Now that COVID-19 restrictions are slowly being lifted, the trade shows and exhibitions are starting to tour again.
If you are intending on exhibiting at one of these events you need to have a solid plan.
Here are my tips:
Before the show
1. Figure out WHY you are exhibiting and create a budget around that.
2. Order any marketing materials you may need. Ask the trade show organiser what is available and included e.g. tables, power points, size of stand etc.
- Slideshow presentations, short video clips, and demonstrations packed with visual aides can go a long way to engaging potential customers.
- Promotional items for goodie bags. Everybody likes free stuff - Before your show, reach out to a business that makes customised gifts—t-shirts, calendars, mugs, wristbands, bags—and brand them with your company’s logo, motto, and colour scheme.
- Business cards/flyers and price lists
- Stationery holders to keep your marketing material looking neat, tidy and presentable.
- A box of emergency supplies e.g. staplers, blu tac, scissors, Stanley knife, tissues etc.
- Tech box e.g. extension cords, phone chargers, light strips etc.
- Refreshments for you and your team e.g. lollies, power bars, bottled water
3. Tell people about it. Advertise, post content on social media, email your database.
4. Study who will be at the trade show. Which competitors will be there and also any prospective or current clients. Trade shows are not only about exhibiting but also networking, make a list of other exhibitors you’d like to speak with before you attend the show.
5. If you are hiring staff to work in your stand, make sure they know your objectives and are comfortable spruiking your product/service. The more comfortable and confident they are, the more leads you will gain.
During the show
6. Think about what you will be doing to grab the passing exhibitor’s attention. Demonstrations are a great way to as people like to be entertained, also goodie bags are always a hit. If using goodie bags make sure there items are reusable and branded.
7. If you have promising conversations with attendees, make sure you retain their business card or write their contact details down with notes about the conversation. You will need these later.
8. Network: Grab that list you made before the show and seek out the exhibitors you targeted. Make sure you grab their business card or flyer so you have their contact details for post-show follow up.
9. Figure out best position for the next event. Ask the trade show’s organiser the final figures (how many visitors according to the several entrances). If a show is worthwhile, you can plan which area of the venue you want to participate next time.
After the show
10. Follow up! You should have collected a lot of business cards from attendees and fellow exhibitors. As soon as possible, create a database and you can email or snail mail a personalised thank you to them. Strike while the iron is hot and while you and your brand are still top of mind.
11. Evaluate you ROI for this show and make decisions whether you will attend another.
The computer is a great tool, and it makes it easier for small business owners to create their own fliers, brochures, postcards and even websites. So why would you want to use the services of a professional graphic designer? Here are seven reasons why small business owners are best served by hiring a design professional to create their marketing materials:
1. You don’t have time.
Small business owners have a lot on their plates. That means you may put off doing a new marketing piece, even if it is something you really need. Hiring a designer to help means you can get that project done and begin using it to make you more money.
2. You can’t afford not to.
By the time you learn how to use that page layout software that came free with your computer, you may have invested several hours. Couldn’t that have been used more productively? If you could have paid a designer $500 and used your time to earn $1,000 for your business, you have not chosen wisely.
3. You are trying to uniquely brand your business.
Now, not every small business needs to stand out. If you’re a locksmith in a small community, for example, it may be enough to just show up in internet searches and be in the phone book. But if you’re in a market with a dozen other locksmiths, you want to stand out. You don’t do that with a clip art logo or canned flier that looks the same as 10 of those 12 competitors. Using marketing materials that are unique and stand out are a way for people to remember you. And if they think they’ve seen you before, they are more likely to choose to contact you for your products or services.
4. You want to keep your look consistent.
If you use different logos, different fonts and different messages everywhere, it’s going to be hard to look professional – never mind standing out in a potential customer’s mind. Designers know how to watch those little details and ensure that every piece of marketing communications fits with everything else. Sure, your customers may not notice if you used “Times New Roman” in one ad and “Calibri” in another, but the subconscious mind picks up details and uses them to form an overall opinion of your business. You look and seem more put together if everything does, in fact, fit together.
5. You save yourself a lot of headaches.
Let’s say you do put together something yourself, and send it off to the printer. When the proof – or worse, the finished product – comes back with problems that you didn’t anticipate, fixing or reprinting will take even more time and money. Designers know what to do to make sure a file prints out correctly.
6. You get a brand new source of ideas.
Designers are generally pretty creative folks, and they like to help their clients get the most out of every project. Hiring a designer is likely to mean that you’ll end up with a better finished product than you could have put together, even if you’re skilled at making things look good. His or her ideas may lead to a more eye-catching, more appealing and more polished piece than you would have created – thus leading to more attention from potential customers and more sales.
7. You take more pride in your marketing materials.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had an ugly or boring business card? Were you less likely to hand it out? If that brochure is outdated and uses a weird color scheme, you may just keep it behind the counter instead of displaying it. All your marketing materials should be the best they can be for your business, or you’ll have some hesitation in presenting them to new customers.
10 Things you should be doing in your business right now to help you survive and thrive in this pandemic.
Firstly, I hope you are staying safe and healthy and are OK mentally and financially. This is obviously going to be a difficult time for many and a lot of small businesses may not make it out the other side unscathed. Hopefully, your business is not one of those. However, it is ALWAYS better to hope for the best but plan for the worst. To that end, I have created my top ten tips to give you a road map to move forward with for your business through the ongoing COVID-19 Crisis;
1. Do your bit to help contain the spread
The only way we are going to get back to normal and get this bloody thing under control is to take all the appropriate steps to stop the spread. I assume, that like most, you have been putting in place the appropriate steps including increased cleaning and allowing staff the ability to work remotely where possible.
