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The Importance of Trade Shows - some tips and trends!

DirectTalk with Winnifred

Throughout the year I get many questions from my readers as to why they should either participate in exhibitions or trade shows or whether it is of importance for them (and their employees) to attend any of these events. And what impact the Internet has had on trade shows?

While the exhibition industry predicted its own demise because of the Web, something interesting happened: The rise of the virtual office served only to reaffirm the importance of the human touch in doing business. In many industries, the trade show has become a must-seize marketing opportunity. It's a time to meet and greet existing and prospective customers and get valuable first-hand feedback on your product or service and close sales.

Trade Show Facts
Margit Weisgal, Exhibit Marketing Consultant of Sextant Communications says: "A trade show enables you to develop trust and rapport with your customers. Once you have that, you can leave voice- and emails with a face behind them. Taking your business to your target market gives you access to a captive audience that's primed to buy."

According to Tradeshow Week's Data Book, 86% of show attendees called the shots or influenced buying, 85% had not been called on by a salesperson before the show, and 75% left the show with at least one purchase. Over the past decade, the number of commercial exhibitions has grown 4.1% annually, with 4,503 held in the USA. In all, about 123 million people will attend a trade show this year.

A national survey done by Data & Strategies Group, showed that closing a sale with an exhibition lead costs an average of $625 and takes 1.3 follow-up calls. Compare that with the average $1,117 cost and 3.7 phone calls needed to close a sale otherwise. It would be interesting to see what the equivalent costs are in South Africa?

And some tips
Choosing the appropriate trade show, motivating your customers to attend, setting realistic sales goals and following up on your leads is a challenge for many. However, when you do it right, your company can get a month's worth of business into three days, says Mark Smith, from the Guerrilla Group.

But many do it wrong. A recent survey in the USA showed that 54% of exhibitors admitted they didn't set objectives beforehand. To choose the right show, scope it out first and once you have decided where you're going to exhibit, you will need to inform your existing and prospective customers. Allocate part of your budget for pre-show advertising, direct mailers and personal phone calls to make sure that attendees write you into their show agendas. 75% of show attendees say that they make out their schedules in advance, with clear objectives in mind. Direct mail motivates 53% of previous show attendees and 29% of newcomers to visit your booth.

On the show floor, it's important that your staff is well trained to demonstrate your product and sell it. Attendees who leave dissatisfied complain that salespeople did not meet their needs and objectives, weren't available to help them, or seemed untrustworthy.

Getting attention on a crowded show floor isn't easy. Create an 'experience' that your attendee will remember, and build a respectable-looking booth inexpensively without being tacky. Don't clutter the space with lots of giveaways, but do hand out your business card and a small gift with your logo and contact details on it to qualified leads. One way to boost your profile is to become an expert resource to others in your industry.

Follow-up your leads
For most exhibitors, the really hard work begins once the show is over. That's when you'll have to follow up on all of your leads as soon as possible, while your company is still fresh in their minds. You need to analyse what you learned from the show experience and adjust what you're doing accordingly.

Experts suggest that you commit at least 30% of your trade-show budget to the follow-up. Trade shows become a 'gossipy society' unto themselves, where your can either grow your business through word-of- mouth and positive experiences or the reverse. In many sectors, trade shows are the preferred venue for doing business.

Winnifred Knight
Director and Owner -
Mobile: 082 575 9922

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