Monday, December 29, 2008

Mapping out the coming year

OK, it's slow and it seems there is nothing to do. Well, quite the contrary, get out the calendar and let's do some planning.

Each trade show program and calendar are unique, but many milestones are common. When is your keystone show? That is, what are the two or three large shows that anchor your calendar and help you shape your planning and revenue (and sales)? Let's try a few examples:

If you are in retail technology, you probably start the year at NRF (National Retail Federation) at the Javits Center in January. Fact is, if you are headed to this show, you better be ready, since it opens on January 11. FMI-Marketechnics is probably next in up May (this year in Dallas). The rest of the year is probably populated with medium-sized and smaller shows where you reach out more vertical segments of your market. Kind of a front-loaded year.

Healthcare technology probably is centered on HIMSS in February and AHIMA in October. Many smaller vertical shows fit in in March and the fall season to round out the slate.

Aviation and defense suppliers are at the Navy League (April), AUSA (October) and international air shows (Paris this year in June, Dubai in the fall and Australia in March).

Technology and data storage types rely on SNW Spring (April) and Fall (October) with Brainshare (March) and Oracle Open World (September) as pegs on the board. Add in the Microsoft TechEd series and the plan starts to flow.

Security providers and suppliers use the March Vegas-based ISC-West and September's ASIS (American Society of Industrial Security) as landmarks of horizontal business and fill in with ISC-East (August) and CardTech-SecureTech in between (along with regional ASIS' events).

So, look over your year and plot--your exhibit partners will appreciate the foresite and the projection. July and August are slow for them and for conferences and trade shows in general. Don't forget to plan a vaction for yourself and training, too (Exhibitor's show in Vegas in March and TS2 in the summer).

Lesson Learned: plan your work and work your plan. Make time your friend.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Connecting with prospects

I was reminded today of how long it takes to establish a relationship.

A colleague in Tucson, Fred Narcaroti, and I spent some time talking about how to build business. Fred pointed out that it takes a minimum of three contacts for a person to know you well enough to ask you about your business, let along award you business (a contract). When you apply this to trade shows and the world of face-to-face selling, you have to agree: a trade show is a step in the process of changing suspects into prospects and then into clients.

On the trade show floor, you most likely are meeting your contact for the first time. It could be the very first contact or could be the first face-to-face talk. It might could be the time you meet to close a deal. The point is, it is a step in a process. Whether it's three times, as Fred suggests, or 6 or 9 times, you have to make the connection on more than a "hi-how-are-you-can-I-sell-you-something" basis. As we've discussed earlier in this space, people do business with people who they like. And it akes time to get to know someone.

Lesson Learned: take the time to get to know your prospects and be patient.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Trade shows, networking and LinkedIn

What do these three things have in common? They are all about making positive, direct contact with people.

While I am, and probably always will be, the advocate for face-to-face contact (the first two), the third item is growing in both popularity and effectiveness. But I have learned, as with the other two, these methods work best when they are a part of a larger campaign.

Let's skip right to LinkedIn: I learned a valuable lesson just yesterday on it's power and usefulness. For those of you not familiar, it is, in quick summary, the social media choice for B2B types, a Facebook for business people. Within in it, you post a profile and make connections. With those connections you can ask for and make recommendations and introductions. And here is where it gets complicated for some.

Making a recommendation or introduction is a priviledge. As a connection pointed out to me, we are the guardians of our relationships and play a role of "trusted advisor". In other words, don't go willy-nilly connecting or recommending people you just met. This isn't an electronic bar scene where one is out to score, but rather an extension of the trade show floor where you either start a conversation (or relationship) or take another step in the process. Don't abuse what you have been trusted with.

Lesson Learned: place value on the relationships you have and are developing and respect, not abuse, those that have entrusted you.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

An open letter to Steve Jobs about trade shows

Dear Steve,

In yesterday's release about MacWorld 2009, did you really say "Trade shows do not deliver the same return on investment that they did in the past."? I realize the real news in the release was about you not being the keynote at this event, but, come on, that isn't really the kind of message you, an advocate of effective brand selling, wants to deliver in this economy, now is it?

I can understand if MacWorld has run its course as a B2B trade show or a platform for you and Apple. I can also understand if the sales cycle of Apple has gotten to the point that shows don't fit your marketing mix. But to write off shows with a general sweep of the hand as not driving sales well and being a "once-a-year shot" is unfair to an entire industry.

Even without the stats from our friends at CEIR or Exhibitor Magazine , trade shows still are the best return on investment when it comes to face-to-face selling. The basic math says you can meet more customers/prospects/suspects for the price of a single air fare and expenses in one place than you can with one-on-one sales calls. Plus you get the benefit of featuring your brand in a showcase where business leaders and leading buyers are in one place where you are side by side with your partners and competitiors. And let's not forget that face-to-face selling closes sales faster than multiple e-mails, phone calls and text messages. You are better off standing next to your client than you are watching them on a screen. The live experience just can't be replaced.

So, please, don't write off an entire show or industry just because it doesn't fit your specific needs. Of course your products are best sold through your stores or on line. But where else can you be the face of a whole industry, a thought leader? Where else can you encounter people and start conversations that might not otherwise have been possible?

I realize shows are expensive and ROI is important, particularly in this economy. However, there is also ROO (return on objective) and the almost immeasureable brand impact that must also be considered.

Thanks for reading, Steve. Happy holidays and best wishes to you and your family and good health to you. I appreciate all you've done for your industry, technology, entertainment and America. Be thinking about your friends in the trade show industry and what we could really be doing together in 2009 and beyond.

The Trade Show Guy (TTSG)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting answers to your questions

Recently a client asked her incumbent exhibit house a simple question and got the runaround. I'm still not sure why.

The question she asked was for a set of set up or construction drawings. She is adding a graphic to a backwall of a booth she has in her warehouse and needs the dimensions of the wall for her graphic vendor.

The reply to her request was off-putting and cryptic--no, they didn't have any drawings and the sent her the space layout for a long-past show. No help at all.

Now, why the constructor of an exhibit doesn't have assembly or engineering drawings is beyond me. How did it get built? How is it assembled by the I&D crew? Could it be because they weren't being asked to produce the new graphic that they were being evasive? Hmmm.....

There is absolutely no reason my client shouldn't have gotten a set of drawings. She, after all, owns the booth. As it is, she is now having to be inconvenienced by pulling the wall from the crate and measuring it by hand. This involves forklift drivers, time, travel, etc., etc., etc.

Lesson Learned: you own the drawings, designs and electronic files and all that comes with your booth. be sure to ask for it or an explanation of why you don't or can't have it. Be straight with your vendor and have high expectations.