In some industries, trade shows are among the most important aspects of a company’s sales and marketing efforts. They allow companies to do what they can’t normally do on a day-to-day basis (even with social media): Talk face-to-face with potential customers and clients. Therefore, it’s important as small business owners to treat these events like the NFL treats the Super Bowl and plan for them months (if not a year) in advance. Your skills at trade show marketing can be the difference in whether a new product takes off or crash lands. Before going to the expense (in time and money) of investing in trade shows, review these important considerations.
The SmallBusiness.com Guide to Trade Show Marketing is one of a growing collection of SmallBusiness.com Guides.
Hold on: What’s a “trade show”?A trade show is an event that takes place—usually over several days—where employees and owners of companies in certain industries get together to talk shop, meet new customers, and let old customers and media know they’re still thriving. In some industries, tradeshows are the living marketplace where billions of dollars of transactions take place. In other industries, they are the marketing events where new products are revealed to the world.
And when we mean “other” industries, we mean everyindustry. For example, if you own a line of self-tanning products in Alabama, you may want to set up an “exhibit” (or a booth with your logo and products) at the 22nd Annual Southeast Tanning Expo in Winston-Salem, NC, January 23-25, 2015.
Are trade shows really worth your time and money?That depends on a lot of factors, really. How far along is your business? Are you making enough money to afford three days of expenses (including hotel room, meals, rental car, and entertaining clients and prospects)? The best thing you can do is research ahead of time. Find out if the show might be worth your while—particularly if you are in a seasonal industry like fashion. Industries tend to have several trade shows throughout the year, and it may benefit you to attend just one instead of the rest. (Continuing with the fashion idea, the beginning of the year may be better than the end, as buyers are looking to purchase items for the rest of the year; thus always consider seasonality.)
Early in the life of your business, you may want to check out as many trade shows as possible. They can be great for research and networking. You can learn which shows are must-attends, and which aren’t. If you find it’s worth your while—as in, it produced meaningful and profitable relationships—return. If not, don’t be afraid to cut it out of your schedule the following year.
Aside from venue and season research, preparation is your primary focusWe’re going to break this section down in four steps. Just keep this mantra in mind: Prior planning prevents poor performance. (Say that five times fast.)
Step One: Identify why you’re going
One of the biggest mistakes you can make going into a trade show is not first nailing down your strategy for the event. Another way of looking at is by asking the question, “What are we using the trade show for?” There are generally three reasons (each with a business buzzword version):
While the goal of any trade show is to develop relationships with new paying customers, it’s best to know which one of the three goals you’re going for, as this will help you focus your efforts. If you’re going to grow your database of potential customers, you may want to focus on expanding your exhibit from the previous year—to show company growth and continuing prosperity. If you’re going to launch a new product, you may want to focus more on your presentation (e.g. hiring a host, producing a video). If you’re looking to increase brand awareness, you’ll want to focus on talking with media (and setting up interviews/reviews).
Knowing why you are attending the show, and what your focus is will enable you to measure its success later.
Step Two: Send out a series of invitations, starting far in advance
Another mistake companies make is not arranging customer/client meetings prior to the trade show. This isn’t a Field of Dreams kind of thing, where “if you build it, they will come.” You have to do more than just spend a bunch of money on presentation and staff; expectations won’t get you far.
Reach out to potential clients/customers with a series (a campaign) of email and traditional (paper) mailings. Be clever or memorable, as they will be receiving other messages from competitors. Give them an incentive to stop by your booth. It’s a trade show, so being a little bit out-of-the-ordinary will make your teaser more effective.
Step Three: Choose the right employees to attend
Unless you’re a brand-new startup, your company likely employs a variety of people who have specific strengths and weaknesses. With this in mind, the team you select for trade shows should have a talent for rapid-fire conversations. These are generally people in sales, who either make phone calls all day or have numerous conversations that require them to stay on their toes. However, having someone who can answer technical questions can be important in some fields. Always have someone who is “the organized one” who will make sure that all of the contacts get recorded and processed for follow-up response. One last thing: Some people are great tradeshow people, they can work a crowd and have never known a stranger. If you’re not that type, bring along someone who is.
