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Exhibitor Tips for Success —Morgan

April 2008
THERE ARE many reasons why a printer may decide to exhibit at a trade show or conference. From generating solid business leads to creating or maintaining brand awareness, exhibiting can have very lucrative results—but only if it is orchestrated effectively.

In February, my staff and I hosted our annual Print Oasis Print Buyers Conference at Amelia Island Plantation in Florida. Print Oasis is the premier educational conference focused on the challenges of marketers, print buyers and production professionals. This year, 65 printers and technology companies were featured in the Exhibit Hall.

One of the main reasons print buyers choose to participate in our conferences is the opportunity for direct contact with prospective suppliers. Since it is usually a split-second decision for a buyer to determine whether or not to approach an exhibit booth, we wanted to learn how our attendees went through the decision-making process so we could help the exhibitors be as successful as possible.

To ensure the experience remained fresh in the minds of our participants, we conducted the survey within one week after the conference. More than 130 major print buyers participated in the survey, which had both multiple choice and open-ended questions. Forty-eight percent of the participants possess more than 10 years of experience, and 57 percent purchase more than $1 million in printing each year. Due to these strong demographics, we found the feedback they offered to be extremely valuable.

In the survey, print buyers were asked what specifically motivated them to interact with an exhibitor. What follows is an analysis of their content-rich responses.

We discovered that conference exhibitors were most successful if:

They set realistic goals. Successful exhibitors set goals well before the date of the conference. They were as specific as possible about their financial objectives and the ROI that needed to be reached to justify the expense of the conference. They determined how many qualified leads needed to be obtained to reach their set target.

They understood the process. Exhibitors understand not to expect to receive an immediate payoff from exhibiting. In the printing industry, the average turnaround time to convert a prospect into a customer can easily be six months. Successful exhibitors understood the conference was just the first step in building the trust with client companies. They spent their time establishing a foundation with the attendee instead of pushing for an immediate sale.

They did their homework. The best exhibitors ensured the exhibit event matched their needs and was an effective way to meet their goals. Because they understood that the print buyer’s perspective is the most important one, they spoke with clients to hear their thoughts on whether or not it would be a worthwhile event. They also researched if the event organizer had a proven track record with chairing trade shows and asked for detailed demographics on past attendees.
 

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