Saturday, February 10, 2007

Experience

New site detailing life experiences, both shared and personal.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Leading Trade Show Exhibit Trends Create A Profound Experience for Attendees

By: Mat Kelley

Trade shows have traditionally served as an opportunity for industry leaders to showcase their latest products and innovations. Competing companies have always clamored for the attention of potential customers by sticking to the benefits sales model, showcasing how their product can solve a common problem.

But current trends are creating a different climate at trade shows these days. With competition for the customer’s attention stronger than ever, exhibitors are no longer fixated on separating themselves from their competitors by focusing on a particular product and simply talking about solutions and benefits. Which leads us to the first, and probably most profound, trend in trade show exhibiting.

Experiential Exhibits:

Product pitches and demos are “out” – at least they are no longer the centerpiece of a trade show exhibit. Instead of the literal, one-on-one, “we’re better because . . .” spiel, the challenge has become creating an experience for the potential customer that leaves them in awe, or at least makes a strong enough impression that they forget about the competition. While the trade show booth is a temporary fixture, the idea is to create a space that has a feeling of permanence and keeps the customer engaged. So engaged, in fact, that the customer has a memorable experience, and associates that experience with your product – eliminating the need for the hard sell, and creating a smooth landing for the soft sell.

Each element of these “experiential exhibits” is crucial and must be carefully selected to effectively execute a cutting-edge, yet warm and inviting, space. Any sort of “edutainment” feature anchored in technology, such as interactive computer games that test knowledge or popular television game shows as a template for a game featuring facts and information about your company or industry, are a must-have. Making this part of your trade show booth space gives you an opportunity to make your booth more of an interactive space.

Materials:
There are many different types of materials that can be used and are used to make trade show displays. But because of it’s versatility and low cost in comparison to other materials, fabric is one of the trendiest materials to use for your booth. Metal and wood are used less frequently because of their weight, bulkiness and inflexibility.

You can use fabric in a subtle way, almost like a canvas, to create a backdrop for the theme of your space. And often, the light, airy nature of the fabrics used for today’s exhibits create a light, airy feeling for your trade show display. But more often, you will find fabric being used for the banner stands, such as the Allure tensioned fabric banner displays that have recently hit the market. These high-quality banners are quickly set up (about two minutes with no tools needed) and easy to put together, convenient to travel with (even on an airplane,) economical to ship, and, shelves can be added to the banners for a more sophisticated look. These advantages, along with the long life and durability of the Allure banners, makes them slightly more expensive than typical banner stands. But the extra money is worth it - these banners create such a strong presence that they can be used by themselves or combined with a pop-up or custom booth to really make your space “pop.”

Lighting:
Whether you are going for a more traditional trade show booth or the cutting-edge experiential, lighting is crucial in creating the mood for your space. Because of this, custom lighting is becoming more mainstream.

Using filtered or wash lights creates a mood that drastically contrasts with a trade show display that uses spotlights. But ambience is not the only reason custom lighting has become more popular. You can also use lighting – however dramatic or subdued – to bring attention to featured products.

The Final Touches
Today’s trade show visitors are limited on time and bombarded with a flurry of sales and marketing gimmicks. To “stand out in the crowd,” here are some additional trends that have emerged in recent years.

Booth Details – Once you have gotten a visitor’s attention and they have entered your space, you must give them a good reason to stick around for more than a couple of seconds. This is the time for you to immerse the customer with your brand. Visitors want to see how your product or service will benefit them – so show them. Testimonials are an easy way to achieve this, in addition to marketing materials featuring people using your product, as well as the standard product demonstration. And because presentation is everything, additional pieces in your booth, such as literature racks, are a good way to keep your space organized while attractively displaying your marketing materials without overwhelming prospects with too much information.

Time is of the Essence – With the demands of today’s busy work schedules, most visitors do not have an entire day to spend at a trade show. Their time at the event is valuable, so you must be able to get their attention and quickly and easily explain what your company offers. Some of these visitors will come to the trade show as a team, and the team will include decision-makers who evaluate you, in comparison with the competition.

