Volume 14, Issue 8- October 2013

Showcase Showdown
How to Prepare and Stand Out in a Sea of Exhibitors
by Casey Neeley

It’s officially home and trade show season. While there are plenty of regional and local remodeling conferences throughout the year, September, October and even November host some of the largest industry-relevant exhibitions in the nation. Maybe you already have a booth at one or more of these shows; maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re planning to attend and get information on new suppliers and distributors. Whether or not you have already signed up to exhibit or attend an upcoming show, marketing experts agree it’s a valuable investment. Take a look at what several pros say you need to know when marketing yourself at trade and home shows.

Big Fish in a New Pond
Exhibiting at trade shows doesn’t make you an expert at exhibiting for a specific trade show in a new industry. That’s what Diversified Lineal Systems (DLS) had to do to prepare the recent GlassBuild America show in Atlanta. It was the first time the company had exhibited for its fenestration products.

“DLS is new to the fenestration industry, but not new to the fiberglass composite industry, so the advantage and challenge is to help fabricators understand the benefits of composite doors and windows over traditional materials, then secure a solid partnership with those fabricators to help them enter or gain ground in the fiberglass composite marketplace,” says Mark Back, director of operations.

In an effort to boost its marketing strategy in preparation for the show, Back says the company employed a variety of tactics to raise consumer awareness of the company offerings.

“Diversified Lineal Systems introduced new sales literature for its independent sales reps, advertises in industry publications such as DWM, is launching a new website, and exhibited at the show,” he says. “Trade shows allow companies such as DLS to gain a lot of exposure with a diverse group of people and are part of its overall marketing plans. There’s one other thing that makes a big difference, and that’s the personal invitation to attend the show being extended to fabricators who would or should be looking at expanding their offerings to include fiberglass. The personal relationships that span our industry have a great value and play a big part in forward growth of any company.”

So what does DLS think helps it stand out at fenestration-related trade shows? “As far as standing out against the competition, DLS has an advantage. It caters to regional fabricators who are looking for someone to partner with them and help them learn about the fiberglass composite process, teaching them how to fabricate and market the upgrade to fiberglass composite and they provide excellent training and technical support throughout the process and beyond. DLS’s way of supporting its fabricators definitely sets them apart from the competition. Everyone appreciates great service, and DLS is happy to provide excellent service and support, along with … its fiberglass door and window systems,” Back says.

Though the company won’t be a part of the 2013 Win-door show, the company hopes its efforts to prepare this year will have it ready to exhibit there in 2014.

Event Marketing for Local Home Remodeling Shows
Home show leads have fueled our industry and many of our businesses for years. Several home improvement companies would simply do a handful of home shows during the course of a year, and this would take care of all the entire year’s worth of leads. But over time, home shows have evolved. The spaces became crowded with similar companies, the economy soured and the shows were not well attended; weather or a big sports play-off game also could make or break a show.

All of this sparked a new type of marketing called event marketing. Marketing managers started looking at doing different events that didn’t have anything to do with home improvements. I’m not sure if this was out of desperation or creativity but it has turned into a very successful lead-generation program.

Today, home improvement companies and remodelers are setting up booths at different town festivals, boat shows, wine-tasting events, even flea markets. These events have driven down lead costs and at the same time, elevated the quality of the lead.

The folks attending these shows are in the mood to buy. In addition, they avoid other home improvement companies competing for these leads at these unique events. This has resulted in higher average sales and an emphasis on selling benefits, not price.

Event marketing is somewhat of an art. You need to find good events that have good ROIs. You also will need to hire demonstrators used specifically for event marketing.

Typically the marketing manager is the driver and organizer of events. You will need to find good demonstrators to work the events: don’t use salespeople. Finally, you need to target and experiment with the right shows until you have perfected your “circuit.” Event marketing will generate high-quality and low-cost leads.

Tyson Schwartz is the vice president of sales and marketing for Soft-Lite LLC and a blogger for DWM Magazine.

Is It Worth the Cost? The Center for Exhibition Industry Research offers a free ROI tool kit potential exhibitors can use to determine the cost and outreach associated with a show. Visit http://roitoolkit.exhibitsurveys.net/ Home/Welcome.aspx to use the free tool.

10 Fast Tips for Bettering Your Booth
Be sure that you are spending your money wisely to get the greatest bang for your buck. If you’re having trouble establishing your company’s unique brand, don’t just throw money at the problem, take the time to learn why your company is being overlooked or undervalued.”
—Dennis Nixon, sales manager at Smash Hit Displays for SmallbizBee. http://smallbizbee.com /index/2010/04/05/making-impact-trade-show-marketing

“Spread out the information. Don’t put all your proverbial eggs in one basket; we believe that every media outlet has its purpose. Increase your presence exponentially through social media, print, calls, email blasts, banner ads—the works.
—Holly Biller, vice president of marketing services for DWM magazine and Fenestration Day

“How much space do you have to work with? Where is the point of entry and exit? How many power outlets do you have and where are they located? This is the kind of information which you need to know, in order to maximize your marketing efforts.” —Craig Barnes, Strength in Business. www.strengthinbusiness.com/how-do-you-sell-your-business-effectively-at-trade-shows

“Think about all of the great marketing campaigns of the last decade, most of the best ones were remembered because they were funny, or really clever, or visually stunning. These days, irony and satire are very in. It’s good to have a sense of humor in your advertising because ultimately, people will remember things that make them laugh. ” —Nixon

“Everyone likes the prospect of winning something for free, so a great way to attract customers to your stand is to run a contest. If a person fills in their details, are they automatically entered into a prize draw? Make the prize related to your business.”—Barnes

Companies who think they are ‘too small’ have more to lose. When you’re a smaller company it takes more to come up with the revenue to even exhibit. So part of your plan needs to include how to ensure you capitalize on every single opportunity that booth space will provide. Strategic marketing, well-thought placements in trade books, email blasts and social media will ensure you get the ROI you are after. To quote Thomas Jefferson: ‘The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time.’” —Biller

“As with anything in life, you need to have a goal. Do you want to talk to X number of people? Do you want to convert X number of leads into prospective clients? Do you want to get a certain number of orders before you leave? Do you want to take away X number of contacts in the industry? By understanding what your objectives are, you can then determine which display products are more suited to your needs.” —Barnes

One of my most recent favorite trade show ad campaigns was the arrival of a small aluminum trash can similar in size to a coffee mug. The can had a lid and sticker on the front that said ‘Repeat ad new customers inside!’ When you opened the can it had a crumpled piece of paper because so often that is where marketing messages go. It certainly drove home the message and has stuck with me—and that is the best definition of a successful campaign.”—Biller

“Hand out some kind of promotional item that becomes the talk of the trade show, the one cool item that everyone there wants to bring home.” —Nixon

“Send personalized emails, notes, letters, Tweets, social media posts and calls. Make your booth presence known and fun/approachable with the appropriate amount of content knowledge. By that I mean, keep it light so people will want to take the time to find you but not so light they have no idea what you offer or why they would want to purchase from you.”—Biller


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