Matt goes to the trade show

Matt Goes to the Trade Show

A trade show is an event organized for companies in a specific industry where they can network and promote their brand and offer their services. Companies are given a chance to showcase and sell their latest products to industry partners and potential buyers alike. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the latest trends in the market and gain insights about hot topics in the field.

In episode 35 of Startup Hustle, the Matts shared their best trade secrets and tips on how to fully maximize your time at the event. Trade shows are an excellent platform to promote your brand, meet potential clients, and sell your services. However, to be able to successfully make use of these events, your brand needs to develop a campaign strategy to steer everything in its favor. Trade shows are only worthwhile if you know how to make the most out of them.

As trade show veterans, the Matts shared their hard-earned lessons when it comes to standing out among competitors and how they dealt with the many challenges trade shows come with. Matt and Matt discussed the topic and gave some tips for making the right decision about attending, presenting and then executing a successful trade show appearance.

Get Started with Full Scale

Trade Show Tips:

  • Actively sell. Even the most unassuming individuals can turn into paying customers. You have to take each meeting seriously and make the most out of each one. Be prepared to jot down lots of contact details and information.
  • Market aggressively. Some people are only attending the event to learn and not to buy. It’s your job to convince them to do the latter by pitching your brand effectively.
  • Take down notes. Just as it’s a good place to market, a trade show also provides a perfect opportunity to learn. Get updates on the latest happenings in the industry and study current and upcoming competitors.
  • Grow your social circle. Trade shows are a great place to meet clients, market, and network.
  • Stand out. Put your best foot forward and showcase your best-selling products and services. Let the most unique aspects of your business shine and get customers talking about it as much as possible.
  • Prepare your team. Make sure all the essential people in your team are attending. Travel expenses for staff may pile up but rest assured it’s a form of investment especially when you end up talking with the right people.
  • Give away good stuff. Ensure that all your merchandise are great, useful items so that people will remember your brand long after the event. It will make people think that you carefully consider all the details, even with items you’re giving for free.
  • Expect long hours. Trade shows start early and run late. Some events can last for days and it can get exhausting. It will inevitably take a toll on your staff so make sure that they are briefed them beforehand of the schedule and expected activities.

Things to Prepare for Trade Shows:

  • Brand Video Presentation
  • Merchandise
  • Marketing Materials
  • Sales Pitch
  • Budget for travel

Listen to Episode 35 of the Startup Hustle Podcast – Matt Goes to the Trade Show

Here is the transcript from Episode 35 of the Startup Hustle Podcast – Matt Goes to the Trade Show

Matt DeCoursey: And, we’re back. Another upside of Startup Hustle with Matt DeCoursey and Matt Watson. Hi, Matt.
Matt Watson: How’s it going, man?
Matt DeCoursey: Doing pretty good. You look a little stressed out, what’s going on?
Matt Watson: Well, I got a lot of stuff to pack, got a lot of software stuff to finish … I got a lot of shit to do before I leave town.
Matt DeCoursey: Where you going?
Matt Watson: Going to Seattle.
Matt DeCoursey: Getting some coffee, or doing something different?
Matt Watson: You know, it might be the only place in the world that has, I think, four Starbucks on the same corner. So I’m pretty excited about that.
Matt DeCoursey: Like, all four corners of an intersection?
Matt Watson: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: That’s a real thing.
Matt Watson: Yeah, I think so, yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: I guess if you’ve got the demand. So, why you going to Seattle again?
Matt Watson: Well, we’re going to Microsoft Build. So, for us it’s a little bit of the Super Bowl, for us, of trade shows. So, there’ll be six, seven thousand soft ware developers there, and we’re gonna have a booth-
Matt DeCoursey: Six or seven thousand attendees-
Matt Watson: Yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: Or displays?
Matt Watson: No, attendees.
Matt DeCoursey: Okay.
Matt Watson: That’s a lot of developers, so.
Matt DeCoursey: Yeah. And considering that we have a shortage of how many in the country?
Matt Watson: Like a million.
Matt DeCoursey: Oh wow. So maybe that’s why none of them are… maybe that’s why six or seven thousand and not a million people are going to this. But, you know, I think it’s a good time to do a little informative session on trade shows. I think that start ups, second stage businesses and even established companies have a history of going to, and using trade shows as a way to promote themselves. However, the whole trade show industry itself has changed quite a bit. I used to do a lot of them, what we’ll say, “back in the day,” when I worked in the music industry and I saw a lot of that stuff change. What do you hope to accomplish?