Get the Word Out – This is a trend that has been around for awhile, but one that is often overlooked. Prior to the event, let your clients and potential customers know that you are participating in a trade show – use every promotional opportunity to mention it, use direct mail, email and other traditional marketing avenues to drive more traffic to your exhibit.

Implement
these marketing strategies and your trade show exhibit will create a buzz about your company and deliver a memorable experience for clients and potential customers that will make your follow-up sales success inevitable.

About the Author
Mat Kelly is the president of ExhibitDEAL, the Original Exhibit Wholesaler specializing in trade show exhibits from large custom displays to portable trade show displays - on the web at http://www.exhibitdeal.com/

Trade Show Sins

Some good advice I came across on the bad habits and lack of prep that can lead to a wasted trade show experience.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Tradeshows

Do you know the Seven Deadly Sins? I’m not talking about pride, envy, lust, and all the rest that you may be familiar with. While those are important, chances are they won’t crop up at the average tradeshow. Instead, there’s another set of sins – seven deadly sins – associated with exhibiting. If you commit one or more of these, you can count on a dreaded result: exhibiting that is ineffective, counter-productive, and a monumental waste of time and money!

Are you guilty? Is your exhibiting in mortal peril? Check the list and see:

Sin #1: Neglect

Failing to set exhibiting goals is one of the most deadly tradeshow sins. Having goals delineates your purpose for exhibiting. This is the essence of the whole exhibit. Knowing what you want to accomplish at a show will help plan every other aspect – your theme, the booth layout and display, graphics, and more. Exhibiting goals should complement your corporate marketing objectives and help in accomplishing them.

Sin #2: Illiteracy

You may be able to read the exhibitor manual – but are you? The exhibitor manual is your complete reference guide to every aspect of the show and your key to saving money. Everything you need to know about the show is in those pages: show schedules, contractor information, registration, service order forms, electrical service, floor plans and exhibit specifications, shipping and freight services, housing information, advertising and promotion. Remember that the floor price for show services is normally 10-20% higher so signing up early will always give you a significant savings.

Sin #3: Pride

It’s good to be proud of your staff. After all, you’ve taken a tremendous amount of time recruiting, interviewing, and hiring good people to work for your organization. But at tradeshows, more often than not, those valued employees are sent to work unprepared. Enormous time, energy and money are put into organizing show participation. However, the people chosen to represent the entire image of the organization are often left to fend for themselves. They are just told to show up. That’s both arrogant and unwise. Your people are your ambassadors and should be briefed beforehand – why you are exhibiting; what you are exhibiting and what you expect from them. Exhibit staff training is essential for a unified and professional image.

Sin #4:Being Inhospitable

Attendees at a tradeshow are your guests. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, the attendees are visiting your company. They are in your trade show booth, talking to your staff. It is your job to be a gracious host. To do this, you must focus on the attendee’s needs. Do this by asking open-ended, probing questions, designed to elicit information about the attendee’s real needs and interests. Avoid missing qualifying information and potential valuable leads.

Sin #5: Busywork

Idle hands may be the devil’s playground, but being busy to no effect is hardly a good idea. Staff members, who are unsure of what to do in the booth environment or feel uncomfortable talking to strangers, end up handing out literature or giveaway items just to keep occupied. Literature acts as a barrier to conversation. It is vital that people chosen to represent the organization enjoy interacting with strangers and know what is expected of them in the booth environment.

Sin #6: Ignorance

Being unfamiliar with demonstrations is tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot. What’s the point of hauling your snazzy new piece of equipment across the country to a tradeshow if no one knows how to operate it? This often happens when the sales staff is sent along to represent a high-tech or complex piece of machinery. Communicate with your team members before the show and ensure that demonstrators know what is being presented, are familiar with the equipment and how to conduct the assigned demonstrations.

