Conventions 101

For companies that operate on a national or international scale, conventions and trade shows can be critical to their marketing mix. Such events help the company:

  • Identify and connect with new business prospects that can be worked the rest of the year.

  • Heighten visibility and ramp up their image with existing clients.

  • Gain industry recognition.

  • Create additional sales opportunities with current prospects.

  • Develop more personal relationships with clients and prospects (after all, people like to do business with people they know).

  • Network with non-competing vendors to develop additional sales leads.

  • Gain valuable information on their industry, their market and their competition.

It Doesn’t Come Cheap 

Aside from hidden expenses involving the time and effort spent planning for a convention or trade show, there’s the expense of the event itself and then the follow-up. 

Typically these expenses can consume 25% to as much as 100% of a company’s marketing budget. So it makes good business sense to optimize results. The kicker is that most CEOs just don’t know how. I can always tell a company is going to have problems whenever I see its CEO working their convention booth. CEOs need to spend their time running their companies, concentrating on revenues and bottom lines, raising operating capital, attending important meetings… and not handing out free pens or key chains. 

How to Maximize Results

The best axiom to remember is, “Never skimp on planning.” That’s because the ultimate level of success your company can achieve with trade shows and conventions totally depends on the quality and scope of your event planning.

Aside from the obvious planning and prep work, you’ll also want to create and practice your elevator pitch: a 30 second (hope-fully witty) introduction to your company and benefits of your primary product or service.

Most importantly, you should create lists of key prospects, clients, suppliers and possible contacts for networking that are known to be attending the event. Develop a plan for approaching and/or meeting with each of them before you attend the event and establish clear cut objectives for the outcomes you seek in each case. Most successful CEOs and executives from large companies only attend the convention for one or two days and already have their schedules set before they arrive. So if you don’t already have an appointment chances are that you’ll be handing your marketing material to a temp.

Follow Up Begins Before the Event 

With conventions and trade shows, it’s all in the follow up. After these events, you typically have only a 24- to 48-hour window of opportunity to get back to prospective customers. You’ve got to understand the mindset of the people at these events. Be they an exhibitor or attendee, one way or another everyone who attends these events is there for the purpose of growing their companies. They’ve all got big ideas and feel a real sense of excitement about the future of their company.

As soon as they get back to their respective offices, the real world sets in. Piles of messages and work put off until their return are waiting for them. The euphoric mindset wears off in a day or two, so you’ve got to get whatever it was you promised into their hands before they forget about you and your company’s products or services they were interested in. That window of opportunity is so fleeting that you need to plan all your follow up efforts in advance of the event itself. That includes having staffers back at your office to get promised materials mailed or shipped out even before you return so they’re in front of prospects while that window is still open. It’s that important.

Wasted Time Is Wasted Money

 If you’re the CEO, you need to be upwardly mobile at the event and should focus on working the convention floor, holding meetings, networking, checking the competition and doing everything you can to promote the company’s name and image, and not sitting in a booth for 8 hours a day. 

  • Survey the venue and nearby locations to determine the best places to meet people – both accidentally and on purpose.

  • Walk the exhibit hall and conference areas. Don’t expect prospects and clients to seek you out. 

  • Use suppliers and exhibitors to help you network. Do appropriate favors for them in return.

  • Attend cocktail parties, seminars and other functions that offer the greatest opportunities for making contact with prospects and clients.

  • Constantly press the flesh, meet people, network, work the floor, talk to everyone you can. Don’t be shy about it, either. Time is money. Before starting your conversation make sure you get the prospects business card and/or contact information. Otherwise, you may make an incredible 10 minute sales pitch to a person you’ll never meet again.

Finally, ask questions. The more you know about your prospect, the better your sales pitch will be. Promotional products for your next convention are available at ImagineThatPromo.com.  

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