Matt Watson: Well, we’re hoping to get a lot of awareness of our product, and our company. Talk to some of our existing customers, and hopefully get a few customers out of it. I mean, trade shows are tough man. I mean, a lot of the people there aren’t necessarily a buyer. They’re not there with a check book looking to buy something. They’re there to get out of the office, learn a few things, get all excited about Microsoft stuff. You know, they’re not there looking to buy our software.
Matt DeCoursey: Some people are there not by choice, either.
Matt Watson: Yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: They’re like, “Hey Larry, we need you to go Microsoft Build.” And, you know some of those folks aren’t always to excite about being there.
Matt Watson: Well, that’s the trick with trade shows.
Matt DeCoursey: Yep.
Matt Watson: There’re so many different types. We had lunch with somebody yesterday and he was talking about going to a trade show in Texas, and it was like all… I think the buyers from school districts. It was people there looking to buy stuff, right? Like, that’s different. I think all these trade shows are different. In my VinceSolutions days, we mostly went to a trade show called Digital Dealer. And the people there were all about internet marketing for dealers. Like, they were the right person, they were interested in finding new tips, and tricks, and tools, and things to buy. Like, they were… most of ‘them were buyers. Like that day was really successful for us.
Matt DeCoursey: That sounds like a really targeted type of trade show. And you know, I think that when it comes to trade shows, you have ones that are attempting to inform and educate. And then some are a little broader, and they’re just like… well, for example, while this isn’t technically a trade show, but you look at something that you’ll see advertising for locally a lot. Like the boat show.
Matt Watson: Right.
Matt DeCoursey: The boat show’s pretty broad. Are people really goin there to buy boats? Maybe.
Matt Watson: Dream.
Matt DeCoursey: Maybe some of them are just there to kick tires, and see cool boats, and do stuff like that-
Matt Watson: Or get our kids outta the house and let them run around on somebody else’s boat for a couple hours.
Matt DeCoursey: Right. Well, I’d rather have my kids tear up the boat there.
Matt Watson: Yeah for sure.
Matt DeCoursey: Now obviously when you’re evaluating whether or not to go to a trade show, I think one of the things that people don’t give enough consideration to, is how much work can go into it. I’ve been seeing you and your staff doing quite a bit of that around here. How long have you been preparing for this thing?
Matt Watson: A few weeks. I mean, so we had to write a decent sized check to go to this deal. Had to prepare marketing materials, and swag to give away, and we have to create like a video to present about our product, and you know, what are we gonna say to people when they walk by the booth, you know, all these sort of things. So, it’s a huge distraction, to be honest. And then next week, I’ve got six employees that are out of pocket for a week.
Matt DeCoursey: Right.
Matt Watson: I mean, what does that cost?
Matt DeCoursey: And you know, we’ve gotten out our imaginary calculator. So we have a booth. We’ve got travel for half a dozen people.
Matt Watson: I’m probably spending fifty grand.
Matt DeCoursey: Is that it? Wow.
Matt Watson: Probably, yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: That’s a big number.
Matt Watson: And only half of that, or less is actually the booth. It’s time that my employees are out of office, it’s travel, it’s… yeah. I mean it’s probably forty, fifty grand.
Matt DeCoursey: So as far as some of the stuff that you’ve had to prepare, and I think this is important for startup founders, or people that wanna you know, consider doing stuff like this, the impression that you make is pretty key. Would you agree?
Matt Watson: Well, our goal is to make a good first impression on random people walking by our booth, right? So they remember who we are, they’re interested, they’re curious. Yeah, I mean we’ve got a few seconds to make a good first impression.
Matt DeCoursey: So with some of that you talked about you know, making a video. You know, actually had a little input in… watched you guys make a flyer.
Matt Watson: Yep.
Matt DeCoursey: Something to hand out. And that’s always a tricky thing, too because it’s easy to want to put too much information on that. But that’s… just something, “Hey, you’re passing by.” Or, “Hey, I talked to you.” And you know, with these shows, I haven’t… I think my career in the music industry really wore me out on trade shows. Because I used to, on behalf of the company that I worked for, would go help other people execute trade shows. And they were often times at the wrong thing. Like, they would be at the state fair. You wanna talk about an un-targeted buyer?
Matt Watson: Right.
Matt DeCoursey: You know, you’re sitting there trying to sell a digital piano to someone that’s there because they entered a pig in a beauty contest.
Matt Watson: But that’s the thing is it’s hard to figure out the ROI, right? But, if they sold one or two pianos was it worth it?