Sin #7: Laziness

The work doesn’t stop when the show is over. Ignoring lead follow-up and post-show evaluation are deadly sins that happen after the show. Sadly, show leads often take second place to other management activities that occur after being out of the office for several days. The longer leads are left unattended, the colder they become. Prior to the show, establish how leads will be handled, set timelines for follow-up and make sales representatives accountable for leads given to them. Post show evaluation allows you to improve future performances. Investing the time with your staff immediately after each show isn’t a luxury – it’s an imperative!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Develop a Business-Event Marketing Strategy

Very informative article by Ruth Stevens at Marketing Profs.
by Ruth P. Stevens

Business events are at their most powerful when they are part of an integrated go-to-market strategy. Integration sounds logical, but how do you actually pull it off?

First, you have to have control—or at least influence—over all the elements of the marketing mix. Then, you must develop a sound strategic approach to business event planning. Among the most productive strategies are those based on the following:

  • The customer's buying process
  • Quarterly (or periodic) sales objectives
  • Target audience

Business Event Planning Based on the Customer's Buying Process

Fortunately for marketers, most business buyers follow a fairly well-defined process as they evaluate options and make purchase decisions. In some companies, the process is so well defined that it is codified, and prospects will share with you the exact steps they must go through to buy. The more marketers understand the buying process of their prospects, the more efficient they can become with their selling processes. The secret is to map the selling activity to the prospect's buying process stage.

For a list of the typical steps a business buyer goes through, see table 1. Of course, these steps vary by industry and by company size. In the second column of the table is a list of the seller's objectives at each stage. Notice how those objectives vary as the prospect's needs and activities evolve.

Table 1: Marketing Objectives at Each Stage
of the Buying Process

Customer's Buying Process Stage Marketer's Objectives
Identify need Arouse interest
Research solutions Be known to the research team
Develop short list Be selected for short list
Request proposals/quotes Submit winning proposal
Review proposals/quotes Create preference
Negotiate Preserve margins
Select vendor Win!
Install and use Satisfy and support usage
Upgrade Up-sell, cross-sell

The successful marketer will analyze the buying stages for each account, or customer segment, and understand who is involved at each stage. The marketer will then craft strategies to help the prospect move to the next stage—preferably toward a purchase from the seller rather than the competition.

Continue reading...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Trade Show Planning

Exhibiting at trade shows, expos, conventions, fairs and other exhibitions gives you a unique sales opportunity that can also help you generate new leads, find suppliers, check out the competition, do some networking, and get publicity. In short, you can achieve at one trade show what it would take you weeks or months to do if you stayed home. And it may even save you money - according to the Center for Exhibit Industry Research, it costs 62% less to close a lead generated from a trade show than one originated in the field.

But to accomplish all of the above you must plan carefully. That means choosing the correct show, setting clear objectives, creating an effective exhibition, and promoting your presence. All this, before you even get to the show! Click on the subjects below to learn more about getting the most out of your trade show experience.

Choosing the Correct Show
Setting Clear Objectives
Creating an Effective Exhibit
Promoting Your Presence
Planning Your Follow-up Strategy


Choosing the Correct Show

With more than 10,000 trade shows held in the United States annually, picking the one that will net you the greatest benefit for your investment of time and money can be daunting.

Begin your search by looking for trade shows that fit your product or service. You can find these out by looking in directories such as "The Tradeshow & Convention Guide" (BPI Communications) and "The Tradeshow Week Data Book" (Reed Reference), both of which list trade shows across the U.S., as well as various show data. On the Web, you can try one of the trade show search sites such as Trade Show News Network.

Another resource for finding out about shows is your industry's trade association, since many shows and conventions are sponsored by industry groups. Your local Chamber of Commerce or Convention Bureau may also be able to help you find out about smaller local shows.

Here are some additional tips to help you make the right choice:

Don't just choose by the numbers
Big trade show crowds can actually be a waste of time if they don't include people who are buyers or prospective customers for your product or service. Look closely at statistics of past years’ shows to help you evaluate whether attendees fit your customer profile. The show manager should be able to provide you with this data.

Ask your customers for help
Talk to your customers to find out what trade shows they attend, since shows that meet their needs will likely be attended by other prospects. You can also speak with your competitors to find out what shows they've found most useful.

