Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Total Cost of Program

Managing a trade show program of more than one show require broader thinking. Because you are using properties in multiple locations (and for possible different mixes of products and services), you really need to look at cost beyond the cost of each show.

In fact, combining costs across your spectrum of shows allows for economies of scale and, ultimately, savings by sharing. I've always called this approach a Total Cost of Program evaluation.

Start with lining up your shows side by side on the calendar (for the year, January to December or 18- or 24-months out). Be sure to include all the things that contribute to expenses over the year:

  1. Space rental
  2. Exhibit house expenses (pull & prep, load out and in)
  3. Show-specific changes (new graphics)
  4. Show services (electrical, drayage, rentals)
  5. Freight
  6. I&D
  7. Warehousing (for the year)
  8. Supporting contractors
  9. Your travel (if it comes out of your budget)
  10. Repairs and major changes
  11. Capital cost amortization

Total things by row and column with a grand total at the bottom right (if you use an Excel spreadsheet like I do). That grand total is you total cost of program.

Now you can divide this by account numbers or departments or charge off to partners. Or, when reality sets in, find ways to combine shows or services, cut deals on multiple functions with your vendors or other cost cutting measure.

If you want a copy of the spreadsheet I use or have otehr comments, please leave a note in the comments space below and I'll get one to you.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Classifying leads

I know I dwell on this, but let's talk about leads. Gathering leads is one of the primary reasons we are at shows--we are there to itneract with suspects, prospects and clients and maybe find a few new ones in the process. So, let's talk about one way to classify leads.

Whether you are collecting business cards or swiping mag-striped attendee badges, you need to pay attention to and classify (separate) your gathered leads. The most straight-forward way I've used over the years is to call them as you see them as they are collected. That is, instruct your staff to mark the lead sheets with one of these codes:

  1. Hot leads are those that need immediate attention (usually before or at the end of the day). They want to make a buying decision now. Mark them with an "A" or "1" or as "Hot".
  2. Medium or warm leads are those that need to be dealt with in the next few days. They probably want to learn more or see a sales rep. Mark them with a "B" or "2" or as "Warm".
  3. Cool or cold leads are the least of your worries. However, don't ignore them. Usually they are the people who stop by your booth and want literature or to just say hello. Mark them "C", "3" or "Cold" and add them to the data base for later action.
Take some action with your leads at the end of each day. Collect them and have someone in charge of the process take the action. Turn your leads into sales. There are whole books and seminars written about turning leads into sales. One of the first steps is collecting them at the show and putting them into your sales process.

Don't forget this is part of the ROI discussion. But we'll save that for another time.

Lesson learned: diligently collect and process your show leads. Don't leave them behind, lose them or forget about the.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The small stuff: staging freight

From time to time there are small, detail items that help save us time, money, effort or all three. One of those small things we should sweat is staging freight.

If you arrive at show site before your work starts and before your freight is unloaded, you have a great opportunity to stage your crates and your shipment. By placing the crates and goods around your space before you start set up, you'll be putting hings where they can be unloaded with the most efficiency. Be sure to think about:

  • Your detailed manifest and floor plan
  • Where the no-freight aisles are
  • Where your electrical and internet connections will surface in the booth

By having the manifest, you will know what crate (by number) has which items (walls, headers, workstations). Couple this list with your floor plan and you'll know where to place them so the I&D team can move things with the least effort. Make sure you know which way doors open and swing.

Don't put things in no-freight aisles. You'll just end up moving them.

Knowing where electrical and internet terminate in your booth will make rolling out the pad and carpet that much more efficient. Bring a market and tape measure and work with your lead person and electrician to make sure it is clear where things are.

Lesson learned: plan ahead to save your head.


Saying goodbye--leaving a vendor relationship

It happens. The trade show supplier you worked with for so long has changed--maybe they have new owners or a new account executive. Perhaps their pricing policies have changed or they don't understand your new business strategy. Whatever the reason, you've chosen to move on.

As with any relationship, a business divorce doesn't have to be ugly or bitter. Actually, it can work out quite nicely, if done professionally and clearly. Consider these items when you've finally decided to move on:

  1. Move quickly.
  2. Make your intentions known in writing.
  3. Depart with dignity.

By moving quickly, you save both you and the exhibit company you are leaving time and money. Don't waste their time and be fair in how you tell them. Moving your goods when most of them are at a show seems to be the most efficient--the goods don't have to go back into their warehouse just to turn around and go back out. This reduces handling and shipping costs.

