Trade Show Success: Driving Innovation Through Outsourcing

We are living in an age of trade show clutter. By some estimates, there are more than 14,000 trade show options available to attendees. The need has never been greater to create a distinctive and compelling reason for attendees to come to your show. Yet many association executives are so engrossed in day to day operations and membership support that they lack the time, objectivity, perspective and outside experience needed to develop a truly innovative event. The result is a laundry-list of look-alike shows, expos and events. Given the difficulties this situation can bring, what is an association executive to do?

According to a recent study, more and more association executives and meeting planners are turning to outside talent to increase attendance, attract sponsors, and drive member engagement. Over 80% of associations are outsourcing at least some trade show functions including event strategy and marketing, exhibit installation and dismantling, graphic design, multimedia and video, advertising and sponsorship sales, membership technology, and tradeshow management are some of the most commonly outsourced services.

Outsourcing offers associations managers several key advantages:

• Expertise in specialized areas. Staying on top of the latest membership technology and presentation tools is both costly and complex job. By turning to specialists in this area, your show will have the advantage of cutting-edge thinking and tools without having to make an ongoing investment in these areas.

• The ability to focus on core business functions. Delegating specific functions to external specialists, frees your internal team to focus on your core mission: serving your members and their needs.

• Risk mitigation. Outsourcing to a skilled partner reduces the risk of having the same functions performed by in-house staff that may lack the expertise and competency needed to succeed in that area.

• Cost savings. Most associations only host a few major event during the year. Using an outside specialist on an as needed basis is more cost effective than hiring permanent staff for a temporary need.

ExpoPlus is a full-service events company. We coordinate closely with Bodden Partners, our parent company that specializes in marketing communications and public relations. Together we offer our clients an end-to-end solution to meet all their event needs. If you would like help planning a distinctive event that will stand out from the clutter, increase attendance, attract sponsors and drive member engagement, contact us for a free consultation.

2017 Trends Impacting the Meeting Industry

While the industry outlook for 2017 is bright, the meetings and event industry is operating in a rapidly changing environment. Demographic, social, economic, political and technological changes require conference managers and event teams to plan ahead like never before. Successful meeting organizers will develop strategies now to overcome the challenges and maximize the opportunities that lie before them.

Demographic Changes

Many association executives are concerned that not enough Millennials are attending their annual conferences and meetings. This is concerning because up to 2/3 of older Baby Boomers have already retired and it is estimated that 10,000 Boomers will continue to exit the workforce each day between now and the end of next decade. Unless younger GenXers and Millennials replace retiring Boomers at conferences, attendance will drop significantly.

This transition in the workforce suggests there is a strong need for the type of networking and career development that conference offer. So what should event managers do to better attract and engage Millennials? Demographers suggest that younger consumers are so accustomed to multitasking and multi-screens that they literally think differently than previous generations. Exhibitors must create creative, visually compelling, personalized and engrossing experiences in order to retain their attention.

Technological Changes

Another difference with trade show attendees today is it is almost impossible to stop people from staring at their phones. Whether on the exhibit floor or sitting in panel discussions, attendees are addicted to and constantly distracted by their phones. Event planners are now incorporating the phone to enhance rather than distract from the experience. Conference managers are creating mobile apps to support registration, networking, navigating the convention center, and disseminate session handouts.

Exhibitors are using QR codes instead of badge scans to capture visitor information. Collateral materials and follow up marketing can all take place via phone scans, text messaging and real-time email delivery. Crowd-sourced social media, interactive games and audience polling all incorporate the phone into the conference experience.

Conference organizers can later use electronic data such as the number of app downloads, Twitter followers and scans to attract sponsors and exhibitors to future shows.

Political and Social Changes

Political and social issues can have an unexpected yet significant impact on the event industry making contingency planning all the more important. The controversy surrounding North Carolina’s so called “bathroom bill” led to travel bans from states that disagreed with the policy and several conferences and other events relocated outside the state.

The meetings and hospitality industry also needs to plan for how changes to immigration policies may impact speakers, meeting participants and attendees coming from outside the United States. There is also the need to understand the impact should changes would have within the hospitality industry, both at hotels and at convention centers and other venues across the country.

