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Top Trade Show Tips for Hunting Outfitters

Top Trade Show Tips for Hunting Outfitters

Digital marketing is the way forward, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect traditional methods. After creating and successfully implementing digital strategies for our clients, many of them ask the question: Is traditional marketing dead? Well, no, not at all. Think of it this way, when you drive on the highway, or walk into an airport, or browse the cold produce section of the grocery store; what do you see? Billboards, info kiosks and cheese tasters. As humans our physical senses play a primary role in our buying decisions. This is something our digital screens struggle to deliver on.

Fischen-Jagen, Germany

Digital marketing is the way forward, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect traditional methods. After creating and successfully implementing digital strategies for our clients, many of them ask the question: Is traditional marketing dead? Well, no, not at all. Think of it this way, when you go to the airport and walk into a curio shop, what do you see? Well, except for the candy and airplane pillows, you will find postcards, birthday cards, fridge magnets, branded t-shirts and many more things of this nature. Or let’s take print media as an example. When you go to a rugby match, you pay R15 for a little booklet with all the players, their stats, and more information about the match, even though you can find all that info on your phone. Why?

Studies have found that the reason is two-fold: We love having something in our hands. Something tangible. Something specific to what we are focused on right there and then. (In fact, this is such a crucial factor that it is one of the elements at the centre of all KCSS’s marketing campaigns) Print-, or traditional media & marketing is a lot more personal. It conveys the message of “Hey, I made this especially for you, I hope you like it”.

It’s slow.

In a time where online information whooshes past us and squeezes as much info into 280 characters as possible, print media takes a step back, investigates the topic more in depth and then gives the results to you in a beautifully well-thought through article. It makes you feel special. For all the same reasons that print will never die, physical in-person marketing will never die. And that is why you are at tradeshows.

But being at a tradeshow, and not implementing a proper strategy is like fishing without bait. No, it’s worse. It’s like fishing without a hook, just having a piece of nylon floating on the water. It might even be worse than that still because your losing money in the process. You are looking to invest a huge amount of money into these shows, and we want you to succeed at it. So, let’s get into it, here are our top tips to make this year your best tradeshow season yet:

1) Choose the right show to attend and send the right people:

We put this tip as number one because without figuring this out first, you are wasting time and money. And heaps of it. Start by asking yourself why your presence at the tradeshow is important. If it is just because your competitors are there, then that is not a good enough reason. Do some general research of the demographic of the attendees. Are these people that know your business and to who you have marketed in the past, or are these people who are going to the show to visit your competitors? If your goal at the show is to simply increase your brand’s awareness, then there are much better and more efficient ways of doing that. If you do decide on a show which you research has showed to likely bring in a great profit, the key to unlocking that profit is in your team attending the show. You need to sell an experience, not a product. And to do that, you need the right kind of personalities to create an experience. More on this later.

2) First impressions are everything:

Studies show you really don’t have allot of time for that first impression. How little time? One tenth of a second. In the trade show arena, this means it is not your tone of voice, nor the fresh breath mint, not even your cool company shirt – although all of these are really important too. It’s your booth, your stance and your vibe. We see this same phenomenon when it comes to brands. It takes the average person one fifth of a second to form an opinion of a website, with 94% of this opinion being design related. So, you see the trend, right? Not all of you reading this have big budgets, and luckily for you, most hunters aren’t into the glamorous lifestyle. There are plenty of things you can do for a very affordable price that would create an absolute perfect representation of who you want to be to your clients. Make your exhibit stand out.

3) Remember the 7P’s, you know them:

There is an old term used by both militaries across the world and business veterans alike – proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance. This is so true! Seeing that you are reading this article and you’ve made it to tip number three, we’d say you are on the right track. But don’t stop now. The best way to tackle a tradeshow is to spend a good month planning your method of attack or hire someone to help you out. None of the tradeshows are the same, but usually there are various levels of sponsorship. At SCI shows, this often works with a ranking system where many factors such as your donations count towards it. We are not fans of this method, but I digress, it is the way it is, and it would be a massive waste if you do not take advantage of the perks that come with your membership/sponsor status. Again, these perks differ from show to show, but often includes access to the attendee list (Worth absolute GOLD), branding at the conference, speaking role or many other things. Make use of this! Another absolute must is to use the digital channels you have available. Prepare some content about your upcoming tradeshow and post it on your website. Use all your social channels and schedule various announcements as the tradeshow nears. Use these social channels during the tradeshow also. Post on Facebook. Post on Instagram. Please don’t neglect Google+. Even blog if you can find the time. Have someone there taking pics and video that you can use for marketing purposes later. Yeah, social is hard work, but you’ll thank yourself later. Promise.

