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To Exhibit, Not to Exhibit or Do Something Totally Different



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Today, exhibit marketers have a primary decision to make when creating their marketing communications budgets – exhibit, not to exhibit or do something totally different.  If the answer is exhibit, then is it in the same space as past years, smaller or perhaps larger? If the answer is not to exhibit, then what will the impact be on current customers or reaching new prospects?  But we have options that may be considered aside from exhibiting – sponsorships in place of exhibiting, meeting rooms rented from show management, educational events attached to the exhibition. Creative solutions are available.  As exhibit marketers, we have choices on how to invest our marketing communications dollars.  In order to do this, we have to look at the macro environment in which we are function as well as our own individual organizations market position.   

30,000 Ft look at the exhibiting landscape

Not since the early 1990’s have we seen depressed Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of the exhibition industry go so low and stay there for several years. 2008 and 2009 ended with negative growth for KPI’s of net square footage sold [NSF] (-10%) and number of exhibitors (-5%), but slight growth (1%) in attendance and several years of real uncertainty faced all of us.  Not only did we see macro economic environmental issues driving this situation, but demographic changes in conventions and meeting attendance made evaluating the value of event participating events.   

2011 and 2012 showed slight growth. Less than 5% growth in all three growth categories. In the first two quarters of 2013, we have seen stability in NSF and attendance, but continued decline in the number of exhibitors at shows in North America. (TSE June 2013) 

After several years of budget and schedule cuts (2009 -16.4% and 81% of TSW’s respondents cut their show schedule – TSW 2009) we saw continued cuts in 2010. In 2010, 17% planned to cut shows and reported they use past show performance (85%), attendee demographics (58%) and the increase of small local events (22%) as the top factors in reducing their show schedule.  According to StrongMail Market Trends surveys of business leaders, trade show budgets are holding steady with current growth and improvement in the industry key performance indicators.  However, 48% are reporting more investment in marketing, 59% reported increasing their social media / e-marketing investments.   

As reported above, many of us in the exhibiting industry are faced with declining budgets, but, even worse, funding has been withdrawn to protect the organization’s bottom line or for other seemingly more effective marketing communications vehicles – namely on-line, web-based and other indirect tools. Managers and owners are concerned with the economic impact of the continuing recession and generally slow economic recovery. 

But, the most pressing issue for all of us as exhibit professionals is what to say or do when your management says, “Let’s get out of trade shows” or “Let’s reduce our budgets” or “Let’s reduce our participation in trade events at all.”  Or even more important when the event demographics change so dramatically that the intended targets are not attending, what do you do?  Exhibit, not exhibit or do something totally different.    

The reply is that regardless of the depressed growth numbers,  marketers across all industries see trade shows as one of the top two ways of reaching prospects and customers face-to-face ( CEIR PE3.11.7). 

Over the past year (2012-2013) all three KPI’s – attendees, exhibitors, and net square footage sold have been growing annually 2-3% compared to the depressed industry in levels of 2009/2010.  (CEIR April 2013)  Even though we are seeing slow growth we need to focus on remaining on stage with our customers and prospects rather than dropping out.   

Although the growth statistics have dramatically softened, trade shows and events still fill a need.  In fact, the latest CEIR study FO2.12, 48% of attendees believe exhibits at exhibitions, conferences and annual meetings have more value and 45% reported no change in perception of the value of events compared to two years ago. The total numbers of attendees have declined since 2009, but high quality audiences are still available to exhibitors.  When trade shows are considered objectively, exhibitors really want 10 qualified visitors vs. 100 potentially qualifiable booth visitors.  Wouldn’t you want to spend more time with truly qualified visitors than a little time with those attendees who are only qualifiable?  So it’s not necessarily bad that the attendance is down.  According to CEIR, 79% of attendees will be new contacts for your company and not seen by your organization face-to-face in the past 12 months, which means opportunities for new leads for sales.   

