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August 2000

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Trade Shows

Tricks of the Trade Shows

By Gayle O'Connor

Tricks of the Trade ShowsEVERY YEAR, law firms and legal industry vendors include trade shows as an integral part of their marketing strategy. They carefully choose which shows to attend and allocate a significant portion of marketing dollars for those shows.

But do exhibitors get the best return on their investment? Too many times, the answer is an emphatic "No!" It is not enough to simply show up and staff your booth. It's not enough to have a snazzy give-away, a slick booth or a great contest, (although these things don't hurt!)

The most important aspect of a successful tradeshow appearance begins long before you arrive at the venue: goal setting. The key to successful exhibiting is knowing what you want to achieve from your show participation.

What are your goals? Five sales for the show? Twenty-five qualified leads per day? One business card for each give-away? To introduce new products or services? To enhance company image? To educate attendees? To conduct market research? Define your goals and you're off to a good start.

Here are more tips to maximize the value of your trade show investment:

1. Understand the Motivation

Today's trade show attendees have a variety of motivations. They may attend simply to earn continuing education credits; they may be anticipating a major technology revamp; they may be just looking for an hour's escape from a dreary brief. But few view trade shows as "mini-vacations. Most arrive with a business purpose, even if the show's at Waikiki Beach

Likewise, exhibitors' motivations have shifted -- from pitching products to consulting with customers, identifying their needs; (as well as exploring partnerships with othyer vendors, in order to build businesses.)

Wise exhibitors now focus on creating customer intimacy.

2. Web Follow-up

Studies report that 22 percent of interested attendees visit a vendor's Web site after the show. One consequence is that small businesses can have the same attraction power as big exhibitors. At least for now, your Web site is still a level playing ground. Keep it current!

3. Stand Out!

Expand your listing in the on-site show guide. Attendees use this list to determine whether or not your company has anything to offer them. Pay the additional fee to expand this listing and include your company logo. Make sure the cost of your enhanced listing includes a link to your company on the show Web site.

4. Size Doesn't Matter

Even the smallest booth should have a theme that is integrated with the rest of your marketing materials and your company's image.

5. Read Your Manual

Be sure your booth staff has read your company's own materials, especially if you have hired temporary workers to assist you. The written materials should contain the answers to the most frequently asked questions. Consider printing up extra copies for your booth.

6. Worthwhile Give-aways

Your giveaway should be both creative, but also an extension of your company's "message." Don't just leave gifts out for any one to take. It It lowers the perceived value of the gift.

Be sure to get qualifying information from the visitor before handing over a gift. Use gifts as a "thank-you" token for stopping at your booth.

7. Weight Is Money

Drayage is the number one expense at any trade show; make sure you bring what you need to meet your goals, but be careful. You'd be surprised how much it costs to ship 5,000 hand-outs, media kits and the creative giveaways! Consider utilizing a local printer (Kinko's, etc.) rather than shipping paper.

8. Location, Location, Location

Choosing a front spot for your booth is not always better. Look for the multiple cross paths; they are not always at the entrance of the show. Think about where people will want to walk -- where is the location of key magnets, such as food, seminars and bathrooms!

9. Make a List

Before you come to the show, make one last round of calls to the service contractor, hotel, trucking company, audio/visual providers, and booth staff, to confirm all arrangements.

10. The Right Workers

If you want sales, put sales people in the booth. If you want to create buzz, put in marketers. If you want people to understand your technology, have at least one "techie" who can speak in declarative sentences, without using the words "solution, robust, deploy, mission-critical" or "enterprise."

If you want to gather business cards based solely on your give-away, you can hire spokesmodels (but make sure they can speak in declarative sentences).

11. Velcro

Bring it. Lots of it! Make a trade show kit that includes: stapler, extra pens, lint brush, Swiss army knife and/or utility blade (with extra blades), batteries, pliers, tape, and, of course, a corkscrew.

12. Build For Success

Know the event's restrictions, for such things as line of sight, and ceiling heights.

13. Know the Territory

Need to make color copies, buy supplies or find the nearest hardware store? Know where to go before the crisis hits. You can call the hotel before the show to find out what's available or simply check the Web.

14. Plan For Time-Outs

Nobody can work a booth 24/7 and still be fresh. If you provide time for your staff to do a few hours of sightseeing or a quick visit to the hotel spa, they will be more enthusiastic about coming and more energetic on the show floor.

15. Where's My Booth?

If money is not an issue and time is, ship your booth early to the contractor's warehouse. You'll face a service charge, usually 25 percent, but you will be assured of being one of the first to be delivered on-site.

16. Crate it and/or Shrink it

Most contractors will add on as much as a 25 percent service charge if your exhibit material is loose-packed or blanket wrapped. Whenever possible, palette and shrink-wrap boxes. Crate or box all booth and furniture equipment.

17. What's the Question?

Have an open-ended question to ask passers-by. Conduct a conversation, not an inquisition!

18. Phrases to avoid

I don't know. We don't do that. Our policy is ... You have to call. Just a minute.

19. Badges

Have your badge or company ID in hand when you get to the show. Pre-register everyone who will staff your booth or attend from your firm or company. Don't get all the way to the show only to be denied entrance to the hall.

20. Copycat

Keep and bring with you a back-up of all forms, contracts and confirmations.

21. Return To Sender

Have plenty of large pre-printed shipping labels on hand for the return of your crates and product after the show. Fill them out before the show so you don't have to do it at the end, when you're tired.

22. Paper Overload

Don't print up a brochures only to have them end up in trash bins. A one-page fact sheets specific to their interests is best.

Better yet: Get their business card and send them e-mail.

23. Shoes, Shoes, Shoes

Never, ever, ever test new shoes at a tradeshow. You'll be happiest in a pair of tried-and-trues!

24. No Phone Calls

Never make phone calls from the booth. Step behind your booth or leave the show floor.

25. Time is Money

Most attendees pre-plan which exhibits they will visit before they arrive at the show, and don't just cruise the aisles

You might want to consider mailing invitations to key prospects, offering special appointments to see you during the show.

Gayle O'Connor is marketing manager of the legal business unit at Pro2Net Corp., based in Seattle. This article is based on a presentation at ABA TECHSHOW 2000, that also featured Henry Dicker, of American Lawyer Media Inc., and Tracie M. Burns, of Legal Voice.

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