Matt DeCoursey: Yes. It was.
Matt Watson: That’s the thing. It’s hard.
Matt DeCoursey: But, on top of it though, the thing that you really need to consider is, those things start early, and often times run late. They’re long days, you need to make sure you have enough bright eyed and bushy tailed people there.
Matt Watson: It’s exhausting to stand in one place for eight hours.
Matt DeCoursey: Yes. And that was the thing. That’s like I said, it wore me out, and that’s why I haven’t gone to a lot of them. The last trade show I went to was TechCrunch, in San Francisco. And that was a very beautiful example of some people doing it right, and some people doing it completely wrong. There was one booth with a guy that was there, and all he had was a business card that had his name and a Gmail address on it.
Matt Watson: That’s good.
Matt DeCoursey: It didn’t… I don’t.
Matt Watson: I mean, at least it wasn’t an AOL address.
Matt DeCoursey: It might have been close. I upgraded it and say it was Gmail but, here’s the point is, is I remember him for that and not for anything else. And you know, when it comes to some of the things at the… you know these things that really matter is you look at all the expense, the effort and whatever, and it’s to make sure that you’re also planning this effectively. So you’re not so worn out and burned out on the whole thing before the doors open for the first day. So, when I come to your booth, how are you planning on getting my attention?
Matt Watson: I don’t know. I guess I better figure that out.
Matt DeCoursey: Mkay. You’ve got about three days- But, you know that’s a good point. So, you have to also picture your own booth, and your presentation, in context with everything that’s there. You know, like, there’s a lot of people that are going to be selling stuff.
Matt Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Matt DeCoursey: And a lot of them are going to do things to try to stand out, or get you to remember. You know most of the people… it’s kind of like walking through the mall in a lot of ways. And, me personally, when I go through the mall and there’s those little kiosks, and there’s someone, “Hey, sir. Come over here.” I don’t listen. I don’t want to go over there, because you’re going to try to sell me something I don’t want, I don’t need, and whatever. But, you know, one of the things with trade shows is you need to have a way to get folks to remember you at the end of the day.
Matt Watson: Yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: It’s easy to talk to people, and they’re interested in what you’re selling, what you’re doing, or any of that. And then they go talk to 25 other people and forgot who you are. So, you know like for example, something as simple as a flyer, or information about your company… you know, a lot of people at these things pass out stuff.
Matt Watson: Well, and our goal is to scan their badges, right? So-
Matt DeCoursey: When you do that do you capture their info?
Matt Watson: Yeah. And so then what we can do is do some kind of lead qualification. We can go through… let’s hope we get 500, 1000 people come by, and we scan their badge. And maybe we go through there and we find 50 of them that are kind of an ideal customer for us, they kind of fit the profile of who we’re looking for. And then maybe we chase those people around and say, “Hey, you came by our booth.”
Matt DeCoursey: And one of the things that was always really useful when I worked in the music industry was things that got people involved. You know, and the digital piano was a big product that we sold at the time, and it had some interactive features and stuff. And if we could get you to sit down and take a piano lesson from the piano… And you know, you’d see these people’s eyes light up. They’d be like, “Oh, that’s so amazing.” And now all of a sudden they’re hooked. And they’re sitting there, and they’re saying, “Oh wow, I am having fun with this. I do like this.” How are you going to keep me engaged?
Matt Watson: You know, maybe my striking good looks. My great ability to carry a conversation.
Matt DeCoursey: So you don’t have a plan?
Matt Watson: No.
Matt DeCoursey: But, you do have a plan in a way. I mean, you’re bringing six people that are all there, able to have conversations and discussions.
Matt Watson: Yep. We do.
Matt DeCoursey: Now-
Matt Watson: Just gonna smile and dial.
Matt DeCoursey: You know, some of the best leads… Smile and dial?
Matt Watson: I mean, shake hands.
Matt DeCoursey: I’m confused. Are you running a call center out of your booth?
Matt Watson: Yeah. Multi tasking.
Matt DeCoursey: That’s a little odd, but, I mean… You guys are just gonna call me over and over again, right?
Matt Watson: If you buy something.
Matt DeCoursey: It depends how many times you call. I might buy to just get you to quit calling. Are you doing any promos or giveaways?
Matt Watson: We’re giving away some t-shirts, some stickers.
