Alexis Exhibits

Study concludes Face-to-Face Trade Shows Capture Attention Best

As companies look to find ways to make every marketing dollar work harder, some trade show exhibitors have tried to reduce expenses by participating in virtual trade shows. Initial results have shown that virtual trade shows generate few leads and a higher percentage of unqualified leads. Now a report from Cornell University has started to shed some light on the behavioral effect of live vs. virtual meetings.

The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University recently released a report, The Future of Meetings: The Case or Face to Face, that concluded, “The intangibles of face-to-face meetings can be more potent than virtual and online technology when it comes to capturing the imaginations and enthusiasm of attendees.”

The study authors found that “real” events hold the attention of attendees and allow the formation of valuable personal relationships making trade shows, conventions and corporate events well worth the investment.

The report stated, “Large face-to-face meetings and events are the best option when a business or organization needs to capture attention necessary for a new or different strategy, relationship or product.”

The report concluded that face-to-face events are the best option for:

  • Capturing attention: Attendees have fewer distractions on the exhibit floor and are less tempted to check e-mails or do other multi-tasking chores than they would when taking part in a virtual event.
  • Inspiring a positive emotional climate: Attendees like to associate with their peers. Even people working on virtual technology attend physical conferences.
  • Networking and relationship building: Socializing and making new friends in an industry can have great appeal. Experts predict informal networks of people within an organization that are bonded by a group loyalty will become even more important than traditional chains of command as the economy recovers.

The entire report can be found at Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research website.


Trade Show Secrets to Success

For small businesses, trade shows can be a great opportunity to reach out to a targeted audience and deliver your marketing message. The goal, of course, is to ultimately convert potential sales leads into satisfied, happy customers.

Despite brutal economic conditions, trade shows still offer a significant payoff for small businesses. Even in today’s business world of websites, social media, emails and voicemails, trade shows still offer one of the best opportunities for companies to build relationships with face-to-face contact.

Let’s take a look at some trade show secrets (shhh, don’t tell anyone) that could help your company succeed in the trade show world, regardless of your budget.

Pick a show in a vertical, niche market. Instead of exhibiting at a trade show at which all your competitors will be, fighting to gain the attention of the same audience, pick an offbeat, smaller show. Every business has smaller, vertical markets in which they would like to gain a foothold. The advantage is these shows typically will cost less, and you can focus on delivering your message to a new audience, not on besting your competitors’ efforts.

Don’t listen to the hype. Instead of relying on the word of salespeople desperate to sell you a booth, talk to other exhibitors to find out what type of experience they’ve had not only working with the exhibit management but also the results they have experienced from exhibiting.

Attend the event first. If you’re considering exhibiting at a really large (read: expensive) trade show, attend it first. Walk the floor and ask both the attendees and the exhibitors about their experience at the show. Find out whether they felt attending or exhibiting was worth their time and money.

Skip new trade shows. Don’t invest in unproven commodities, especially in these tough economic times when even the larger shows can struggled for survival. Save your trade show budget for shows with a proven track record of success that you know can deliver the ROI you need to justify the expense.

Speak up. If you’re a small business with limited resources, exhibiting at trade shows might be beyond your economic means. That doesn’t mean you can’t add trade shows to your marketing mix. Contact the show management and inquire as to any possible opportunities to be a speaker or panel expert.

Get them while they’re hot. After the show is over, don’t let months go by before contacting sales prospects. Follow up with those attendees who took the time to stop by and hear your company’s pitch within two weeks of the show.

Long after the Trade Show is Over Where Will the Swag Be?

Swag is a part of the DNA of every trade show booth. Some items have been worth their weight in gold, due to the attendee’s reaction to them, while some were a waste of money. Will the promotional product make it home or will it be left in the hotel room? There are many questions which should be posed and answered as you consider the worthiness of this endeavor.

The ultimate question is: does that Tchotchke really matter, and will it move the person along the sales funnel? Depending on your target market and what they expect, answers can vary. Below are some questions to consider when reviewing the options for your giveaways.

Questions, Ideas to Consider When Choosing a Tchotchke

  1. How useful is it? Is this item something you would truly use after the show is over?
  2. How does this piece relate to your company and its brand? Will it reinforce your brand image?
  3. How can this swag be tied to the overall booth theme?
  4. Will this item be kept at the recipient’s office? Or is it a fun item that will be given to someone at home, like a child?
  5. Is there a way that this item can share your unique sales proposition?
  6. Can this item easily go through security at the airport?
  7. What types of conversations can the booth staff build around this item as it is being given away?

All of these questions should be reviewed to determine what to choose or pick out. Unfortunately, due to the hurried nature of getting ready for a show, the selection of the “right” promotional product is at the bottom of the list of tasks to accomplish.