The second and only other method to get face-to-face with customers and prospects are personal sales calls.  However, you can accomplish more in a day visiting with show attendees than you can in a month of calls in the field.  And they are cost effective.  According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) Report SM37, it costs $215 to make a first face-to-face contact with a potential customer at a trade show and $1039 without an exhibit lead.  ($596 to make a field sales call and $443 to identify the potential prospect prior to the first sales call.) 

So do you exhibit, not exhibit or do something totally different?   

What do the experts say?

The exhibiting industry has the CEIR(Center for Exhibition Industry Research)  and organizations like Red Bank, NJ’s Exhibit Surveys who provide us comprehensive industry data.  Over the past few years they have provided some valuable study results to prove exhibiting’s value:

Over 49% of visitors to shows have final say in the purchasing decision, while 94% are net buying influencers since they play an active role in the purchasing decisions as specifiers or recommenders, as well as final decision makers.  They are attending and you have to engage the audience to find them, but they can provide you with opportunities for sales  (CEIR FO6.12)\7 out of 10 plan to buy one or more products and 75% actually do buy one or more products as a result of visiting exhibitions.  Why?  They interacted with you. They tried your products, saw your demonstrations, and had a dialog with your staff.  This resulted in them deciding to buy. (Exhibit Surveys)

72% said that the show influenced their buying decision. They may have had one of your sales reps call on them, seen your trade press advertising, received a direct mailer, or had a telephone marketing representative call them.  But when they came to your exhibit, interacted with you, and your products or services, they were influenced to buy because they saw proof of benefit and application. (Exhibit Surveys)

46% are either executive management or upper management. (CEIR FO.6.12) 

CEIR Research 

In CEIR FO2.12, companies reported using a variety of face-to-face events in addition to sales calls to dialogue with customers and prospects.  Face-to-face activities were considered by the respondents as being more valuable today than two years ago. 37% of exhibitors in this study anticipate the value of exhibitions and conventions will increase over the next two years.  They found that although resources were being devoted to on-line marketing, it was not detrimental to their exhibiting and event success. (Face-to-Face is defined as: Exhibits at exhibitions, conventions and annual meetings, Educational conferences with small expos, Educational conferences without and expo, Hosted buyer events, and Sales calls)  

The most recent CEIR research indicates that exhibitions are used more than any other technique in the selling process.  Why?  You can go on a sales call, but can you bring your products?  Can you bring your technical experts?  Well, you can at a show.  It is an integrated selling tool where you can bring all the tools in your selling arsenal to the show to communicate in response to attendee needs.   The Power of Exhibiting Part II 2.2 reported that smaller companies rely on exhibitions for their very survival because it the most economical way they can get in front of a qualified audience.  

In CEIR PE3.11.7, 298 executives were interviewed and 66% indicated their industry was strong and 91% viewed their companies as strong. Those companies current exhibit at 20 or more events per year.   

In that same study, CEIR found that 61% of exhibitors were small business, with fewer that 100 employees further emphasizing the importance of this medium to smaller business to get in front of current customers and potential buyers face-to-face. 

Market Reality eSurvey   

Trade shows are the #1 business-to-business marketing budget item to support sales

 We also know from America Business Media research that marketers believe that trade shows:

Help attendees become aware of new products and services (81%)

Allow attendees to interact with sales reps (88%)

Enable attendees to interact with peers (86%)

Provide information attendees can trust (67%)

Motivate attendees to seek more information on the web (77%)

Why Exhibit?

Exhibiting should be strategic, not just about logistics.  Most exhibit professionals are known as logistics specialists. Exhibit managers are known as being experts in getting our exhibit property to advanced storage on time, making our hotel and airline reservations to take advantage of discounts and order show services within the deadline period to obtain the 30% discount.  But, exhibiting is a strategic extension of your marketing communications plan.  Your challenge is to position yourself in the mind of the visitors so that they see no suitable substitute for your company, its products and services.  When you achieve this, you generate a sale.  You begin the process of preference conversion. You create a customer.  

Buyers See the Value of Shows 

When exhibiting strategically, you are giving attendees what they want – useful information. CEIR’s Power of Exhibiting Part II reported that 79% of visitors go to shows because they get their most useful buying information from shows – more than from sales reps, more than from directories and catalogs, more than from collateral materials.  Attendees see the value in shows.   

