by Eli Logan Longview Texas
But who should be doing it? And when? That depends on how compartmentalized the sales and marketing departments are within your organization.
If marketing and sales are clearly defined departments, align them by fostering communication between the two before and after each trade show.
Hugh MacFarlane of MathMarketing conducted a study that revealed that businesses whose sales and marketing departments are aligned close 38% more business than their non-aligned counterparts. Sometimes achieving alignment means overcoming a cultural rift that can develop between these two groups. That divide is usually based in a disagreement on just which department is the driving force behind customer acquisition. Shawn Naggiar of Act-On Software, adeptly describes the phenomenon in this blog post.
Bridging this gap is important, especially when it comes to setting trade show objectives and goals. Including a sales liaison in exhibit planning meetings or surveying booth staff upon their return from trade shows are just a couple ways to foster communication that will ensure you’re establishing realistic goals. To see more ways to overcome this divide and how it applies to other areas in your business, check out Harvard Business Review’s End the War Between Sales and Marketing.
If your company does not have a formally established a marketing department, set your objectives when you coordinate your company’s annual trade show schedule.
For most small to medium-sized companies, managers and members of the sales team come up with promotional ideas and are most likely responsible for the planning and execution of the organization’s participation in trade shows. When this is the case, it can be tough to establish a trade show objective when you’re the individual responsible for meeting sales goals and coordinating the company’s participation in eight to ten trade shows a year.
If you wear several hats within your company, just keep your trade show hat on a little longer at the beginning of the year. The benefits of setting your trade show objectives at the same time you’re coordinating your company’s trade show schedule are:
- Maximizing your trade show investment: The SMART method of goal-setting gives you a solid way to track and measure success, identify and refine best practices and ditch the elements that don’t contribute to revenue generation. This blog post by Katy Roberts of JobServe Events provides an outline that takes the guesswork out of creating SMART trade show objectives and goals.
- Ensuring you’ve purchased the right amount of booth space: If your objective in participating in a 2,000+ booth trade show is to gain exposure, you may not accomplish that with a standard 10′ x 10′ space. Conversely, if your goal is to build a database, reserve a 10′ x 10′ space and concentrate on creating a powerhouse contest or giveaway. Establishing early-on what your booth space should accomplish in each show will ensure you never spend money on wasted space.
- Cutting costs: Most trade shows partner with general service contractors who offer early-bird discounts on things like furnishings, carpet and other booth amenities. Getting organized early means taking advantage of these discounts in addition to knowing exactly which proprietary items you’ll need in the booth. This will help eliminate last-minute shipping, printing and production expenses.
Although some objectives may change slightly by the time the show actually takes place, it’s easier to make adjustments to your goal than to attempt to formulate it weeks before the show in the midst of show-related deadlines.
Other things to consider when setting your trade show objectives and goals are the format of the trade show, the focus of the show (largely educational vs. sales-oriented) and where that focus positions attendees in the purchasing process. Check out next week’s post for details.
by Eli Logan Longview Texas
Set Goals and Objectives
Your trade show marketing plan needs to list measurable goals and objectives. Depending on your show focus, your plan may not need to contain each of the following areas. Just select the ones that apply to each trade show marketing plan.
Start by explaining what products and services will be showcased or focused on. Have a maximum of three goals in each of the following categories and make sure they are realistic and obtainable. Having too many goals will not only dilute your focus, it virtually guarantees that you will not reach several of them. Keep in mind that post show you will measure your success based on the goals you defined here. Add to these lists based on your company’ specific needs.
Product or Services
If your company has a large number of products and services, you have to select a limited number to focus on. Base your product selection decisions for the show on understanding what attendees are most likely to be attracted to and need for their job functions.
The following is a list of possible goals and objectives. Feel free to modify them or add your own. You may also want to mention in your trade show plan that the goals of this category are based on return on objectives (ROO), the type based on activities accomplished, not based on sales.
