Those who frequent the trade show circuit recognize the benefits of participating far outweigh the costs. Exposing your company to a new audience or solidifying your reputation with an existing market opens up endless possibilities. Generate meaningful leads, educate new clients, and even provide a hands-on look at your products or services – all by participating in a one- or multiple-day event. Offering consumers a tangible connection to your company is priceless, especially if you are a web-based or service-oriented company.
As a PR partner for bridal and entertainment trade shows, I work closely with vendors to ensure everyone remains engaged throughout the process. Being proactive as well as connecting with and coaching vendors before, during, and after the shows has been crucial to the success of each show.
Whether a newbie or an experienced trade show participant, the following tips will put you on the right path to success.
Promote your attendance at the show.
Many companies believe show promotion is best left to the show organizers, but this is just not the case! If each participating vendor reached out to their own established network, the resulting collective network will ensure phenomenal results for everyone involved. One easy way to promote your participation – announce it via social media, and don’t forget about the power of tagging relevant people. Or send an email blast to subscribers about your participation and what they can expect from the show. The larger the number of show attendees, the more chances you have to initiate and develop new leads. In the end, your success at the show is directly linked to the success of the overall show.
Let experience guide.
First impressions count. Always. Assigning the task of manning a booth is not an appropriate initiation rite for newer employees or to be seen as grunt work relegated to interns. Staff who are well-versed in the company and its products/services serve as representatives and are more likely to transform an attendee into a viable lead. Train newer staff to understand your products and services inside and out and anticipate the questions that might arise. Participating in a trade show is a great learning tool for all levels of employees – one that is best experienced under the guidance of a seasoned and knowledgeable employee.
Stand out from the crowd.
Design your booth in way that best reflects your company’s mission and captures attention of passersby. Flashing lights and blaring music will not impress anyone (unless you’re a DJ vendor at a bridal show, and even then, be mindful of your neighbors!). Less is more. A booth crowded with too many product samples or a clutter of brochures and flyers will make it difficult for the attendee to focus on pertinent information – or what you’re saying.
Smile, smile, smile! With very little effort, your positive vibes alone will lure attendees to your booth. It goes without saying that sitting in the back of the booth looking dejected will deter attendees from stopping by and will foster a negative impression about your company. Instead, ditch the chairs entirely. Keep the layout of your booth open and inviting with tables positioned along the outer booth walls in a U shape. Engage attendees in thoughtful conversation, rather than a direct pitch for products. Ask questions, and learn what the individual hopes to gain from stopping at your booth. Spending a few minutes assessing a potential lead is worth the time. Jot down notes to help you remember key details. A list of interested leads will result in a more fruitful outcome than a longer list of general attendees.
Smile, smile, smile! Yes, the same concepts apply to your fellow vendors as do with show attendees. Being positive, forthcoming, and genuinely interested in other participating companies is just as important as developing leads. Trade shows are an excellent networking opportunity where you can learn more about colleagues and swap ideas. In some industries, such as wedding and event planning, several vendors may work on one event together and paths are sure to cross. Developing and maintaining key professional relationships will go a long way to increasing business opportunities and strengthening your brand’s reputation.
Make your giveaway meaningful.
How many pens, notepads, and stress balls have you gathered from trade shows in the past? These items are likely cluttering your office and collecting dust. Put some thought into how you would like attendees to remember your company. Design your giveaway to show both your understanding of the market and your insight into what potential clients find useful. Use this opportunity to offer a potential lead some insight into your product or service. Consider holding a raffle prize at the end of the show, where the winner gets a complementary service from your company. Photographers can raffle mini-engagement sessions. Caterers and bakeries can offer discounts on their products. Complimentary spa services, discounts on catered food or the wedding cake – the possibilities are endless.
Follow-up on leads.
You worked hard during the show, so the last thing you want is for leads (and their interest) to wither away. The day after the show, send an email to leads thanking them for stopping by your booth. Follow-up with individual leads (refer back to your notes), and send a personalized email. Later in the week, a phone call may be more appropriate depending on the needs of the lead. The time spent after the show following-up is just as important as the time spent on the exhibit floor.
