Beware the tradeshow dragon
If you don’t keep a careful lid on tradeshow costs, they can easily skyrocket out of control. Two of the easiest ways to be shocked by your tradeshow expenses is to participate in one without a formal budget, or to go nuts and make big booth-related purchases just before the show. Know what you can afford to spend, and stick to your budget. Emphasize class, not mass A small, well-done tradeshow booth can look more attractive and inviting than a larger one that looks less professional. Keep in mind that it is a lot easier and takes a lot less money to make a small booth look attractive than a larger one.
Portable exhibits make a lot of sense
Most small companies that attend tradeshows are best off buying a small portable exhibit. They are offered in a range of styles, from table-top versions that cost a few hundred dollars, to full-height exhibits. Professional-looking logos can be added to the top of the display and large full-color product photos can dress up the panels. Presto great little exhibit! Portable exhibits are lightweight and fold down into compact shippable units. Custom-designed shipping containers are usually a purchase option and will help minimize shipping damage. Shipping costs, themselves, will be substantially reduced.
Portable exhibits are, in addition, extremely easy to assemble and seldom require the services of unionized booth assembly labor.
Ads for portable tradeshow exhibit companies can be found in business and airline in-flight magazines. Many of these companies have representatives around the country who would be happy to visit your office to present a demonstration.
What’s a good booth location?
As a new exhibitor you probably won’t have much choice in booth selection. However, booth location can make a big difference in your floor traffic. Do whatever you can to get the best space possible. Get your application in early and be sure to request the best space available.
The best space is a high-traffic location. A corner booth should be your goal because these are the most visible from all possible approach angles. The front of the hall is terrific; the center of the hall is good. Spaces near major aisle intersections, food vendors, or restrooms also see a lot of activity.
Whom to send
Even in a small company, the matter of who will attend a tradeshow can quickly become a political game. If the tradeshow is out of town and you pay the way for everyone who wants to attend, you’ll bury your company in travel and accommodation debt. Make personnel choices and announce them early in order to minimize last-minute disappointments. If you attend several tradeshows, try rotating the teams of booth representatives to give all of your key people a chance to attend a show. Remember, airfare and hotel accommodations are just the beginning of the expenses you will incur for each attendee.
When choosing booth staff, keep in mind personalities. Someone who interacts well with strangers, has a high energy level, is articulate, outgoing, and knows how to dress and act professionally is going to benefit your company’s image. Send your best “people people,” not your best engineers or product managers. While anyone staffing your booth should have adequate knowledge of your product, knowledge is of little value if your representatives won’t take the initiative and talk to visitors. The bottom line is that dress and professional appearance in your booth staffers will outshine the physical appearance of your booth any day.
If you really want to give everyone on your staff an opportunity to attend a tradeshow, participate in a local one.
Even if you have only one or two people attending a tradeshow, be sure to clarify your objectives. Let your representatives know why you are exhibiting—are you seeking new accounts, new distributors, or new representatives? Inform them of any “show specials” that you are offering. Do each of your representative have specific responsibilities—talking to foreign distributors, booth set-up and dismantling, or entertaining customers? Do you need to keep certain product details from falling into the hands of the competition?
Establish an order target
Writing orders is usually not the most important goal for attending a tradeshow. But if it happens to be one of your goals, it will certainly be easy to measure your success. A good target for sales goals is to at least meet the fee paid for the space in the exhibit hall.
Even if sales is not your major tradeshow goal, order totals can be used as a measure for gauging the success rate of one show versus another.
Follow-up makes the difference
In the age of e-mail and fax machines, the trend continues to move away from on-the-spot order writing on tradeshow floors. Pay more attention to closing sales after the convention. Take business cards from every possible prospect, and note their particular interests and concerns. Make follow-up calls and/or mail requested information as soon after the convention as possible.