The ropers at Annie Oakley’s Real Western Dudette Ranch were all riding high in the saddle. It was just before their first travel trade show in Chicago, and they just knew they would rope in big sales.
Annie and her all-woman cowpoke staff were confident thousands of American working women were just itchin to pay $1995 or more to learn the fine art of cattle roping and bronco busting. Annie sent her two best cowgirls; figurin’ if they could handle cattle, they could sure rustle up some sales. The cowgirls brought to the show a couple of hay bales, a big sign with genuine spurs dangling from it, a table clear across the front of their booth loaded with hundreds of small snapshots of the cowpokes in action, a four-page story Annie had hand wrote to give out. They wore their most trail-worn chaps and their fanciest boots.
Dang! Three days later, Annie’s seasoned cowgirls left the show more tired then after three-week cattle drive, ornery with their throats as dry as dust. They had only four leads, and had made no sales. Annie was as irritated as a stepped-on rattler; she had spent over $5,000. and was sure it was the show promoter’s fault her cowgirls were not more successful.
Proper Trade show Strategies Yield More Leads & Sales
Annie is fictional, but the way she fell out of the saddle is not much different than dozens of businesses I observe, and even some I have consulted to. I don’t let the ones under my reins keep going down the desert trail that Annie followed. You can end up more like this fictional company…
Tropical Bill’s Eco-Amazon Windsurfing tours had not lost any clients to Piranha during the first months of operation, and they were ready to expand his small tour business through travel trade shows. Bill and his staff’s goals at their first show were to raise broad awareness for their unique trips to consumers as well as secure travel agent representation.
An expert windsurfer, Tropical Bill had little experience with promotion, sales and trade shows and knew that, like windsurfing, it was a learned experience. He admitted his ignorance and assumed what I call “beginner’s mind.”
Here’s what Bill and his team did to improve their trade show results:
Show management was excited about Tropical Bill’s Windsurfing Simulator and gave them excellent floor placement. A follow-up sales letter was pre-printed and sent from the office to key prospects immediately with several new color brochures. The preparation, booth, staff activities, offers and prospect follow-up were all well executed.
Tropical Bill implemented many other strategies all covered in this article, raised the flag to their existence, made numerous bookings, established promising relationships with many travel agents, signed up for representation by two large adventure travel wholesalers, and even generated interest for a editorial story Outside Magazine.
Unlike Annie Oakleys’ Dudette Ranch, Tropical Bill’s Windsurfing company was now on the map, generating some cash flow and filling its sails with some powerful promotional winds. Bill could hardly wait for their next show opportunity. Annie was last seen commiserating around the campfire with her cowpokes.
Both outfitters knew that attendees at travel trade shows were their best markets. Both hoped to have some sales during the show and create awareness for future bookings. Clearly different attitudes and strategies yield different returns on investment. “Beginners mind,” planning, research, goals, and specific strategies make for happy trails and high wind days. Don’t reinvent the wheel. The resources you need, like the Texas Rangers, are awaiting your request for assistance.
Show management and trade organizations are there to help with your success. This show, like many others, will be both an industry trade show filled with travel agents and media as well as motivated consumers of travel related products and services. Trade shows are abundant fishing grounds; you just need the right equipment, training and bait.
4 Strategies for Maximizing Trade Show Exhibiting Results
1. Have a team-created plan. Unity provides more sales. Incorporate your most knowledgeable and motivated staff from start to finish. When the staff and owners share the same vision and agenda, achieving your goals will be far easier.
2. Do pre-show mailings and phone invitations can triple attendance. David Garfinkel and Jay Conrad Levinson in the soon to be released book, “Guerrilla Direct-Mail Marketing” suggest to use multiple personalized invitations promoting special offers redeemable only at your booth.
3. Arrive a couple days before show. Tap into guaranteed opportunity. There are unmatched opportunities to meet with media, establish sales representation, and network with fellow travel business people. Share what has worked for you and help others. When the show starts you’ll be better prepared and rested then most.
4. Taking care of yourself will yield better results. Schedule your staff so that everyone is smiling and well rested. Drink plenty of water. Eat well- balanced meals for higher energy. Avoid alcohol at all times during show. Wear comfortable shoes. Stretch your muscles while checking out other exhibits.
In 2005, U.S. consumers spent more then $486 billion dollars for travel related equipment, travel, lodging, and meals – and with hundreds of outfitters like Annie Oakley and Amazon Bill’s. All this just to have fun! Proper trade show marketing can be a magical and fun part of your total marketing plan.