Make The Most Of Expos
Many business owners believe that expos and big shows are the best way to promote and grow their business. But are they?
Expos and Shows are expensive with costs for hiring the space, stands for displaying the goods, paying staff to help with the long hours of a show, marketing materials, transport costs, accommodation and meals if you’re away from home and there’s always other costs that you just didn’t see coming.
So you need to set out what the end results you want from the expo to be – how much money do you want to make, how many new spending customers do you want, how many warm leads do you want from the show and what size customer list do you want?
I learned my lessons very early on with an expensive show that everything went wrong. Customers didn’t turn up, the show was a fizzer and I was out of pocket many thousands of dollars and none of my show goals were achieved. I was fortunate that I don’t sell food or a limited seasonal product.
So when I started figuring out what went wrong and how I could have reduced my risks I started seeing other ways to get the benefits of shows.
I decided the local trade show was an expo worth exploring so I went along to see what is involved, get talking to exhibitors about what they like and dislike about the show, who was the competition – what they sold, how they managed customers, what business systems they had and what was their approach to customer service.
I came out of it thinking it was an expensive project and wanting to figure out how to get the benefits of their customers without the cost.
The trade show is run by an industry association with two levels of membership – the broad retail customers level and the more expensive wholesalers membership level.
As a wholesale member you have access to the retail members’ database and they have access to the wholesale members’ database – all part of the benefits of being part of your industry association.
The wholesale membership costs less than 10% of the cost of hiring a small space at the trade show – so a saving of 90% with access to the retailer membership contact details so you can directly communicate to them to introduce and build a relationship with your business.
If you choose to do an expo you increase the chances of it being profitable and successful by introducing your business to the prospective customers before the expo. This lets you have customers come to the expo knowing who you are, that you’re going to be there and expecting to place orders with you. Much better than starting from a cold place where no-one knows you and no-one has plans to spend money with you.
The methods you choose to use for communicating with this membership database range from sending out an introduction letter and brochure by post or send out an email introduction letter with pictures of your work with links to your online brochure where they can even place orders.
These two approaches can be combined but the print and post method is expensive with costs that add up very quickly. The email strategy is much cheaper because it doesn’t have the print and post costs while both have the costs of developing the marketing material as well as the images.
A website is a vital 24/7 marketing tool you’ll need to make the most of any expo marketing campaign so either way you’ll need one (these don’t have to be expensive and complex, they can grow as you go and pay for themselves, see our web marketing articles for more details).
The marketing adage that you need to contact a prospective customer 7 times to lead to a sale is much cheaper and easier to implement with an online communication approach than sending out 7 lots of print materials in the post to thousands of prospective customers.
Of course you will find that some of the members just don’t provide email or website details so your only option to contact them is via post.
But here again you need to apply a sorting method that works for both print/post and email communications because not all members are going to be the ideal customer for your business. You’ll need to go through the list and see who is right for you and who your product is right for to include in your efforts so you don’t throw money away on wasted efforts.
This might all sound a lot of work but it is cheaper and easier than running an unsuccessful or break even expo. Either way, after the show you’re going to need to do a lot of follow up work using the same marketing materials you’d need for the cheaper approach because a lot of people do research the show before they buy.
If you decide to do an expo you need to invite your customers along to your stand with details about where you’ll be (stand number and little map) and information about show specials to entice them and remind them about your business so you get included in their expo spending budget (and intensions).
If there are multiple shows a year then you might decide you want to do some and not the others so with a marketing and communication strategy you can still get orders directly from customers at all show times. This is more profitable for you as your expo marketing costs are less.
It’s important to remember that marketing strategies and plans evolve over a number of years to reflect the profitability of earlier efforts. So you start with what you can afford and build up progressively.
Very few small businesses have the big budgets to make huge initiatives straight off the bat. The creative and affordable initiatives a restrictive budget encourages can bring even better results than a slush fund of cash.
So think smart when it comes to expos. What can you do to take advantage of the business building without the risk of the costs involved?
If it is $5000 for the stand space alone what marketing initiatives can you do for the same money to get the increase in business – membership costs, marketing material development, sending material out (online or in the post – cost out both) and reusing the material to communicate. Maybe consider hiring a display space at a local hotel near the exhibition location that you can invite customers to?
Expos can be really expensive for small and growing businesses so you need to make the most of the opportunity and expect there’ll be extra costs you just didn’t see coming.
By making the most of an expo opportunity you can achieve the financial goals you’re going after.
The best way to make this happen is to do your research and try to do as many as possible things that creates success.