Don’t let a few unsuccessful trade show experiences color your view forever. Reflect on those experiences and consider using a proactive approach for your next trade show – the result is likely to be a more positive and engaging experience. As part of a well-rounded strategy, trade shows are a wonderful way to boost your brand recognition and reputation, generate leads within a new target market, and develop new professional partnerships.
In the end, the time and effort spent ensuring your trade show appearance is a success will directly enhance the number of qualified leads you acquire. Make the most of your trade show experience and guarantee lasting results for your company.
Starting a small business is no easy task, and managing one can be stressful. Keeping track of legal and financial regulations while also building a reputation and marketing your services/products can be exhausting and frustrating.
If you’re like me, you wear many hats and have had to learn how to navigate processes you never thought you would need to know. In business school, I developed a strong foundation, but managing my own business has led me to fully experience the process from many different perspectives. Thank goodness for the Internet! With networks and organizations dedicated to small businesses and their success, it is much easier to navigate the realms of administration, marketing, finance, and more.
There are many resources available, so this list is by no means exhaustive. Here are just a few to get you started:
U.S. Small Business Administration: Whether you’re just starting a new business or have been established for years, the SBA is great resource to find legal, loan, and contract information. Local chapters offer events and workshops for additional assistance.
US Chamber of Commerce: Small Business Nation is a project of the US Chamber of Commerce. From legal documents to financial advice, this site provides small business owners with a plethora of tools to succeed. Additionally, your local Chamber of Commerce is a good way to connect with business leaders in your own community for advice and mentoring.
National Association of Women Business Owners: NAWBO is network for women owned businesses. Events and seminars are designed to engage members in conversation as well as develop relationships with like-minded leaders in the community. Local chapters enable networking and the sharing of ideas and experiences.
LinkedIn: If you’re not already a part of this professional networking site, sign up today! This platform helps you stay connected with former and current colleagues as well as offers access to interest groups, where discussions are both timely and informational. LinkedIn Pulse offers users a way to tailor news that is most relevant to their own interests. If you don’t have a lot a time to read, Pulse is one-stop way to stay up-to-date.
Canva: Do you struggle with finding images to match your brand and vision? Canva is an online graphic design that eases the process of creating social media images as well as marketing materials and company letterhead. While many free images are available, paid images are only $1. Canva is an affordable way to do some of your own visual branding.
MailChimp: For businesses just starting out with email marketing and e-newsletters, MailChimp provides free plans for companies with a small number of subscribers. Easy to use, the platform generates tracking reports and presents your customers with a professional, visually appealing email.
While there are too many blogs to list, here are a few that I read on a regular basis.
James Altucher: Altucher is an entrepreneur and prolific writer. If anything, his blog posts offer great insight into entrepreneurship and often comic relief from the daily challenges of managing your own business.
Entrepreneur: Also a print magazine, Entrepreneur’s blog and website is a great place to go for inspiration and to see the latest trends in business, social media, marketing, and more.
Inc.: Also a print magazine, Inc. is geared towards helping businesses grow. Read about and learn from other business owners and find resources to help you build a competitive organization.
Meltwater: A communications company, the Meltwater blog provides information about tracking results from marketing/PR campaigns as well as tips for successful branding.
Seth Godin: If you need marketing help of inspiration, look no further! Engaging and entertaining, Godin has also written several books if you can’t get enough.
The Arpan Group: I would be remiss if I left our own blog off this list! We write about our experiences as well as about the strategies that worked (and those that didn’t), so check in regularly or sign up for our newsletter to keep up-to-date with more tips and resources.
Update: One of our youngest readers suggested a website for teaching kids about business: www.bfscapital.com/teaching-kids-business. It’s never too early to help children learn the ins and outs about finance, and this is a great resource to start. Special thanks for the suggestion!
How many times have you been at a networking event or conference and come across a familiar face, but blank on their name? The internal struggle begins as you try to connect the face with something more concrete in your mind. Consumers face this dilemma everyday as they are inundated by offers on social media sites, endless emails clogging their inbox, and telemarketers interrupting the rare sit-down dinner.
Driven by the bottom line, and understandably so, small business owners rely on advertising as a concrete way to achieve a measurable goal, i.e. increase sales or website traffic. As we filter through postcards in the mail or online offers, we see a company’s advertising dollars at work. While the impact of advertising dollars is clearly understood, the role public relations plays is often less so.