2. Make sure you can fulfill orders
You can’t pay bills if you can't get income and you can't get income if you can’t fulfill your orders. Make sure you have a solid plan in place to continue on no matter what happens. Find a partner (even if its a competitor) and ensure that you can help each other through as a backup strategy if and when the need arises. It is better to have this plan in place early to avoid panic later on.
3. Chase the work that is out there
Whilst, for a lot of small businesses, it seems as though the world has fallen off a cliff there are a significant number of businesses out there that are seeing an incredible surge in business. If you can chase work from medical centres, takeaway stores, mortgage brokers, job centres, corner supermarkets etc then you need to be…now. Businesses that sell products or services that are in highest demand will need all the help they can get now as much as anyone, so find their pain points and give them the solutions they need to deal with their rush.
4. Tweak your marketing
OK let’s get this out of the way up front…. It is NOT sensible to continue on with your normal marketing and pretending like nothing is going on. I saw a great quote today that said “marketing is all about engaging with the conversations your customers are already having” and ignoring what is going on around the world today will make your brand appear tone deaf. One of the best things you can do right now is to help your customers out as much as you possibly can. Provide them with as much free information as you can because EVERYONE is looking for the right advice at the moment. It is uncharted territory for us all. If you provide value to your market you will endear new customers to your brand while locking in your existing customers when things bounce back. People remember who gave them great support and the right advice when they needed it most. Be that guy.
5. Increase your online presence
If you can afford it, now is a great time to build your database. People are soaking up information as quickly as possible and so it is a great time to start getting people engaged and signed up for your business e-communications and newsletters. It is also a time that many people are pulling back on keyword advertising making it an ideal time to start buying leads for a lower overall acquisition cost. You should also be focused on your social media at this time, as more people are spending more time on it. And of course, if you do not have a good eCommerce presence then you should also be looking at this seriously. More and more businesses will be moving into online sales over the coming months and with it, overall consumer habits will shift. When that happens, eCommerce will become even more critical than, in my opinion, it already is.
6. Create or join a community
Now more than ever, people are looking for the support of a community. One of our clients' strategic plan included the release this May of a Closed Group Facebook Community to allow their customers a safe space to network and use each other as sounding boards for ideas and strategies. Given the current climate, they have escalated the launch of this Facebook Group and now intend to use this platform intensely over this period of instability to highlight to everyone that they are not in this by themselves and that as a united community they can get through this together. People are screaming out for leaders. If you can create your own community within your customer database and position yourself as a leader in your marketplace this will hold you in good stead for a long time to come.
7. Promote entry level products and services
Everyone is going to be looking to cut back and save where they can and so even though it does not mean you can't go after high end sales, you are bound to get better conversion by focusing on the entry level products. It may mean less overall margin, but good margin is irrelevant if no-one is buying at the top end. Another critical fact for all small business to understand is that we are increasingly living in a world market. Your customers would much rather use a trusted supplier such as yourself but if there is a way to save some money in a climate like this, they will. You need to be innovative and creative to either prove the return on investment on your service over suppliers globally or bend to the market. I am not saying you need to drop your prices through the floor, but you need to be very mindful of where your customers heads are at and price your products and services in a method that will allow you to stay relevant in the overall marketplace wherever possible.
8. Focus on efficiencies
Whenever we survey customers one of the biggest pain points we hear is that no one has the time to do everything they need to do in a day. Well guess what? You now have the time… so use it wisely. Make sure you use the downturn as an opportunity to take some inward reflection on your systems and procedures to identify efficiencies you can put in place now, to make your life easier when things pick up. We all know that we could save ourselves time in the long run if we could just set aside enough time to get a new system or procedure set up here and there. Don’t waste this opportunity to make this happen, because when you get busy again you will regret not having put the work in when you had the time.
9. Cash is king
As the old saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I am finding it interesting to see that restaurants forced to temporarily shut down are promoting gift vouchers, airlines are promoting heavily reduced up front payment deals for next years flights and pay for one and get one free type of promotions are popping up everywhere. All these promotions are key to keeping cash flow moving. If you have debtors then one of your biggest risks throughout this period is that even your good payers stop paying you. Do what you need to do to preserve your cash flow as this will be the lifeblood that gets you through.
10. Look for ways to Pivot
If the last week has not given you the feeling that all your eggs are in the one basket then it probably means you have a well balanced business with a good spread of risk. However if you have received a bit of a reality check then you are probably amongst the majority rather than the minority. Once the dust settles and you get through the process of implementing your immediate crisis management plans the very next thing on your to do list needs to be a look at your long term strategic planning. Every business large or small has opportunity and your business in this time is no exception. So even if your long term goals are in place the coronavirus curve ball will no doubt effect this in some way. What can you do to realign your plans and more importantly, take the opportunities that are out there right now? For example there are an awful lot of businesses out there right now that are worrying about the ramifications this will have to their bricks and mortar businesses. If you don’t offer website services but know your stuff then this may be a good time to pivot into this market even if you rely on partners to assist with the technical stuff. If you are already an expert from working from home, you are in a great position to offer your services to help others out who have suddenly been thrust out of their comfort zone and if you know you have a customer out there who has a pain point that you know you could be uniquely positioned to assist even if it is not part of your core delivery, this may be the time to take the leap into that new area for your business.
Whatever your plan of attack and whatever you do from here, the most important thing to remember is that THIS WILL END, even though it may not feel like it now. The period we are in now can only be temporary and so your primary goal needs to be survival. Those that come out of the other end of this crisis are going to be well placed for long term growth and sustainability as markets inevitably bounce back. Follow these tips and your business will have the best chance to be one of them.
Original Author: Kelly Mackay
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