Although high profile incidents such as the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting may have a short-term chilling effect on travel plans to the affected area, studies show the impact is only temporary. A study from World Trade and Tourism Council said that on average, tourism levels return to normal within 13 months of an incident. In some cases, depending on the nature of the incident, the impact is even shorter. Or there may be no travel impact at all. Even so meeting organizers should think ahead and have communications and contingency plans in place.

Economic Changes

Economic forecasting is always fraught with uncertainty. As of this writing, many economists are optimistic about the future of the US economy while others are concerned with emerging threats such as a potential trade war and geopolitical tensions. Fortunately for the meetings industry, uncertainty can create demand. When industries face large and significant challenges, that’s when they are most likely to see the need to collaborate with peers to share expertise on how to adapt to changing market conditions.

An Exciting Year Ahead

In summary, no one can know exactly what 2017 will bring. However, outlook for the meeting industry looks bright. The need for networking, career development and collaboration are stronger than ever. Employment is robust and job openings are at an all-time high. There is a transition in the workforce as Baby Boomers exit and Millennials enter. The pace of change and disruption is increasing, causing many industries to rethink how they are doing business. Meeting organizers who plan strategically will minimize the risk from negative trends and maximize both the effectiveness and profitability of their events, in 2017 and into the future.

If you would like help planning for your next event, contact us for a free consultation.

The Show’s Over, Now What?

As an exhibitor there are no shortage of trade shows for you to pick from. So once you set up an exhibit schedule, how do you keep from second-guessing yourself? How do you know if the trade shows you are attending are the best ones for your company? And once the show is over, how do you know if it was a success or not?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that we encourage exhibitors to create a nine-step exhibit strategy that will help you narrow down the options, prioritize and organize your trade show calendar. But even after all the planning, you still need go back to measure and compare final results to your original expectations. In this blog post and in several upcoming posts, we will consider four post-show evaluation criteria to continuously refine and improve your trade show marketing results.

Measuring the Trade Show ROI

There are many ways to calculate the ROI of a trade show. Some are hard measures while others are more subjective. What were your strategic goals and objectives in attending this show? Where those goals met? How many leads did the show generate? What was the quality of those leads? Did you meet your sales goals? What was the average value of those sales? What is the estimated revenue that will generated from this trade show?

However calculating trade show ROI doesn’t stop with sales. What impact did exhibiting at this trade show have on your brand? How many branding impressions were generated? How many people in total visited your booth? How many attendees were exposed to your company and its message, even if they didn’t come to the booth? Of all the people who were exposed to your brand, what percentage of them fit your target profile? What is the value of that exposure? How much would it have cost to generate the same exposure using traditional marketing channels such as print advertising or TV commercials? How does the engagement generated through exhibiting compare to the typical level of engagement you have in other marketing channels? What is the value of that engagements? In other words, what would it have cost to generate the same level of engagement in other channels?

Were you a show sponsor? Did you use pre-show marketing? If you sent out direct mail or digital messages that invited attendees to attend your booth in exchange for a special offer or gift, how much response did that marketing generate? What was the quality of that booth traffic? Did you promote your booth on social or other marketing channels during the show? What was the impact and effectiveness of those efforts? Of the different promotions and marketing channels you used, which was the most effective? What implications do these findings have for future marketing efforts?

What was the level of press coverage at the show? Did your company receive any mentions or have interaction with the press? What is the value of that publicity? Your marketing or public relations department should be able to give you some benchmark guidelines for these calculations.

Not all of these calculations are possible for every trade show or every exhibitor. Nor is it necessary for you to measure every variable in order to determine if this particular trade show or event should remain on your calendar or not. The key is to determine in advance what metrics are most appropriate for your company and your needs. The more measurements you have, the stronger your business case will be to continue attending this trade show in the future or whether you need to research alternatives.

If you would like help with any element of your trade show strategy, our experienced team would be happy to provide you with a free, custom consultation. Contact us today.

How to Reduce the Cost of Exhibiting

Exhibiting a booth at trade shows and events is complex. From trade show exhibit shipping and storage to electricity, set-up, takedown and more, there’s more to exhibiting at your next trade show than just booking space and bringing your display.

One of the largest expenditures after booth space and travel costs is the cost of installation, drayage and dismantling. Drayage costs can be significant, but there are many ways to reduce these expenses. The general services and official specialty contractors can help you avoid logistical mistakes, and maximize your cost efficiencies.

