Business Tips on Trade Shows from Meryl Hooker and Rob Fortier

A series of Business Tips from the book: showtime
Showtime!
by Rob Fortier and Meryl Hooker

Standing in your booth, writing orders and getting new customers is not the final destination on the road to trade show success: it is only the midpoint.
— Meryl Hooker

Too many producers and trade show exhibitors expect to write enough orders to cover their trade show expenses. Nice thought, but very unrealistic!

Trade shows, especially if this is your first time, is a learning experience as much as it is a selling experience. It is true that many of the upfront costs are display items and materials you can use again in the next show, but, more importantly, the experience and exposure you will gain is immeasurable.

So join us this week as we explore the truth about trade shows from Rob and Meryl.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Before anything else, take some time to read the exhibitors guide. The exhibitor guide is the handbook of all the rules and regulations specific to the venue and the show in which you will be exhibiting.
— Meryl Hooker

Seems like a no brainer! But if you are one of those folks who does not read instructions before trying a new appliance or skill, you may be tempted to jump into the trade show without reading the guide.

The exhibitor guide will help with logistical information such as both location, freight information, publicity opportunities, events … and most important: Critical rules, regulations and deadlines for important information submission(s).

If this is your first show, the process may seem overwhelming, but the guide will outline most of the information you need to help you have a success trade show.

Pay close attention to the deadlines because missing them could cost you hundreds of dollars in added expenses!

When we exhibited at our first trade show, we signed up for the Vendor/exhibitor workshop. The workshop was invaluable as it explain LOTS of information that was new to us as first time vendors/exhibitors. If your show offers these classes or workshops, it is worth the time to attend!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now, take your big list of tasks and create a production schedule. A production schedule is a comprehensive list of all the tasks that need to be completed, and precisely when they are going to happen.
— Rob Fortier

Creating a comprehensive list is the best way I know to make sure you have all the necessary steps lined out before you leave for your show.

Start by taking all those deadlines found in the exhibitor guide and write them out in a timeline that works for you. After each deadline or task, write in what YOU need to do to fulfill that deadline

Rob and Meryl suggest starting from day one of the show and working backwards. If this works for you, do it this way. And don’t forget deadlines like booking your plane flight (if you are flying) and/or making your hotel reservations.

The importance of this exercise to to list EVERYTHING — even the minor tasks — so that nothing is forgotten. With all the craziness that can go on during this time, you will be grateful for this pre-planning tool.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You will want to decide how you are going to collect information at the show.
— Rob and Meryl

Adding customer and potential customer to your database may be the most important task you do at a show — of course, after answering questions and writing orders!

There are many different ways to collect buyer information. When we exhibited at the Portland Show, we collected business cards in a ‘fish bowl’. Other ways are as follows:

  • Rent a scanners offered by the trade show to scan buyer’s badges
  • Download a smartphone application that will scan business cards
  • Staple business cards in a notebook where you take notes about a particular buyer or store.

What do you do when you have collected all this information? Back in the ‘old days’, I would add them to Microsoft Access, so I could mail them.

Today, I add them to a MailChimp or Aweber email provider in order to add them to an email sequence to follow up after the show.

Rob and Meryl suggest using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software program. (If you are interested in this option, we recommend ACT! Pro).

Whatever program you use is not as important as just finding something that will work for you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Trade Show are not inexpensive ventures. In fact, they may prove to be one of the biggest line items in your entire annual operating budget.
— Rob and Meryl

Depending on what and where you plan to exhibit, a trade show may cost $5000 or more (or less)! Of course, your best option is to contact the show personnel directly for more accurate costs. But this is only the beginning of the costs.

Other costs to consider are the following:

  • Booth design: Wall coverings, signage, flooring, shelving or displays, products, electricity, special lighting etc.
  • Freight or delivery of your materials to the show
  • Required union labor or fees for on-site show services
  • Insurance
  • Travel, hotel and meals
  • Transportation to and from the show and/or your hotel
  • Giveaways at the show
  • Product literature to give to potential buyers
  • Advertising: Pre-show, post show, magazines and show guides
  • And more misc. expenses!

You may or may not take advantage of all the options above, but, most importantly, plan your expenses ahead of time to avoid ‘surprises’!

 

Sign up here, if you would like to continue receiving these tips Tuesday through Friday!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.