Before solely investing your time, money, and efforts in an in-depth marketing strategy, consider these questions:
- Is the target market already well acquainted with my brand/services/products?
- How likely will a consumer open my firm’s email or read the sales offer?
If the answers are no and not likely, then a different approach might achieve better impact. A public relations strategy, designed to inform the public about who you are and what you do, will ensure your firm’s advertising dollars don’t go to waste. Incorporating public relations into your marketing strategy helps in two crucial ways:
Strengthens brand name: Being sure a consumer knows your name and exactly what your firm offers is the first step. If a consumer already knows your company’s mission and the services/products offered, s/he is more likely to engage in marketing efforts.
Enhances credibility: Enhance your firm’s reputation through articles or blog mentions. With advertising, consumers are well aware they are being given a sales pitch. Reading about how your firm’s history or a profile about the founder in a trusted media source lends a different vibe and adds to your credibility as a reputable firm.
A public relations strategy should, by no means, replace marketing efforts. Instead, the two complement one another resulting in a longer lasting (and lucrative) impact. What can your firm do to incorporate public relations with marketing efforts?
Distribute press releases: keep media informed about your latest products/services. If your firm is just entering the market, use press releases to tell your story – help the media understand the needs your firm addresses.
Target relevant media: Media outreach begins with a targeted approach. Be sure your story is heard by the right people, not a general mass, so that your target audience gets the message.
Engage on social media: Meaningful conversations with your customers strengthen your reputation. Stay in touch with customers by offering advice and tips or sharing relevant news.
As a small business owner myself, I am well acquainted with the dilemma of deciding where to spend money and time. Caught up in the day-to-day and trying to make ends meet is often the main focus, and the big picture is just something you catch a glimpse of the distance. By allocating resources to both public relations and marketing efforts, small businesses can achieve greater impact as well as meet growth and financial goals.
Today, I had the pleasure of being a presenter during a seminar on capturing the Indian wedding market. One of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, South Asian Americans are increasingly gaining visibility in a wide range of sectors, from CEOs of global companies and political figures to actors, writers, and fashion designers. As the demographic makeup of our communities continues to change and diversify, companies and marketing teams too should consider refining their messages, with special attention to cultural nuances.
Building positive relationships with niche markets, such as South Asian Americans, takes not only time, but also finesse and attention to detail. How do you capture the attention of a niche market? More importantly, how do you create loyalty for your services and products as well as your company?
- Understand the Consumer: First things first, learn more about the target market: demographics, purchasing trends, culture, traditions, etc. The seminar attendees were all keen on learning about the many rituals and traditions that make up a typical Indian wedding. They’ve take the first step towards reaching the South Asian market; they’re showing an interest and are eager to understand their target consumer. The more you know, the better informed your pitch.
- Build a Lasting Impression: Details matter. Knowing a typical Indian wedding consists of three or more events gives you an advantage. By asking a potential client, “Will you be hosting a Sangeet/Mehndi or Grah Shanti?”, you demonstrate an understanding of Indian weddings. Anticipating needs in advance and spending more time discussing your actual services rather than wedding traditions shows clients you’ve gone the extra mile.
- Create Added Value: Consider what your firm can do to go beyond what is done for the general public or other target markets. Offer additional services that take cultural differences in account. Make your marketing materials more appealing to the niche market. This attention to detail and understanding of the consumer leads to a more positive relationship with the target market.
You’ve probably caught on by now … the details matter! Whether marketing to the general public or to a niche market, focusing on the details (the right details!) should be an integral part of your strategy. Missing the mark on just one tiny detail can make or break you. So not only are the details key to gaining access to a niche market, but also towards earning a consumer’s trust and confidence in your firm.
The Pew Research Center provides a report based on 2010 US Census data on Asian Americans.
As Diwali, Thanksgiving, and the end of the year approaches, many of us are consumed with shopping for gifts, preparing holiday meals, among many other tasks. We become so entrenched into making sure everything is just so, that the actual meanings of the holidays pass us by.