Matt DeCoursey: You know, a t-shirt… and I’ve seen the t-shirts you make. If you’re going to make stuff that you’re going to give away, like shirts or whatever, make good stuff. Because if you… it’s easy to want to make the cheapest, crappiest stuff possible… Yeah I’m going to use that to wipe up paint off my garage floor-
Matt Watson: Yeah, yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: I’m not going to wear it. But, for example, I wear your other Stackify shirts that have the little Voltron robot on it. And it’s just a likeness of Voltron, it’s not actually Voltron is it?
Matt Watson: No.
Matt DeCoursey: Yeah. So definitely no infringement there. So-
Matt Watson: The key is they’re comfortable shirts, right?
Matt DeCoursey: Yeah, but-
Matt Watson: Or sometimes you go and they have these like, white cotton shirts that nobody’s going to wear, and if you do they’re going to shrink by like, a million inches and-
Matt DeCoursey: And sure, the comfortable stuff might cost twice as much, but you want people wearing them. You know one of the little tchotchke items that was always the most popular that I used to travel around with was, we had these little foam armchairs. And they went on your desk and so you could set your phone in them.
Matt Watson: Okay.
Matt DeCoursey: And when you picked up your phone, it had the company logo on the back. And you know I worked for Roland, so you would pick it up and it would say Roland. And now… These are the things that, you know, if you can find something that’s useful that… That was accomplishing it’s purpose.
Matt Watson: Right.
Matt DeCoursey: And I’ve never had more people… It’s like, I think when I went to go visit our dealers, they were more interested in getting more cell phone armchairs than they were about actually listening to what I had to say.
So sticking back with my familiarity, at certain trade shows… like, there was one called NAMM, North American Music Merchants. And that was a weekend that one hundred thousand people would come to.
Matt Watson: Wow.
Matt DeCoursey: And our booth was an acre. And now just to give it context, that’s the size of a football field.
Matt Watson: Wow.
Matt DeCoursey: And by the way, Roland had shrunk that booth down. It used to be double the size. But expense compared… you know, the ROI had kind of shrunk over the years. But, you know, they had a live theater in there, and they would have you know, people… I saw Stevie Wonder in there.
Matt Watson: I mean their budget for that must have been-
Matt DeCoursey: It was huge. It was over a million dollars.
Matt Watson: Wow.
Matt DeCoursey: But they justified it because for many of the dealers that we had, that was where they would place an order that would be timed out over six to twelve months. So it was really a key thing. And the pre-show or post-show meeting was clutch. Like, that… Because once you try to get people… if you try to schedule them to come by during the show, they get distracted. They do other things that might work, but another thing too is, and this isn’t really applicable to my own experience, but, consider the fact that the people that are there exhibiting with you are also really good leads potentially.
Matt Watson: Yeah, absolutely. Good customers or partners that you can do some business development with. Earlier I mentioned we would go to Digital Dealer, and we would actually rent separate rooms that we would take people too. Or we’d take them up to like, Hotel room.
Matt DeCoursey: Yep.
Matt Watson: And do one on one demos and stuff. And that was the other part of it that was so huge about the trade shows, was being able to meet with existing customers that you’re trying to still build a relationship, keep them happy, let them air their grievances, come by and choke somebody, whatever. But then having those moments where you could take potential clients and, you know, go meet with them off site-
Matt DeCoursey: For me it was remarkably efficient because my territory covered eleven states. So, my other alternative… and you know, it’s sometimes hard to be effective over the phone. I mean, yeah you can do stuff over the phone, but there’s no better time to ask someone for the sale than when they’re sitting right across from you.
Matt Watson: Yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: And also, when you have them at these places, even though the show itself and the exhibit itself can be somewhat distracting, you also have them away from their business.
Matt Watson: Yep.
Matt DeCoursey: Which is also… you know, like if you took your eye away from our office, you have a completely different dynamic.
Matt Watson: Right.
Matt DeCoursey: Because I don’t have all these employees, or notifications, or whatever coming in that suddenly distract me, so… You know, keep in mind that that’s a great place to really try to get a sale.
Matt Watson: One of the things we would do is we had like an advisory group that was like our top 10 to 20 customers. And we would have meetings there like, the day before the event or something. And we would go and take them out, and do all sorts of shit I can’t even talk about. Debauchery. But, yeah we used to do a lot of that kind of stuff. We’d go out and kind of wine and dine some of our top clients, and tell them about the product, and where we’re going, and just get them all jazzed up about… because they were kind of our advocates in the industry, right?
Matt DeCoursey: So basically making people feel important.
Matt Watson: Yeah. And do debauchery stuff that we can’t even talk about, but they’re great memories.
Matt DeCoursey: He’s joking about all of that, of course. Strike that from the record.