The general services contractor plays a key role in the success of your show. They are the official partner and right hand of the show manager who is hosting the show. But the general services contractor does not only work for show management. Savvy, experienced exhibitors know that the general services contractor also holds the key to keeping down the logistical costs of trade show marketing.

The general services contractor offers a host of services to support exhibitors including furniture rental, exhibitor orientation, installation and dismantle labor, freight services, custom graphics, audio-visual, automated lead retrieval and an in-house, on-site dedicated customer service team to handle any issues, questions or emergencies that arise during the show. Because the general services contractor is offering these services on a large scale to support the entire show, they own and maintain a complete inventory of all necessary equipment. In those cases where outside suppliers are needed, the general services contractor negotiates discounted package deals with their network of suppliers and passes these savings on to exhibitors.

There are two international companies that handle most shows. However, many regional show managers use boutique general services contractor companies such as ExpoPlus that provide many of the same services at a much better price. If you would like to see if we can lower your cost of exhibiting, contact us for a free consultation.

How to Create a Follow-up Plan That Gets Results

Follow up is essential to meeting your original trade show objectives and time is of the essence. Your lead is very likely to have visited with one or more of your competitors. According to some industry estimates by the time exhibitors do post-show lead-fulfillment, 43% of prospects have already made a purchase. Any delay in following up may cost you a sale.

The key to follow up begins even before your exhibit opens. Decide ahead of time how you will follow up with different types of leads. For example, you might place your less qualified leads in a lead nurturing campaign, while your hottest leads are handled immediately by sales. Create your lead nurturing campaign before you leave for the show.

The follow up campaign should be integrated into your overall exhibit strategy and integrate with your booth message. Our typical follow-up campaigns consist of email, social and phone follow-up.  The type of follow up, frequency and duration will depend on the quality of the lead.

Prepare your new contacts for future follow up while you are still at the show. You could say something as simple as “I really enjoyed our conversation. There is an article (or other piece of content) that I think will be helpful to you. Look for it in your inbox.” If possible, email the information that same day. At the latest, send it out as soon as you return to the office.

As you are collecting contact information at the show, ask people if they are on Twitter, LinkedIn or whatever social accounts you use for business. Ideally, while still at the show, send them a personalized invitation to connect with a reminder of where and how you met. Once you are connected, be sure to share content with them and promote their content to your followers.

High quality leads who are ready to buy should be turned over immediately to the sales team. Ideally a member of the sales team was at the show and could take an order on-site. Otherwise, a sales call should be set for the prospect’s first availability.

If you exhibit at several different trade shows, keep track of which show is generating the most leads and the most sales. You will likely find that although some shows generate a lot of leads, they may be low quality leads that don’t convert to sales while others shows are real money-makers. This data will help you decide where to concentrate your efforts and where you can safely afford to cut back. If a particular show is consistently delivering results, you may want to consider increasing your investment there, perhaps using a larger booth in order to bring more staff, buying a more prominent location or considering sponsorship.

Would you like to improve the effectiveness of your trade show marketing? Contact us today for a free consultation. 

How to Engage Visitors at Your Booth

Many first time and infrequent exhibitors are unsure what is the most effective way to engage a person when they walk by the booth. We encourage exhibitors to treat a visitor as they would a guest at their home. Welcome them, take a genuine interest in them and look for ways to serve them.

We encourage exhibitors to use icebreakers that put the focus of the conversation on the visitor, rather than on the company, product or service they are trying to sell. Openers such as “What brings you to the show today” will get the prospect talking about their needs and in the process may reveal an opportunity for you to demonstrate how you can help them. Since the majority of attendees have spent weeks planning to attend the show, most will be able to articulate what they hope to learn from it. Whereas asking “what brings you to our booth” may put the person on the defensive and elicit the dreaded “I’m just looking” reply.

On the other hand, some visitors may take the initiative, walk up and ask, “So tell me what does your company do.” Rather than recite the laundry list of your product features, we find it more effective to pick one or two compelling benefits that will strongly resonate with your audience.

In order to do so, you need to have done some advance research into the type of people attending the show and the key challenges they are facing. For example, if you are exhibiting at a teacher’s conference, you might reply “We help teachers make math fun.” If you are at a small business show you might say, “We help companies find the money to grow.” This short, but compelling statement, will almost always tease the person into asking for more.

