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Rising Exhibiting Costs Places New Premium on Efficiency
By Susan Friedmann
Apr 19, 2010 - 4:48:38 AM

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There is good news in the world of tradeshow research: according to a recent study by Exhibit Surveys, an industry research group, a considerable number of new attendees are coming to tradeshows. At the same time, 39 percent of attendees report that their buying decisions are favorably influenced after viewing a company's exhibit.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the rising fuel, energy, and transportation costs that are impacting every sector of the economy have not skipped over tradeshow exhibiting. The cost per attendee has risen nearly 20 percent. A typical exhibitor is spending $261 per attendee that they speak with -- a number that is up 15 percent over the last two years.

The question then becomes, how do you make the most out of every exhibit? It is no longer sufficient to simply generate a positive ROI. You need to ensure the maximum ROI possible, in order to justify these spiraling costs.

Here are the top five ways to get the most out of every tradeshow:

1. Do Your Homework

To realize maximum ROI, you have to ensure that you're exhibiting at the right shows. You will not generate a positive ROI, much less a maximum ROI, if you're not positioning yourself in front of an audience likely to be interested in your products and services.

Research shows carefully before making a commitment. What shows are the largest? Which shows attract your target audience? Some exhibitors have had great success setting up shop at shows outside of their traditional industry group -- this may be a strategy you want to consider.

Bear in mind some larger organizations have their own shows. This trend has obvious positive and negative ramifications -- but a savvy exhibitor will be able to make the most out of the opportunities this change affords.

2. Emphasize Pre-show Promotion

Pre-show promotion is the single most important determining factor in generating show traffic. If you want to have a lot of people, particularly people who are likely to be interested in your products and services, you need to make a concerted effort to reach out to them before the show.

There are a number of ways to do this. Some broad-based approaches include placing ads or inserts in industry journals, advertising your participation on your website and industry discussion forums, and more. You can target your best customers -- and the organizations you want to have as your best customers -- with direct mail, e-mail communications, phone calls, and in person reminders from your sales force.

3. Send Your Very Best People

Your booth staffers act as your organizations' representatives. You want to send the very best people available: individuals who have great product knowledge, strong sales skills, the ability to think on their feet, and can thrive in a high-pressure, high-stress environment.

Focus on selecting staffers who are genuine and enthusiastic. An upbeat personality is definitely a plus -- shy, introverted types may have superlative technical skills, yet wilt when thrust into the tradeshow spotlight. If you've a really technical audience, it's fine to bring your best and brightest minds to be on call to answer questions -- but leave the meeting and greeting, selling and schmoozing bit of the show to your sales professionals.

4. Think Through Show Specials

Too often show specials are last minute deals -- "Sign up now and we'll give you 15% off." That's not the way to handle show specials.

For maximum appeal, you want to craft a show special that is appealing to your customer base -- a real savings, rather than a token percentage off --, easy to understand, and only available for a limited time. If you do not create a sense of urgency with your offer, your attendees have no real pressing need to convert into customers.

Additionally, you should include information about your show specials in all of your pre-show promotion. Every time an attendee or would be attendee is looking at this promotion, they're asking "What's in it for me?" Including information about your show special can help answer that question.

5. Focus on Follow Up

The period immediately after the show has a tremendous impact on overall show ROI. Within two days of the show close, you need to have thank you notes in the mail to everyone you saw at the show, thanking them for stopping by.

Additionally, this is the point to follow up with your hottest leads, scheduling sales calls and moving the process forward. Nothing cools faster than tradeshow leads, so it is imperative to strike while the iron is hot.

The remainder of your leads should be distributed to your sales staff, so they can act on them. Remember, introducing an element into accountability will help boost overall ROI -- requiring your sales force to document when and how they followed up will minimize the amount of ignored leads and missed opportunities.

Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, internationally recognized expert working with companies to increase their profitability at tradeshows.
Author: "Riches in Niches: How to Make it BIG in a small Market" and "Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies."
www.thetradeshowcoach.com & www.richesinniches.com


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