Trade Shows Make Economic Sense 


Over the past two decades, CEIR, through studies conducted by Data Strategies and Exhibit Surveys, has reported on the cost of generating qualified contacts and closing those leads.  We know from these studies that exhibiting is economical.  From the latest Exhibit Surveys information reports, it takes $129 to attract each customer entering an exhibit and $223 for each attendee who enters into a dialogue with your staff – far less than a field sales call.   However, we have to be vigilant to assure that the demographics haven’t changed significantly changing ratio of targeted and non-targeted audience in attendance.
 

Why Exhibiting Works 

Exhibiting Works!  It works because it’s face-to-face.  It provides us an opportunity to accelerate the selling cycle by matching attendee needs with your ability to fill their needs. It works because the audience is prequalified.  It works because adults are visual learners and exhibiting is a visual medium. The exhibit, your products, the graphics, collateral materials and promotional products are visual.  Lastly, buyers are experiential.  You can provide them an experience through the dynamics of the exhibiting process – interactive visual aids, challenges, and hands-on demonstrations – involvement of all the senses. 
 

They Travel to See You 

We know that visitors travel to the shows and travel is an issue right now.  According to studies that Exhibit Surveys has undertaken, 62% of attendees travel more than 400 miles and spend an average of 8.5 hours on the floor of the show. That is down from 2002, but only slightly (.5%).  This means that your show visitors will come to you regardless of travel issues, only in fewer numbers.

“C” Level Executives Attend 

“C” level executives and management attend. (CEO, CMO, CTO, CIO)  They attend to maintain their competitive edge.  They go to shows because they can get an overview of their entire industry segment in a short period of time.  They can gain insight into how well their marketing strategies are working compared to their competitors. 

Trade Shows and Events Create Events in the Minds of Visitors that Generate Memorability that Build Brands   

All of this points to the magic of exhibiting. You can gather all of the tools in your marketing communications tool chest and bring them to bear to position yourself in the minds of your shows’ visitors so they can see your differentiation. You can build your brand by creating preference through experiential marketing. 

If you are in healthcare, whether in pharma or device, you have been affected by the new PhRMA and AdvaMed code changes that limit the use of branded promotional materials, among other promotional limitations.  These changes are not expected to impact attendee visitation at exhibitions.  Marketech interviewed healthcare professionals in the fall of 2008 and again in the spring of 2009.  In the former study 75% of respondents indicated that the changes would not affect their visitation to the show hall. In the later survey 85.5% of respondents indicated no change in behavior. 

Rather than disengaging from the exhibiting process, go smarter.  Don’t stop exhibiting, just go differently. 
 

Evaluate the Exhibit / Not to Exhibit decision before dropping out!

It is time to challenge the status quo and the old ways of thinking about trade shows and events. 

Sit at the Integrated Marketing Communications Plan Table – make trade shows a part of your overall plan

Trade shows are an integrated part of your organization’s marketing communications mix.  Your exhibit marketing requires a plan to create a strategy and supporting tactics to achieve your goals. Strategy development starts with Four Key Questions:

  1. Why are you going?  What role do trade shows play in your marketing mix? Are you using them to increase name awareness, enter new markets, and increase share of customer or increase market share?  Gain agreement from everyone that has a vested interest in the outcome of the event as to the number-one reason why you are exhibiting.  Then the second and third.  Three is enough.
  2. Who is your target audience?  Who do you want to reach?  What defines a qualified contact?  Can you describe them? 
  3. What do you want to communicate to them?  What messages are you prepared to deliver in response to their stated needs?  Are they the same messages that are in your direct mail or trade press advertising? Are they the same that your sales staff is communicating?  Or are they different?  Are they integrated with your other marketing communications so there is a mental link on and off the floor?
  4. What is your measure of success?  What do you want to bring home with you that will determine if your exhibiting program was successful?

If you can answer these 4 questions, you are miles ahead of those exhibitors who just show up.