The number of ways to engage booth visitors is limited only by your imagination. Bodden Partners has over 40 years’ experience designing and implementing booth traffic programs. If you would like help with an upcoming event, meeting or trade show, contact us for a free consultation.

How to Draw Qualified Prospects to Your Booth

attract booth traficThe effort to get visitors to your booth needs to start long before the first day of exhibiting. In this respect, attendees are well ahead of exhibitors. They have been anticipating and planning for this event for weeks. By the time they arrive at the venue, most have already planned their day. They have visited the conference website, studied the agenda, organized their day around the sessions they want to attend and the outside attractions they want to visit. Most importantly for exhibitors, attendees have also already figured out which exhibitors they want to visit. Industry research shows that the average attendee walks into the show with a list of 75% of the exhibits they want to see.

So how do you make sure your booth is on their list? The key is pre-show marketing. Begin by creating a target visitor list. Here is where having an exhibit strategy really pays off. The exhibit strategy guides every major decision you need to make during the show, including targeting. From the exhibit strategy, identify the types of companies and job functions/titles that you want to visit your booth. Reach out to the Association running the show about renting attendee lists for pre-registered attendees, previous show attendees and association member lists.

Don’t make the mistake of just telling people “come see us at booth 123,” instead reach out to potential visitors with a message that reinforces why they should visit your booth. Research your audience to find out what their major needs are and create a message that addresses that need. For example, we created a pre-show marketing campaign for one of our clients that promised to show visitors how they could save over $1 million dollars by using our client’s services. We created activities at the booth all tied around the savings theme and invited people to come take the savings challenge. This way we not only drew large crowds to the booth, but the visitors were coming to the booth predisposed to our client’s message. If you would like help coming with ideas for your next show, contact us for a free consultation.

Reach out to potential visitors in every available channel. Start your pre-marketing campaign early enough to take advantage of all of the show’s opportunities. Some offer show sponsorships or allow advertising on their websites, emails and other channels. Let your own social media followers know you will be at the show. Follow the show on Twitter and incorporate the show’s hashtag in your social media posts. Send personal email or direct mail initiations to your contact list, especially to those who are in the same city where the event will be held. If available, include an exhibit hall guest pass.

Pre-show marketing opportunities are plentiful but are they worth the effort? Research commissioned by The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) shows that those exhibitors who conducted a pre-show campaign raised by 46% their “attraction efficiency,” meaning the quality of the audience they were able to attract to their booths. Similarly, the conversion of booth visitors to qualified leads rose 50% when a pre-show promotion was used.

Setting Appointments

Trade shows are great opportunities to connect face-to-face with many current customers, suppliers, prospects, industry leaders and the media all in one place at one time. Setting appointments with people is a way to maximize your return on your show investment. Make sure to get cell phone numbers of everyone you make an appointment with. Trade shows are hectic and unpredictable. By collecting cell phone numbers in advance you will be able to confirm appointments and set up a meeting place away from the booth. Experience has shown us that if people walk by while your booth staff is in an involved conversation, they will skip your booth and move on to another one.

If you would like more suggestions about increasing booth traffic, contact us for a free, custom recommendation.

Trade Show Secrets: Booth Staff Training Part 6

trade show checklistIf you have been following our recent series on training booth staff, thus far we have covered the importance of preparing your staff so they understand the company’s marketing strategy and exhibiting goals, booth staff behavior and etiquette and how to familiarize them with the exhibit layout, demonstrations, badge scanners, promotional items, and collateral.

Today’s final post in the series, covers last minute checklist to make sure your next event goes off without a hitch.