Check it out ahead of time

The best way to evaluate a show is to take a first-hand look. Before you sign up, go to the show as an attendee. Is the show active and exciting? Are the people walking the show floor potential customers? Who are the other exhibitors and where would your product/service fit in the mix? Talk to people and keep your eyes open.

Evaluate it carefully
Once you've got a list of show possibilities, ask these questions to determine if the show is the right one for your purposes:

  • Is it big enough to draw a cross-section of prospects and vendors - but not so large that you'll be competing against the giants in your industry?
  • Is it in the right place, geographically, to attract your customers - whether they are local, regional, national, or global?
  • Is it scheduled at a time when you can service the new business you’ll attract and follow up on leads?
  • Are the show's promoters reliable and does the management have a proven track record of success?
Don't wait until the last minute
Some popular shows fill up fast. If you wait too long, you could find yourself on a waiting list. Plus, the earlier you sign up for a show, the more choices you'll have regarding finding a good location for your booth.

Setting Clear Objectives
To get the most out of the time, money and energy you invest in exhibiting at a trade show, it's vital that you decide what your purpose is for being there and set measurable goals. Everything you do before, during, and after the show should be evaluated in terms of whether it contributes toward reaching these goals.

Possible goals for trade shows
Here are some reasons businesses exhibit at trade shows. Your goals may include several of these, or others that are important to your small business:
  • write sales orders
  • research the competition
  • spot trends
  • generate leads for future sales
  • build your mailing list with quality names
  • find better or cheaper suppliers
  • build rapport with current customers
  • get press
  • generate excitement around a new product
  • increase company's visibility within the industry
Be sure to staff your booth adequately and smartly
You can't do it alone. No matter what your goal, you will need at least one person to "spot" you when you leave the booth to take a break or to check out the competition. A good rule of thumb is to have two staffers for every 100 square feet of exhibit space. Your staff should be well-groomed, well-trained, friendly and knowledgeable. They should understand your goals and know their role in reaching them. If you don't have employees on the payroll, hire relatives, friends, or part-timers.

Focus your message
Pick just two or three key ideas that you want to get across at the show and train yourself and your staff to "stay on message". Design your graphics, pre-show promotion, literature and show directory advertising around your message.

Create a budget
Once you know which show you're going to and what your goals are, draw up a budget. Without a budget, costs can quickly spiral out of control (last-minute impulse purchases to jazz up your booth, for example) and defeat your best laid plans. One rule of thumb is that your space costs should represent about a quarter of your total budget. So when you know what you'll be paying for space rental, multiply by four for a rough idea of your expenses, excluding personnel costs.

Creating an Effective Exhibit

Where your trade show booth is located and how your booth looks will have an impact on your trade show success. Use these tips to help you along.

Shoot for a high-traffic location
Be sure to look at a floor plan before you choose your site. Foot traffic is heaviest in certain areas of a typical trade show floor. Look for locations near entrances, food concessions, rest rooms, seminar rooms, or close to major exhibitors. Try to avoid dead-end aisles, loading docks, obstructing columns, or other low-traffic regions.

Consider sharing a booth
New exhibitors often get the least desirable locations. One way around that is to share a well-located booth with a colleague in a related business. Talk to your sales rep, or try to hook up with an established exhibitor whose products or services complement yours.

Elate the senses
Make sure people coming to your booth can experience your product or service. Let them touch, see, feel, hear or taste it. Are you selling decorative pillows? Display them in an appropriate setting and have samples that buyers can touch. Have you developed a new software package? Be sure to have multiple computer terminals available for attendees to try the package.

Keep it simple
Don't go overboard with trade show booth graphics. One large picture that can be seen from afar may have a greater impact than many small ones. A single catchy slogan that describes your business may say more than long blocks of text.

Gimmicks work
Gimmicks and give-aways can also drive traffic to your booth. Hold a contest; have a loud product demo; give away pieces of candy; hire a masseuse and offer free back rubs. Just make sure that the gimmick fits your company's image and the sensibilities of your clients.