- Demonstrate benefits, data, or features
- Promote positive product or service trends
- Cross-promote multiservices or product applications
- Be compared with other vendors or solutions
- Demonstrate improvements in product or service
- Showcase a new product or service
Sales, Marketing, and Market Research
Your goals in this category should go beyond just creating a number of qualified leads, even though this might well be your primary focus. Discuss your objectives with other parts of the company, such as product management or your research and development group, to see if this show can help them with projects they are working on.
- Position the company in the market
- Develop leads for the internal sales team
- Develop leads for partners
- Reach decision makers
- Create customer lists
- Uncover customer attitudes
- Introduce a new approach to the market
- Obtain feedback on a product or service
The networking area is one that will probably have fairly identical goals, at least conceptually, for every show you exhibit at. In most cases, just the numbers and quantities of contacts and activities will change from show to show.
- Meet qualified contacts from the networking plan
- Build business relationships with qualified contacts
In most cases, your public relations focus will be specific to one of the following goals. However, there might be a need to adjust some of these based on the type of publication you are able to meet with.
- Create and project an image
- Highlight new products or services to the media
- Showcase a particular side of the company
End the goals and objectives section of your trade show marketing plan with quantifiable and measurable goals. These will define the key performance indicators to track, allowing you to measure the success of this particular event.
- Reach ___ number of decision makers at the show.
- Create more contacts per salesperson in a short time period; define a goal for the number of meetings held in 30/60/90 days after the show.
- Prearrange ___ number of at-show sales meetings per salesperson.
- Create more sales per salesperson in a short time period; define a goal for the number of sales closed in 30/60/90 days, within 1 year, etc. after the show. (Set realistic goals based on your company’s sales cycle process.)
- Total number of leads collected.
- Total number of qualified leads.
- Purchasing timeframe:
- Within 90 days
- 3 to 6 months
- 7 to 12 months
- Meet with ___ number of media contacts at the show.
- Have ___ number of articles written about the company postshow in targeted publications. (You may choose to have a list of publications.)
- Prearrange ___ number of meetings with media contacts from a predetermined list of industry publications.
Qualify Leads Quickly-Three Questions, 30 Seconds
by Eli Logan Longview Texas
“Attendees spent an average of 9.1 hours visiting exhibits, per show, in 2012…a significant increase over the average reported in 2011.”
Exhibit Surveys Inc.’s annual Trade Show Trends report shows that attendees are spending more time shopping the show floor with the intent to buy. Since more and more buyers are spending time shopping on the exhibit floor, identifying and connecting with qualified attendees becomes crucial to maximizing your ROI.
Qualifying attendees is important and if you’re a one or two-person booth team, doing so quickly is a must. Below are some introductory questions that can help you separate the buyer from the visitor and increase the connections you make with potential customers:
What do you do?
This seems pretty elementary, but if it’s asked of a visitor, it has the potential to turn into a long-winded conversation. It can also be an opening for someone trying to sell you something to initiate their pitch. Here are some tips on how to maintain control of your time and disengage politely from booth visitors who do not represent customers:
When there is an appropriate break in conversation, initiate a hand shake and say, “You have been so gracious with your time; thank you for stopping by. Enjoy the remainder of the show.”
You can also reference increased activity in your booth: “I’ve enjoyed catching up with you, but it looks like my co-worker might need some help. Enjoy the rest of the show.”
If one of your customers shows up, tell your visitor: “It looks like my appointment is here. Thank you for stopping by; I enjoyed speaking with you.”
When it comes to the sales person from another company, remain professional: “Thank you for stopping by with this information; I’m sure it will be useful. Here’s my card. Let’s schedule a time after the show to discuss it.”
If the answer to this question means that the attendee represents a potential customer, continue with questions that can help you build your sales approach.
Who do you use to provide that product/ service/ etc?
Are you happy with the results?
Take notes so that when you’re following up with this potential client after the show is over, you can speak to their needs, further your rapport and build trust. Not only does qualifying customers help you use your time wisely at the show, it can make sure your approach after the show is specific and tailored to your potential customers’ needs.
