If you work for a company or own your own business the choices are endless when deciding how you can market and promote products. However, one of the most effective, simply because it is a face to face experience, is exhibiting at a trade show.
There are many resources that tell you how to make the most of your trade show investment, but for the first time exhibitor, the following tips will not overwhelm and will help keep it simple.
1. Get to know trade shows; visit a few before you embark on exhibiting. Study what exhibitors are doing, and learn about the rules that are part of any exhibiting venture, whether those are labor rules, organizer rules, or industry rules.
2. Bring your best sales people to staff the booth. Tell them to expect the unexpected since trade show visitors are random and encourage them to think on their feet, to use their best field sales skills, and to be confident.
3. Do pre-show marketing. Let customers and prospects know that you will be at the tradeshows and encourage them to put you on their must see lists. You can let them know via email, print ads, or any one of many communication vehicles, including calling important customers and prospects before the show to alert them to the fact that you will be at the show. Give them your booth number so they can find you.
4. Make sure your exhibit is simple and clearly tells visitors the name of your company and what products and services you offer. Make sure you have plans in place to erect the display before you get to the show floor. If you need to hire labor, do that early.
5. Spend quality time with customers and prospects. Tell your sales team not to spend time talking to friends, competitors, or other visitors who are not your target market. Exhibiting at trade shows is an investment, so make it worth your while.
6. Establish ‘next steps.’ Take visitors’ information and develop a follow up plan in the exhibit. What will you do after the show? Get agreement on the process. Ask for opt-in permission so you can contact them to keep them up to date on your new offerings.
7. Because you have all your important prospects and customers in one place, trade shows present an excellent opportunity to entertain. Make dinner appointments in advance, or if you have a group of people you want to entertain, contact an event planning company like Plan Ahead Events to help you with a cost effective, memorable way to reach your market.
If you exhibit at a trade show, you’ll find it an easy, effective way of promoting your products to potential new consumers. Following these simple tips is a good start to trade show success.
Thanks to Tim Brown, CEO of Meeting Sites Resource, for this amazing blog post.
He reminds us that "managing meeting stakeholder expectations" is a critical part of our job description. On the surface, this topic seems like a no-brainer, since most meeting planners' core skills are meeting planning, execution and logistics. But often, that is the problem: with a complete focus on being "efficient," many meetings today are not "effective."
Now don't get me wrong, meeting logistics and implementation excellence is a must in our rapidly expanding Strategic Meeting Management (SMM) environment, but equally important is a meeting needs assessment process that identifies all stakeholder goals, objectives, and results in a specific plan to deliver and measure success.
The need for measurable meeting ROI and expanded collaboration to achieve big picture meeting goals has increased the number of people with their hands, or fingerprints, on the overall meeting management process. The key is to identify each stakeholder, understand his role and specific contribution, and then become a resource to him to assure quality outcomes. Think of yourself as a general contractor working with many internal and external sub-contractors to build a magnificent house (in this case, a meeting).
In the SMM world, managing expectations is called Return on Objectives (ROO). Simply put, this is making meeting visions a reality. Here is my quick overview regarding Return on Objectives: “The ability to identify meeting stakeholder(s) objectives for each meeting and create meeting design, content and communications that address each objective. This includes post-meeting analysis that measures results and validates that meeting objectives are achieved.”
To assess the scope and complexity of stakeholder communications, an interesting exercise is to create a stakeholder communications chart, “connecting the dots” to the many internal and external people, services and support essential to assure a highly successful meeting.
• Human Resources
• Corporate Communications
Strategic meeting objectives go beyond meeting budgets and cost savings, and this requires both collaboration and value-based thinking to achieve maximum results. When you meet or have a phone interview with a key stakeholder and identify specific goals and objectives for a meeting, it is important to present your recommendations and plan to assure that you are on the right track. Your post-meeting analysis of each defined objective, as well as measurement of the actual outcome, validates your success -- just making it happen is not enough, so “keep score” and report results.
• Hotel Departments
• Conference Services
• Business Center
• Audio Visual
• Registration & Housing
• Exhibits / Trade Show
• Cruise Ship
With your meeting stakeholder goals and objectives in hand, it is critical to evaluate and select suppliers and partners who will understand and embrace these essential visions and be part of the team that will deliver predictable and high-impact outcomes. Keep in mind there may be multiple suppliers to deliver on one objective, so the planning, communications, and collaboration processes are critical.
Meetings are big investments and today meeting planners must get in to the heads -- and hearts -- of meeting stakeholders at all levels to orchestrate a total meeting experience that raises the bar on meeting value, attendee interaction, and ROI.
During times when budgets are tight and return on investment is at the top of everyone's list of goals, meeting planners are urged to be more 'strategic' and not to focus so much on 'tactics.' The origin of this seeming dicotomy is "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, and when these ideas were codified more than 2,000 year ago, the focus wasn't on meetings and events. When these terms are used today in our industry, we all get the implication: strategy-good; tactics-whatever.
Strategy is important for the overall plan, for aligning goals, for creating meetings that meet organizational objectives. On the other hand, tactics in the meetings industry are often assumed to be mundane decisions about issues like rounds or squares. On the other hand, those of us in the industry know that tactics are critical to the success of any meeting and to driving the meeting strategy.