Promoting Your Presence

Remember that the best trade show planning will fail if nobody knows you're there. The CEIR estimates that as many as three-quarters of show attendees know what exhibits they want to see before they get to the show. Strong pre-show promotion will let your customers and prospects know about your exhibit. These tips will help.

Work the phones
A month to 6 weeks before the show, start calling your top customers and prospects to set up meetings. Many people arrive at a show with a firm schedule and have little or no time for other booths, so it's important to get on that schedule as early as you can. Be sure to confirm all phone meetings a week or so before the show.

Send out mailings
The show's management will often let you purchase a mailing list of pre-registered attendees. Try a simple pre-show mailing focusing on one or two benefits of dropping by your booth. Be sure to include show contact information, including your booth number.

Use the press
Issue press releases to trade publications and local papers that will be covering the show. Your release should highlight something newsworthy about your exhibit - a new product introduction or a special demonstration, for example. You'll also want to prepare plenty of press kits for the show, and be sure to drop them by the press room so reporters can find them.

Look out for show publications
Advertising in publications that are distributed only at the show can be expensive and ineffective. These publications often have a narrow focus, and they get lost in the blizzard of paper that rains upon trade show attendees.


Planning Your Follow-up Strategy

The time to plan your follow-up strategy is before the show begins. That way, you can reach prospects with your follow-up message while the show is still fresh in their minds. Here are some things you should know about follow-up.

Make follow-up a priority
According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 80% of show leads aren't followed up. Make following up on leads your number one priority after a show, taking precedence over just about everything else - including catching up on what you missed while you were out of the office.

Write your follow-up mailer before the show
Your post-show mailing can be as simple as a thank-you note or a brochure with a cover note. Write it and have it printed out before you leave for the show, so you can send the mailing immediately upon your return.

Qualify leads during the show
Rank your leads by level of importance and interest, and base your post-show efforts on these priorities. Phone your hottest prospects within a week after the show ends - the longer you let them sit, the staler they'll become. Send everyone else some kind of follow-up mailing.

Keep your promises
Be sure that you keep any promises you made at your booth. Have enough brochures and product sheets on hand before the show so you can send out requested information promptly.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How you think about trade shows

Got An Attitude? About Trade Shows? How You Think About Them - Shows - 5 Simple Q&A
By Julia O'Connor

Got an attitude about trade show? Love ‘em, hate ‘em or tolerate ‘em, the way you think about trade shows – shows. In your demeanor, vocabulary, conversational tone – your general attitude. These are five important Q&A about attitude and training from clients like you.

1. Our Sales and Customer Service training center gives us sessions on how to sell and follow-up. What's so different about trade shows?

Trade shows are a completely different environment. The time is compressed, the expectations are high (sometimes too high), you're constantly on stage meeting strangers and when you get back to the hotel room or the office, you have to follow-up leads as well as do your regular work. The more you know about this unique marketing opportunity, the more comfortable and successful you will be.

2. We're just going to a show to walk the aisles. Why do we need training?

Are you a good spy? What are you looking for? Do you know trade shows are the best source of market intelligence about your industry, new products, new processes, new suppliers, new partners, new reps, new employees and new competitors? Training can help you be more aware of your surroundings, focus on your targets and be open to new opportunities.

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Every good trade show needs a custom trade show display, check out ExhibitDeal.com for your trade show exhibits needs.
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3. Personally, I think trade shows are a boring, insufferable waste of my time when I could be doing some real selling. I'll bet training can't change my attitude!

You're right! So, stay home. Actually, you're probably an exceptional sales professional who hates the lack of control you feel at a show. TSTi has identified the five reasons you're uncomfortable, can help you prepare for shows and at least get you to grit your teeth, smile and produce for three days.

4. We usually just send one person and he always complains about how tired he is. What can training do for us?

Trade shows are hard work, but he's your responsibility. Get him in shape. Send a younger person. Get him some relief via a temp service - or ask a local client, rep, retiree or supplier to help staff the booth. If he's tired and shows it, he's pulling down the image of your entire company. Change it!