Sources: Exhibit Surveys Inc.’s annual Trade Show Trends Report, Exhibitor Magazine Online, www.exhibitoronline.com, Friday Poll: How Do You Politely Disengage from a Long-winded Client? Radio Sales Cafe, www.radiosalescafe.com
PS-In an earlier post about how to make your freebies work for you, there was an idea on having potential customers fill out a survey to receive a giveaway. Since most attendees won’t trade too much time to receive a promotional item, use the questions above to compose a short survey. You get valuable information on how you can meet their needs and they don’t have to take too much time off of the show floor.
Postshow Exhibit Strategy Analysis
What were the primary objectives at the show?
Do you feel the objectives were achieved? Please provide examples that support your answer.
Please provide suggestions for improvement.
Was the lead-collecting process (in the booth) effective?
Was the entire lead-handling process effective?
Out of the total number of leads, how many do you feel are “quality” leads?
Please provide suggestions for improvement of the lead collection and handling process.
What was the majority type of attendees at the show? Decision makers? Decision influencers? General staff?
Were the attendees visiting the booth our target audience?
Rate our booth appearance, staff appearance, and knowledge. Provide a grade rating of A through F and explain.
What was the biggest draw for the attendees that came to the booth?
Was the display effective?
Did the messaging come across clearly? Did attendees indicate that they clearly understood the message?
What was the most common question asked?
What was the most common piece of literature requested?
Was the booth well located?
What was the volume of booth traffic?
Please provide suggestions for improvement of the booth’s appearance, messaging, display, location, etc.
Did the preshow mailing invite targeted visitors to the booth (if applicable)?
What was the attendees’ reaction to the promotional giveaway? Provide a grade rating of A through F and explain.
What were the three most popular giveaway items at the show?
Describe other promotional items you saw distributed at the show.
Please provide suggestions for improvement of the promotional item(s) the company distributed.
Speaker Presentation (if applicable)
Was the presentation effective? Explain.
Was all audio-visual equipment ordered in place?
Was the equipment of good quality?
Please provide suggestions for improving speaking presentations in the future.
Approximately how many attendees did you engage in conversation?
Do you feel there was enough booth staff?
Were you provided with enough training (see below)? Explain.
— Lead collecting and handling
— Promotional item distribution
— Handling prospects’ questions/objections
What additional training do you feel would be helpful?
Were you provided with ample information regarding your flights, accommodations, and transportation?
Were all of your travel arrangements in order?
Were any problems encountered while traveling?
Were you provided with ample information regarding directions for the following items? Please explain.
— Show/booth location
— Setup and teardown of booth
— Services ordered
Please provide suggestions for improvement of the above items.
How many competitors were there?
Provide the competitors’ name(s) and separate answers for each question below.
How was the competitor’s presence on the show floor?
Did the competitor hold any special events for attendees?
What size booth did the competitor have?
Rate the competitor’s booth appearance. Provide a grade rating of A through F and explain.
What products was the competitor displaying?
Did the competitor announce a new product at this show? If yes, what was it?
What type of promotional item(s) did the competitor have?
Rate the competitor’s booth staff and appearance. Provide a grade rating of A through F and explain.
Rate the competitor’s product knowledge. Provide a grade rating of A through F and explain.
Also rate the competitor’s booth appearance, staff appearance, and knowledge against the other competitors at the show. Provide a grade rating of A through F and explain.
Please provide suggestions for improvement of competitive advantages that we could employ at future shows.
Rate the shipping instructions provided to you. Describe likes and dislikes. Provide a grade rating of A through F and explain.
Rate the material handling process at the show. Describe likes and dislikes. Provide a grade rating of A through F and explain.
Rate the shipping process as a whole. Describe likes and dislikes. Provide a grade rating of A through F and explain.
Please provide suggestions for shipping improvements for future shows.
