle and Collateral easily accessible, and avoid having attendees block your display, or the entrance to your booth while they stand in that area.Your goal is to make the space open so people can come in and feel comfortable.

Clean Space
I’m sure you know this from staging homes, but clean and tidy spaces are more visually inviting than cluttered ones – or even worse yet, trash filled spaces. Be mindful to not only keep your space free of trash throughout the event, but also to hide or remove any materials you don’t need handy, and that aren’t part of your display. (i.e. bags/bins, purses/wallets, setup supplies, tools, cleaning products, cables and extra collateral) This can be as simple as having a tablecloth with a skirt to not only clean up the look of your table, but also provide ample storage space for all your materials. You can do this inexpensively using 2 rectangular table cloths in your brand color (and some bag or clothes clips), from your local Target, Walmart or Homegoods.

Collateral
Have takeaways pieces. No one cares about the MLS sheet for your current listings. What sets you apart? Who are you? Why do I want to work with you? What do your marketing pieces look like? Staple your business cards to these marketing pieces – they are much more likely to get looked at, plus they’re more memorable and harder to lose when attached to something larger.

Swag
Everyone loves a free giveaway, and I’ve seen fellow Realtors do it all. From free ergonomic pens or travel mugs, to custom candies and bars of soap. This can be anything with your info printed on it that someone might keep and ideally use. Bonus points if it somehow relates to your personal brand! Don’t go overboard here as you start out though. Stick to a budget. This piece is simply something that will catch someone’s eye, so you can draw them into your space for a conversation. Which by the way, is why you are there… to talk to the other humans. 

On the flip-side, I cannot tell you how many times I have canvassed show floors as an attendee, collected the coolest swag, dumped it all in a box and shipped it to my 3 & 5 year-old godchildren… never to be seen again, but I win Best-Auntie-Ever points every year!

Food
As a sugarholic this is the fastest way to get me to stop at your booth.Whatever snack you choose to bait folks in with, keep it visible towards the front of your booth – or advertise it with your event. Food that smells great is a sure-fire way to grab people’s attention too, things like popcorn, fresh pizza or cookies! Side note: I hunt the Lindt Stracciatella like a cheetah hunting antelope.

THE RAFFLE
This is a great option to get engagement at any event, but is critical if you’re exhibiting at a tradeshow. You are not there to sell anything. You are there to collect leads to follow up on for potential future clients. Pick something cool, but of value, to raffle. Tablets are beyond overdone.  My recommendation is to think about what you would want to go home with… maybe a pair of Dre Beats? A teak cutting board? A leather jacket? 

For the Raffle Entries themselves, the slips need to be preprinted, and state that only “legible and complete entries are eligible to win”, participants need to be 18+, and any other state or local laws regarding raffles (as applicable). Make sure you ask for their Name, Address and Phone – this is what you need to follow up with after the show! More than once! 

Post Show
Earlier, I mentioned that the only reason you host at these events and tradeshows is to collect leads to follow up on for potential future clients. I cannot stress enough the importance of having your Follow-up Plan, Campaigns and Collateral ready to go BEFORE the event ever takes place though. The only thing you should be doing post show is getting all of your leads into your follow-up system and making contact with them as soon as possible.

The sooner you follow up with a lead, the greater the chance you have of converting them into a client. Be sure to follow up with every legible lead you get. Thank them for coming with a card. Make a phone call.  Send an email or a text. Continue following up – once is never enough!

Event & Tradeshow Do’s & Don’ts

  1. DO arrive early so you’re completely ready the moment people show up – and people always show up early.
  2. DON’T break down your stuff prior to the show actually closing.  No matter how dead the event seems, you could miss the one perfect lead because you no longer seem interested in being there. 
  3. DO ask them if they would like to participate in a raffle for said item – this is an opener for conversation if you don’t have anything else.
  4. DON’T attack people as they come by the booth. You’re trying to open a conversation, not yell a 15 second pitch at someone who isn’t interested.
  5. DO move around the space so people can see you and that you are available to approach.
  6. DON’T sit or eat at your event (even if food is part of it) – if your event is long and you need breaks to eat, find a partner that can help you. Trade Shows are a marathon, not a sprint. Your goal is to impress everyone you meet, so pace yourself and keep your game-face fresh.
  7. DO build rapport and follow up on every single real estate need appointment post show.

Your mindset for Events and Displays should not revolve around getting an immediate return, but allowing you to make face to face connections to follow up on. With that in mind, try using the tactics I shared above to create a display that provides value and draws people in, so you can do what you do best… build relationships and help your clients.

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Sarah Gustafson
Sarah Gustafson
Sarah Gustafson is a REALTOR® with Janice Mitchell Real Estate, Inc. in Holden, MA. She has been in the business since 2009 and a consistent Top Producer in the REALTOR® Association of Central Massachusetts. Sarah has served as the RACM Board President. She has been recognized as the RACM REALTOR® of the Year, is Worcester Business Journal 40 Under 40 Recipient, and a National Association of REALTORS® Leadership Academy Graduate. Prior to finding her bliss in Real Estate, Sarah was an Account Manager for a Tradeshow Exhibit House.
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