Matt Watson: Yeah I mean-
Matt DeCoursey: We’ve never done anything that lacks moral compass.
Matt Watson: That wasn’t at a trade show, and was not in Vegas.
Matt DeCoursey: Hey, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas is what all the bill boards say. Do you think they’re trying to condition people to really believe that?
Matt Watson: It’s not true.
Matt DeCoursey: Last year I was in Vegas a lot, but I was just working. So, I did definitely leave it in Vegas.
Matt Watson: You know, I’ve heard those stories of the girls that steal your cell phone and then call your wife while you’re in Vegas, like-
Matt DeCoursey: What?
Matt Watson: Yeah. Not everything stays in Vegas.
Matt DeCoursey: Yeah, that sounds weird. It’s a good thing I’ve got that new iPhone that only unlocks with my face.
Matt Watson: Yeah, they just have to hold it in front of your face after they beat the shit out of you.
Matt DeCoursey: Oh wow. I’ve never been beat up by a girl. I don’t think it’s even been attempted, but… Yeah, that sounds scary.
So, speaking of trade shows, are you bringing some of your best people when it comes to those that have the ability to talk to the people coming to the booth?
Matt Watson: Well, that’s the hard part, right? We actually are taking our head person in charge of support, who understands the product, [inaudible] technical. We’re taking our marketing manager who, again, can talk about the product, understands it. And then we’re actually taking one of our… like our administrative assistant. You know, she’s not as up to speed on the product, but she’ll definitely create presence in the booth as well.
Matt DeCoursey: She’s very nice.
Matt Watson: Very nice, yep. And then I’ll be there, and then a couple of our developers will be there, including our CTO… C2O… 2O… TO, or CTO- You know they’ll probably spend some more time at the training seminar side of it too, but we’ll also have them around. You know, back to the point earlier about trade shows. It’s understanding the type of trade show, and while they’re there. I mean I think you’re absolutely right. I think you’ve got the kind where there’s buyers… like, you know, your example of the music industry, where people were there to learn about the product, buy the product, whatever-
Matt DeCoursey: They wanted to see what we had coming out next-
Matt Watson: Yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: What we had. And then honestly, we usually gave like a 5% discount or something if you bought-
Matt Watson: There you go.
Matt DeCoursey: There was a reason to buy.
Matt Watson: And then you have some that are more training based.
Matt DeCoursey: Yep.
Matt Watson: People are going there to learn.
Matt DeCoursey: Those are educator conventions-
Matt Watson: And that’s really what we’re going to is more of a place where people go to learn. And then I think you have the like, consumer ones. Where, like, it’s the boat show, or the car show, and Comic-Con… I mean, do you go to Comic-Con and sell stuff? I know a guy who writes his own comic book, and every year he goes and he sells a few comic books. But, I think it’s just understanding the type of show you’re going to, and the ROI. For the software development side of it, there are trade shows, or conferences, every week somewhere. But a lot of them are small, like 300 people, 500 people show up to them. And that’s why we’d rather go to one where thousands of people show up. If we’re going to go to all this effort, and do this… because they are a huge distraction, they take a lot of time. But one positive thing we haven’t mentioned, I think some of our employees are really excited to get out of the office and go to Seattle for a week. I mean, it’s a little bit of a vacation for them to.
Matt DeCoursey: And at the same time, it also brings a lot of market awareness for the other things that are going on in your industry. Those can be the seeds of future innovation.
Matt Watson: Yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: You know, seeing what… you know there’s… Every time I go to something like this, I always run into something and I’m like, “huh. I never even really thought about that.” And then the more I think about it, I say, “well, that’s probably a really great avenue to go down as far as developing some new business.”
I think basically to recap what you were saying, is… and did you have something you wanted-
Matt Watson: Well, I was just gonna say… to your point. It’s like, everybody who goes to these shows, you know, as a vendor, or as somebody who’s attending, is it’s the pearls, right? Like, you know, our… [Larel Holt], Yoda as we affectionately call him. It’s the pearls, right? What do they learn, they might learn one or two things. But from a vendor perspective it could be those one or two clients that you get, right? Like, to your point, going to a state fair seems like a huge waste of time, but if you get one or two clients it might be worth it. At Stackify one of our bigger clients we actually got at a random trade show we did, which is Carbonite who does align backup. They saw us at some show in Vegas. That’s how we got them, right? That was the one or two pearls that came out of it, and-
Matt DeCoursey: You know the one thing about pearls, is they take a long time to form.
Matt Watson: Yeah, it did. But-
Matt DeCoursey: You got to open a lot of oysters to find them.