Disengaging from Unqualified Prospects
As important as it is to engage attendees, learning how to disengage from unqualified attendees ranks just as high. Staffers need to use the limited show time available for finding the next possible prospect, not staying in a conversation because they don’t know how to end it.
They may feel a little awkward at first when dismissing someone. But if the attendee has no need for your product, there is really little point in wasting your staffer’s time or the attendee’s time. Once staffers have done it a couple of times, they will be much more comfortable and effective; it will become second nature. The following phrases will help them make an exit as easy as possible. As always, customize the phrases to your business and have staffers use them in role-playing activities during training sessions to practice using these skills.
- “Based on our discussion today, it unfortunately doesn’t sound like our company can help you at this time. Thank you for stopping by our booth. Here’s our website in case we can be of service in the future.” (Hand the person a business card or other inexpensive literature containing the website address.)
- “Thank You for this opportunity to talk today…”
- “I think I’ve taken enough of your time today…”
- “Thank you for stopping by our booth…”
- NOTE: Add specific phrases for your business to this list and provide them to booth staffers.
When using these polite disengagement phrases, tell staffers to give the person a handshake to symbolize a courteous goodbye and explain whether to hand the person an inexpensive piece of collateral or a giveaway item.
Here is a Top 10 list of open-ended questions your booth staffers can use with attendees at networking events. Use this as a guide to get started; add more questions specific to your business and industry.
1. What does your company do?
2. What industry or industries does it serve?
3. Who are your key prospects/clients?
4. What types of products (and/or services) do you offer?
5. What makes you different from your competitors?
6. What got you started in this industry?
7. What do you enjoy most about your job?
8. What trends do you foresee in your industry segment?
9. What marketing/sales activities have you found to be most successful for your business?
10. Can you refer me to someone that does ___?
Characteristics of End Users and Customers
To effectively market your products, you have to understand the characteristics of end users and customers. Make a list of what distinguishes your end users. The list will be specific to your needs, but the following are a few of questions you should certainly be able to answer:
- What are their work goals?
- What is important for them?
- Why would they care about your product?
- What pay grades are they, and how do they use your product?
You also want to understand the characteristics of your customers:
- Are they well funded or extremely budget conscious?
- What industry are they in?
- How do they buy products?
- Are there any regional differences or regional preferences?
- Are they all privately held or public companies?
The more you know about the characteristics of both the end users and customers, the better you can target your products.
Have booth staffers prepare questions that they can ask of attendees at the networking event for specific types of referrals.Most people are happy to help and make introductions. Here are a few examples they can use to start with:
- Is there anyone here you can refer me to who needs a ____ type of product (service)?
- I’m hoping to meet with ____, can you point me in the right direction?
- Can you suggest people I can speak with about ____?
- One of my goals for today is to meet someone who does/supplies (____). Do you know of anyone here who fits that description? Can you introduce me?
by Eli Logan Longview Texas
by Eli Logan Longview Texas
Bad Booth Behaviors to Avoid
Remind your booth staffers that they have eyes on them at all times during a trade show from prospects, competitors, media, photographers from the show, and individuals with cameras. Don’t let your booth staffers get caught conducting the following bad booth behaviors, which I have termed “booth crimes.. Add to this list to customize to your company.
List of Top 15 “Booth Crimes” to Avoid While in the Booth
- Don’t leave the booth unattended.
- No sitting, eating, or drinking.
- Limit alcoholic beverages during show floor receptions and networking events. It is unprofessional to be drunk, and it can ruin your company’s reputation in the minds of certain attendees.
- No negative body language such as slouching, yawning, or crossing arms.
- Don’t put a table in front of the booth; you want to draw attendees into the booth.
- No offensive odors. If a staffer is a smoker, he or she must always wash hands thoroughly and freshen-up his or her breath after smoking.
- Always smile and look at the prospect you are speaking with. Don’t look over the prospect’s shoulder for a better one; disengaging the conversation is more professional if you find that the person is an unqualified prospect.