Kathleen Hanover has written a post titled: Trade Show Marketing Tip: How To Choose Smart Swagwhere she presents a great idea:

“Let’s say your company sells a breakthrough solar panel that is 27% more cost-efficient than anyone else’s. Why not give away a small, solar-powered calculator? And what if that calculator had a formula printed on it that the recipient could use to calculate her cost savings over your competition? (Needless to say, it would also have your logo, tagline, and other pertinent details.) The possibilities are endless.”

Think about two different types of giveaways. Use a less expensive, but effective, giveaway for the freebie vultures for those people that come by your booth looking for the free giveaway. Don’t totally discount these people because they may actually just be trying to get your information and the giveaway will cause them to think of you whenever they use it. The second giveaway should be something a little nicer. It is a reward and thank you for a visitor stopping and engaging in genuinely interested conversation regarding your product. You definitely want to give them a reason to remember you.

Consider a Charitable Gift Rather than Swag

Depending on the audience at the show, a contribution to a charitable cause might gain more recognition for your firm than a giveaway. The show might have a cause they are supporting, like a food bank or a local animal shelter. You could coordinate your efforts with the show to add your contribution along with theirs. Let the press know what you are doing in lieu of spending money on giveaways and you might be able to gain positive exposure for your efforts. The press would be seen by show attendees and those who are not there.

Choosing the appropriate gift is often on a trial and error basis. Consult with a promotional products expert to discuss the wide range of options at your disposal. They can guide you in selecting the right item which will meet and possibly exceed your goals. Walk the show aisles to see what other exhibitors are using. You might see something which can be used for another show.

The good news is you have many options to choose from which can allow you flexibility in meeting budgetary considerations. What has been a great giveaway for you in the past?

Tips for Selecting the Right Trade Shows

Making the decision to exhibit at a trade show is a significant commitment—in both time and expense—for any size company. Trade shows can deliver significant bottom-line benefits by generating valuable sales leads, increasing company awareness, launching new products or services, building brand recognition, finding new channel members and gaining media attention. In order to successfully achieve any of these, however, you must first select the right trade show for your company.

If you are the person tasked with this selection process, the burden is on you to make an informed decision, selecting shows that will deliver the right target audience for your marketing message. Here are a few questions to ask when evaluating your trade show options:

What are my goals? You first must determine your objectives for the show so you can choose the show that will give your company the best return on investment (ROI) in terms of your goals. If your goal is on-site sales, picking a show where there are dozens of competitors selling similar products will be a bust and a colossal waste of money.

Who will be there? Your first step will be to quantify the total number of relevant prospects, buyers, and influences who will be interested in your company’s products or services. Obtain an Exhibitor’s Registration Kit and look at the attendee profile of previous shows, including job title, industry representation, type of business, and geographical distribution.

Does size really matter? Bigger isn’t really necessarily better. Really. The size of the show should match your goals sales leads, units sold, etc.). If you’re a smaller company, it might be difficult to stand out at big trade shows, whereas at a smaller one you might be more noticeable. Smaller ones, however, won’t generate the same high number of leads as larger shows so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of both and how they relate to your overall objectives.

Will your competitors be there? Though you might not like competing for the same mindshare, the proximity of competitors in one place can be a boon for your business. Find out in advance which of your competitors are going to be there. This actually can help you formulate a winning strategy and effective marketing message specific to that show. What new products are you introducing? And, how and why are they better than your competitor’s?

Is it the right choice? Though you’ll never know for sure in advance whether a trade show is going to deliver a return on your investment, there are some ways to hedge your bets. Ask yourself whether this show is well aligned with the core competencies of your business or just one facet of its offerings? Is the right audience going to participate? Can my company stand out and be unique on the show floor?

What about media coverage? Ask for last year’s press list. Do any of these publications reach your target customers? Do you have a compelling story to tell them? If so, this show might be a good fit.

Is Your Trade Show Exhibit a Good Investment?

Many marketing executives can’t completely answer this question. They essentially repeat what was done in previous years with slight variations in execution. Taking a moment to analyze your trade show goals and results can help you find new ways to acquire more customers and make your trade show investment really pay off.

Trade shows are expensive, but they can also be one of the best sales and marketing investments your company makes. Trade show exhibits provide unparalleled opportunities to forge stronger customer relationships, win-back old customers and acquire new, high-value customers. But you should expect this effort to deliver more.

Maximizing your Trade Show Exhibit investment

  1. Incremental sales and profits
    Track your results and determine your Trade Show ROI. More information about how to calculate your Trade Show ROI.If your trade show ROI is not acceptable, then look for ways to make improvements. First, look for gaps in sales and customer tracking to ensure that the data is accurate and complete. Next, make sure that the shows selected were good choices and had significant attendance from your target customers.