Organizations like #GivingTuesday remind us that the holiday season is not just about shopping and over-indulging. #GivingTuesday falls on December 1 every year, after two of the year’s biggest shopping days – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Created as a day dedicated to celebrate generosity and giving to those in need, #GivingTuesday serves as a reminder to give back to our communities.
With so many charities sending postcards in the mail, emails on a daily basis, and numerous social media requests, being mindful about your charitable giving can be a challenging task. Below are a few things to consider as you explore options and narrow your choices:
- Values: First and foremost, what values and causes are of great importance to you and your family? Is there one particular cause about which you are truly passionate? Do you see a need in your community that needs support?
- Mission and goals: Look carefully at an organization’s mission and goals? Are the mission and goals clear? Does the organization share the ways in which they fulfill
- Data: Check the organization’s annual report to see how their financials reflect their projects as well as to get a sense of the leadership and organizational transparency (see “Vetting Charities” below for resources). That said, don’t rely solely on the numbers or the overhead ratio! Also look at the organization’s website and read any available evaluation reports to get a clear picture and a complete understanding of their projects and administration.
- Follow-up: Once you’ve narrowed your list and made your donations, be sure to look into how the organization is doing three, six, twelve months down the road.
Beyond making a monetary donation, consider offering an organization your time and expertise. Many new and smaller nonprofits can truly benefit from capacity building that comes from leaders in the community. Some nonprofits also rely on volunteers to implement programs, so consider connecting with an organization on a level beyond simply writing a check.
These are a few sites to help you navigate the efficacy of nonprofit organizations. These sites are a good place to begin your research as each provides a description of the organization and its mission as well as annual reports and performance ratings. Don’t rely on just the reports; be sure to visit the organization’s website and social media outlets to get well-rounded insight into their work and mission.
Resources for Kids/Families
It’s never too early to begin instilling children with an understanding of generosity and giving. Begin by showing them with your own behavior as well as through examples from their every day lives (in their classrooms, communities, etc.). #GivingTuesday provides some great tools for teachers and parents alike, including an exploration of the reasons why we give. Visit their TOOLS section for more information.
Children of every age can learn firsthand how their generosity impacts not only others, but also their own attitudes and feelings. These books offer a starting point for discussions and examples of ways to share:
Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming
A Kid’s Guide to Giving by Freddi Zeiler
One Hen by Katie Smith Milway
When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars by Valiska Gregory
Mama, I’ll Give You the World by Roni Schotter
The Giving Book by Ellen Sabin
The Giving Tree by Shel Silerstein
The Spiffiest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson
This holiday season, start a new tradition of giving back to your community with your family. Giving back strengthens not only our communities, locally and globally, but also our own well-being.
I have ambitious goals when it comes to reading. Numerous “must read” lists pop up on my social media feeds, and I’m tempted to add so many of those noted to my list. I’ve realized I need to narrow my choices and aim to finish at least one book (or even a magazine or two from cover to cover!) a month.
Here’s my list for this fall:
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
by Carol Dweck, PhD
Many schools and educators are now focused on “growth mindset.” Thinking back to my school years, I remember not having to try too hard. I studied and was involved, but I don’t think I pushed myself as much as I could have. Mindset explores a new model, where the emphasis is on working hard to continually improve.
by Arianna Huffington
With so many of us trying to prioritize the demands of work, children, social lives, and more, it’s only natural that we feel worn down and stressed. In this book, Huffington reflects on her own experiences, and she uses scientific reasoning to emphasize the need for mindfulness and meditation to achieve balance.
Do the KIND Thing: Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately
By Daniel Lubetzky
What I love most about KIND Snacks, besides the yummy bars and granola, is the company’s commitment to “make the world kinder” through their grant program, KIND Causes. Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of KIND, is a visionary and entrepreneur, and his own personal story inspires us all to approach life with more attention to our words and actions.
Why Not Me?
by Mindy Kaling
You’re probably thinking this pick is the one that doesn’t belong. Well, yes it does! And why not? Mindy Kaling is funny, confident, and exudes enthusiasm for life. She’s a great role model for young women and proves that being comfortable in your own skin, skills, and talents is a far better use of energy than trying to fit into a neat and tidy package.
What are the must-reads on your list?