When Exhibiting, Exhibit for the Right Reasons 

Too many exhibitors go to shows because they are part of an industry and as such are expected to participate or think they are expected to participate. Or they go because their competition is exhibiting and don’t want to be missed.  Or they go because they have always exhibited at that event and cannot break the cycle even though the show may not be producing results for them.  These are not the right reasons to exhibit. These are the reasons that get you into hot water with management since there is no way to measure whether your exhibiting generated any positive results. 

When asking yourself, “Why are you going to the show?” experience has shown that there are four common objectives.  All 4 do not need to be in play at every show:

1.    Increase market share – find new customers

2.    Increase share of customer – sell more products/services to existing customers

3.    Introduce new products – what better place to show your new products than to an audience that comes primarily to see what is NEW

4.    Position or reposition – change the market’s perception of your company or your brand 

Measure (something) in Every Show in Which You Exhibit 

Before deciding whether to exhibit or not to exhibit during this challenging economic period, evaluate the shows in your current schedule and those for which you are considering including in your schedule. Chances are that a thorough review might find that your audience is not in attendance. Or there are not enough targets to make the investment generate a return.  First, you might redefine who is in your target audience.  Analyze the show’s demographics to determine if your target audience is included and how many attendees fit into the profile.  If you are not satisfied with the data you are receiving from show management, challenge them to produce what you need to make a rational defensible position. Then, determine what other characteristics make it an “effective” sales and marketing event and evaluate whether it does or not.  You can then match your market niches with the show’s profile. 

According the TSW’s Executive Outline June 2009, exhibitors look at the following, in order, when selecting what shows to attend:

1.    Past show results

2.    Attendee demographics

3.    Small local shows cut first

4.    Tradition – stay at shows in which exhibited longest

5.    Where competitors exhibit

6.    Big national shows first 

In today’s uncertain times, you might find the order needs to be 1, 2, and 5 

Let Your Objectives Drive the Size of Your Exhibit, not Perceptions 

Most exhibitors are in their physical space by default or because they have a perception of “size” counts. They may have begun in a 10x10 and grown into a 10x20 or 20x20 without doing a “zero-based” analysis of their objectives as they relate to the space needed to achieve those objectives.  

For example, let’s say you have set a lead generating objective of 75 qualified leads.

o      In order to achieve that objective you need to talk to 10 visitors to find a qualified lead, therefore you need to engage and talk to 750 visitors. 

o      If you can communicate to 10 people per hour, then you need 75 selling hours.

o      If the show is open 20 hours, then you need 3.75 or 4 people.

o      A rule of thumb is 50 square feet for each staffer, plus space for your exhibit property: 

o      200 square feet for staff, plus 20 square feet for the exhibit, or 220 square feet – 200 or 300 square feet.  So, you can reduce you square footage to a 10x20 or a 10x30 and use the saved funds for other marketing opportunities. 

No longer is the decision of to exhibit / not to exhibit but how should we best exhibit? 

Also, one needs to evaluate the activities taking place in your exhibit.  If the dominant activity is demonstration of your product, how much space is actually needed? If meetings with current and prospective customers is dominant, then is the space needed more important than for other activities, such as live presentations, product demonstrations or active engagement of attendees.  “Trade offs” need to be considered.  Smaller spaces for demonstrations and more space for meetings if more results are generated from meetings than demonstrations.   One cannot be passive about evaluating exhibiting elements to assess the size of exhibit needed.  

Another option is virtual events. Technology is one of the real drivers of exhibiting today.  Maybe a pre-event virtual event to position the audience to what they will see in your physical exhibit.  Or maybe a post event virtual event that gives extension to what they experienced in their exhibit should be considered.  If your objective is educating the attendee to move the buying process, then a virtual event might be just the right investment to position your organization, its products or services in the mind of potential buyers.

