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Companies that are new to the annual WQA Aquatech USA 2007 show taking place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., March 27 to 31, or companies looking to use the show to expand business, might be wondering just how a large trade show like this can benefit their businesses financially and maximize their visibility in the water industry’s household, commercial and industrial markets. With more than 2,500 trade shows held every year in the U.S. alone, it should come as no surprise that making a concerted effort at a trade show, can reap big rewards for a company. Expenses associated with large trade shows, however, can be costly, especially for smaller companies. Therefore, it is important for small businesses to make the most out of opportunities that the show presents.
Water Quality Products interviewed five long-time WQA Aquatech USA show attendees to learn what sales and networking tactics they employ before, during and after large trade shows in order to attract new business and maintain existing business relationships.
One common habit that WQA Aquatech USA veterans shared was beginning to prepare weeks, if not months, in advance for such a large trade show. Preshow preparation can include designing the booth layout, preparing packaging needs for special products, creating PowerPoint presentations, and making travel and hotel arrangements.
“We advertise products and write articles on new products in industry magazines two to three months leading up to WQA Aquatech, which we believe generates interest and enthusiasm, particularly in new products,” said Mike Perkinson, director of marketing at Pro Products.
Pat Ford, director of sales & marketing at Hellenbrand, Inc. said his company’s sales staff often prepares first for large shows way ahead of schedule, and then focuses on the smaller shows, which take less time to prepare for. “We are also very aggressive in our preshow advertising,” Ford said.
He added that before the show he gets in touch with his company’s loyal customer base and asks them to visit Hellenbrand’s booth at the show.
Our sources agree: Once the show starts, the keys to building business are getting maximum visibility for their new or improved products and getting out from behind their booth to see what others in the industry have to offer. Steve Tischler of National Testing Laboratories, Ltd. said he and his sales staff try to attend as many of the convention’s sponsored events as possible in order to meet new people. “Also, we try to get on the training agenda,” Tischler said. “This year, for instance, I am doing a presentation called ‘The Fundamentals of Laboratory Instrumentation.’”
Henry Frank, sales and marketing manager at Argonide Corp., offered this strategy: “We contact our existing customers or distributors and invite them to visit us at the show if they plan to attend. We do our best to ‘man’ the booth with at least two individuals at all times, mainly due to the typically high volume of traffic and interest we generate. Whenever possible, I try to walk the shows looking for possible manufacturers of integrated systems where our filter technology … can add to what they currently offer.”
It is important that trade show participants constantly keep their ideas and products fresh, and change their strategies to keep up with new trends and current events.
National Testing Laboratories keeps things new and exciting by giving their booth a theme based on the time of year, location and new product introductions. “This year we have chosen Major League Baseball’s Spring Training as a theme. So, our booth will have a baseball atmosphere,” Tischler said.
Both Ford and Perkinson said they were going to upgrade their booth design and graphics for 2007’s WQA Aquatech USA, in order to create or renew interest and attention.
Guillermo Guzman, president of H2O Intl., said he has requested twice the booth space for his company this year, citing the ever-increasing number of attendees at WQA Aquatech USA every year. Ford added that because his business is thriving, his company will staff its booth with more salespeople this year to accommodate the greater number of visitors expected.
Networking opportunities abound at trade shows, and seasoned trade show participants agree that companies looking to expand business must take full advantage. “We treasure the few chances we have to break away from the booth in order to wander the aisles and see what is being offered—and where the possible business opportunities might lie,” Frank said.
Following up with potential customers and contacts made at the show is crucial in the weeks following the show, giving you the best shot at completing a sale or sealing a business relationship.
“In the week following the show, we meet to review contacts we made—both current customers and prospective customers—and then follow up with each immediately,” Perkinson said.
Guzman said his company often starts planning for the next show immediately after the one just attended, while ideas are fresh in their mind.
In general, our five show veterans agreed that trade shows are about maximizing your visibility on the scene, and taking advantage of the opportunities that trade shows give to your company. The act of merely showing up makes an impression. “At this point, we would be noticed, and not in a good way, if we were not in attendance,” Tischler said.
Trade shows can also work as part or all of a small company’s advertising budget. “We do not have the advertisement budgets that large companies have, so we feel trade shows are an inexpensive way to stay visible and keep up the brand awareness,” Guzman said.
Shows like WQA Aquatech USA also provide opportunities for water industry professionals to see each other in person, rather than over telephone or e-mail. “While technology is wonderful, there really is no substitute for sitting down face to face and having the pleasure of earning someone’s business and providing them with solutions for their daily challenges,” Ford said.
The show will be here faster than you think, so be sure to prepare wisely, brainstorm to keep your ideas fresh, present your booth well and get ready to network. We are certain that with some hard work and a good attitude, you and your company can make WQA Aquatech USA 2007 worth your time.