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Four exhibition considerations

August 7, 2011

Graph Expo is right around the corner. What a great opportunity to evaluate your own trade show practices, learn from the best and take home some great trade show ideas. Most printers exhibit at a Chamber Event, Regional Business Expo or Industry Trade Expo, to drive quality sales leads. Learn from the best at Graph Expo by observing and asking booth personnel the right questions.

Before your next trade show, you might want to think of the following questions below. If you are going to Graph Expo, use these questions as a guide to ask vendors how they get the most out of their trade show investment. Go home armed for your next event and get a solid ROI as you approach your Q4, 2011 and 2012 events. You will see the good, the bad and the ugly from the thousands of exhibitors, so observe and choose from the best.

Question 1: What will constitute success here at Graph Expo?

Ask the vendors about previous years as well. Most well managed booth managers work closely with the sales department to understand how much revenue resulted from the show. That is the bottom line. Granted the sales cycle varies by company, but between 2010 and 2011 Graph Expo they should know how much revenue resulted to calculate the ROI.

For some businesses, it may be difficult to get all the direct sales from the show in one place, but there should be strong sales metrics tied to the show to fully understand the direct and indirect benefit from the show. Some measure success with high-level contact meetings.

Trade shows are a great way to become reacquainted with executives over a short period of time. Having a booth offers the opportunity to demonstrate new services or products while at the same time reconnected with large customers or long term prospects, but there needs to be a way to quantify how the investment of time equates to business.

Beware of answers such as “badge scans” or number of leads. This is a poor measurement because it drives numbers, not quality, and actually drives up the investment with sales people sifting through junk to find that 5% that are good leads. So many companies use this as a KPI, or key performance indicator, but the Barnum and Bailey tricks only pull in so many garbage leads to sift through.

Question 2: How do you keep track of your trade show KPIs (key performance indicators)?

Small and large businesses will be exhibiting at Graph Expo. Speak with companies your size or slightly larger to understand how different sized business track results. Small businesses might have a simple CRM such as ACT! Or SalesForce.com. Larger companies often have a complete marketing suite tied to their CRM or sales force software. Small businesses might just put everything into an Excel spreadsheet and review it each week for a status update.

Learn from each vendor on how they corral all their leads into one place, monitor progress and measure the key result, which should be revenue.

Question 3: How do you get the right type of traffic to come to your booth?

Before doing the basics on booth location, booth format, shipping and drayage, staffing, please take a step back. Find out what each vendor does pre-show. The marketing plan before the show is many times more important that the booth planning. This should be easy stuff for a printer who is a marketing service provider as well. Put your best foot forward and show your prospects what you can do prior to your own local, regional, or industry trade show. Purls, e-blasts, promotions, follow-up communications with people who have registered for a demo at the booth, mailers are all part of the equation.

Ask the vendors what they do. Many times the person in charge is in the booth and maybe that supplier is one of your vendors. They will love sharing their marketing strategies with you. Many times the marketing people are so excited someone is asking them about how they do it. Beware of booths with Barnum and Bailey’s tricks or card sharks. It is fun, but real decision makers don’t have time for that.

With solid preshow planning, you will have qualified leads coming to your booth. Look for creative ways to explain your value proposition and increase interest to come by your booth.

Question 4: What do you do that is unique to get people coming to your booth over the thousands of booths here at the show?

No one can visit every booth so they must prioritize. Some people will spend some time wandering around the show to get an overall impression of the show and each vendor out of the gate. You need a combination of pre-show presence and on-the-floor presence to get the job done.

I remember about 15 years ago when I was making a decision for a $10 million CRM solution for a Fortune 500 business I worked for. We narrowed down the field to three players. The booths at the show were night and day between the leader in the industry and the secondary players.

In one case the demo did not work and the product manager blamed it on them using older computers for their booth space. That did not leave a good impression with me. The solid booth with solid people managing the booth made the difference in moving them up a notch for consideration. Ultimately we went with the one with the best booth and organization, and I believe the other two companies are out of business or got bought out by a bigger player.

Good luck on your upcoming trade shows and exhibits and leverage Graph Expo in another way by learning from the best and learning from your current suppliers.

Michael Casey is president & founder of Survey Advantage (www.surveyadvantage.com/printers), a strategic partner with several associations and franchises. Through partnership with MIS providers, the company offers automated survey services.

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