Alexis Exhibits

Calculating a Trade Show’s ROI

Exhibiting at trade shows is a costly and time-consuming marketing activity. Though that is indisputable, the costs are often more than recouped when the show is a success and your company leaves with many promising sales leads that can— with proper sales follow-up —be converted into future customers.

roiSo how do you determine whether a trade show was a success and worth the expenditure? In order to determine if the cost of attending a show was justifiable, you’ll need to calculate the show’s return on investment (ROI). In this case, ROI is the gain or loss from the money spent on various marketing activities (tradeshows, sales promotions, advertisements, etc.) that are intended to drive sales.

Calculating ROI is pretty straightforward. You simply divide the gross sales dollars resulting from the effort, in this case a tradeshow, by the cost spent to execute it. For example, if your company generated $600,000 in gross sales as a result of sales leads generated at a trade show event and it cost $150,000 to attend.

ROI: $600,000 ÷ $150,000 = 4

ROI is expressed as a ratio so it would be 1:4, which means for every dollar invested, your company got back four dollars. The tricky part is that it’s very difficult to determine exactly which sales leads from tradeshows resulted in actual sales. So in this case, you’re estimating ROI, not calculating an actual ROI.

In order to estimate ROI from tradeshows, companies use a variety of methods. Some companies have determined through past experience the average number of qualified leads it takes to get a specific number of opportunities to pitch to potential buyers, and how many of these will ultimately result in a sale.

The number of presentations that close in a sale are known as the “close ratio.” Over time, a company will be able to compute an average close ratio. Once a company has determined a close ratio, it can use leads generated at a show to estimate potential ROI from that event.

Another way to estimate ROI is to perform a sales conversion study. This is a controlled interview technique that is conducted via email or phone within a few weeks of an event. The intent is to uncover buying intentions and purchasing time from a pool of qualified leads collected at an event.

ROI: Gross dollar buying intentions ÷ cost of the event and the cost of the survey = Potential ROI

Don’t overlook the soft benefits

While you are calculating the dollars and cents, don’t forget to consider the benefits of exhibiting that can’t be expressed in numerical terms, like:

  • Strengthening relationships with current clients.
  • Increasing brand awareness.
  • Consumer education efforts.
  • New product introductions.
  • Investor relations and improving perception of your company in the financial community.
  • New market introductions.
  • Public relations including editorial coverage.
  • Competitive intelligence.
  • Customer insight and research.

Though measuring exact ROI is difficult, these techniques can help you estimate your possible return using information that is more easily accessed from your internal sales groups. Using a projected ROI is a great way to strengthen reported results from tradeshows as well as to increase your credibility with upper management.

How to Make Your Trade Show Booth Stand Out

Exhibiting at a trade show is a marvelous way for your company to capture the attention of its target market in order to introduce a new product or service, generate valuable sales leads, get media attention, or sell products. Garnering that attention, however, can be tricky when your booth is amid hundreds of competing booths, each staffed with eager employees trying to grab the often-fleeting interest of passing attendees.

standoutSo how do you make your exhibit stand out? Research shows that exhibitors have mere seconds to grab the attention of attendees, often weary and overwhelmed by the vast number of booths. You can’t meet your tradeshow objectives unless you get those folks in your booth to hear your pitch, so exhibitors must always be on the lookout for new and creative ways to make their exhibit stand out.

One way is to walk the show floor and take note of what other exhibitors are doing with their trade show exhibits and displays. Notice what types of marketing strategies they are using to attract booth traffic. Also, pay attention to what booths seem to be drawing in the largest number of attendees. Is there an enticing giveaway drawing in hordes of people? Ask attendees that have stopped in your booth which exhibitors’ booths they were most drawn to and why.

Leverage your relationship with your display provider as well. They often can offer specific expertise on what has proven successful for other customers as far as boosting traffic. It is their job to stay on top of the latest in exhibit design, event strategies and promotional trends.

Another potential source of innovative ideas are trade show associations and industry consultants. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (www.ceir.org) is another great resource for ideas on how to increase your tradeshow exhibit’s visibility. Once you have developed some new strategy ideas to boost booth traffic, lead generation and possibly sales, just make sure they all align with your company’s brand positioning.

Here are a handful of promotional ideas to draw in visitors to your booth:

Entertain them. Magicians, caricaturists, and celebrity look-alikes are sometimes cheesy but often effective in grabbing the interest of attendees, giving your booth staffers an opportunity to strike up a conversation.

