It is an age old question – should we exhibit? This question surfaces on a regular basis in all marketing departments. There are certain shows, based upon their great performance in the past, that are no-brainers. But there can be others which you may not know much about.
Ask Customers and Prospects about the Trade Shows They Attend
The first point is to simply ask others about the trade shows that they like and attend. Make it a habit to ask customers and prospects alike “which trade shows do you attend?”
- Which is the “best” one for finding new products?
- How are the shows different and what makes them different?
- If they often attend more than one – which one is most important?
- Which one would they skip if they had to choose?
- Which show(s) have caught their attention, but haven’t yet made a priority?
You might consider conducting a short survey that can be sent out to your prospects and customers to solicit their responses. There are many free survey tools available to use, like Survey Monkey, Zoomerang, and others.
Talk with the Trade Show Organizer
The show organizer's job is to be an expert on who attends their events. Typically they have concrete, measurable registration surveys and audits for you to view. Initially you can review their prospectus; then, if it looks like a fit for you, call them directly. They know that a successful show is predicated on the right buyers finding the right vendors. Consequently, they make a science out of profiling their customers, and you should too.
To begin profiling your customer, start with these questions: Who do you want to attract to your exhibit booth? Who are the ideal customers for your product and/or service and what is important to them? Depending on whether your market is business to consumer, or business to business, the criteria will be different. Regardless of the specific terms you will need to define your customer, the broad range of data categories are: demographics (who is my customer), psychographics (what do they do), behavioral (how do they do it) and causation (why they do what they do). According to Barry Siskind in an article called The Right Place to Exhibit – A Strategic Approach, “causation is the sum total of all the demographic, psychographic and behavioral data you have accumulated. It matches up your features and benefits with your customers’ perception of their importance.”
As you profile your target audience, you can ask questions to find out where they are and the best way to reach them. Given that shows have various geographic focuses (regional, national or international), you will want to choose those ideally suited to both you and the audience you serve. Ultimately, you have plenty of choices, though finding the right trade show can be challenging. “The right show is a blend of audience, cost and logistics. Good event selection is a solid base upon which the rest of your exhibit program is built,” Siskind reminds us.
Resources for Locating Trade Shows
If you need to look up a show, here are several online resources for you.
Events in America: www.eventsinamerica.com
Trade Show News Network: www.tsnn.com
The Trade Show Calendar: www.thetradeshowcalendar.com
Selecting the right trade show is just the beginning of the process. In future posts we will provide you with a full range of marketing tips and ideas to make it the best show ever!
For more info on whether we'd be the right company to partner with once you've determined where you'd like to exhibit, check out our Top 10 Reasons to Switch to Alexis and put our experience and resources to work for you!
The trick to effectively coordinating trade show freight services and logistics to transport your tradeshow booth display for on-time delivery to a show venue is meticulous planning and coordination. Larger companies that exhibit frequently often use transport companies that specialize in trade show shipping to handle the logistical details.
Once an exhibit arrives at a venue’s loading dock, contracted logistics experts may be used to ensure that crates are delivered to the booth area and supervise exhibit assembly, dismantling, and return shipping.
For smaller companies, however, this might not be a luxury they can afford. In this case, an employee is often tasked with handling trade show logistics. Options for getting your display to the show include transporting it yourself or contracting with a freight carrier to ship your exhibit crates from your storage location to the venue.
If you decide to hire a shipping company, choose one that specializes in tradeshow logistics so they will fully understand the requirements of transporting exhibit components. Ask the shipping company representative how long the company has been in business, check references, and request a price quote for the shipping in advance.
Before making a decision on a shipping company, check with the trade show’s management to see if there is a freight company that serves as the official carrier for the event. Often, these companies might offer perks such as special benefits, extra exhibit moving services, and discounted prices.
Once you’ve submitted your exhibitor registration for a show, the event sponsor will provide you with an exhibitor’s kit that will include all the information you need regarding show participation. This kit will include exhibit moving and shipping instructions, a list of providers of trade show freight services, and forms required by the show’s drayage contractor.
This contractor is responsible for:
- Instructing shipping company drivers when to get in line at a designated dock to unload exhibit crates.
- Moving your exhibit crates to your booth location in the exhibit hall.
- Removing your crates and boxes once you’ve assembled your display and return them to you at the end of the show.
- Directing shipping company drivers to specific loading dock lines when exhibit crates are ready to be picked up.
- Loading your crates and boxes on the truck for delivery.