Step Four: Train like olympians
One of the most important tasks you’re going to have at a trade show is discerning who among the attendees are likely customers and individuals who can influence purchases. And the only way you can really do this is by making sure your employees are well-versed in your product and your strategy for selling it. By doing this, they’ll be able to identify and cultivate the network of individuals who are important to your business.
Lack of preparation can reflect poorly on you if an employee isn’t able to answer questions posed by media, customers or distributors. Thus, taking considerable time to prep everyone attending the trade show in what they need to know and how they need to execute sales pitches will be vital in your success.
A warning, however: You never know who may or may not be influential. Treat people who have interest in your product with respect, even if they don’t seem to work at the right company or have the right title you believe makes them a potential customer. In many industries, this year’s intern can be next year’s buyer.
The exhibit and presentationThis may be the most difficult part of attending trade shows, mainly due to budgetary issues. You have to take a lot into consideration when designing your exhibit—all the while keeping money in mind. So here we advise just doing the best you can with what you can afford. Here are some things to keep in mind (with help from ClassicExhibits.com):
Second, follow-up with your analysis of the show. Were the attendees who you expected? Should you do it again the next year? Was there anything you could do better? While preparation and presentation matter, none of the hard work and money invested will be worth a thing if you don’t take some time and reflect on what you accomplished and use that knowledge for converting leads into customers and improving your performance in the future.
who helps wealthy clients select advisors. "The question is really, Can you see partnering with this person or firm to help you achieve your financial goals?"
The evidence suggests that those shopping for an advisor often make choices they regret. In a clear sign of their dissatisfaction, a 2013 survey by Tiburon Strategic Advisors found that more than three-quarters of high-net-worth investors planned to yank money from their advisors.
Looks can be deceiving: "Just because someone is with a big firm and has certain clients doesn't mean he's competent," says Peter Mallouk, the No. 1–ranked independent. Illo: Dan Picasso for Barron's
Most consumers approach advisor selection the wrong way, industry experts say. Too often, they sense that they need an advisor, then latch on to the first referral from a friend or colleague. That approach amounts to "looking for a solution before you've defined the problem you're trying to solve," says Clouse.
Choosing an advisor should be an organized process, she says, one that starts with taking inventory of your needs and attitudes toward investing. This simple step is one that a surprising number of consumers overlook, says Brad DeHond, a Chicago-based advisor with Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. "A lot of people don't really know what they're looking for," he says.
Knowing your investing preferences can help eliminate the wrong advisors. Do you prefer active, aggressive trading aimed at beating the market? Or are you more comfortable with a patient approach that may yield just enough return to help you reach your goals?
ANOTHER KEY QUESTION, says Clouse, is whether you're comfortable delegating investment responsibility. If not, you'll want an advisor who will welcome your involvement.
Finally, think about how complex your needs are. You may be part of a two-earner couple with the straightforward goal of retiring comfortably. Or you may have multigenerational wealth stock options and offshore accounts. An advisor who is comfortable serving straightforward clients may be in over her head with clients who need more expertise.
When interviewing advisors, consumers should arrive with a list of questions in hand, says Clouse. Broader questions -- such as, "What is your investment strategy?" and "What is your typical client like?" -- can help you determine whether you're in the right ballpark. Look for concise answers and beware of long-windedness.
Some key areas to ask about:
1) Advisor-to-client ratio. DeHond, who serves very wealthy investors, keeps his ratio at 30-to-1 to provide enough attention to each client. A "retail" advisor, serving clients with under a few million dollars, should serve no more than 100 clients, he says.
2) Experience. Intelligent, committed advisors can be any age, but a little seasoning can be very reassuring. If an advisor has been through a few bear markets, she may do a better job of protecting your money when hard times hit.
3) Compensation. Some advisors are compensated through sales commissions, others through fees based on the amount of assets under management, and others through a combination of the two. Be prepared to ask hard questions about why the advisor's compensation model is better for you than the alternatives.
4) Career stage. Advisors typically spend the first several years of their career building a client base, which may affect the amount of personal attention you'll receive. You should leave an interview confident that you won't get lost in the shuffle.