Photograph them. Take a digital photo of visitors and superimpose them on unique backgrounds, such as magazine covers to create a memorable takeaway. Or use the image to perform a virtual makeover, so visitors can see what they would look like in various hairstyles or clothes.

Let them play. Provide a chance to play virtual sports, such as golf or baseball using simulation software systems. Winners take away balls with your logo printed on them.

Feed them. Weary and often hungry trade show attendees tend to flock to booths offering free food, coffee or beverages. While they are munching or sipping, make sure your booth staffers introduce themselves and give them the two-minute pitch.

Reward them. Offer an incentive to stop by your booth. A creative giveaway— with your logo and marketing slogan on it—could include tote bags, laser pointers, memory sticks, apparel, golf tees, pens, coffee mugs, etc.

Give us the opportunity to help you find the best way to stand out on the show floor, among other things – we are confident that you’ll respond in much the same way as these happy clients attest.

Let’s talk.

The Tradeshow Survival Kit

When planning to exhibit at tradeshows, it’s impossible to forget the big items, such as your display, accessories, banner stands, banners, signs, and your booth staff. Unfortunately there are many other small items that need to be brought along with you that often fall between the proverbial cracks when packing for a tradeshow. Often, these small items can cost a ridiculous amount of money when you have to resort to buying them on-site or extremely inconvenient when you have to go off-site in search of them.

So to make it easier, we’ve compiled a list of items that you shouldn’t leave the office without when en route to a tradeshow. Most are small enough to either be brought in luggage by a staff member or shipped in one box to the event or to your hotel.

Tradeshow survival kit items include:

An extension cord. Will come in handy when you realize how far equipment or lighting is from the nearest outlet.

Scotch, Gaffers and masking tape. Can be used from everything from holding down a tablecloth to sealing boxes for shipment.

Stapler. What good is a stapler without staples? Pack extra!

Paper clips. What can a paperclip not do?

Velcro dots or strips. Use to adhere signage to you’re the walls of your display, hold up banners or keep tablecloths in place.

Sewing kit. Prevent wardrobe disasters with this handy kit.

Safety pins. MacGyver once saved the world with a safety pin and a rubber band. Enough said.

Push pins. Use to hold signage in place, posts messages or notes, or awaken sleepy staff.

Black permanent markers. Use for labeling boxes or marking items that you don’t want walking away.

Blue, red, and black pens. Yes, attendees steal pens so pack plenty.

rubberbandNotebooks or pads of paper. Keep notes, reminders for staff, etc.

Rubber bands. See safety pins.

Small hammer and screwdriver. You don’t want to have to rely on on-site employees to loan you these handy essentials.

Spare pair of eyeglasses. Would be a really inconvenient time to not be able to see.

Wrist watch. Very important to keep scheduled meetings with the press or customers running on time.

Aspirin, Ibuprofen or other medications. Headaches are common at tradeshows due to late nights, over-imbibing, and lack of sleep.

Tissues. You never know when you’ll need these.

Paper towels. Prevent food or drink spills from ruining equipment.

Garbage bags. Especially handy when cleaning up after show is over.

Hand sanitizer or wipes. Shaking hands is a great way to make a good first impression, but it can also be a great way to catch a cold or other illness.

Alka-Seltzer. Plop, plop, fizz fizz…relief.

Throat lozenges. Everyone’s voices will be tired and sore from all the talking and dry air at tradeshows.

Lip balm. Indoor dry air and lots of talking equals chapped lips.

Eye drops. Won’t make up for lost sleep, but will help.

Comfortable flat shoes. Sure heels make you look great, but after hours of standing up, you’ll be happy you packed a more comfortable alternative.

Stain removal wipes. That meatball sub seemed like a good idea.

Granola bars. Perfect for a quick nourishment break.

Mouthwash or breath mints. Everyone has been trapped into talking to someone who has “death breath.” Don’t be that someone.

Extra batteries for equipment. This is one of the many items you’ll pay an arm and a leg for at the conference center’s gift shop.

Small digital camera. Take pictures of your booth, empty before the show to best show signage, displays, etc., and again while it’s filled with eager attendees for future promotional uses.

What’s on your must-have list? Share in the comments section.

Trade Show Success Strategy: Pre-Show Promotion

About 75% of show attendees plan booth visits before the show starts. Surprisingly, research studies have also found that most exhibitors do not do any pre-show promotion. If you want to have a really successful show, you need to be part of their pre-show plans.

pre-tradeshow planPre-show promotion is inexpensive and often can just be an investment of staff time. Here is an example of how one trade show pro promoted his business before the show.