    Then look for marketing gaps: ineffective or no lead follow-up, insufficient planning, staffing issues or other reasons that the shows were not productive. Once you identify an issue, you can adjust your strategy and improve results.

  2. Improved competitive position
    Did your company strengthen relationships with current customers, increase brand awareness, launch a new product that differentiated your company, expose your company and products to a new market? Generally, did your trade show investment help position your company for future sales gains and market share increase?If your trade show exhibit doesn’t improve your market position, then carefully evaluate your strategy. How can you adjust your trade show marketing plan to outdo your competition?
  3. PR and Investor Relations
    Did you generate meaningful press coverage? Did your company’s trade show presence result in improved perception of your company in the investor community? Do you get any significant consumer education opportunities from the show?If your trade show attendance has not been a PR opportunity, it is a promotional gap that should be evaluated for potential for your company.
  4. Market intelligence
    Trade shows are an excellent way to gain competitive intelligence. They also can be used for market research and provide an excellent opportunity to gain customer insight.If your trade show isn’t providing your company with market intelligence, develop a plan to maximize this unique opportunity to gather both the latest competitive info and to learn more about your customers.

Have you analyzed your trade show investment? Are you satisfied with your results?

Marketing Strategy Session: Tracking Trade Show ROI

Today, I read a survey and was shocked to learn that fewer than 20% of trade show exhibitors track the ROI (Return on Investment) from their trade show campaigns. After I thought about it a moment, however, I realized that this is not that surprising. Most sales and marketing activities are not carefully evaluated so why should a trade show be any different?

Why track Trade Show ROI?

Trade shows are one of the most productive ways to reach new qualified prospects and generate significant incremental sales. If you do not track and measure the success of the show, your company may make the decision to eliminate a critical trade show event and loose sales without ever knowing it mattered. Beyond this, there are other reasons to analyze trade show results and determine how successful you are. An ROI analysis can provide you with information about the most productive elements of your trade show campaign and help you optimize future trade show efforts.

How to measure Trade Show ROI

The first step is to gather the data needed to calculate the ROI.

  1. Determine the total costs of trade show and directly associated events. This is the Trade Show Marketing Expense. Include everything include staff, travel, collateral material and follow-up sales and marketing expenses.
  2. Estimate the Total Incremental Sales from the show. This is… Total show sales plus New leads in the pipeline and expected sales from these new leads usually based on historic conversion rates plus Incremental sales from existing customers that are the result of the trade show effort.
  3. List the other benefits of the show, including:
    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.

Once the data is collected it is simple to calculate the ROI.

Total Incremental Sales times Net Margin Rate = Net Margin Dollars
Net Margin Dollars less Trade Show Marketing Expense = Profit Contribution
Profit Contribution divided by Trade Show Marketing Expense = ROI
(typically expressed as a percentage.)

So, for example if…..

Total Incremental Sales = $3.5 million
Net Margin Rate = 16%
Trade Show Marketing Expense = $230,000

Then the ROI would be…..

Net Margin Dollars: $3.5 million times 16% = $560,000
Profit Contribution: $560,000 less $230,000 = $330,000
ROI: $330,000 divided by $230,000 = 143%

So in this example, the trade show marketing ROI was 143% plus any other benefits like those listed in #3 above.

What’s your tradeshow ROI? Have you tracked it? Do you plan to?

How Tradeshows and Social Media Co-exist

There is Still a Place for Trade Shows in Your Marketing Mix

Talk to anyone who sends more than 2 texts a day and they will tell you that the only way to market products and services is to use Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or search engine optimization. They consider face-to-face marketing to be an antiquated form of communication and that the days of tradeshows are numbered.

Those of us who make our living producing trade shows get the opportunity to see things in a different light. Walk the aisles at the consumer electronics show and watch buyers from all over the world making deals with major manufacturers. Go to the HIMSS show and see hospital administrators finalizing plans for purchase of their new IT infrastructure. Attend the American College of Cardiology meeting and listen to heart specialists discussing the advantages of various new instruments with the inventor. This type of important business communication can only be done face-to-face and the most cost- and time-effective way to do this is at a tradeshow.

Social Media Should be an Important Part of Your Tradeshow Promotion

The fact is, social media can and should be an important part of tradeshow promotion and communication. The ability to reach out to potential customers before, during, and after a show using this technology can greatly increase tradeshow ROI. Just like any other marketing project, exhibitors should enlist the assistance of a person or group that has experience with the most popular networks, explain their goals and put together a plan for your tradeshow.

