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First-Time Exhibiting
ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
Q.
My company is launching an exhibit-marketing program for the first time in its history. What are some tips and tricks to ensure we get the best bang for our buck even though we're the new kid on the block?

A.
Just because you're new to exhibiting doesn't mean you have to act like a greenhorn – or score tenderfoot results. I just walked a mile in your shoes, as my company recently launched its own exhibit-marketing program, which has been a resounding success. So here are five tips to help ease you off the proverbial launch pad.
➤ Investigate discounted first-time exhibitor packages. Despite potential downsides (such as sometimes less-than-desirable booth locations, limits on booth size, etc.), these packages can save you money and give you a chance to test drive a trade show before upsizing your investment. So talk to show-management reps about the packages they have available to woo would-be exhibitors.
➤ Capitalize on free promotional tactics. Along these same lines, contact show management to inquire about any free or low-cost promotional opportunities it offers. For example, many events send out pre-show email blasts that feature new exhibitors, particularly if you are showing something unique or have a clever marketing campaign. As an exhibiting newbie, be sure to take advantage of every opportunity to get the word out and generate awareness about your offerings.
➤ Source exhibitry locally. If you're trying to cut costs, one avenue is to decrease shipping and drayage expenses. And a way to do that is to purchase ancillary exhibitry in the show city. Then you can donate it to charity, recycle it, give it away to attendees, offer it to staffers, or simply ship it back for use in the home office. We purchased a flatscreen TV in the show city and carried it to the venue for use in our booth. Then we held a drawing at the end of the show and gave the monitor away to a lucky booth visitor, thereby saving us round-trip shipping and drayage, as well as giving us a nice traffic builder and lead-gathering tool to boot.
➤ Think way outside the box. If you're starting small, you often have a ton of flexibility to try new and perhaps nontraditional techniques. So always keep your eyes open for the fastest, most efficient, and cheapest ways to solve your problems – even if they're way outside of the norm. For example, do you really need to ship your exhibit to the show, or would it be possible and more cost efficient to rent a van or truck and drive it there yourself? Does someone in your company have killer photography skills? Might you be able to leverage this person's hobby to shoot product photos for your in-booth graphics?
➤ Speak at the show. One surefire way to generate awareness and establish your firm as an industry leader is to secure a speaking slot at the event. Granted, you may need to do some additional legwork to identify experts within your organization (or better yet, an extremely happy and knowledgeable customer), work up a suitable topic and presentation, score that at-show speaking slot, and then ensure the speaker is trained to wow the crowd. But this free endeavor can really give you a leg up on even those exhibitors who've been at the show for decades. Remember that the presentation must be educational, i.e., not a sales pitch, and should reference something that's a particular pain point to the target audience that your product or service solves.

— Chris Jacobson, business development expert and strategic
partnership liaison, Silicon Publishing Inc., San Francisco
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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