Once the show is over, you must complete a “bill-of-lading” and submit it to the event’s drayage contractor, which is what activates the process by which your crates are returned to your booth so you can pack up your booth display and prepare it for shipping.
When your booth is dismantled and packed, the drayage contractor will take your crates to the loading dock and alert your driver that your exhibit is ready for pick- up. Proper labeling of boxes and crates is essential to ensuring that your shipment will get to its proper destination. If items are not labeled properly and inadvertently get left behind, they will be shipped to the event contractor’s warehouse for storage until the exhibitor makes arrangements to have it returned.
There is a trade show industry myth that that most trade show exhibitors do not have a structured, effective process for lead follow-up and that over 80% of leads are never contacted. But the 2010 Sales Lead Survey conducted by Exhibitor Media Group indicates that this is only half true.
The study found that 98% of exhibitors collect sales leads at trade shows and that almost 70% have a formalized plan or process in place for how those leads are followed up after the show. The same study found that there are still major gaps. Only 47% of companies track leads generated at trade shows and events throughout the sales cycle, and only 28% percent measure and report the number of leads that ultimately convert to sales as part of their exhibit programs’ ROI.
So the actual answer is that the majority (53%) of trade show exhibitors have no idea if anyone follows up on trade show leads.
Not all leads deserve follow-up
The first step in increasing trade show sales productivity is to establish a disciplined and brutal lead qualification process. Not everyone who visits your trade show booth is a good prospect. The most effective process starts with capturing information about each potential prospect at the show, then building on that customer knowledge in the initial contact. The punch line is simple – if you don’t waste time on unqualified prospects, you can focus more time on your best prospects.
Generally, make sure that all lead follow-up occurs in a timely manner. If you identify a hot prospect at the show, make sure to ask when you should call them and set-up for opportunities to contact them right after the show in a way that will set up the sale. For example, ask what else they would like to receive about your company and products, or set up a time for an on-site sales presentation.
For other leads, make sure that your contact them while the excitement of the show is still fresh in their minds. For most businesses, 2 to 4 business days after the show arrange to have follow-up material delivered to their office. Within 5 to 7 days follow-up with a phone call.
Try to follow-up in a timely manner after your next trade show and you will notice an immediate increase in results.
Track, measure and monitor
It is really hard to improve your sales results if you don’t know how your team is doing. If, like the majority of trade show exhibitors, your company does not track sales leads, put a lead tracking process in place. Tracking leads will help you ID best practices, reduce the number of lost sales opportunities and help you focus your trade show message
You have designed the perfect promotion and it requires a giveaway. How do you select a premium that builds on the promotional message, has high-perceived value among your target prospects and is consistent with your brand position?
Set your budget
The first questions you need to ask are, “How much can you spend to reach a new prospect or make a sale?” and “How many premiums do I need?” The price range for trade show giveaway items is enormous. Timing, quality, order quantity and special orders, all affect the price. Since you will save a lot of money per unit with a larger order, try to find an item you can use for a number of shows.
Do a Brainstorming Search
Once you have a budget, limit your search to items that fit within your budget. Look for items that extend the promotional message and support your brand. Look for items that are relevant to your target and related conceptually to your business.
Look beyond premium websites – pick up the phone and call a couple advertising specialty firms. Describe your promotion and give them your budget requirements to a sales rep. Let them get back to you with some promotional item recommendations.
Use your favorite online search engine and search for items that are related to your promotional theme. Almost any item can be labeled, imprinted or packaged with your logo. Don’t restrict where you look for ideas.
Ask coworkers for ideas.
Here are a few idea starters:
- Your goal is to select an item that is useful and has real value to your prospect.
- The highest impact, low cost premiums are informational items related to your product – article reprints, special reports, free audio or video download codes that can be redeemed on your website, or computer software. Other more expensive informational premiums include industry-specific DVDs and books.
- If an informational premium isn’t suited to your business and target customers, consider a specialized tool, something that will make your prospect’s job or life easier.
- Seasonal items have high impact at the beginning of the season – summer items are great ideas in May and June, but far less effective in August.
- Tote bags – everyone at the show will be on the lookout for a really great tote bag. Avoid the economy or value tote bags – they will be passed by or discarded when attendees are offered quality bags. This is a nice addition to an informational premium.
- Inexpensive items can be appealing if they are high quality and useful. For example, a tin of quality, mini breath mints is a popular item at B2B shows.