Keep an open mind. Don’t expect overnight success. Continue to review and improve your approach to both media and the results will come. Let’s talk.

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.

Tradeshow Booth Staffing Tips

Hiring tradeshow talent and booth staff can provide an exhibitor much better returns on investment than in years past, providing that one understands the need, and seeks the most qualified candidate(s) to fill that need.

Pre-Qualify Prospects: Trade Show Talent Acts as an Ambassador for Your Booth

Browse the internet for convention and tradeshow models, and you’ll find that there are hundreds of agencies providing this type of service. With so much to choose from, where to begin? First, prioritize your needs as an exhibitor. The early days of car show models & booth babes have expanded into tradeshow talent that can not only greet attendees but also demonstrate products and engage attendees in conversation. When considering hiring staff, be sure to consider what the role of this hired talent will be.

When Hiring Talent for your Tradeshow Booth, Find a Reputable Agency

tradeshow_presenterIf you expect superior communication skills, good eye contact, and a witty personality, then you shouldn’t just go online and start looking for price quotes. You’ll want to start by finding a reputable agency, preferably one recommended by a display house, that has numerous testimonials and references. Furthermore, you will want to outline, in writing, precisely what you will expect from your hired tradeshow staff. They are, after all, an extension of your sales staff, as the CMT agency states on it’s website “More important than just being attractive, they know and exemplify the fact that being outgoing, friendly, engaging and professional are what matter most on the tradeshow floor.”

Base your search for hired staff on your written outline of criteria. Speak to the agency about the qualifications and experience of each booth model. Ask the agency the tough questions, don’t be afraid to shop around. You will find that some agencies book superior talent, far beyond what might be considered standard or acceptable, including interpreters, product presenters, costume characters or entertainers. Find some talent with more than just a pretty smile. You might find that a well-qualified presenter just happens to be available during your show days, and needs the work. Why settle for a bikini model when you can have an excellent ambassador in your booth?

Include Tradeshow Booth Talent in Your Booth Staff Training

Before the show, outline a plan for your hired staffers. Share it with them well in advance so they may ask questions and get clarification. Expect them to show up well before the show starts each day, and have a briefing about expectations and or goals. INCLUDE THEM IN YOUR BOOTH STAFF TRAINING! You will want to emphasize the importance of pre-qualifying prospects, a major part of booth staff training. At the end of the day, have a wrap-up meeting, and again, include them with your staff. You are, after all, paying a premium – so why not demand a little more? If you make your staffing choices well, you can not only increase traffic and lead generation, you will also ratchet up tradeshow ROI.

What should you know about your Trade Show prospects?

dataOne of the most important decisions you need to make about exhibiting at a trade show is what information you should collect from your key prospects.

Many trade shows place barcodes on attendee badges and have scanners available for rent at a reasonable fee. This streamlines the process of building lead lists and provides a fast, unobtrusive way to gather critical information for follow-up.

When a prospect enters your booth and inquires about a product, just ask permission to scan the bar code on their badge. Then also record the products or services the person is interested in knowing more about. Most trade shows will email a spreadsheet to participating exhibitors with complete contact information and other information about the prospects.

It is a simple, effective and useful way to systematize prospect information and prioritize sales leads. And you will have almost all of the information you need to effectively follow-up on your trade show leads.

Some Exhibitors have taken data collection to a whole new level

One Fortune 500 company tracks everything imaginable about a trade show prospect using a special RFID barcode that they place on prospects when they enter their booth. They track the prospect’s path in the booth, the specific displays and demos in the booth the prospect visited, the total time spent in the booth, who accompanied the prospect to the booth and so on. Then they combine this information with registration data to create a prospect profile. In all, this company collects over 200 pieces of information about every prospect. The catch is that they didn’t have any idea what to do with most of the information they gather.

What information should you collect about prospects?

The most important part of a trade show is that it provides an opportunity to establish and build a personal relationship with each prospect. It is vital to make sure that you do not interfere with the 1-on-1 dialog with a series of questions designed to gather information. Work to make the conversation very natural and focus on the vital info.

If you can get contact information from the trade show registration, then you do not have to do anything more than scan a badge and you can focus on the critical questions and answers:

  1. What products or services are of interest?
  2. When do the buyers plan to make their purchase?
  3. How much does the buyer plan to spend?
  4. What are the most important benefits and features the buyer is looking for?
  5. Who is your competition and what advantages does the buyer believe the competition offers?

Does it matter if the prospect spent 8.4 minutes or 6.2 minutes in your booth? No. What matters is that you can identify the high-value prospects to sell to during the show and to contact after the show and that these prospects have a positive experience at your booth and remember your company and your staff favorably.