5. We really go to shows just to see old clients and keep up those relationships. What's training going to do for us?

While it's nice to be part of the old gang and keep up with personal and industry gossip, trade shows may be an expensive way to do it. Training will help you find new "old clients," look for relationships with new suppliers and, at a minimum, make you less insulated in your approach.

Julia O'Connor - Speaker, Author, Consultant - writes about practical aspects of trade shows. As president of Trade Show Training, inc, now celebrating its 10th year, she works with companies in a variety of industries to improve their bottom line and marketing opportunities at trade shows.

Julia is an expert in the psychology of the trade show environment and uses this expertise in sales training and management seminars. Contact her at 804-355-7800 or check the site http://www.TradeShowTraining.com

Corporate Branding and Trade Shows

8 Tips for Trade Show Staff
By Julia O'Connor

Trade shows are part of the marketing mix and the appearance by your firm should be a continuum of your entire marketing including advertising, public relations and events.

While you may introduce a new product or showcase a service, many firms make mistakes by not connecting the overall corporate branding with the show. How can an exhibit staff person be up to speed on what the company is doing?

1. Make sure you have information about the trade show exhibit – what is in it, why it is there – before the show. Not the day before but as soon as you get your assignment. The exhibit manager has the responsibility to make sure the exhibit is on time and looks great - among many other duties. The marketing team decides the theme, products highlighted and rationale.

2. Read your company and division web sites. Sure, there are lots of pages but there are hidden nuggets in there that you may have forgotten or may be new to you. Here’s what you may not know – attendees who are serious about meeting with you – well, they will check your web site. Best to be as informed as your prospective clients are.

3. Read all the promotional materials that you will hand out. If an attendee has a question while at the booth, your answer will not be – DUH?

4. Know what is in all the demonstrations. Are there cues to expand on the demo? Clues as to how to lead a conversation? Listen carefully and make your life easier.

5. Read advertising in your trade publications. What does your firm promote versus your competitors? Can you explain the differences?

6. While reading the trades, look for articles and releases about your company. Check your online press release section or ask the PR department about releases sent before the show.

7. Understand the role of your firm if a sponsor of an event.

8. Ask. Ask. Ask until you get answers that satisfy you. Your goal is to make you the best representative for the company you can be.

Having an understanding of the broad marketing aspects before the show makes your firm well branded at event.

Julia O'Connor - Speaker, Author, Consultant - writes about practical aspects of trade shows. As president of Trade Show Training, inc,, now celebrating its 11th year, she works with companies in a variety of industries to improve their bottom line and marketing opportunities at trade shows.

Julia is an expert in the psychology of the trade show environment and uses this expertise in sales training and management seminars. Contact her at 804-355-7800 or check the site http://www.TradeShowTraining.com

Friday, May 05, 2006

Table Throws & Covers: Covering Your Bases.


A table drape can be as simple as a blank table throw, or as flashy as a full color spectacle. Add a banner stand and you've got an instant, lightweight, and colorful exhibit display. A table can also help with storage and clutter issues that can be a problem with limited space issues.

With a logo or simply plain fabric, table covers make a big improvement in your appearance at trade shows, meetings and conferences.

We supply custom printed or blank covers for standard sized tables. Made from turdy twill fabric, they will last for many years.

Trade Show Marketing Truths

We hear from many of our clients that the trade shows they attend seem expensive and don't yield results. When we investigate further, we usually find that trade shows are not being planned and managed adequately. Businesses are not researching the show prior to exhibiting, not promoting their exhibit in advance, not strategically planning their booth appearance and location, and not conducting the proper follow up on trade show leads. In fact, studies have shown that 79% of businesses fail to follow up on what leads they do get at a show.

If done properly, trade shows can yield some of the most highly qualified leads of any marketing activity. On average, it costs $233 to get in front of a prospect at a trade show, compared to $302 per prospect through a field sales call. Some studies have shown that buyers rank trade show information as a number one reason to buy, followed by articles and peer references.

The following are nine tips that will help you be more successful at trade shows.
1. Be selective about the trade shows you attend. Survey your customers or potential customers about the shows they visit and the publications they read. Often, publications sponsor the trade shows in an industry. Investigate each show by visiting its web site, calling the management company, and getting reports about past show attendance. Call other exhibitors and attendees and ask how they liked the show. Ideally, you should visit the show the year before you exhibit.