4) Setup meetings & get-togethers:

If your plan is to pay a ton of money to sit at a booth, or a little less just to walk around the showroom floor, don’t bother going. The purpose of outreach is to get a buyer’s one-on-one attention in a private setting. The best way to do this is through setting up dinners, or what’s known as “house-parties”. It is best practice to have these private events booked and planned PRIOR to your marketing trip. Then invite old clients who are likely to come again and encourage them to bring friends who they think would book. The emphasis here however, is the +1 friend who is likely to book. Freeloaders will waste your time and money. Now that you have an additional place of exposure setup, and for a fraction of the price a show costs, you can utilize this to land new clients from the show. Invite people who show great interest at the show to your private event. This way you get to introduce them to old clients who had awesome experiences with you, and trust me, they will do the selling for you. If you are hosting at an old client’s house, make sure to make it worth his while. Remember, whatever you do, keep it fun and relaxed.

5) Don’t look like an amateur, even if you are:

That’s harsh I know. But it’s important. I’ve seen so many outfitters at the shows looking uncomfortable and not really knowing what to do. People pick up on that faster than you can say “Want to go to Africa?”.

I’m not saying you need KCSS in your booth (although we can be of noticeable value); but you do need to get some of the basics right.

a) Find a way to build trust. So here is something I want you to keep in mind. This is a trade secret used by us marketing experts for years. But it is so simple that it’ll be a crime if you don’t use it. The big answer to the big question of how I make people care about my company: “Monkey see, monkey do” Easy right? Here’s what that means. If you have a lot of people at your booth, all having fun and looking really relaxed, that is a customer magnet. People want to know what is going on, why are all these people at your booth. So, what do you do? Invite your friends, family, business partners, old clients, literally anyone who gives off a great vibe and will be an awesome brand ambassador, that’s who you need at your booth. Your best salesperson will always be a happy customer. Be sure to invite show attendees to become part of the conversation though; and have your fan club back off just a little when you get serious questions.  Let me show you another example. If you were to give away easily identifiable promotional items, and have show-goers wear them with the promise of a big prize at the end of the show, what would happen? Well, it’s a tried and tested method, the results are always the same. Other people will ask what they are wearing, why they are wearing it, and finally, where they got it. Bingo! You just got yourself more booth traffic. Monkey see…Monkey do.

b) Have a notebook on your table. Very few of us will remember every potential client we meet but taking notes on what colour shirt they had on, what hair colour they had, if they were with a family/friend and what they were interested in will go a long way in making life easier with the follow-up.

c) Put your brochures on the back table or hide them completely. People who just walk by your booth, grab a brochure and run off are looking for the best price; nothing you say will convince these people that your higher price is justified by your fantastic lodge and top trophy quality. Meanwhile, your expensive stack of brochures all become destined to hit the trash can without 5 minutes of attention.  

d) Less is more. Less pictures, less words, but more message! Have you seen those booths at shows where the backdrop is picture on picture on picture? What did that tell you about the company? Nothing? Exactly! vs NOPE There is a misconception among many that because people react better to pictures, giving them only pictures will yield better results. This is false and if you’re doing this, stop! This concept not only applies to your backdrop, but it should also be kept in mind with your brochures, business cards, pamphlets, and every single element of your branding. If you’re not sure how to do this properly, it might be a good idea to hire a professional company to do this for you.

e) Select your audience when talking to people at the show. Nobody likes saying no to someone who wants to chat, but if it becomes clear they are looking for conversation and not to book, give them a pamphlet (not a brochure! Those are expensive) and send them on their way. Don’t miss out on a potential client because you’re trying to be nice.