Matt Watson: But they’ve been a customer now for, like, 3 years. They definitely paid for the fact that we went to the show. And so it doesn’t seem like there’s a big ROI, but sometimes it just takes a handful of conversations with the right people, but-
Matt DeCoursey: And speaking to that-
Matt Watson: It’s hard.
Matt DeCoursey: Well, I’m the first person to tell you that the word next is sometimes your best friend as a sales person. When you go to a trade show you have to actually in many ways, eliminate that. This is a numbers game.
Matt Watson: It is.
Matt DeCoursey: And you can’t… there’s this… it sounds kind of weird and you know, we were talking about debauchery earlier, but, the term pigeonhole is when you just assume that someone isn’t a buyer, or a possible user, or whatever, based on something. And you know, I take that state fair example… I saw a guy that literally had straw in his hair, spend 40 thousand dollars on something. Because they never spend money on anything. They were farmers out in the… and that was a big thing. Like for them they were like, “Oh wow, this is great. I didn’t even know this existed.” And this guy just happened to have like a massive farm somewhere. He was wearing overalls. He did not look like the guy that was gonna buy a 40 thousand dollar player grand piano, but, he did-
Matt Watson: Well-
Matt DeCoursey: And it would have been really easy to just assume that guy wasn’t gonna buy anything.
Matt Watson: Well, and I think that’s the other important point here, is, these conferences are a little bit like networking. You never know who you’re talking to, if they’re the right person, but they may know the right person, right? Like, I may talk to a developer this week who’s like, “Yeah, you know, we can’t use this, but you know, somebody else on our other team at work… this will be perfect for them.” Right? “Or my buddy at this place.” Right? I mean, you never know.
Matt DeCoursey: And another thing too, is, back to the idea of seed planting or harvesting the pearls, or whatever you want to say is, you know, I mean, people don’t stay at companies for 25 years-
Matt Watson: No they don’t.
Matt DeCoursey: The way that they did, so that kind of impression and input… You know, when I look at Stackify, the thing that… the song I would sing at your booth was, “Hey, everything we do is meant to make your life easier.”
Matt Watson: Right. Yep.
Matt DeCoursey: And if there are things that annoy you about the product that you build as a developer, maybe take a look at what we do. Because we might not fix all of your problems, but if we can fix some of them that might just be a better way.
Matt Watson: We can help.
Matt DeCoursey: And it’s not an incredibly expensive product. It’s actually really affordable.
Matt Watson: It is.
Matt DeCoursey: So, it’s not a huge investment up front to figure out, you know, is this something that works for me. Do you have a way… you know, we’ve talked a lot about, is this worth it, is it worth the time, is it worth the money, is it worth… Any time you say yes to one thing you’re saying no to something else-
Matt Watson: That’s the hard part, yep.
Matt DeCoursey: Is it worth the opportunity cost? Matt and I spent a couple days this week at a… with a local organization trying to help them fine tune a-
Matt Watson: Like a training seminar.
Matt DeCoursey: A two day training program. And we talked a lot about you know, some of this stuff, and what… especially things related to opportunity cost, but… One of the things that I pointed out is that I talk to too many people that just don’t seem like they… they act as if selling something, or attempting to sell us something is distracting them from everything else that they do. Well, you do eventually have to stop and try to sell something. If your building… we talk a lot about building software, and that’s just because that’s what we spend most of our day doing. But, basically in the end, if you don’t make sales, it’s all going away eventually.
Matt Watson: Well, and there are some people that would say trade shows are their number one traction channel. That’s how they get all of their business. Is there’s a couple trade shows a year, their entire business lives and dies by it.
Matt DeCoursey: Well we had one guy on a panel with us that works for a hundred year old company that makes brand related merchandise. And he was saying that-
Matt Watson: For Rotary Club.
Matt DeCoursey: Yeah, for Rotary Clubs and other things, but-
Matt Watson: I bet there’s a trade show every year for Rotary Clubs that’s a pretty damn big deal.
Matt DeCoursey: Well that’s actually what he was saying. He said there was actually a sequence of them.
Matt Watson: Yep.
Matt DeCoursey: So they’ll do a whole bunch of them, and over a course of like a month or six weeks, which I guarantee you empties that office out. It puts a lot of people in motion. And then there’s the… then there’s what comes after. So, do you have any… do you have a plan or way that you’re going to be following up with any of the people or leads that you met?
