Title: Powerful Exhibit Marketing
Author: Barry Siskind
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd.
Paperback, 320 pages including index
Cover Price: $34.95
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It is early in the 2012 conference season, but some of the biggest events are already behind us or currently underway. Either way, it’s not too late to read Powerful Exhibit Marketing – The Complete Guide To Successful Trade Shows, Conferences and Consumer Shows by Canadian exhibit marketing specialist Barry Siskind. I picked this book up at the Wiley Canada booth at last year’s SIGGRAPH conference in Vancouver, wishing as I read it that I’d seen it before the conference – but we are now well-prepared for 2014 when SIGGRAPH returns, as well as any other event we may participant in as either exhibitor or attendees.
Powerful Exhibit Marketing will walk you through the steps of choosing which events will most likely give your company the best returns on participation, using a variety of situational criteria. This criteria includes how to put focus on which aspect or aspects of your business you wish to promote at any given show, taking you through the top three levels of exhibit objectives.
As with any company, different departments within your operation will have different objectives for different shows. Barry will get you focused on what is important, the reasons for becoming an exhibitor, and what will your company get out of the event on any level, from overall benefits to future trade to employee benefit.
Once you have pinpointed your exhibit objectives, Barry moves you to the next important component of exhibit marketing – budget and finances. While making a splash on the exhibit floor is important, it’s not always necessary to have the biggest, loudest or most brightly lit booth in order to make your marketing efforts memorable to your target audience. That said, who wouldn’t love to have the exhibit budget of companies like AutoDesk, Microsoft or Nvidia?
Powerful Exhibit Marketing provides a series of worksheets to figure out every cost related to trade show participation and how it will benefit your company. These forms are invaluable in looking back at the events in which you’ve exhibited and what benefits you were able to reap from each once you return to the daily doing of business.
Once you’ve figured out what your objectives for exhibiting will be, along with your event budget, it’s time to start looking at events and evaluating them against those two points. If you are trying to reach your end market, there will not be much chance to meet that objective if you exhibit at a Trade Only event. Conversely, you could have an opportunity to chat with development and industry people at fan events, as well as meet your end user audience. Barry gets you looking at these opportunities and evaluating them against the two previous exercises in order to get the most benefit for your company out of each dollar you spend.
Now that you’ve chosen your shows and set your budget, it’s time to focus on the booth itself. This is one of those times when size does matter. We had a 10′ x 10′ booth at SIGGRAPH, and while we were worried about what we’d put in it to put forth a good face on what we were trying to promote – on a tiny budget – we found that a 10′ x 10′ booth simply was not big enough to meet our objectives or allow for the interactive components to be beneficial to all who stopped by for a visit – and there were plenty of visitors.
I believe we were able to meet some of our objectives – promoting Canadian IDM to visitors from around the world, we were not able to meet all of our objectives. That said, as this was our first exhibit ever – and in a really big show – I think we did quite well. We will take our lessons learned forward as we participate in other events. As you will learn in reading Barry’s book, taking lessons learned home with you and working to improve from those lessons is a big part of moving your company forward in a successful manner.
As you design your booth, Barry covers points that will be important at the show – branding and corporate messaging, staff participation, functionality and opportunities for a deeper involvement at the show. Training your staff prior to an event is incredibly important, because your booth and your company will be memorable for one of two things – engaging or not. A trade show is your opportunity to put the human face before your audience, a time to show your audience that your company and its people know their stuff and they care about the people who, for lack of a better overall term, buy from them. One of the most important messages you and your staff can convey to your audience at the show is respect – you respect their time, the fact that they may be trade-show-weary, you respect their opinions, questions, and privacy. This book teaches you how to do these things.
We’ve been to many, many events, as have many of you – and while the flashy booths may capture our attention and curiosity, it’s the people and the message in the booth that sticks. Were the people working in the booth knowledgeable about the product? Were they able to answer your questions on the spot or find someone who could? Did they leave you with the feeling that this is a company you want to do business with or get to know better, or did you forget about them as soon as you left their booth? Note – this is where using “hirelings” or “spokes models” for your booth will probably not give long-term return benefit to your company, despite the number of people they may draw to your booth.
Taking the time to meet with booth staff and providing pre-show training will only add to the success of your participation. As with any aspect of running a business – investing in training for your people and taking the time to address issues will generally add to their enthusiasm for the event and help your company meet its objectives. By making sure your staff know the ins and outs of what is expected as a result of this trade show, you enable them to put forth not only the best face of your company and products, but you let your staff shine in the spotlight as well.
Powerful Exhibit Marketing walks you through all of these points and counter-points, helping you to maintain the overall point of why you are exhibiting at any trade show – to grow your company with new business and sustain or deepen relationships with the clients you already have.
Barry also goes in-depth on some other very important exhibit points: pre-show promotion, at the show promotion, and post-show follow-up. You cannot rely on show floor wandering to get people to your booth. You need to let them know you are at the show, and Barry has many suggestions and exercises to help you, starting from the day you confirm your booth until the time you’re back at the office and ready to follow-up with all of those new leads and sources. The author also covers some other very valuable points – scoping out the other companies at the show, creative (and legal) strategic intelligence missions, and applying that knowledge to your company’s benefit.
Powerful Exhibit Marketing is full of beneficial information and also recommends further reading or investigation on several points. If you plan on doing any exhibiting at all, Powerful Exhibit Marketing is for you. It really is a smart investment and will continue to give you honest returns for years to come, because it gives you a solid foundation on which to build your company’s exhibit marketing program.