Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NACS correction

I stand corrected. My copy of Trade Show Executive arrived today and in it was their annual "Gold 100" of top trade shows.

NACS is number 52. I had my stats wrong.

The show typically over 380,000 square feet of exhibition space, it does move between cities (rotating through Chicago, but including Atlanta and Orlando). There are almost 1,400 exhibitors and the attendance typically is over 22,000 over the three days of the show.

I'll learn more first hand starting tomorrow.


Monday, September 29, 2008

The NACS Show

I'm traveling on Wednesday to a show that is significant in American marketing and the trade show world: the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). I've never been to this show, so this should be a treat and an experience.

The exhibition is held in conjunction with the NACS conference and educational sessions. The conference is aimed at the owners of and suppliers to convenience stores and deals with their issues which include everything from food marketing to cigarette theft to beer and lottery sales. This organization has been around since 1961 and is really a big part of the petroleum industry. It is nothing to sneeze at or take lightly: with almost 150,000 C-stores in the U.S. doing $570 billion in business ($400 million of it in petroleum sales), they are a significant part of our retail economy.

This show features over 1,400 exhibitors in two halls of McCormick Place in Chicago. The show stays put every year (like the National Restaurant Show) and features suppliers of everything from gum and candy to food and automotive products and energy drinks. Like AWMA (which I attended in the spring) this is a variation on the "cigarettes and candy" show theme.

My client is Retalix, a provider to the industry of point-of-sale (POS) hardware and software and related systems. I'll be reporting from the show over the next week on issues as I encounter them and plan to put each one into a lesson-type format.

Thanks for staying tuned. We should learn a lot from the show floor.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shoe shines and trade shows

I made my regular visit to Mr. B, the man who shines my shoes, and came away with yet another life lesson.

No, I'm not going to talk about hiring one of those shoe-shine girls for your trade show booth to build traffic. We're going to talk about customer contact and service.

Whenever I stop to see Mr. B instead of reading the paper while he works, we talk about things--politics, Dallas history, people. He's always careful about what he says as he is a gentleman. However, just by listening, I've learned about the history of the neighborhood, Catholic schools and churches in Dallas, the city council. Truthfully, I do the listening and he does the talking.

Which is my point here: be aware that your customer is going to talk and you need to listen. And your customer is listening when you talk. So be careful what you say. Stay on message. And always tell the truth.

As for quality: Mr. B never misses a beat, even while he's talking. The shoe care and shine are always the same and always excellent. The routine seldom varies and the product is very, very consistent. But in addition to the shine, he's engaged and entertained me, informed me and made me relax a bit before the day starts. And I look better for the rest of the day.

Nothing like a good shine to make a person feel good.

Lesson learned: listen, speak carefully and don't vary the quality of your product.


Monday, September 22, 2008

The well-planned and executed show

Consider that the well-planned and executed trade show does these two things:

1. Enhances all of your other marketing efforts
2. Brings your brand to life

Enhancing other efforts. When your ads, web pages, direct mail, sales collateral, electronic direct marketing, personal selling and publicity all have the same messages woven into them and match your show presence, you are memorable and truly "on message."

Bringing the brand to life. When you create an effective trade show experience, you are creating a unique selling environment. It is equal parts:
  • Interactive (in real time)
  • Human (1-on-1)
  • Immersive (your brand surrounds the buyers)
  • Dimensional (a 3-D space reflecting your brand and that is alive)

Lesson learned: Trade shows and events are THE most dramatic and memorable extension of your brand of all media.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

The three basics in show planning

From the AAF speech:

There are three things you want to have as the underpinnings of your show program or approach:

1. Strategy
2. Planning
3. Measurement

If you don't have a strategic direction, it's just a space that isn't accomplishing anything. Know why you are going to a show, how it fits into your program and what it can deliver.

If you don't plan, it won't be worth your time and money nor deliver the results you deserve from all of your efforts. Trade shows and events cost maoney and take time. Plan your work and work your plan.

If you don't measure what you've done, then you won't know what to do next time. If you set clear, measurable objectives before you start, then when you are finished, you'll have something tangible that will help you understand and grow your business.

Lesson learned: be strategic, plan your approach and execute and quantify the results.


Effectvely using premiums and giveaways

How do I use premiums to my best advantage at a show? Should I have more than one kind?

This was a question posed to me at the AAF-Abilene regional seminar yesterday. The questioner was concerned that have a bowl of giveaways was just playing to the general "lookie-loos" at a show and a waste of money. While she admited that they needed to have those items for the show crowd, was there a better way and how could it benefit their efforts to be at the show.

My advice to her was to consider having three levels of giveaways for her booth visotrs:

1. The general, cheap stuff
2. A step up for warm prospects
3. Something really good for those really important clients

The general, cheap stuff could be a bowl of candy or those sticky bugs with a ribbon with your company name. Something that is cheap and satisfies thaose who want to have something in their bag to take home (these are big at education and school board shows).

A step up is a little nicer gift: coffee mug, coaster, nice pin. Something that you give sto someone who asks a question, completes a survey or generally imparts some information.

The third level, something really good, is kept out of sight and only given to those prospects that really could deliver an order or sale. A nice clock or desk accesory. Maybe you've been expecting them and want to recognize them. At any rate, it shows them you think they are special.

Lesson Learned: scale and plan your giveaways as traffic builders.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Show planning is like moving

I recently purchased a home and I found that I'll need my trade show planning skills to help me execute this move.

It seems there are a lot of similarities between show planning and move planning:

1. Make a master list
2. Pay attention to and adhere to deadlines
3. Watch your budget

Make a master list. The ubiquitous "to-do" list is useful just about anytime you have to accomplish numerous tasks. Make the list and assign deadlines, then order the list in date order. Which leads us to...

Pay attention and adhere to deadlines. "It has to be on the truck on (date)" applies most definitely to moving as well as trade shows. If you're not ready to load out, have a contingency plan (another truck, backup plans). But be sure to not grow your costs too much, because....

You have to watch your budget. Costs can grow if you're not careful. Missing deadlines, ordering things not in the plan, forgetting to add an item to the list or adding it late.

Lesson learned: no detail is too small in moving or trade show planning.