- Items that incorporate new technology are popular everywhere. For example, LED flashlights are a highly valued item.
Put together a list of candidates
First put together a list of all the possibilities then cross off the following items:
- Eliminate low quality items. It is better to skip the free gift than to give a valuable prospect a pen with your logo on it that doesn’t work or leaks all over her hand.
- Avoid generic premiums that have nothing to do with your business except your logo: sports water bottles, pocket office kits, picture frames, etc.
- Give away items that people can not easily transport home. If most attendees fly into the show, avoid large items like golf umbrellas or breakable items.
- Forget about heavy and bulky items unless you plan to deliver them to your prospects’ offices later. Just think about carrying this item around the showroom floor for hours then bringing it home on the plane.
Selecting the item
Now comes the fun part – picking the item. Look over your list and see if a few items really support the promotional theme and desired brand position. Pick the top 3 to 5 items.
Review the finalists with your sales team and a few of your customers to see if there is a consensus pick. If you have a tie, select the least expense item.
The finishing touch
Make sure to incorporate your message on the item. Have it imprinted, labeled or packaged with your company logo, name and contact information. Don’t let there be any doubt where it came from.
Everything in your exhibit has to work to build your brand and acquire new business. A trade show premium is no exception. If it isn’t winning you new customers, take the money and put it to good use closing sales.
Big news in the trade show industry this week as the MPEA, who controls the operations at McCormick Place and other Chicago convention venues, announced that they are considering sweeping changes meant to keep shows in Chicago. (For more information, read the article on exhibitcitynews.com)
The MPEA Recommended Changes to Reduce the Cost of Exhibiting in Chicago
This is quite a step for one of the oldest and largest convention cities. All of the recommended changes are designed to reduce the cost of exhibiting in Chicago. The changes are in response to the news that Chicago recently lost two major trade shows, the National Plastics Exposition (NPE) which has taken place In Chicago for many years and the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) which moves to different cities every year. Undoubtedly, this is a step in the right direction, but will it have the desired effect?
I believe that you need to look at each show individually to come to a conclusion. Chicago is truly a world-class destination. Trade shows like the Radiology Society of North America (RSNA) work very well in Chicago. This is the largest medical trade show in the country and the exhibitors and attendees seem to be able to afford the higher cost of hotel rooms, meals, transportation, parking, etc. There has always been (and likely always will be), complaining about costs, but when you are selling CAT scan machines, it just makes sense to be in Chicago. RSNA has threatened to move several times over the years, but as long as professional attendance continues to grow, the show will likely stay put.
Other shows have a much different demographic. The Housewares show used to be in Chicago twice a year. It is still in Chicago but only once a year. I am not sure that it needs to stay in Chicago and maybe exhibitors and attendees would prefer to go to Orlando or Las Vegas in March. The Hardware Show was in Chicago for many years (think Howard Cunningham from Happy Days) and is now in Las Vegas. The recession has made it much more difficult for shows to sell booth spaces, and exhibiting companies are pinching marketing pennies across the board.
In my opinion, the proposed changes in Chicago will help, but the city should be prepared to host fewer shows in the future than they have in the past. What do you think? Will lower trade show costs keep Chicago the premier destination for trade shows? Leave your comments below.
The Exhibitors' Perspective is an Important Part of Tradeshow Success
You are a trade show exhibitor. You’ve toured many cities, been to every convention center in the U.S. and talked to more strangers in one day than most people do in a month. This is why your perspective is an important part to tradeshow success.
Without you, the trade show exhibitor, what would the show organizers, general contractors, housing companies and convention center staff do?
The power of your knowledge and perspective is vast. This is why, as an exhibitor or event professional you can help define the future of face-to-face marketing. The Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA) has an arena where you can interact and be heard by other professionals in your area of expertise.
TSEA has published the Trade Show Exhibitors Bill of Rights which outlines the basic ideals that show organizers, managers and hosts should provide to all exhibitors.
Here is an excerpt from the TSEA Bill of Rights.
As an Exhibitor, you are entitled to:
- THE RIGHT to be educated in convention housing practices
- THE RIGHT to independent third-party audits of trade show attendance
- THE RIGHT to qualified labor practices
- THE RIGHT to proper inspection of previous show results before committing to a future show
Download The Trade Show Exhibitors’ Association Bill of Rights to see your rights, right now. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!
You can voice your needs and help shape the future of face-to-face marketing at the TSEA Red Diamond Congress. Click here to learn more on how you can help.