Tuesday, October 19, 2010

EXPO--10 Steps to a Strategic Booth Display

Planning Your Booth is very important. If you set up without a plan you may feel frustrated when it doesn't come together and you may be missing something you need.

Step 1--plan the look of your booth so it passes the 3-30-3 rule.
Can someone glancing at your booth for 3 seconds know who you are?Make sure your business name is part of your booth display. (You'd be surprised how many people overlook the obvious.)
Can someone looking at your booth for 30 seconds understand who you are, what you do and one key benefit they'd get by contracting your services?
Do you have materials, handouts or other additional information that would draw someone in for 3 minutes or more?

Step 2-- Select a color scheme. Color is good--it's eye catching and makes a statement before anyone's even started to look closely. Even Black and White can be dramatic. Make sure your colors look like they belong together and don't clash with your logo or give aways.

Step 3--Invest in good signage and professional printing. Poor copies from your office copiers don't reflect well on the quality of work that you do, your ability to plan or your professionalism. Having a few 4-color glossy high end printed pieces for display and special customers is great--and it's also okay to have some less expensive black and white copies for the general public.

Step 4--Draw a quick sketch of what your booth will look like. The Chamber provides an 8 foot table and white table cloth. Don't let that table be bare. And don't bring so much stuff that there's no way it will fit in your exhibit area. It can help to do a practice run to set up your booth at your office. Do you know how the banner goes together? Can you put it up and take it down easily?

Step 5--Take Design tips from HGTV, TLC and magazines. Enhance your display and create drama on a dime. Use empty boxes to build height under the table cloth. Pick up some fresh flowers or pumpkins to add a natural element for nominal cost to your display. Trifold foam board displays are available at Office Depot. Bring a table top easle to display a plaque, photograph or award.

Step 6--When ordering give away items, consider how they can be displayed at the EXPO further enhancing your color scheme and/or messages. Add that into your planned exhibit space.

Step 7--Decide how you will capture business leads. Are you doing a fish bowl raffle? What prize are you offering for people to "enter to win?" Keeping the prize related to your business will keep your fish bowl primed with pre-qualified leads. Only people who want to win your prize will enter!

Step 8--Make sure you have a plan for how you'll keep track of special notes and necessary follow up from contacts made the evening of the EXPO. Have a note pad, use your cell phone or have a lap top handy.

Step 9--Pack a supply kit. Things you will need to set up your booth and handle any event day emergency. Tape, Safety pins, scissors, pens, stapler, breath mints, water and comfortable shoes.

Step 10--After you set up your practice run for your display--walk away and come back later to look it over. Be objective. Is the booth attractive? Is it enticing? Would you want to learn more about the business is represents? If need be--tweak your display.

Best of the Best EXPO Exhibitor Tips: 10 Ways you can help Promote the EXPO

November 11, 2010 is the 24th Annual Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce EXPO.

I've been to 13 EXPOs and I've seen really good ones--and really outstanding ones.

What makes a great EXPO? Good participation by the exhibitors. Not just signing up and being at the EXPO, but engaging their customers, clients, employees, friends and family to come to the EXPO and check out the local businesses and service organizations.

Promotion is key!
We all have a role to play in promoting this event.
Here are 10 ways you can help ensure that the 2010 EXPO will be a GREAT EXPO

1. Invite your clients and potential clients to come to the NOV 11 EXPO We've said it before and we'll say it again--the most effective decision influencer is word of mouth. Seed the audience at the EXPO with people who know you, have used your services and think highly of you. That's your existing customer base. Motivate them to come by offering them a free gift, coupon or special benefit if they stop by your booth. Make this an offer that's ONLY available on EXPO night.

2. Add a tag line of "See you at the November 11, 2010 Best of the Best Chamber EXPO" to your signature on your emails.

November 11, 2010
FREE Admission 6-8 pm
Clarkston High School

3. Post a banner link on your website promoting the EXPO.

4. Make copies of the EXPO flyer and post them at your business or have copies on counter for customers to take.

5. Take flyers with you when you attend business, networking or personal events between now and the EXPO so you can share them when you personally invite people to attend the EXPO.

6. Utilize your connections with the local media to invite them to do a story. Perhaps you're announcing a new product, service or employee at the EXPO--talk to the press ahead of time so they have an opportunity to do a story that promotes you AND the EXPO.

