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Strategies

Rising business travel costs have resulted in fewer browsers attending trade shows. According to Allen Konopacki, president of the Chicago-based INCOMM Center for Research and Sales Training, “They are being replaced by more serious shoppers. Because of time poverty, they visit shows with agendas or problems they want exhibitors to help with.” Konopacki suggests that it is increasingly important to meet the need of the time-constrained attendee who wants real information and immediate feedback, and suggests the following tips. ? Keep it to a page: Provide a one-page fact sheet at the show, instead of a brochure. The most serious prospects prefer not to wait for information to be sent following the show. Strike when the decision process is hot. ? Increase pre-show promotions: 33 percent of people who visit an exhibit are influenced by pre-show mailings. Direct mail provides an incentive to visit the booth and helps prime the pump. The pre-show mailing list should follow a descending priority. Start with existing customers who are proven buyers. Follow with any previous lead inquiry that resides on your prospect data files. Next go to the people who made their way to your booth at last year’s show. Then try a list broker or show registration list. Texas Instruments used its distributor’s customer list for a recent COMDEX show mailing and increased its response rate by 66 percent versus the show registration list. The increase was measured in terms of number of qualified leads and dollars written after the show. Postcards are a more effective, guaranteed quick read. But any mailing should include a photo or visual and provide a compelling reason to visit the exhibit. Don’t forget, one mailing is not enough. A minimum of three mailings is required to garner attention. ? Ask for more names: Identify other people with whom booth visitors will share information once they return home. Sixty percent of visitors will share the information with at least two other decision-makers within their company after the show. Ask for those names. And always allow space on a lead form for other contacts. ? Customer intimacy is “in:” Design your booth layout to create a warm, friendly discussion area. Create a side-by-side discussion zone, remove barriers between you and the visitor. Small, round counter-high discussion tables increase sales interaction and get prospects to stop and talk about their needs. Incidentally, time is precious. Fifty-eight percent of prospects will not wait longer than one minute for a sales representative’s attention at a trade show exhibit. Only 28 percent will wait up to three minutes, and 14 percent will wait up to five minutes. ? Dress casually: Dress should be bright and business-casual. Long-sleeve shirts with company logos have replaced business suits that look more intimidating. Avoid golf shirts. Research shows that they are too casual and reduce credibility. ? It happens late in the day: You’ll meet the genuine prospects toward the end of the day. Serious buyers run out of time and cram in the most urgent needs just before they are forced to leave. Don’t discount the last few visitors as tire kickers. Booth staff energy and enthusiasm should remain high for these last-minute shoppers. ? It happens on the Web: Increasingly, attendees are visiting the Web site after the show to avoid the sales pitch. If that’s the case, distribute business cards with a name and a Web address only. It replaces the expensive brochure, and research shows that recipients of the card are much more likely to visit the Web site because of the curiosity factor. Consider customizing your site for each trade show. It’s an effective strategy for products with multiple application. Gore, the maker of Gortex, has a Gore Military Fabric site for the specific niche visitor (www.goremilitary.com). Trade-show exhibiting is not an inexpensive marketing proposition. By the time you count design, construction, transportation, sales materials, entertainment and staff time, the cost per visitor and inquiry can become prohibitive. Yet, there are predictive elements and behavioral rules that can dramatically improve the number and quality of trade-show leads and boost after-show sales revenue. Most small businesses ignore that body of experience at their peril. Konopacki sums it up best: “Trade-show attendees are more focused, desiring immediate answers and higher quality information. It has become increasingly important to adapt trade-show marketing strategies to these changes.” Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant. He can be contacted via e-mail at zubicon@aol.com or by fax at (770) 952-7834.

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