Matt Watson: We haven’t formulated the plan, but we’ll go through the contacts we get. Try and qualify them, and figure out who we reach out to. You know, we know who our target customer is, right? So, we’ll go through it. Do some data pending, data clean-up, hygiene, figure out who these people are.
Matt DeCoursey: You know, one of the things that’s worked for me in the past is… All right, so is this five days? Four?
Matt Watson: It’s three days-
Matt DeCoursey: Three days.
Matt Watson: I mean we also have travel days on either side.
Matt DeCoursey: Sure.
Matt Watson: So I’m actually leaving on a Sunday to go out there.
Matt DeCoursey: So, you’re going to be doing a lot of stuff. You’re going to talk to a lot of people. You’re going to see a lot of things. There’s a whole lot going on. My recommendation is, you know, always try to collect as much information. You know get business card, write down contact information. If you run into people that really stand out and you say, “Wow, that’s a great lead,” take some notes on them somewhere. Whether it’s in your phone, or whatever it is that you do, because by the time you get to the 200th person that day, these details start to get really watered down-
Matt Watson: Absolutely they do.
Matt DeCoursey: So, like I said, the last one of things I went-
Matt Watson: The key to all of this is follow up.
Matt DeCoursey: Well, right.
Matt Watson: It’s follow up.
Matt DeCoursey: So, you know, when I went to TechCrunch I actually took my wife and kids with me and they… it was in San Francisco and they went and did San Francisco stuff. And at the end of the day I had collected literally, I don’t know, 100 business cards each day. And I sat down and I organized them and I wrote some notes about all of them. Because I knew that the moment that I walked back into my hotel room I was going to be doing stuff with my wife and my kids. And then I was going to get right back into the next thing, the next day. And I’ve, just through experience, know that it’s really easy to water that stuff down. I just have a little paper notebook that travels around with me in my backpack. And none of it was you know, remarkably complex. I’d just say, hey this seems like a good person to call about a possible partnership, or you know, these guys have something that I might want to keep an eye on for whatever reason.
So, I know that you’re usually a really hospitable and welcoming guy, are you going to remind everyone on your staff how important it is to greet people with a smile?
Matt Watson: I am. And I think one thing I’m going to tell them is like, Look. Our goal is to shake hands, and kiss babies, and hear no a lot of times, right? But, we’re really looking for those five to ten people we talk to, and then that’s all we’re looking for. We get those five to ten people that will be good customers for us, it’s all worth it. So we just got to get through all the no’s to find the five or ten. We got to make sure everybody understands. They’re on point. They’re going to hear no a thousand times, but they’re looking for the five to ten.
Matt DeCoursey: You know what really makes people feel that they’re being greeted in a hospitable way is a t-shirt cannon. You said you have t-shirts, but do you have the cannon that goes with it?
Matt Watson: No.
Matt DeCoursey: Do you have a mascot?
Matt Watson: You know- No, we found out. There’s no costumes allowed.
Matt DeCoursey: It’s funny because when I say that, if you guys look hard enough you can definitely find lots of instances of Matt Watson dressed up like an insect.
Matt Watson: They said no costumes so I wonder if I can do body paint instead?
Matt DeCoursey: You just want to paint your whole body?
Matt Watson: Yeah. Like a bug.
Matt DeCoursey: Please don’t.
Matt Watson: Okay.
Matt DeCoursey: That would be really weird. Do you have anything else that you wanted to point out? I think that… I think for me, one of the things in conclusion is, if you’re thinking about going to a trade show with your business, remember a couple things. It’s kind of like advertising. At first, you can see a really broad approach that reaches a whole lot of people, and you can think that that’s great. Well, first off, that’s going to be expensive. Second off, it’s not going to be very targeted. So, the more specific you get with the nature of the trade show… like Matt mentioned earlier, there are ones that are there specifically for people to come buy stuff. That’s a great choice. Would you agree?
Matt Watson: Yeah. Yep.
Matt DeCoursey: And then you have ones that are a little broader, and then you have, for example, well, the Microsoft might be an actual… that’s a little broader. Those people aren’t there necessarily to buy, but, if you just had a general developers convention, well that’s even broader.
Matt Watson: Well, we don’t go to those because-
Matt DeCoursey: Not targeted enough.
Matt Watson: Well, partly because we only support certain programming languages.
Matt DeCoursey: Right.
Matt Watson: So if we went to a conference for Amazon web services, but if we only support .Net and Java, and 80% of the people don’t use .Net or java then, like, I’m wasting my time.
Matt DeCoursey: Right.
