I’ve always admired Mark Twain. Some historians credit him with writing the first Great American Novels. However, many people are not aware of his business endeavors and investments. Twain was a very wise man and once said, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” In the 21st Century, where our world constantly changes and we face an uncertain economy in the months ahead, Twain’s statement holds true. We can especially relate his thoughts to the trade show world. It is important to understand how to evolve your trade show marketing program and after reading this article, you’ll know 5 ways to successfully exhibit in a down economy.
1.) Evaluate your show schedule; don’t stop exhibiting.
Peter Starkel, from RemarkableBrands.com, describes “a well known reality in the marketing world [is] that you grow market share in a down economy and grow sales in an up economy.” Starkel’s statement is especially accurate for trade show exhibiting. It may be tempting to cut shows or minimize booths space in uncertain times, but now is the time to invest marketing dollars to build your market share. So, don’t stop exhibiting, rather use metrics to evaluate your show schedule. If you currently don’t have a measurement system in place, contact me for a list of commonly used measurement tools, such as cost per lead, return on investment, budgeting, visual reach, cost of live presentations and many more. By implementing a trade show measurement system, you’ll be able to review your show schedule and determine which shows provide the best potential for an increased return-on-investment.
When is the last time you called 10-15 of your top customers to ask what shows they attend and why? This exercise provides another measurement tool, which not only continues to build relationships with your clients, but also allows you to target or segment messages to specific markets. You may begin to find other niches which would be profitable to pursue.
2.) Find areas to eliminate waste.
The green movement is not only good for the environment, but also for your trade show marketing program. Through the measurement system described in the first tip, you’ll both evaluate your show schedule and find ways to eliminate cost. For example, have you considered combining shipments to lower your drayage cost? Or, have you shipped promotional items and literature to a staffer’s hotel room to eliminate drayage? When is the last time you completed & submitted show forms before deadlines? All of these small details add up, but can be a goldmine for cost savings. If you’re short staffed, consider hiring an outside vendor to assist in completing these tasks. Your cost savings might pay for their services and will allow you more time to focus on sales & marketing strategies.
We all know that larger & heavier items cost a lot more to ship. This theory is no different for your trade show exhibit. If you’re still shipping a heavy, dinosaur of an exhibit, stop right now and start using a lighter, custom-modular solution that fits in smaller, fewer crates. The cost savings in shipping alone may pay for the exhibit over the course of your show schedule and you’ll have the flexibility to update graphics or even add rental properties to increase your presence at shows.
3.) Train your booth staffers.
You already know that trade show floor space is some of the most expensive real estate around. Have you also considered the actual amount of time your staffers spend with prospects at shows? It isn’t much, is it? Here is another area to eliminate waste: booth staffer training. Do your staffers understand the expense required just to get them to that show? Or, are they busy checking e-mail on their BlackBerries ™ and making calls to family & friends on their cell phones? By making them aware of this cost, you can then set goals for them to accomplish, helping him or her to become more effective. Additionally, they’ll build confidence to reach out and engage prospects. After practice, the advanced staffers will know who to not only engage, but when to disengage with a prospect that does not fit your target. You can then send the best, most effective staffers to more shows and they’ll increase leads or gain better leads. If salespeople staff your booth, why not even make it a competition to select staffers? Again, you’ll get the best staffers and, after all, what sales person wouldn’t want to see more prospects in a day at a trade show, than just a few through field sales calls.
4.) Plan, plan, plan.
It’s always great to see a child unwrap a gift. The joy is always short-lived when it comes time to assemble the toy with a set of unclear instructions. Exhibiting without a plan is no different. I’m not only talking about pre-show plans, but also at-show and post-show planning. Without a clear understanding of goals and responsibilities, how will your team know whether or not they’re effective?
Pre-show meetings should be the most detailed, setting realistic goals, pointing out areas to avoid mistakes, training staffers and assigning responsibilities to follow-through after shows. At-show meetings should not only be the shortest, but also focus on keeping up the rhythm and finding more opportunities while at the show. Many exhibitors unfortunately skip the post-show meetings because, after all, there is a lot of work to catch up on when you get back to the office, not to mention all the new work generated at the show. Post-show meetings should be detailed enough to quickly & effectively follow-through on leads. The more time that passes without acting upon your new opportunities, the lower the chance you’ll have to turn prospects into clients.
5.) Be the best.
Both the 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2008 Detroit Lions set National Football League records. The difference is that of being the best (the NFL’s first perfect season) and being the worst (the only NFL team to lose all 16 regular season games). While both teams undoubtedly worked & practiced very hard, the differences are quite obvious. One team made a conscious decision to be the best by getting the best coach (Don Shula, the most successful head coach in pro football history, won a total of 347 games), the best players (six future hall-of-famers played for Miami in the 1970s) and did not lose sight of their goals. At a trade show, you not only have one competitor, but a lot, even hundreds of competitors. All of these companies have the same goal: attract prospects to their booth space, get their information and set up the next steps to make a sale. How will you be better than all others so that you can get prospects to your space first and setup your steps to securing their business?
The choice is yours and now you’ll have to make a decision. Will you use these 5 tips to exhibit successfully in the down economy?
© 2009 Michael Flavin
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