While a strategy is a carefully constructed plan to achieve corporate goals, tactics are necessary to execute strategy. Smart tactics. If tactics are not carefully implemented, the meeting can be a disaster and no amount of strategic thinking can save it. They are the tools that help build the strategy. There is no good vs. bad in the discussion of strategy vs. tactics, no matter what you might read in the business press. Tactics are too important to be described as a lesser endeavor. Strategy and tactics are interdependent to the success of any initiative, and especially meetings.
Elizabeth Zielinski says it well: "The best meetings probably lie somewhere between tactical and strategic, but with a strong command of both. The tactics have to be successfully designed and executed in order for the strategy to succeed, but the strategy is the guiding principle and common goal. In other words, there's no point announcing the next iPad to an audience of thousands if the giant screen behind the speaker isn't displaying the product, but there's also no point in having the screen without a product to show on it." To read more of her thoughts on this issue, click here:
Are you having trouble convincing companies that there is real value and a significant return on investment when they exhibit at trade shows? Then show them these findings from the Center for Exhibition Research (CEIR):
The cost of an initial face-to-face encounter with a prospect is $96 for a lead taken in an exhibit, while the figure is $1,029 for a lead from the field (this includes $443 to identify the prospect before the initial meeting plus $596 for the actual sales call). Do the math! meeting a prospect at a trade show as opposed to generating a sales lead in the field saves $943 prospecting dollars.
Moreover, CEIR found that 54% of sales initiated by an exhibit sales lead requires three or fewer sales calls to close the sale, while 61% of leads from other sources require more than three calls to close the sale.
Closing a sale from an exhibit lead saves $914 over closing a lead from another source. CEIR noted that it costs $2,288 to close a sale from an exhibit lead, including an average of $96 to qualify an exhibit lead plus 3.5 sales calls. Closing a lead from another source, without a lead from an exhibit, costs on average $3,102. This includes $43 to qualify a prospect and 4.5 sale calls totaling $2,659.
According to James Houran, a psychologist and partner at HVS Executive Search, measuring the financial return on investment (ROI) from meetings and events is only the tip of the ice berg, the ‘tangible ROI.’ He advises paying attention to ‘intangible ROI.’ This concept involves asking:
• What did the attendees get as far as personal value from a meeting?
• Did they feel that attendance at a face-to-face meeting gave them more than they would have gotten by participating in a webinar?
• Did they feel that they were provided a long-term benefit – either toward professional development or building their own business?
Houran says, “Companies and associations are looking to planners to help them develop and deliver branded experiences when putting together events. They are seeking experiences that are high-value and are different from other options for spending money on employees. What is going to motivate them to want to participate in meetings? How do we turn a meeting into a real value episode, where people want to come to the meeting and to contribute, and know they’re going to walk away with something? More than being functional, planners will be strategic on the individual and organizational level.
He sees agreement on several trends outcomes:
• face-to-face meetings still offer things that can’t yet be replicated by electronic formats.
• people feed off each other’s energy and that can only happen in person.
• people can get energized at a meeting to the point of acting on what they learned when they get back to their offices.
• the outcome of the meeting is not just on the business at hand, but at the attendee level.
• the best events transform attendees in a fundamental way.
Part of the event experience is getting something to reinforce the event itself and its message and to make the experience memorable. This year at the Advertising Specialties Impressions (ASI) Power Summit, the results of a study were released that included 3,332 completed surveys among business people in the U.S. Canada, Australia and Great Britain.
The survey showed that the most popular owned giveaway is a writing instrument, followed by shirts, calendars and bags. After that, there is a significant drop, and the next four are caps and headwear; desk, office and business accessories, food items, and glassware/ceramics, a category which includes mugs. Near the bottom of the survey, we find health and safety products, jackets (hoodies, sweatshirts, fleece included), electronics/computer (probably ranking lower because not frequently given away)and recognition awards, such as trophies and plaques. Automotive, again not a frequent giveaway, was last on the list.
The survey found that writing instruments are most frequently used after the event, while bags and wearing apparel have a high number of contacts beyond the person who received the item.
"Our 2010 study once again proves the undeniable power of promotional products," said ASI President and CEO Timothy M. Andrews. "It's important to note that the pass-along rate has actually increased 11 points from just two years ago — which speaks directly to the global recycling trend. Not only do ad specialties make impressions on everyone who sees them, but messaging is reinforced every time the item is used. Even smaller companies can deliver the kind of high-impact punch enjoyed by multi-million-dollar companies.”
For event planners, this information is valuable in helping not only to create a memorable event but also to create a budget. Also, according to the study, “These statistics show marketers get a more favorable return on investment from advertising specialties than almost any other popular media, with a very low cost per impression, high recall among those who receive ad specialty items, and increased intent among recipients to make purchases from the advertiser.”
In the event world, there is alot of talk about measurement and ROI. But before we can measure to determine the return on our investment, we need to decide WHAT we want to measure. Do we count the number of people who attended the event? Do we determine who the key people are and whether we connected with them? Do we try to change their perceptions? Do we determine if purchases were made directly connected to the event? Are we interested in the amount and quality of the publicity that our event received?
All of these are valid elements to measure. And in order to set up a measurement program, the first step is to set objectives. Objectives are not goals. For example, a goal would be to end world hunger. An objective is to feed three people outside your family once a week for a year.
When we determine objectives, there’s a smart acronym to keep in mind: SMART! Objectives should be
• Time Sensitive
Until we set objectives, we have no way to determine whether or not our event has been successful.