7. Contact your collegues and friends in other companies and ask them to post and EXPO flyer on their bulletin boards.

8. Offer to put up a yard sign promoting EXPO (Signs are available now but should only go up November 5-11)

9. Post the Best of the Best EXPO on your social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. Invite your networks to attend.

10. Think about promotional giveaways--are they right for you? EXPO is about EXPOsing your business. It's not Trick or Treating, however strategic use of promotional items can enhance your visibility.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Best of the Best EXPO Exhibitor Tips: Why am I here?

In your eagerness not to be left out, have you ever found yourself--say in the middle of an EXPO--and wondered, "Why am I here?" Perhaps you're hoping a little of the enthusiasm of your fellow exhibitors will rub off on you. After all--they seem to know what they're doing.

Happy accidental business success is not the best game plan.
Strategic planning is the secret to true, long lasting success.

Are you new to being strategic? Don't worry--it's easy. Start by asking yourself that key question now! Why am I here? What do I want to get out of the EXPO?

Remember--you're looking for SMART goals. Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Relavent and Timely.

When we've asked exhibitors this question we get answers like these:
  • To generate sales and sales leads
  • To add to our contact list
  • To enhance our image and visibility
  • To establish a presence in the marketplace
  • To improve the effectiveness of our marketing efforts
  • To reach a specific audience
  • To practice self-promotion
  • To introduce a new product or service
  • To recruit distributors or salespeople
  • To demonstrate our product or service
  • To educate the public

Whatever your reason for being at the EXPO--be CLEAR on why you want to be there.

What are your expectations? Are they measurable? Are they realistic?

Do the math--the EXPO is open for 3 hours (5-6 pm is a business social hour and 6-8 the EXPO is open to the public). How many people can you expect to greet and interact with in that time period? Of the over 1000 people coming through the EXPO, what percentage is likely to be your primary audience?

And of your primary audience, how many can you identify and start a relationship with?

Really think about what a successful EXPO looks like to you. Then develop a plan so your expectaions can be met.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chamber Mixers--Lunch with the Chamber is a good investment

Chamber luncheon mixers have been a standard since 1987, when the Chamber was founded. With over 250 successful luncheons the Chamber has learned a few things about what you want out of these events.

1. Start on time and end on time.
Luncheon mixers are in the middle of a work day. You have appointments and work to do. You do not want to be caught at a midday event that runs late and makes you late for the rest of your day.

2. Don't make us stand in line
Chamber members do not want to stand in line to register, check in or pay for their luncheon mixer. Every minute standing in line is a minute of valuable networking that's been missed.
This is why the Chamber offers a discount when you sign up and pay in advance. We want to give you incentive to help us keep the registration/check in quick and easy. Think of early bird registration as your eTicket Fastpass.

3. Let me talk to my friends
By streamlining registration, we make sure you have time to greet friends and familiar faces. We don't encourage you to take your seats until we're ready to start the program. That's because you meet more people when you're standing and mingling.

4. Help me meet new people
Chamber luncheon mixers utilize reserve seating. When you sign up in advance, we are able to strategize who you'll be seated with. Looking to connect with a particular industry--let us know and we can keep that in mind as we coordinate the table seatings.

5. Give me information I can use
Luncheon speakers are carefully selected to offer timely information and updates--news businesses can use. Speakers may be elected officials, public policy makers, community groups an initiatives--or business services, advisors or regional resources.

6. I want to be a speaker/presenter
There are 11 mixers each year and the Chamber books speakers up to 12 months in advance. Members who are interested in speaking to a group should submit their information for the Chamber's "Speakers Bureau." This information is posted on the Chamber's website and shared with the community groups in our area.
We do keep all member's speaking requests on file--however we do not guarantee that all requests will be worked into our strategic plan. Frankly, we have many more speaking requests than we have speaking opportunities.

7. I want to have fun
Chamber luncheon mixers are an opportunity to recharge, have fun--laugh and build relationships with fellow business leaders in our community. We know that if you enjoy your luncheon mixer experience, you will be more likely to attend a future event.

And that's the real key to our Mixers. We help you get connected and keep you connected to your peers, to public policy makers, to key information that can help you grow your business and to people who can be strategic referral partners.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Get more out of your EXPO experience!

The Chamber's annual EXPO is fast approaching--November 11, 2010 6-8 pm at Clarkston High School.

Are you in?

How do I prepare for the EXPO?
First- Get in the game! I know this sounds basic--but REGISTER. You'll save money with an early bird discount. And you may not know this, but when placing EXPO booths, we do the corporate sponsors first, the hospitality second, the premium sponsors third--and then we work through the registrations in the order they were received. So early registration may increase your chances of a preferred EXPO position.

