Oh my goodness gypsies it has been a whirlwind trade show and customer event year. The trending element this year seems to be, “we are having our own event” and we are making it as big a deal as possible.
Flavor #1. Trust me, from a business standpoint I completely understand wanting to have targeted audiences and bring in high-level partners and customers. It makes all the sense in the world to drive the right decision-makers into your “encampment”. This can get extremely costly and bust the budget in one day! Planning as early as you can, doing the odds and ends with your internal teams, and having a great rapport with your venue can help with costs.
Flavor #2 -The industry vertical shows and events, which may be mid-range in numbers; will attract the worker-bees, design teams, and those planning teams who will develop products over the coming years. Here is where you can find out how the current industry/markets are moving and help shape the industry as a whole. A critical part to the marketing plan and an industry centric venue to garner the right people who are in the development and deployment roles. It is a fight to that leadership role, and everyone can add LEADER to their signage, but the proof is in the pudding. Who wants to see you, and are they willing to come to a show to see your products/services or your CEO? Costs are generally mid-range and keep in mind leads can be varied from C-level executives all the way through to the engineering implementation staff. This in no way means from high-to-low; but it gives a large range of levels who participates, so you may be engaging with a wide variety of cross-functional teams who can be the ultimate influencers if they are the ones who will be working with your product/service.
Flavor #3 -The elaborate “we are the world” shows, are those that are inclusive of a full-industry, have great visibility, and are the glitz and bling of your show year. Those feather-in-our cap, type of events that prove to the world, my booth is bigger than yours; my speakers are more fun and louder than yours; and yes, our promo item, well what can I say … (car vs tee shirt)! These events accomplish different things for different groups that memorable interaction with a big player who really did give you their real business card. Mid-level companies can shine too by having that key product launch or partnership announcement. Start-ups in a small booth under the stairs in the dark, it is all about networking and meeting the mid-level groups and the big guys too. Getting the picture of where you can go as a new company by gathering industry knowledge (the scoop) PUN!. You can always reference, “ we were by ….mongo humongous booth with King Kong! Yes, I am so glad we had a place to get away from that crazy display and chat.” ;) Wink! Get them out of there they won’t remember you!
So with all of these versions of tradeshows and events, what is a gypsy to do with a less than full coffer! Those gold coins are not worth what they used to be; and the trading is not as fruitful, as costs have gone up for organizers in significant amounts and they are also in the rungs of cost overwhelm. There are still some things to be had with the barter, but I am afraid it is up to cost-cutting and assuring you send the right people at the right level to each event and invite the customers/press/partners you want to see.
For those individual company events, make sure your attendees are the high-level staff plus-one. The plus-one talks tech at a high-level and can determine if the department can buy or sell with this company. Your high-level staff can play in the sand box and talk corporate initiatives that will establish hierarchy and leadership in the industry through visionary discussions and strategic positioning. Sometimes, you are lucky enough to have one individual who can cover both roles, but if possible send both to cover as much of the targeted network at the event as possible. Save money managing travel costs, if they can fly in and fly out with a minimal stay; or for over night stays incorporate customer visits to extend ROI of the trip. Also, take note if your individual company is planning an event to get feedback on how the attended event was; and include what they liked/didn’t like about the venue. Call ahead and ask for a package noting you will have attendees at …..event, and you are going to get feedback from them for a possible hosted event you may be having. This might even garner your C-Level staff a little VIP treatment or a discount if there is an overnight stay (A+ for tradeshowgypsy!).
The middle-ground tradeshow or event is the kind of work-horse event; in that your field engineers, sales, marketing, and business development teams should be prepared to participate at every level they can get into if they are in attendance. Speaking (keynote if you can), panelist, sales pitch promotions, show floor demos, time with any press/analysts for product marketing. Get them engaged as much as possible and try to watch the dollars in how many people go. Cut costs on any of the services and shipping with early-bird submissions or ask for multi-show discounts where applicable. Put your best technical foot forward and make your statements clear enough for a 5th grader to know what you do, so people walking the aisles STOP; and do not bypass because your messaging is unclear or there is too much to read in a quick glance. Make sure your team is not waiting for people to come into the booth to get them; or they portray that demeanor of importance by standing with their cell phone behind the main counter, and are perceived as unapproachable.
Get the team the materials and information they need to support the show and make sure they are out in the aisles and the corners of the booth to bring people in, “Hello” and a welcoming presence gets them into your booth. Help promote your presence at the show through as many mediums as you generally use for a product launch. You are pitching your external presence in a venue that can accommodate many customers/partners/press and analysts. Get people you want to see there with a special invitation from your company, get as many as you can to RSVP (Bribe with gift)…wait…did I type that? I mean offer them a nice promotional item or a conference pass for coming to see your presentation.
Show organizers have many ways to target attendees, but often they are not as fulfilling as companies would like just because organizers are not out in the trenches selling and in the daily interaction with industry and market directions. They have an industry broad knowledge and interest, not a Tradeshowgypsy specific customer network. Keep your eyes open for ways you can use other department money, such as training or certifications and ask for a multi-attendee discount.
Flavor #3 – The FLASHY show! Now these are a blast generally, and I mean that from the sense that everything is going off at once and they are a lot of work! They can be fun too, but generally as a tradeshowgypsy you are more concerned with that hanging sign, the new and improved lighting system that is flashing in all the wrong places, and carpet padding that will hold-up the staff during the entire show. Your VIPs are running amuck as keynoters and high-level press are there and your immediate bosses are on edge and expecting you to provide them with all the comforts of the office in this little fake city that was set up in 3 days! I am here to tell you, BREATH! No matter you have what it takes, you are a tradeshowgypsy with magic on your side. You have done all the work to get the people you want to see into your booth because you have sent secret by invitation only cards to those key purchasers prior to the show for their (Pitch and Promo) – and everyone else gets the tee-shirt (cool design of course)! Plus your execs are happy because you secured them a private meeting space that allows them to relax in conversation and have catering that is not show floor pizza and internet access (which in a comparative in cost for the entire show, paid for the external meeting room plus individual meal room service catering or restaurant meal!) How much did you spend on that?
These events generally have some great workshops or certifications; allowing you to take advantage of the HR training budgets and have extra staff on hand covered under a different coin coffer!
Now that we are ¾ of the way through the show season, just know there are more popping up in December than ever before, don’t be surprised with new invitations as they will go to your C-Level staff who will want to attend! We tradeshowgypsies are a creative, tough, and a tenacious lot; and we will not give up or go over budget! We have our ways!
If you are lost in the quagmire of costs or overtaken with managing the sheer numbers of events/shows – there are a number of resources to help. Check out social media sights, LinkedIn has some good ones, Exhibit – Display companies, groups in various networks. Talk to your fellow gypsies, and of course ask me. If I don’t know, I will ask my network and find an answer! Where there is a will gypsies, there is certainly a way!
Safe travels and remember to pack for variable weather and set your clocks as some are getting ready to Fall Back!