f) Be personable and fun. People want to see who you will be in camp. Remember, they are not buying a product, they are buying an experience.

g) Remember monkey see, monkey do? The technical term for it is “social proof”. And I am mentioning it again because I cannot stress it enough. Have something in your booth that clients can interact with, a very easy example is taxidermy of African animals, and if possible, the rare and impressive ones. Most of the show-goers have never seen it and would likely take photos in and around your booth. Offer to take the photo and ask them to tag your company when they post the picture. Create an experience that people will remember and get them talking about your company. An easy example would be a virtual reality shooter where clients can shoot African game while at your booth. Those systems are expensive I know, so how about an informational show on African animals once every hour? Spread the word, and before long, people will be crowding your booth to hear all the fun facts and see the great pictures of their favourite animal. Time to get creative!

6) Tricks of the Trade:

And by that we don’t mean trade as industry. We mean trade as, I give you, you give me. Here’s the thing. Every single company in that hall is there for the same reason as you, to land clients and make money. Why not share your knowledge? No, I’m not implying you should run to your competitor telling them how to land a client; But do go to non-competitors who have the same clients. Catch my drift? No? Okay, head on over to the guys selling Ammo. You have the same client base. Enquire whether they would be willing to give you the details of people who bought or asked about Ammo specific for their “planned hunt in Africa”. In return, you offer them a list of people going to Africa. Easy right? Just don’t be spammy, that’s not nice. Also, it’s illegal. But offering a great deal or sending an invite to someone who was recommended. That’s a-okay.

7) Stop selling. You’re a hunter. Tell stories & build relationships:

Imagine if you where the guy at the show looking for the next hunt. Every single booth asks you the same question: “So, have you been to Africa before”, “What animal are you interested in”, “We have the meanest looking Buffs! Hi, my name is Dave!”. Just stop. They are there to have fun just as much as they are to book a hunt. Make friends first, the booking will follow. Now, if you have some show special that your new showroom floor friend can’t stop looking at, ask him if that is something that would interest him. If yes, tell him about it. At this point, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a good old “Well, we could secure your spot if you want to”. Oh, and remember to invite him and his hunting buddy to that get-together we discussed earlier!

8) Hide the Map:

Okay so although I really do want you to hide the map, this point is about focusing on what matters. You’ve made notes of all my tips and probably feel a little overwhelmed. But grab yourself a nice cold Castle and look at the list again; all of them work together to the same point. Everything you do should work towards building a relationship with potential clients. If it doesn’t, remove it. Like your map. Having random people showing their friends where they’ve travelled on the globe is only wasting your time. Put the map away and pull it out when someone serious wants to know where your camp is.

9) Follow up, follow up, follow up:

Now the work begins.

You’ve built relationships, had good laughs, made notes of who you had the laughs with and spread the word that you are the absolute best hunting outfit around. Time to close those deals. We recommend following up with a call, no sooner and no later than one day after the show. This way you are fresh in their minds. Waiting too long with the follow up will dilute the connection. As much as you want to think you sealed the deal, I guarantee you are not the only outfitter they had a laugh with. Another common mistake I find is owners delegating the follow up. Whoever spoke to the client at the show, that’s who should follow up with the call – it’s an immensely personal relationship, keep it that way. This is crucial. Also, I just love carrots – prepare a done deal closing incentive. 

10) Do the Math:

None of what you just read matters if it is not profitable for you. Trade shows are notoriously expensive, especially those in the States where donating is often a must. On top of that, you have flights, food, hotels, and transport which at the end of the day is a massive expenditure. You need to sit down and count the pennies. Have every single expense on one side, and every single client that you gained only from the shows on the other. Are the trade shows worth it? Could you have spent less money and gained more clients through other channels? Only you would know – if you do the math.


At the end of the day, when you are at tradeshows you are marketing in real time. People and behaviours are not set in stone, and you must admit to yourself if you are not a born salesman. The best advice we can give you is to follow these crucial tips, but to remain authentic in yourself while doing so. People will book with you for one of two reasons; Either you were recommended by a trusted friend, or they found you to be a joy. So, be a joy!

If you have any questions or need any help with your preparations, feel free to contact us here.

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