You'll also have a chance to order a logo self-inking stamp so you can participate in the EXPO Bingo game. Visitors will be asked to get their card fully stamped in order to enter the door prize drawing. If you want to be part of the Bingo game--be an early bird and get a logo stamp.

Second--Create a Game Plan! Take a few minutes to strategize what your booth will look like, what colors, what message, who will be staffing it?
With over 1,000 people coming through the EXPO how will your booth draw the public in? You don't want everyone just walking on by--or hurrying to the booth that's 2 spots down from you because that display has something more interesting, attractive or dynamic.

What message can you use that intrigues a potential customer or client? How will your booth's display help you pre-qualify a lead?

Here's an Example:
I was intrigued at the recent Taste of Clarkston by the way the restaurants creatively drew people in--not only to taste their food--but to think about them for future business.
What was the best example of this creative, eye catching marketing? Scott Lake Banquet Center. If you were at the Taste, you may have seen the 2 couples dressed in formal wear. They were helping to promote Scott Lake as the place to have your wedding reception. Eye catching--no one else was wearing an evening gown or tuxedo--and an instantly recognizable message--"Oh! Weddings!" If you were thinking about getting married--you would definitely want to go check out the food and information at their booth.

Third--Seed the EXPO audience with testimonials! Send an invitation (email or postcard) to your existing customer list and invite them to visit you at the EXPO. Perhaps offer them a special incentive for stopping by your booth. Consider this "seeding the crowd with your personal advocates." Your current customers love the work you do--make sure they're at the EXPO and can share with their friends and other visitors their opinion (and endorsement) for your business. It's the "Reading Rainbow" effect. Remember Levar Burton's famous "But you don't have to take my word for it," catch phrase at the end of the PBS show as he introduced the segment where every day readers gave a quick promo for their favorite book?

It's very effective. User ratings, opinions and referrals are HUGE! (So get your satisfied customers to come to the EXPO--they'll help you market your message!)

Fourth--Be Memorable! Think about what you may give away or hand out. Not all booths have give aways any more, and that's okay. The EXPO shouldn't be about Trick or Treating--but you DO want to be in people's memory when they suddenly need your services.

Make your give away something of quality. You want your future customer or client to view your give away as an indication of the kind of service and value they'll get from you when they purchase your services.

Don't feel you have to give your item to everyone. Hold your items, or keep them behind the table--and share them only with the potential customers or clients you pre-qualify.

Need new and fresh ideas? Contact one of the promotional and marketing companies that belong to the Chamber. Let them know your budget and goals--and they'll do the leg work to find options that may fit your needs.

DO THIS NOW so you don't have to pay express shipping or production prices!

Fifth--Clean up your Data base and create a plan to follow up with your pre-qualified leads IMMEDIATELY.
The goal at EXPO is NOT to do your entire sales presentation to the visitors to your booth. Your goal is to identify who might be a customer or client. Get their contact information (fish bowl drawings are a great tool for this) and then follow up within the next week.

How do you follow up? While a phone call may seem like the easiest and quickest way to follow up, it may not be the most effective.

Consider sending a thank you card. Be sure the thank you card includes a "call to action." A discount or free offer if they respond within a short time period.

If you asked for email addresses to sign up for your company eblasts--make sure you DO an eblast or enewsletter right away. Keep it short, fun and intriguing. Include a "call to action," inspiring them to click to your website, stop by your business or call you for more information.

Sixth--train your staff. Make sure that the representatives at your booth know how to spot a pre-qualified lead. Develop 2 or 3 quick questions that they can use to intrigue and discern who might be a potential lead. (eg: If you're a Veterinarian--finding out if the people coming by are pet owners is essential. You could ask if they have a pet--or your staff could ask if they have a picture of their pet with them. Perhaps you have a special gift item for visitors that can show a picture of their pet. That's a fun way to find out who's a pet owner, what kind of a pet do they own and clearly--they LOVE their pet if they have a picture of them in their purse or wallet.)

And finally--Plan to visit the other booths. Learning about the other Chamber member businesses, striking up relationships and reinforcing existing relationships is the foundation of a really strong local economy.

Don't forget that at the end of the evening, after you've broken down your booth and packed up the car--head over to Fountains for the EXPO afterglow. It's a cash bar and some appetizer nibbles to close out a very fun and effective evening of networking.