5) Firm stability. Because advisory firms compete with one another to recruit successful brokers, some advisors make a career of jumping from firm to firm. You may want to avoid advisors who can't stay put, says DeHond, adding, "Clients hate that kind of instability."
Before visiting with an advisor, it's a good idea to check his or her credentials, employment history, and disciplinary history. To begin researching brokers -- who are regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority -- go to finra.org/Investors/ToolsCalculators/BrokerCheck.
For registered investment advisors -- who are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission or by states -- you'll want to find the ADV Part 2 disclosure form. Go to the SEC's Investment Adviser Search Website at adviserinfo.sec.gov/IAPD/Content/Search/iapd_Search.aspx. Look up the advisor by firm name. After clicking on the link for the firm, click on the SEC link if the advisor is registered with the SEC, or if the advisor is registered with a state, click on the link to that state. Go to Part 2 Brochures.
Professional credentials are especially important when choosing an advisor, says Peter Mallouk, of Leawood, Kan., the No. 1 independent advisor in Barron's latest ranking. Unlike doctors or architects, financial advisors aren't required to earn degrees in their field, so credentials show that the advisor has taken his professional development seriously. "Just because someone is with a big firm and has certain clients doesn't mean he's competent," says Mallouk. Among the most respected credentials are Certified Financial Planner and Chartered Financial Analyst.
E-mail: STEVE GARMHAUSEN
It’s not surprising that Airbnb, the peer-to-peer room rental service, has decided to court business travelers by pairing up with the travel expense manager Concur. Global business travel spending is shooting through the roof, and working with the deep-pocketed business travel world beats dealing with thesquatters and scammers that crop up among Airbnb’s leisure-heavy clientele.
Linking up with Concur may lessen the friction, for businesses, of booking and expensing a room with Airbnb, but it won’t necessarily turn Airbnb into a seamless, business-facing company. Harried and demanding business travelers should beware of the following:
The discounts aren’t as great outside the most expensive US citiesAirbnb bookings aren’t always the bargain they appear to be. That’s partly because business travelers are more likely to need an entire apartment for work privacy, not just someone’s spare room. A US city-by-city study by the web data company Priceonomics found that while renting a private room on Airbnb is about half as expensive on average than staying in a hotel, renting an entire apartment is less of a bargain, with a cost savings of just over 20%.
And Airbnb is not always cheaper in smaller cities, where apartment inventory and living costs are lower. Big companies also have the bargaining power to negotiate deep discounts on hotel rooms for employees--up to 40% off the rack rate, according to hotel managers—which, if you work for a big firm, makes the hassles of booking through Airbnb less appealing.
Successful business trips are worth spending the moneyGetting travel deals is often necessary for leisure travelers, and minimizing travel expenses is a priority for businesses too. But if you’re skimping on your lodging to justify a business trip, it begs the question of whether the travel is worth it, in these days of video-conferencing and lightning-fast communications. Business trips can contribute amply to a company’s growth and seal deals that wouldn’t go through on the phone or virtually—but only if the in-person visit pays off.
If your Wi-Fi cuts out, using Airbnb probably wasn’t worth itBusiness travelers may be willing to forego a lot of niceties to save money for their company, but an internet connection isn’t optional for most. In a recent survey by Hotels.com, 56% of business travelers said that a Wi-Fi connection was the most needed amenity when booking a hotel room, versus 34% of leisure travelers. That makes sense: losing your internet during a rushed business trip can be a disaster.
People renting out rooms or apartments don’t have the collective bargaining power to do battle with internet service providers during an outage, nor the needed sense of urgency (especially if they’re away on vacation themselves). They also don’t typically have a business center with Wi-Fi to offer for a quick fix.
I’m a frequent Airbnb user for leisure travel, and can attest that a bad or nonexistent internet connection is a regular feature of the Airbnb travel experience, even when the service is promised by the renter. Internet troubles haven’t mattered much when I’ve traveled for leisure, but when I’ve had Airbnb internet troubles while traveling for business, the panic was enough to turn me off using the service for business altogether.
Authored by Roya Wolverson via qz.com.