2. Plan for the trade show. Plan your promotion for before, during and after the show. Map out your exhibit and location ahead of time and note any changes that will have to be made to your booth. Create a budget for the show, and plan your staffing needs.

3. Create or update your trade show booth. You have three seconds to get your point across to trade show visitors. Make sure your trade show display graphics get the attention of trade show visitors. Create a catchy tagline that explains what you do and place it with your logo. Remember that with trade show booth graphics, less is more. Furthermore, booths with interchangeable graphics provide the most flexibility if your company attends several different shows.

4. Promote your exhibit before the show. Obtain a mailing list from the trade show management company or another source, and send an attention-getting mailer inviting people to visit your booth. If you sell high-ticket items, send an attention-getting package to highly qualified prospects. You can send the empty box for an expensive gift, telling the prospect to come to your booth to receive the gift (and then give it to them when they show up). You can send one of a pair or a part of a gift, and ask the prospect to come to the show to get the other part (one cuff link of the pair, the key to a briefcase). Post the show date and location on your web site so that visitors know you will be exhibiting.

5. Train your staff. Most companies send their new employees to trade shows because they're trying to avoid taking their top performers out of the field. What they don't realize is that the right trade shows yield some of the most qualified buyers. Make sure your staff is knowledgeable, rested, presentable and friendly. Brief them on any new developments with competitors companies or products.

6. Limit your spending on promotional items and handouts. 70% of promotional items and literature are thrown away by attendees after the show. Consider sending literature after the show as a follow-up instead of giving it away at the show. If you are going to give away promotional items, keep in mind that the most desired promo items are wearables (hats, t-shirts), followed by pens, mugs, calendars, and desk or office items. Ask visitors to leave their contact information before giving them one of your promo items.

7. Disengage yourself quickly from unqualified prospects. One of the biggest problems is getting rid of unqualified prospects in your booth. You can offer to give them a promotional item as a close to the conversation. Or, end the conversation by holding out your hand to shake theirs as you thank them for stopping by.

8. Follow up immediately on the trade show. If you know you'll be busy when you get back to your office, stuff packets of information ahead of time to send out. Use the automated lead system that most shows now provide so that you receive electronic copies of all contacts. This allows you to get materials out faster than if you had to enter all contact information manually. Don't stop with just one package of information in your follow up. Call, invite them to a seminar, webinar or demo of your product as well. Plan to send regular marketing updates to those who have visited your booth at a trade show: via email, snail mail and telephone.

9. Track results, so you can better plan for the next show. You need to track the total number of leads generated at a show, the number of qualified leads, the conversion rate of leads to sales, the number of sales generated by the show, the dollar amount of those sales, the cost per lead, and the total return on investment (ROI) on the show. Without this information, your decision about whether to return to the show the next year will be subjective and could be misinformed.

In summary, trade shows can yield great marketing results. You just need to find the right show, create a great exhibit that is staffed by your best salespeople, and promote it adequately before, during, and after.

Sources: Data & Strategies Group Exhibit Surveys, Center for Exhibition Industry Research, Promotional Products Association International.

Jennifer Beever is a marketing consultant and founder of New Incite Marketing Analysis and Design. New Incite is the outsource resource for growing businesses. The company provides marketing planning, implementation, results tracking and organizational development services for its clients.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

How trade shows can help a small business.

There are times when the home entrepreneur may crave a little one-on-one interaction with her customers. That's when she should consider taking her act on the road... to a trade show.

According to Business Week, trade shows and exhibitions are one of the most cost-effective marketing tools available. One recent survey showed that it costs half as much to close a sale made to an exhibition lead as to one obtained through all other means.

That's why the number of shows has exploded in the last decade, with attendance up to 123 million people and U.S. expenditures reaching $100 billion on them last year alone. As the exhibition industry proclaims, "There are some things you just can't dot.com."

