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The Twelve Month Trade Show
By Jeff Butcher on April 25, 2013

Social media, video chats, email and the phone are dandy, but meeting in person is the way to engage fully with customers. Face to face is the way to get business done, as dynamic conversation opens the door to new possibilities.

When you can have real time in front of your customers, versus screen time in front of your screen of choice, expansion of ideas results in real profit—both personal and financial. Answers from an email question lead to an end. Live conversations lead to beginnings.

If you are going to go through the fiscal and physical expense of making a customer visit, then being prepared is an important step. Simply showing up can leave a negative impression, and your time and expense can be wasted. Plan a strategy, bring some visuals, hit your key points and leave behind materials that allow your customer to remember you the next day.

Since meeting face to face is undeniably crucial to relationship building and growth, wise leaders plan a strategy to reach as many customers and key vendors during the year as possible. Delegating travel helps, but often a visit from a top leader in an organization creates the questions to attract long term and substantial business. All the players coming together in one place creates an abundance of new ideas.

Traveling to every customer is far from financially possible, and the time away comes at a price. The solution is participating in an industry trade show. Every industry has a variety of trade shows, and attending them all falls in the “tough” category.

In racing, the Performance Racing Industry Show is built to cultivate face to face meetings.  

Indianapolis is an intimate location. Plus, social gatherings are within walking distance—I would bet that business that begins in the show hall is followed up by intense relationship building out on the town.

The value of PRI is big—customers from all parts of the world come to see your products. More importantly, customers come to build relationships, and the products you present are simply the vehicle utilized to cement relationships both new and old. International customers swarm toward new products as the worldwide crowd has limited opportunity to meet your group in person.

Exhibiting at a trade show means that you are there to participate versus to just hang out. Because small business is inherently understaffed, preparation for the show often turns into a last minute thrash.

Waiting to build your show presentation until the last minute devalues the expense and energy required to make a true impact at the show. Your twelve month calendar should have tasks embedded each month to maximize benefit and minimize the craziness that occurs if you wait until the last minute for show planning.

Strategy to maximize your show presence should begin while the current year show is in progress. If your company is committed to being at the show year after year then it is extremely wise to begin preparation for next year’s trade show while the current year show is still in progress. Customers arrive expecting to see your new products and your people. “What’s New” should be the featured section of your booth.

Amortizing knowledge gained in one year over the life of your business creates a return that pays back year after year. A case in point would be realizing that the dealer you signed up at the show will likely be with you for years. Treated properly, the dealer signed up this year will remain with your business for eternity. Astute leaders place maximum effort into respecting their customers, and most often a new dealer becomes a lifelong representative for your product line.

Your loyal employees grasp the need for customer retention, so customer attraction is a worthy goal at any trade show.

Show preparation is vital, but in no case should plans for the future interrupt relationship building. The trick is to double up on planning details as you go. Building a file while face to face with shipping companies, hotel staff, and trade show services can all be duplicated for the following year while you are doing the work required for the current year. A few simple notes taken along the way will allow you to make needed adjustments that you can implement after the show.

“How many catalogs did we give away last year”? Writing it down ensures that you are efficient the next time around.

Planning time for the following year can be dramatically reduced if you jot down the improvements you would like for the next show that comes in a quick twelve months. How many years in a row have you been standing in your freshly built booth only to ask yourself about how you need better catalog racks—just as you had said last year and the year before and so on.

Saving time is great, yet the real win comes in creating a better booth in future years, and simple documentation will maximize the return on your investment while presenting your company in the best light.

Customers have traveled far to see you and your products—being prepared is vital to winning new business. Note taking should be moderated so that real ideas make it into future booths. If you overwhelm yourself with too many notes you risk skipping those items that are most critical.

Once you return home from any show your tired body is welcomed by an overflowing email inbox. Following up on all those great leads you garnered at the show is job one. By the time you get through the pile of work and family needs waiting for you—the chance to miss ordering those new catalog racks is a vague thought that evaporates through the demands of your daily routine.