  1. Instruct staffers where and when to pick up badges at exhibitor registration. While veteran staffers will likely be able to find the registration desk on their own, newbies might get overwhelmed.
  2. Go over show dates and hours and when staffers need to be at the booth. Discuss what staffers should do if they are running late for their assigned time or are unable to make it to the show floor. Consider scheduling a few floaters for every shift in case of no-shows and last-minute schedule changes.
  3. Present ground-transportation options, directions to the trade show venue (if walking or driving), and an estimate of how long it might take to travel from the hotel to the convention center on show days. This is especially helpful if booth staffers will be relying on show shuttles to and from the exhibit hall, since they generally take longer and often make multiple stops en route.
  4. Reinforce your company’s dress code and distribute booth uniforms (such as branded shirts) if you’re using them. Distributing uniforms during the training session is a good way to encourage staffers to attend the training session.
  5. Point out that exhibit storage for personal items is limited. You don’t want purses, laptops, and other personal belongings sitting out in the open. Not only does it make your exhibit appear messy and unkempt, but also it’s not secure.
  6. Discuss the schedule (and location) of end-of-day debrief meetings to review what worked and what didn’t work in the exhibit that day. These debriefs are a great time to get feedback from your team and brainstorm any necessary mid-course corrections to be implemented for the remainder of the trade show.
  7. Review the schedule and responsibilities for exhibit teardown. Booth staffers have a way of disappearing toward the end of the show, so assigning tasks ahead of time ensures your crew is there when you need them.

It is impossible to cover all the situations and possibilities that might arise at a trade show. Our team of event planners has decades of experience and has seen it all. If you would like help in preparing for an upcoming trade show or other event, contact us for a free consultation.

Trade Show Secrets: Booth Staff Training Part 5

In our previous post we discussed the importance of training booth staff on the differences between trade show selling and normal sales calls. Typical sales calls are focused, concentrated presentation where your salespeople can control much of the flow of the conversation. Trade show exhibit floors, on the other hand are crowded venues with many distractions and multiple exhibitors competing for the prospect’s time and attention. Without adequate preparation and training, a sales person can quickly become overwhelmed and ineffective. This is why exhibitors need a through booth staff training program.
While some booth staff can take place off-site, in this portion of our training series we will be discussing the need for an actual in-booth orientation. This training allows booth staffers to become acquainted with the exhibit layout, demonstrations, and tools such as badge scanners, promotional items, and collateral.
The in-booth orientation is a good time to review the location of the exhibit in relation to registration, hall entrances/exits, business partners, competitors, sit-down restaurants and fast food, coffee vendors, the exhibitor lounge, fire and emergency apparatus, the coat check, restrooms, shuttles and taxis, the show office, the press room, etc.
An exhibit tour should include an overview of the product and demo areas, theaters, meeting rooms, storage areas, etc. Go over available collateral literature such as data sheets, brochures, and white papers, along with their format (e.g., thumb drive, URL, or hard copy).

While in the booth, review product demonstrations and live presentations – this is the perfect opportunity to gather feedback and work out any last-minute kinks. Practice using the badge scanner/lead-retrieval system or lead forms. Emphasize how to properly record a lead to include lead quality, comments about what their main problems are and how your products solve them, and what the sales team needs to do next as a follow-up.

A comprehensive booth staff training plays an essential in helping your team be effective and productive at your next event. If you would like help in preparing for an upcoming show, contact us for a free consultation.


Trade Show Secrets: Booth Staff Training Part 4

handshake at trade showIn our previous post we discussed the importance of training booth staff in the context of the show and your company’s strategic and marketing objectives for the expo. In this portion of the booth training series, we will discuss sales techniques and booth etiquette.

Even though some of your best sales people may be exhibiting at the show, it is important to recognize that selling on a trade show floor is vastly different from selling in the field. It is difficult to imagine an environment with more distractions than a trade show floor.  The average trade show has over 400 exhibiters. Your prospects are distracted by the crush of people around them and with all your competitors vying for their attention. Inexperienced and unprepared booth staff can become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of people passing by the booth or the flashy presentation at the booth across the aisle.

Therefore, before your next show, make sure to train your staff on the differences between trade show selling and normal sales calls. Role playing before the show can help your booth staff rehearse and build confidence.  Team members should practice how to engage attendees in conversation, how to use questions to gauge and qualify attendee interest, how to pitch the offer, gain commitment, record information into whatever lead capture system you are using, and how follow up effectively.

Also incorporate proper booth etiquette in your booth staff training. Everything from body language to where to store personal items to eating, cellphone usage, sitting vs standing should be covered in your training sessions. Booth staff should be reminded that the company has made a major investment in making the show a success. Many attendees will be exposed to the company for the first time on the trade show floor. The impression your booth staff makes will determine whether your meet your show goals or not.

If you would like help in preparing for an upcoming show, contact us for a free consultation.