Write a clear communication--preferably a letter sent registered or via e-mail and fax (or all three). Describe in detail what you are going to do, when and what you expect in return. Be prepared not to receive any of your properties without having paid your final bill. Be sure and ask for not just your trade show booth and crates, but all that is yours--product, computer, graphics, set-up drawings, electronic files. Don't leave empty handed (I have an example letter should anyone want or need one). Anything you bought and paid for belongs to your company.

Depart with dignity. Be classy--in the trade show business as in most other close-knit communities--you never know who you will work with or for in the future. Remember the old saw--be careful to look because you may be standing on the bridge you are burning.

Lesson learned: be classy, clear but covet what belongs to your company.


Sunday, July 13, 2008


Where do you keep your exhibit when it isn't being used? Have you budgeted for the cost to store and handle your booth between shows?

Most of us overlook this less-than-trivial expense when planning our total cost of program budget. No matter the size of your booth (or booths) you need to consider where it's going to live when it isn't either on the road or at a show. You can store you exhibit in one of several places:

  1. An exhibit company
  2. Your own warehouse or office
  3. Another third party
A really good choice is an exhibit company in that they know and understand exhibits. However, this will be the most expensive as they will charge you not only to store the booth and other things, but they will charge you every time your goods are touched (either to ship in or out or inspect and repair).

If you choose to use your own office or warehouse, make sure you have adequate space or a way to handle it. If you use the company warehouse, will the warehouse manager charge your internal budget to store it? Do you need a forklift or a specialist to handle it? Do they understand you need access to it at anytime and do they know how to handle it so it isn't harmed?

If you have a third party who can help you (printer, trucker, I&D company, premium supplier), do they understand the same perimeters--access, handling, care? What will they charge you and how much?

You need to consider the following when choosing a place:

  1. How it will be stored
  2. The cost to store
  3. How it will be handled and cared for
How and where your goods will be stored is important in that humidity, heat, cold and security play a role in how long your exhibit will last. Do you have your own area in the storage facility? Do you have access?

The cost to store takes on many forms: Are you chaged by the square or cubic foot or the "rack". Are you paying for more than the physical space your booth occupies? Are you charged for in and out as well as other types of handling?

Handling and care encompasses who and how your goods will be touched. Do you have an assigned warehouseman or person? Is inspection and periodic repair something the storage place can help you with?

Lesson learned: Choose how, where and with who you store your booth carefully as it can hit your budget in a large way without proper planning.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Live and in person

Let's talk about trade shows live and in person. Remember, this medium is all about face-to-face interaction, so I'm going to practice what I preach.

I'm on the program at the AAF (American Advertising Federation) District 10 Summer Leadership Conference this fall. The event runs September 18-20, 2008, in Abilene, Texas.

In the two sessions I'll cover making the most of face-to-face selling with effective trade shows. It's a chance for those not familiar with trade shows to be exposed to this important medium. Overall, we'll build our discussion around:

  1. Strategy
  2. Planning
  3. Measurement
Within that framework, we'll talk about having continuity within your whole mix, but to pay special attention to shows, the only medium that really touches the customer. We'll also talk about budget basics, staffing and show examples of effective exhibits. It will be fun and interactive and, most importantly, live.

For more information on the conference, please visit www.aafabilene.com or contact Callie Morris at Zachry Associates, 325-677-1342, x120, or cmorris@zachryinc.com.

Join us. Or, if you can't, read about it in this space.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Patience, Persistence and Passion

Over the past few weeks I've been in several situations that all lend themselves to human interaction. And while they are very divergent activities (a wedding, a fishing trip and a meeting with my management), several themes rang true. These same themes lend themselves to face-to-face marketing and trade shows.

  1. Patience.
  2. Persistence.
  3. Passion.
A wedding is the ultimate event when it comes to planning. There is every detail to attend to on a schedule rivaling a space shuttle launch. And let's not talk about budget. Everyone involved had to be patient, there was a persistence in making sure we all followed through with our respective roles and the passion with which it was all orchestrated goes without saying.

When our company's management came to town for an annual review, the same attributes were present: we had been persistent in meeting our goals, they had been patient with us in meeting them (and reporting them) and it was evident we had a pasion for the work we were doing for the company.

The fishing trip was the ultimate example, however: no one can sit in a boat waiting for a fish and braving the elements without being patient, persisting despite the bugs and rain and they sure must have passion for the sport.

I know this more of a "think piece" than usual, but I didn't want the lesson lost on us in the trade show industry:

  1. We must be patient with our managers as well as our customers.
  2. We must be persistent in promoting our view that trade shows are integral to the business cause of the company.
  3. We must continue to have a passion for the work that we do.