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Rial Bates: Tips to consider before attending an expo

Kay Rial Bates
Kay Rial Bates

It’s expo season again! Whether your organization exhibits at a trade show or a community expo, you will be putting a lot of time, effort and money into the event. I have a few suggestions I would like you to consider before committing to an expo.

• Do your homework. As you research which expos are best for your organization, verify that the expo’s target market is your target market. Check how the producer of the expo is advertising. Will it attract your target market? Can you sell from the booth? Make sure the expo has a people-drawing theme, giveaways, raffles, popcorn, entertainment and more.

• Set a rate of return for your investment and time. Depending on products sold, one customer can make the time and investment well worth your company appearing at the expo. Others might require more sales.

• Help the producers of the expo advertise. Before the event, use social media to invite your clients to visit your booth.

• Plan your booth well. It should be inviting, creative and memorable. A quality banner is an inexpensive and memorable way to start. Think of a theme that affirms your product: plumber, toilet; real estate agent, house; accountant, enlarged tax form. Display products, but not too many.

• Make sure you include promotional takeaways and flyers. This will help create a memory for an attendee once he or she leaves your booth. Any giveaway should represent your organization well.

• Play with the people. The best booths have an activity pertinent to their business. Some of the best I have seen include one by Black Diamond Plumbing and Mechanical, which required attendees to solve a puzzle with pipes for a prize with the Black Diamond logo. Another creative example was 1 Plumbing Co.’s encouragement of booth visitors to pitch stress balls shaped as brown feces into a toilet. Both created quite a memory and were pertinent to the organization involved.

• Do something to keep active children busy. This takes two people at a booth – one to work with children and the other to talk with adults. Families have little time together and look for places to go during the winter.

• Send your “A” team. I often see organizations send their “C” teams – in other words, an individual who just baby-sits a booth with no engagement. Make sure your “A” team is wearing apparel with the company logo. The team should not be chewing gum, eating or drinking at the booth. Additionally, team members should not cross their arms, put their hands in their pockets or wander off. Your “A” team should be energized, committed to the product and well-trained in customer management as they invite people to visit the booth.

• Have a raffle. While people are filling out a card for the drawing, ask them a few pointed questions. Example: “Do you think you will be buying new windows within the next five years? We have a special sale for expo attendees. Are you interested?” If the answer is yes, make certain you mark the card so you follow up.

• Follow-up is vital. Attendees will leave the expo and, unfortunately, get back to being involved in their day-to-day lives. You must connect with them; otherwise, you are just a brief memory.

• Be sure to attend multiple years. The more the attendees see you, the greater the recognition and the better the chance to develop trust and possibly get an order. Not all sales are immediate. They happen over time. Linda Showens of Artistic Embroidery found this out when one person bought an athletic bag from her in 2012. The next year, that same woman came back and bought a few more bags. By the third year and beyond, Linda was producing shirts and bags for adult traveling teams throughout northern Illinois.

Expos are a good sales opportunity for any business. They never should be done casually, but take thought, purpose and measurement. Happy expo season!

The McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce expo – McHenry-Opoly – will be March 9 at McHenry High School West.

For information, visit www.mchenrychamber.com.

• Kay Rial Bates is president of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at 815-385-4300 or visit mchenrychamber.com.

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