- Don’t get involved in long conversations with fellow booth staffers; stay focused on prospects. If a prospect sees you already involved in a conversation, he or she may walk past the booth.
- Don’t spread rumors or make negative comments about competitors. Point out that you both offer good products; however, the benefits of your product are [start mentioning competitive advantages].
- Don’t talk or text on cell phones in the booth; they should be put away during booth duty hours.
- No gum chewing.
- Don’t be late for your booth shift.
- Don’t let the booth get disorderly and unorganized. Look around every so often, organize the booth, and throw away any garbage.
- Don’t offend by telling off-color jokes or cursing.
- If there is something you are unsure of, try to find the right answer from a fellow booth staffer or tell the prospect that you will follow up with him or her. Never make something up.
by Eli Logan Longview Texas
Conference or Exposition: Why Show Formats Should Influence Setting Trade Show Objectives
by Eli Logan Longview Texas
Last week’s post covered who should be setting trade show objectives and when they should be set. An additional factor that should influence your trade show objectives is the format of the show and how the corresponding focus affects the amount of face-time you’ll get with attendees and new ways to spend it.
For the most part, industry events break down into two formats:
- Conference series with a trade show attached
- Trade shows/ expositions
How the show format factors into setting your trade show objectives:
Trade shows and expositions are focused solely on trade, the debut of new products and facilitating networking between industry professionals. Since attendees of these types of shows do not observe a conference schedule, your booth staff will have time to focus on qualifying serious buyers.
When it comes to exhibiting in trade shows that are attached to conferences, knowing the conference schedule and how it affects attendee traffic will help you set realistic objectives. Your goals will be based on educated projections of how much face time you’ll actually be spending with attendees.
What to consider if you’re exhibiting in a trade show/ exposition:
Are you qualifying attendees based on what stage of the buying process they’re in? According to Exhibit Surveys, 49% of tradeshow attendees surveyed planned to purchase in the next 12 months and 66% rate their booth visits as very or extremely valuable in comparing and evaluating offerings for future purchases.
Potential customers who are in different stages require different types of information to progress through the initial stages and reach a buying decision. Discovering which stages they’re in and tailoring your sales message to them is the key to establishing a relationship early and winning the bid.
How to sell to customers in each stage:
“Communication during the ‘Awareness Stages’ should introduce your prospects to industry trends that point to developing issues and the business value of adopting change. This early consultative approach is crucial: Forrester Research reports that 65% of vendors that create the buying vision during this early stage get the deal.
Communication during the ‘Evaluation Stages’ should:
- Find your unique point of view which can challenge prospect’s assumptions and create more demand
- Create clear points of differentiation between you and your key competitors
Communication during the ‘Decision Stages’ should highlight customer success stories and demonstrate how your customers have achieved successful project implementation and business value.”
What to consider if you’re exhibiting in a trade show attached to a conference:
Is the exhibit hall completely closed to attendees during conference sessions? If so, take the opportunity to find exhibiting companies with whom you can do business and set appointments with them, outside of the venue, during the time the show floor is closed. This way, you’re networking and gaining exposure with qualified leads while attendees are unavailable.
Does the trade show portion of the conference series remain open for attendees who have not paid to attend conferences? This is the most common type of conference series with a trade show attached. Although the show floor is not closed completely, attendee traffic tends to slow while conferences are in session.
When traffic slows, this is a prime opportunity to connect with other exhibitors who represent potential customers or partners. Again, knowing how to maximize these periods where, as an exhibitor, you’re competing with conference tracks for the attention of attendees is crucial to maximizing your investment. By networking with exhibitors, you’re interacting with potential customers regardless of the effect the conference has on the traffic flow.
Knowing the conference schedule will also help you plan the best times to conduct giveaways, announcements, product demonstrations and more. This way, promotions designed to draw a lot of traffic to your booth can happen when the conference schedule allows the maximum amount of attendees on the floor.
Does your business perform better at conferences with trade shows attached or trade shows and expositions focused solely on trade? Why? Share your story in the comments.