If you need a trade show display for your next trade show, call ExhibitDeal at 1.866.577.DEAL

Trade shows provide a unique venue for people with common interests to connect with one another, live and in person. Attendees can learn from experts in their field at a fraction of the cost for a seminar or personal consultation. Exhibitions provide them with a one-stop shop to check out the latest innovations in their industry, compare products and make purchasing decisions. They are also a great place to view the product lines of competitors and network with others. These attractions give exhibitors a highly targeted market of prospects who have pre-screened themselves as interested buyers. It's a win-win for everyone involved.

So you've decided that this is an area you'd like to pursue in your marketing efforts...as long as you can find an exhibition that meets your needs.

Fortunately, you can look online to find calendars of trade shows, meetings and conventions occurring worldwide. Here is one example:

http://www.tsnn.com/

You should look for:

Dates: If you're a one-person shop, you may have to close operations for the period of time you'll be working the show.

Location: Local shows do not require additional travel expenses or overnight stays. If the show you wish to attend is highly desirable and more than a couple of hours away by car, you should factor in the cost of a hotel room, just in case.

Target Market: If you are selling cookware, you might be interested in taking a booth at the county fair, where you'll reach a wide audience of local attendees. However, it would be more cost-effective to look into exhibiting at a food festival, attracting people who are interested in how dishes are prepared.

Estimated Attendance: Important in evaluating the cost effectiveness of your participation, as well as estimating the number of handout materials you will need to bring.

Expenses: The cost of the booth is only a fraction of what you'll pay to participate. Read the exhibitor's agreement carefully before committing to the show: You may be responsible for additional fees, such as security and cleaning deposits, telephone lines and power supplies. You may also be required to obtain a rider to your business insurance policy covering any injuries that might occur at your booth.

Other expenses at your discretion include the cost of signage, handouts, door prizes (contributed to the show in exchange for additional booth promotion or given away at your booth to entice attendees to leave their contact information). You need to weigh all of these expenses against the potential benefits of new sales and leads.

One aspect of trade shows is the symbiotic relationship between the promoter, exhibitors and attendees. The better the quality of the exhibits and offerings, the more qualified participants will want to attend. Once you agree to be part of the show, you are now partners with the show promoter, who will include your business information in his marketing efforts -- thereby attracting more attendees and exhibitors, and giving you more bang for your marketing buck. In turn, you should do all you can to help increase attendance. Many show promoters will give exhibitors passes to give their customers, allowing them to attend for free or at a discount. Use these liberally. Add a line to your sig and your own marketing materials announcing your participation in the show.

The day of the show will be hectic:

* Have all your materials organized and ready to go at least 24 hours in advance. This is a great task to share with your kids, who can help with collating and gathering materials.

* Your set-up time prior to the show may be limited. Arrive promptly and note loading dock rules and parking regulations.

* Don't even think of working your booth alone! If you are a one-person shop, enlist a friend or family member (even your teenage kids) to help you work the booth -- you don't want to miss an important lead because you had to grab some lunch or use the rest room. A trade show is not a good place for your young children. Arrange for a spouse, family member or friend to watch them while you're working.

* Dress as you would for any business event, but keep in mind that you will be on your feet for eight hours or longer on floors that are hard enough to support a semi-truck. Wear comfortable shoes with good support (Rockports are better than athletic shoes and look nicer, too). Stash an extra pair under your booth's skirted table. Changing into fresh shoes midway through the day will alleviate foot fatigue.

Overall, smile and have fun. This is a rare opportunity to get out from behind your computer, have some "face time" with your customers, get feedback on your offerings, make some new friends and sell, sell, sell! (And what could be more fun than that?)



About the Author:

Donna Schwartz Mills, CMP is a veteran events planner awarded the Certified Meetings Professional designation by the Convention Liaison Council. She is now the webmaster/editor of the NOBOSS ParentPreneur Club, (http://www.parentpreneurclub.com), proud sponsors of WAHMFest 2000, Northern California (Helping Parents Stay Home with Their Families). Find out more about this event and other WAHMfests around the U.S. at http://www.wahmfest.org.