Matt Watson: So that’s why we don’t go, because I don’t want to shake hands and kiss babies and like… Oh, nope, sorry. Nope-
Matt DeCoursey: We don’t do that.
Matt Watson: Nope. Sorry. Nope.
Matt DeCoursey: It’s kind of like selling pianos at a state fair.
Matt Watson: Well.
Matt DeCoursey: And another thing too, it’s just like… My final advice is make sure that you’re representing your business in a way that makes you proud. I think a lot of… you know, you go to these trade shows… here’s your little eight by ten booth. It’s got this white card with letters on it that says your business name, and you’re like, “Oh wow. I didn’t make a banner.” Or, you know, there’s a lot of companies out there that can really help you with some of that presence. But be ready, and be prepared. You don’t have to spend a ton of money at these things, but if you don’t have supporting materials for what you do, or a few things that are going to make you stick out at the end of the day to the person that talked to 250 people, you’re probably not going to get remembered.
Matt Watson: There’s one other thing we didn’t talk about we should’ve mentioned is, you can just go to trade shows too, and not even have a booth.
Matt DeCoursey: True.
Matt Watson: Right? I mean, there’s a lot of networking and stuff that happens just from going.
Matt DeCoursey: Right. And I’ve actually-
Matt Watson: If you talk to people.
Matt DeCoursey: And I haven’t ever done it, but I’ve looked at certain things for GigaBook where there are specific industries where the whole entire trade show is working in an industry that very much would need appointment setting. And I look at some of that stuff… now I’ll admit it, I kind of got overwhelmed with some of that stuff. Because I’m like, “Oh wow. This could literally be a whole full time thing.”
Matt Watson: There’s a whole circuit of those conferences and trade shows.
Matt DeCoursey: And speaking of which, there is a whole circuit of people that make a living doing nothing but that.
Matt Watson: Yep.
Matt DeCoursey: They’re definitely interesting. It takes a certain personality to be able to deal with that week in and week out. Would you agree?
Matt Watson: Yeah. Alright, you know what, I probably should go follow up on a lot of things. And I think that’s going to be the key to the trade show, is following up on stuff after the trade show. But I feel like I got a thousand things to follow up on before I even leave for the trade show.
Matt DeCoursey: I think what really happened is, Matt realized he’s got six more things to do after we talked about this. You’ve got to get the insect costume cleaned.
Matt Watson: Oh yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: You have to find and figure out how to travel with a t-shirt cannon.
Matt Watson: Yes.
Matt DeCoursey: Which by the way, don’t put that in your carry on.
Matt Watson: Yeah, that’s probably not approved by the TSA.
Matt DeCoursey: I don’t think it is.
Matt Watson: Nope.
Matt DeCoursey: And you know, another thing too, is, they have like a Gatling gun type t-shirt cannon.
Matt Watson: Ooh.
Matt DeCoursey: Where you can load up like, 20 of them and spin it, and it turns and just fires them everywhere. You’ve also got to get whatever fires the t-shirt out of the cannon.
Matt Watson: Yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: Or have you done anything to consider scantily clad women, or shirtless men to try to draw more people to the booth?
Matt Watson: You know, booth babes are kind of out of-
Matt DeCoursey: They’re out of favor?
Matt Watson: Yeah, that’s kind of out of favor, man. No more booth babes.
Matt DeCoursey: What would you do for developers? Like, ooh, maybe you could make it so people have… they get the next expensive Pokemon in your booth?
Matt Watson: Yeah. Or maybe like a real R2D2 or something? I don’t know.
Matt DeCoursey: Are you allowed to bring Droids with you?
Matt Watson: I don’t think so, but-
Matt DeCoursey: If you can’t bring your costume can you bring a robot?
Matt Watson: No, probably not.
Matt DeCoursey: I tell you what, I’m going to call Bill and ask him a few questions about this conference.
Matt Watson: All right.
Matt DeCoursey: Talking about Gates here, right?
Matt Watson: Yeah, yeah.
Matt DeCoursey: Okay, so I’m going to get after that. You do what you need to get to the trade show. I’m probably going to pick a random guest host to fill in for you next week because I like to do that while you’re gone.
Matt Watson: Fine.
Matt DeCoursey: I’m going to call your wife actually. I’m going to ask her… we’re going to… if you would like to hear what it’s like to be married to Matt Watson via his wife, please say something in the Startup Hustle Facebook chat and we’ll see if we can make that happen. Although I don’t think she will accept my-
Matt Watson: I don’t think so.
Matt DeCoursey: Mkay. I’ll see you next time, Matt.
Matt Watson: See you.