Focus on the Budgeting Objective: Reducing Your Cost of Ownership 

We know two facts about exhibiting: (1) It is expensive and (2) It works.  Some estimates are that the cost to exhibit has increased over 40% in the past decade. We know that 23% of an average exhibitor’s budget is nonproductive due to drayage, transportation and I&D.   So what can you do about it?

o      Use lightweight structure and graphics – structures that are made from high-tech materials – fabrics, metals, plastics.

o      Reduce your installation and dismantle costs by having easy to assemble and disassemble systems.

o      Use custom modular instead of traditional custom to reduce the cost of ownership.

o      Design for reconfiguration.

o      When you need to go to a show in a large way, one time, rent rather than buying more components.  You can accomplish your one-time, bigger presence, yet not add to your permanent inventory.

o      Take advantage of bundling of show services.  Negotiate with your I&D company.

Graphics are the Magnets that Attract Visitor Attention: Invest in Graphics 

Many of us invest in exhibit property, but neglect our graphics.  An exhibit graphic is the magnet that attracts visitor attention into the exhibit.  It creates an image, a memory, a message.  A good graphic will pre-qualify a visitor before you can communicate with them.  Visitors begin to look at your exhibit 15-30 feet away and are making decisions about whether you have a solution for their needs.  Exhibit graphics are more than a “blown-up” advertisement.  When attendees pre-qualify themselves, they save you having to physically reach out to everyone.  Most importantly, your graphic communicates who you are, what you do and what is your offer.  Your offer is what they are buying. It comes first. 

It’s the Quality of the Audience, not the Quantity 

For many years, exhibitors have gone to shows with the objective of achieving more leads than the year before.  When you put quantity before quality, you are putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable.  It is the quality of each attendee that you need to be concerned about.  A drop in attendance, in a way, is good news. The attendees that are coming are truly interested, they are more pre-qualified and they have focused needs.  They bring an agenda. In fact, 76% (CEIR) of an audience comes with a predetermined agenda.  They come to talk to technical experts and are bring their issues. Show attendees are looking for solutions. This means they can leave the show satisfied, with a lasting memory that can result in a future sale. 

Many exhibitors are seeking smaller, more vertical audiences that have more qualified attendees rather than seeking larger, less qualified audiences. They can accomplish more in accelerating their selling cycle with a concentrated, qualified audience than with the quantity on which most exhibitors focus. 

Focus on Your Targeted Audience 

In today’s environment, you need to be proactive and attract an audience to your exhibit.  Your “call for action” needs to provide attendees with a reason to visit you – what will they see to meet their needs and what will you offer them to take time to visit you?  Your offer is not a promotional product.  It is something that will benefit the attendee - Will you increase their productivity, their competitiveness, efficiency, or profit?  Your graphics and exhibit staff must promote carefully focused messages – a one-size-fits-all message won’t work for every vertical segment.  One tactic that will drive qualified prospects and current customers to your exhibit is to have your top management a part of your program. What better place to meet your top management team? 

If your target audience is getting younger, you need to rethink the tactics you are using to attract, educate, and communicate. The younger your audience, the more types of interactive tactics required to get their attention, to maintain their interest, and communicate messages that stick.   

Selectively attracting your target audience is also different today.  According to TSW (Executive Outlook June, 2009), exhibitors are using their websites, email, blogs, Twitter and then direct mail to drive attendance to their exhibits.   

Don’t Rely on Traditional Selling Techniques 

For years, we have relied on traditional “engage, qualify, communicate, close” approaches to exhibit staffing.  The concept behind this technique was that visitors had to be attracted into the exhibit by “hooking ‘em” off the aisle.  Try setting appointments in advance. If you can find out why they are attending, what their needs are, and then determine how you can meet those needs, you can prepare for their visits.  When you know why they are visiting, you can have the right people, products & services organized for their visit to have a more meaningful interaction.  You want to position yourself to make the experience more meaningful for you and your prospect.  When you do this, you can take the dialog to the next level.

Use 1:1 Relational Concepts

In order to make this experience more meaningful, you need to completely define your prospects, why they want to visit you, and what they want to do when they visit you.  If you can determine their needs before the show, you can start the conversation before they arrive at the show, which will make the interaction at the show more meaningful and get you one step closer to close than if you just “hooked ‘em” off the aisle.  By generating a dialogue before they get to the show, you can develop more target-rich tactics which will increase your ROI/ROO. 