The VP of Sales for a furniture manufacturer stays ahead of his competition by having his sales team call every customer and key prospect before their most important annual show. They do not use the Trade Show attendee list; they call their entire target customer list. The sales team uses the upcoming show as a reason to call all of their target customers. The call is an invitation to a company-sponsored breakfast reception which has become an annual event at the show. When they learn that someone plans to attend the show, they take the opportunity to make sure they have the target customer’s current cell phone number so they can reach them during the show. They follow-up with two personalized e-mails to people who have said they will attend. Target customers, who are not attending the show, also receive two e-mails plus are sent a “breakfast in a box” gift along with information about the season’s new line of furniture and show specials.

The company uses a similar strategy for every trade show they attend: A phone call and follow-up emails to attendees and target prospects who are not able to attend the show.

It’s a simple plan. It’s easily executed by the sales team. They are careful not inundate their prospects and customers with lots of unwanted emails and promotional materials.

This well-orchestrated pre-show promotion has significantly increased the number of qualified leads generated from the show and has resulted in improving the ROI on the company’s tradeshow budget.

How can you put together a pre-show promotion that is successful?

  1. If you do not have a target customer list to contact, make sure to get the list of show attendees as soon as you can from the show staff. If you can get additional information about attendees that will be useful in quickly identifying prospects, make sure that it is included.
  2. Structure your pre-promotion campaign to start to build a relationship with your target customers before the show.
  3. Make sure that all materials and communication are professional and consistent with your company’s brand image. Design everything so that it is consistent with the graphic experience that your company will present at the show.
  4. Explore options for cost-effective pre-show communications in planned trade show mailings or emails.
  5. For major shows that have high traffic websites, think about online banner advertising. But be cautious about investing much of your budget in banner ads.
  6. Include a call to action that involves a commitment to meet during the show or to visit your booth at a set time.

Pre-show promotion takes some time and effort. It will increase your workload. But it will increase the number of qualified leads and sales that you get from the show. It gives you the opportunity to pre-sell your business. And it helps you focus your time and effort of the most important prospect versus anyone who wanders by your booth.

Do you have a pre-show promotion program? Have you found pre-show promotion is worth your investment?

Replacing Trade Show Giveaways With Promotions – Selecting a Great Premium

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 I 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

red check in black boxOnce 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 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.
  • High 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 their 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 expensive 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.

Replacing Trade Show Giveaways With Promotions That Work

For decades companies were satisfied to give away trade show premiums that built brand awareness and didn’t do much more. Company logos appeared on everything from camouflaged jackets to rubber ducks. Most ended up discarded or given away to friends and family. Now marketers are reexamining their strategies and replacing free gifts with promotions.

A promotion is an incentive to act – it is something that will directly generate qualified leads and drive sales.

Building a successful promotion

A fresh carrot dangles off of a stick.The first step is to define your target customer and decide what you are trying to accomplish. Every business wants to increase brand awareness but now marketers want promotions that also motivate an action. Do you want to get leads, get people to try your product, make sales at a show, drive people to your website, or generate retail traffic?

Once you have defined your goal, design a promotion to target your prospects. Don’t just give something to everyone who passes by your booth unless everyone is a great prospect. General giveaways generate unqualified leads and your real prospects will be hard to find in the mass of names gathered at the booth. Most sales reps won’t even bother to follow up on any of the show leads because it is too hard to find the qualified prospects.

Structure the promotion in a way that starts a dialog with target customers and encourages follow-up conversations or contacts.

Does your promotion require a free gift, a sales incentive or both?

Some promotions work best with a sales incentive – discount coupons, gift certificates for future purchases, gift with purchase or other sales promotion offer. Some companies have found that combining a sales incentive with a premium giveaway is their unbeatable combination. Make sure to get your prospects’ names, email addresses and phone numbers, and some additional information that identifies the best prospects. If you choose to use a giveaway, capture the prospects’ names and contact information in exchange for these gifts. Also, take the opportunity to ask one or two questions that will make the qualified prospects stand out.

Games, Drawings and Prizes

Games and drawings are very popular and will engage people. The trick is to design a contest that will appeal mostly to qualified prospects. The easiest way to create a focused game or drawing is to select a prize that will mostly interest a qualified prospect. So never give away money or TV sets. Instead, think about giving away your product or a related item as a prize. Then increase participation in the contest by giving away lots of prizes throughout the show.