The goal is to take action as needs are noticed. A simple paper tablet works—placing a task with a due date on your smartphone, tablet or laptop is efficient. Those pop-up reminders give you timely reminders to implement continuous improvement.

Building a file “as you go” takes more discipline than time. A few photos of your booth from different angles will be a needed asset as you plan for the following year. Keeping any kind of note taking device nearby improves organization and action. When a great idea pops into your head you can send yourself an email from your phone, allowing you to organize in the comfort of your office.

What corrections and improvements are needed? What wish list things do you want? What was simply forgotten? How many catalogs did we give away? Utilizing a digital device with date reminder takes seconds, and the device can do the remembering for you while focusing your time on customers.

With discipline, you can take your “built as you go” notes and delegate as many items as possible in your post show review meeting. Taking on the “must have” projects should begin well in advance of the next show, and planning should convert from a last minute thrash to a twelve month regimented process that has at least one improvement task being accomplished each and every month preceding the next show.

Many arrangements can be renewed if they are to your liking (hotels, shipping, electricity, signage, booth services, etc.). Improved display items can be ordered, and you can build the show for the following year while everything is still fresh in your mind. Standing in your booth, with the visuals that provide obvious clues to improvement, makes it easy to document benefits for the next time around.

It is amazing how hard it is to remember important things when you are in your office, but how familiar those things become as they scream back into your memory the second you return to the show hall. Unfortunately, once you arrive at your booth it is too late to implement obvious improvements that you forgot about from the prior year.

Show arrangements handled efficiently provide extra energy that can be placed in your people and in your customers. It is equally important to document “wins” that you discover. Setting a positive reminder for the following year ensures that you can repeat success.

Meeting people at their location allows them to demonstrate the pride they have in their business. You are able to see them in action, and sharing knowledge is based on what you witness with your own eyes. The goal is to accept that visiting all of your customers is difficult, and you should respect that your customers will face many pressures and distractions during your visit—time is precious when you are welcomed into the building of your customers.

Trade shows are extremely efficient and provide an environment where customers are primed to do business. A customer that attends a trade show is ready to learn and leaves distractions from home behind. Trade show attendees are programmed to do business, and the formatted schedule of the show creates a subtle deadline to get things done now versus later.

The Performance Racing Industry Show brings with it the advantage of excitement. The entire industry builds a city within the Indianapolis Convention Center in a matter of hours. The booths glimmer with new products and real people bask in the hope of a successful new year. “The Show” is filled with customers that arrive with focus and purpose. Real people create a unified message that comes with the vision to improve the industry as a whole.

The singular purpose of Exhibitors and Attendees is structured, as everyone in the hall is there to learn and grow. The show becomes the Game Day arena. The players come together in playoff form ready to take advantage of the place where business gets done.

PRI provides an experience that is unique. The electricity is the result of months of planning that is executed in an almost invisible fashion by the PRI Staff. Exhibitors put in equal effort, resulting in an event that is a yearly gathering to share information for mutual gain.

Since you know that the stadium will be filled with eager buyers, a playoff atmosphere is ensured. Naturally, your team should come prepared and ready to play. The Show is one week on the calendar. Success comes to the people that have come ready to perform. The event is the stage that provides opportunity. Planning is a twelve month effort.

Companies that immerse themselves in value-building exercises excel. Absorbing benefit is contagious. Evolution comes to those that open the doors of opportunity. Attending the multitude of scheduled show events leads to other events, both scheduled and random, that many are yet to discover. Finding opportunity at PRI is easy. Growth is as simple as navigating the highly organized PRI Show Guide.

True winners at the show are those that leave spectators behind and commit to participating. There are several doors to choose from—open one up and take a chance on what you will find inside.

Go Forward – Move Ahead

Jeff Butcher

About the Author
Jeff Butcher's picture
Jeff Butcher is a veteran of the racing industry based in the Pacific Northwest.
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