Invest in a Motivated and Prepared Staff 

With current economic conditions, now is the time to take your exhibiting program even more seriously. No longer can you just show up.  Many exhibitors start thinking about their show weeks not months before the show, which is not enough time to fully prepare, i.e., create objectives, themes and messages, integrate them into the remainder of the marketing communications program, or create a pre-show promotion program that will incite attendees to visit you, much less prepare your staff to work the show.  Just showing up is no longer an option.   

The most important ingredient in an exhibit marketing recipe is the staff.  So what characteristics are important today for reps working a booth?   

·       Someone who is open, warm, friendly, personable and confident

·       An individual who is approachable

·       A person that has a good attitude about working the show

·       Someone who has good working knowledge of the company, its products and services, and can communicate it effectively and efficiently and with confidence

·        Select from a mix of functions and a mix of locations – not just because they are available and close to contain T&E expenses

·       Reps who understand the process of exhibiting- Getting Information before Giving Information, then Getting Commitment s.

The Internet has reduced the importance of trade shows as the sole  source of product information. Attendees use the internet to investigate exhibitors before attending and saavy exhibitors direct attendees to their websites before arriving at the show. Getting to know who a company is, how their people present themselves, and what they offer a prospective client – these are the areas of attendee focus. 

Recruit Management as Part of your Exhibiting Team 

Management has a role in trade shows. If they sit on the sideline, they will just second guess your decisions because they are not part of the plan, not part of the execution, not part of the results.  So, make them part of your planning. Invite them to your meetings, and make meetings at a time when they can participate.  Give them a role in your show.  Ask them what they want to do and then delegate that responsibility to them. Help management help themselves become a more visible part of the sales process.  By giving them a role they can help you communicate your message, create a bridge between the show and the sale, set the standard for staffer performance and meet with VIP customers and prospects.  The most important role they can play is to position the value of face-to-face marketing and its role in your organization’s marketing mix.  If they cannot do it in person, have them videotape their message.   

Exhibiting is Not Just Collecting Names or Swiping Badges 

Many exhibitors go to shows to generate leads. In fact, according to CEIR 86% of exhibitors in North America exhibit to generate leads.  How many leads are considered acceptable?  Lots of leads.  But exhibiting is not just about “swiping badges.”  It is about generating qualified leads that can culminate in a sale.  And, creating qualified leads is about interviewing, gathering information both objective and subjective.  It is all about recording the information so someone can follow up on the sales opportunity.  It is about generating an agreement with the prospect on the next action that will get you one step closer to close. Is the lead actionable? The number one reason that leads are not followed that there is not enough “qualification” information resulting from the on-the-floor interview to make it a warm call vs. a cold call.   

Create a “Follow-up TEAM” 

Taking CEIR’s stat one step farther: 86% of exhibitors go to shows to generate leads and 79% of leads are not followed up. A second reason they are not followed up is because no time or resources are planned for post show follow-up, the information on the lead form is too inadequate to start the conversation from where it ended at the show or there is no lead follow system in place so that the leads can be followed, reported upon and tracked.  In TSW’s Executive Outlook Vol. 5, Number 4, 61% of exhibitors surveyed, who conduct lead follow, followed up in 1-2 weeks after the show.  This should be the standard.  One week after the attendees arrive back from the show, they should be receiving your first follow-up. (Your actual first follow-up might be a “thank you” email the day after their visit) Instead of using your standard internal system of lead tracking, recruit your own special TEAM to take the leads that are generated, post-show re-qualify them, and then do the initial follow-up.  Then make the sales team accountable for the results of the re-qualified leads.  The lead enters a “closed loop” and potential return on investment calculations can be made to show the true value of exhibiting in the marketing mix.   (Another option is to outsource lead fulfillment and post event re-qualification.) 

