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Business Operations

Best in trade show

October 11, 2010
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Four flights to Las Vegas — $1,123.78
Two rooms for five nights at the Mirage — $ 1,795.84
Dinner at Caesar’s Palace — $337.27*

Attending a carwash trade show — Priceless, as long as the time spent before, during and after the show is used wisely and efficiently.

A trade show is the most effective way to forge industry contacts and connections, as well as communicate with existing contacts, so it is vital that companies make the most out of these events.

According to Chuck Howard, president of Autobell Car Wash, trade shows are a very important part of the wash industry because attendees constantly learn at the events, as well as see what others in the industry are doing.

Free trip anyone?
Before even making reservations for the show, first decide who is going. While shows in Orlando, FL, and San Diego will most likely have many volunteers, other locations may not bring about the same employee cooperation.

Autobell executives meet after a show is announced to decide who will attend the show based on the needs of the company and what the show will offer.

Make sure employees who attend are well-spoken and good communicators. They will be doing a lot of talking and will reflect on the company.

The attendees should also be wearing a tucked-in shirt with the company’s logo on it to differentiate them from the crowd and make it easy for other people to identify the company name.

Walking the walk
Many people do not realize that a trade show can be a very effective tool, even if a company does not have a booth or are not exhibiting.

A company can get just as much information and accomplish similar goals by simply attending a show and walking the floor. But remember, preparation is a must.

According to International Carwash Association (ICA) Senior Director of Trade Show and Convention Services David Weil, carwash owners and manufacturers in attendance should review the show program, exhibitor list and floor plan well in advance to determine which companies they would like to meet with and which products they wish to see.

Howard said his company reads all the press releases and programs issued before a show to find out who is going to be there.

Then he decides who he wants his attending staff to meet with, and briefs them on what they should accomplish at the show as well as what they can expect.

It is also very helpful to call vendors ahead of time and schedule to meet with them at the show. If they are an exhibitor, they may be very busy when you approach their booth, so make an appointment.

Talking the talk
Exhibitors need to plan and train their staff in advance about the proper way to engage and answer questions from attendees.

Each member in the booth should have a role and a responsibility. Also, it is important that people in the booth are capable of answering all questions that may be asked about products or services.

According to Howard, no one could ever visit all of the people they interact with at the show at different times, so meeting with them on the trade show floor is the most effective way to conduct business.

Preparing the booth is also a very important aspect. The booth needs to be eye-catching so people walking the floor will stop. Using a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation or other large pictures are great attention getters.

It also helps to give away small gifts in the booth to attract more attention or unveil a new product that will generate interest around the location.

Kay Heiter, marketing and communications coordinator for Mark VII, said that one of the most important parts of the trade show for her company is deciding what products they want to put on display in their booth.

Also, if you are going to be exhibiting and want to meet with other exhibitors, don’t be afraid to call them and schedule to meet after the show floor closes.

Home sweet home
When you return to the office, it is time to take everything you learned at the show and put it to practical use.

It is imperative that when your company returns from the trade show everyone shares what they learned with others who were unable to attend. Copies should be made of any educational material that may have been given out in seminars.

Autobell has staff meetings after a show to address any issues that came up at the show and to discuss what they saw and learned.

All sales people should follow up with anyone they met within a week of the show’s close. This will ensure that the salesperson and show are still fresh in the potential buyers mind.

*All prices are estimates and should not be considered accurate amounts.

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