Track your results

Establish a way to measure the success of your trade show promotions. If you used a sales incentive, code it so that you know what the show offer actually generated. If you gave away a premium item, after the trade show, survey your customers and your exhibit team about how well it worked.

Work to answer these questions:

  • Did the offer attract qualified prospects to the booth?
  • Did the promotion achieve your sales and/or lead goal?
  • Was it profitable?
  • Did your prospect and customers find the premium and/or sales incentive useful? Or did they discard or forget it?
  • Did the promotion, sales incentive and/or the premium project the right corporate image?

Selecting a great premium

There are plenty of exciting trade show giveaways that will make your promotion a success. Learn more about creating promotions that work in Part 2 – Selecting a Great Premium.

Make ’em Laugh: Ten Ways to Entertain Trade Show Attendees

Use Entertainment to Increase Trade Show Booth Traffic

You’ve spent the money on your booth. Your booth staff have been well trained to deliver persuasive sales pitches. Your displays are in order; your brochures are neatly stacked. Your badge scanner is on the ready. Now, you just need to get the attendees in your booth so those employees can get to work generating the leads and sales needed to justify the expense of the tradeshow.

Sounds easy, but on a busy, chaotic tradeshow floor there’s a lot of competition for the eyes and ears of potential customers. So how do you pull attendees away from competing booths? For one, you need to deploy a creative strategy that sets your company apart from the sea of competitors and increases booth traffic.

Let’s look at ten ways your company can use entertainment to increase booth traffic:

  1. magicianMagicians. It’s more than Abracadabra and Hocus-Pocus. There is something about magicians that brings out child-like awe in everyone, including your most sought-after sales prospects. Well-trained magicians can weave the wonder of magic with your company’s vital marketing messages, providing both entertainment and education.
  2. Interactive games, such as putting competitions. For many, golf is somewhat of an addiction. This is why attendees won’t be able to resist taking their chances to sink the most putts, land a coveted hole-in-one, or beat their colleagues in the lowest score of three shots competition. Add prizes with your company logo to up the ante.
  3. Sports simulations and virtual, computer-enhanced experiences. Immerse attendees in a custom-branded, virtual reality (VR) entertainment experience to not just lure them into your booth, but to captivate them. Choices include baseball, Indy and NASCAR car racing, golf, flight simulators, laser shooting galleries, and motion thrill rides.
  4. Money-blowing machines. This might sound cheesy, but in today’s dismal economy, nothing grabs people’s attention like the potential to win money. Attendees can win a chance to spend a minute in the telephone-size cube to collect as many prizes (cash or customized coupons for your company’s products or services) as they can.
  5. ATM Money Machines. Following along on the previous idea, this relatively new promotion draws attendees in for a chance to use the ATM machine, which dispenses real coupons, prize vouchers, gift certificates, and customized bills good towards purchases from your business.
  6. Live entertainment. These can include comedians, circus performers, tribute bands, and dance troupes. Great at garnering people’s attention who might want to watch or interact with an entertainer. Make sure the performers are well-versed in your company’s products or services and have the skills to disseminate information or sales messages to draw attendees into your booth to hear more.
  7. Customized Event Photography. Thanks to computer software, attendees can have their 15 minutes of fame by seeing photos of their faces on various unique backgrounds (Sports Illustrated cover, standing behind a presidential podium, posing with the Queen of England, etc.). Incorporating your logo somewhere on these unique, unforgettable keepsakes —one which attendees will likely not throw away—ensures the longevity of your marketing message unlike most tradeshow, throwaway gimmicks.
  8. Celebrity Look-Alikes. Try as they may to deny it, people are naturally drawn to celebrities, even when they aren’t the real deal. Add a photographer and nearly everyone will stop to get his or her picture taken with a “star.”
  9. Psychics and fortune tellers. Why not everyone is a believer in psychic powers, having a psychic or fortuneteller in your booth to do Tarot card and palm readings or handwriting analysis is a fun way to attract people to your booth. Good ones, who work the professional trade show circuits and often double as motivational speakers, are able to not just stop traffic, but deliver professional, informative and memorable messages about your company and its products.
  10. Caricature sketch artist. An oldie but a goodie, a cartoon sketch artist can be a very effective trade show booth secret weapon because it packs of double punch: it helps “draw” people into your booth and creates a memorable giveaway for attendees. Make sure that all caricature sketches have your logo on them somewhere to ensure longevity of your marketing message.