The Bottom Line: What is Your Measure of Success?  Find something to measure 

Every form of marketing communications is measurable.  When you invest in a direct mail campaign you have a minimum Return On Investment you are seeking.  When you place an ad in a trade press magazine, you look at cost per impression.  (Ad cost / subscribers = cost per impression.) Without measurement, and data on the exhibiting experience, you run the risk of slashed budgets.  Some objectives are more specific than others and therefore more easily measured.  Cost per lead is easily measured.  But, generating increased brand awareness is harder to measure.  Whatever your objective, find a metric.  This is a requirement of this uncertain economic time.  There are 8 Ways to Measure:

1.    Lead Quantity and Quality

2.    Audience Quality and Quantity

3.    Message Effectiveness

4.    Competitive Audits

5.    Audience Behavior & Event Performance

6.    Sales / Sales Opportunities

7.    Press Impact

8.    Brand Loyalty Impact

               Source:  Marc Goldberg and Mike Westcott
                                     Event Measurement Conference
 

Measuring your event performance is important, but don’t forget to report the results to those who have a vested interest in your program.  Senior management needs a “real time” view of the payback on your exhibiting investment.  Your post-event report is the first step in delivering the results. What should your report include?

Lead generation results

Attendee breakdown

Demonstrations conducted and feedback

Promotions – how well did they work

Competitive Intelligence – what did you learn

Media successes – meetings with editors

Customer interaction

Sessions attended

Recommendations for the future

 

And, don’t forget, management is getting used to having “dashboards” to review results from show-to-show and year-to-year.  

 

Plan to Work the Show Every Moment the Show is Open 

Studies by InComm International found that 68% of exhibitors found a good prospect in the last half hour of the show and 21% obtained a sale in the last 30 minutes of a show.  The moral – work the show every moment it is open.  You are “on” 24 hours a day.  You are selling when you are walking down an aisle, in the convention hall restaurant, on the convention bus, in an elevator or on an escalator.  From start to finish the time to sell is all the time. Don’t stop being engaged in the process until the last lights are turned off.  Keep working the show for all it is worth. And then, it will work for you.  

Think Bigger – Think Beyond the Trade Show Floor 

Most of us are caught in a rut. We are stuck in status quo.  We hate change and avoid it.  In order to rise to the top and survive this recessionary period, you need to think big. Think bigger than you did yesterday.  Think about other ways that you can deliver your story to your customers and prospects: hospitalities that are focused; private events where you can have proprietary communications and demonstrations; road shows where you take your message to your audience. User meetings and special events all communicate your messages in ways that are face-to-face, interactive and hands-on.

 Non-traditional events extend your influence and expand your share of customer.  When you couple them with shows, you are able to communicate in a variety of dimensions.  They need to have objectives, separate and distinct from those in your exhibit plan. You have to let your staff know that working these events is different and you need to prepare them with the skills needed for success. 

CONCLUSION

 

In this atmosphere of improving, but economic uncertainty, we must market even more aggressively to keep our organizations in front of the potentially fewer available buyers   Trade  shows have grown at a healthy pace during the last several decade because they bring buyers and sellers face to face.  If there are fewer attendees now, you will then have more time with the qualified buyers who do attend – and still be able to meet more buyers in one day at a show than a month of calls in the field.

The answer to surviving this economic downturn is not to reduce your exhibiting participation or to eliminate it altogether, but instead to exhibit smarter.  Smarter exhibiting includes using integrated marketing communications, choosing to exhibit at shows that meet important, measurable objectives, and picking exhibits and spaces that are sized right for your opportunities.  It also means looking at new alternatives to keep your brand in front of the attendees if having an exhibit does not appear to be a valuable investment. You’ll reap greater results when you target high-quality audiences, bring a motivated staff, plan with top-level involvement, follow up on your leads, measure your results, and work the trade show beyond the trade show floor.

This report has focused on exhibiting strategies, best practices and new ideas to generate greater results from your trade shows.  Follow them and you will not only survive, but even thrive during this recessionary period.  Moreover, you’ll also set the stage for even greater growth when economic times rebound.

Trade Shows Work!

n     Plan completely

n     Execute aggressively & enthusiastically

n     Follow up thoroughly  

Updates from an article previously published as:  Successful Exhibiting Strategies in Uncertain Times by Skyline Exhibits
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© 2013 by Marc Goldberg