Trade Show! To Do Or Not To Do

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by earthly, Feb 18, 2008.

  1. earthly

    earthly LawnSite Member
    from IOWA
    Posts: 243

    I have a question for all of you out there, here it goes. I have been in business for 4 years now, we have a half page ad in two phone books and a business card size in another...........OUCH! We had really good lick last year running one ad but did not get the kind of calls that i wanted. It did pay for it self plus more, alot. I have the chance to do a 20x20 booth march 15th right before spring but it is a lot of work and some money. My question is do i do the show to produce quality leads so maybe next year i can have a smaller ad in the books and do the 3 shows around here or do i spend my money some other way. the show will cost me about 4,000 or so. it is a small investment for quite possibly a big return. one descent job and it is paid for. I have a wonderful design, lots of help, blooming plants and bulbs, any ideas. Put yourself in my shoes what would you do? If i dont try it i wil never know?
     
  2. Maintenance Man

    Maintenance Man LawnSite Member
    Posts: 16

    I would do the Shows because it will git you one on one with potential customers where you can sell your buisness. Big money in phone books doesn't seam to work for us. Think about how you decide to hire someone and looking at adds in the phone book. I tend to wonder about the guys that have to spend so much on advertising, mabey they arn't doing the best job so that why they have to advertise. A regular add in the phone book and a lot of personal - or one on one, and just doing a great job and going the extra mile for your customers, and you will have more work than you know! I do a full building maintenance, and last year was my first full year in buisness and the phone just wrang and I didn't have to do any advertising other than my b-card, b-card phone book ad, and Name on my truck!
     
  3. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,927

    Do you have no choice but the 20X20 space? I have done many trade shows in the past (different industry) and I remember many spaces at 10X10, for much less money.

    In a 20X20, you have an opportunity to bring equipment, or make arrangement to have visitors "inside" your space. With a 10X10, you would entertain the visitors "out front," that is, across a table, or within a small recess into your space.

    Another question to ask is the area of draw of the visitors. You have already done the phone book ad. That would draw calls from a large geographical area. A trade show would do likewise. Is this part of your plans? Or, are you trying to concentrate customers in a more localized area. A trade show would NOT help to accomplish the concentration goal. Obviously, you know your area, and where you wish to build a customer base.

    Another question is the kind of visitor that most likely would be attending the trade show. Is it the home owner who might be interested in having lawn services for their private residence? Is it property managers who work for commercial enterprises or HOA, schools, or municipalities? You want to use your time and resources wisely to target the audience that contains the best candidates. If the show is frequented primarily by homeowners, but your business is centered around doing work for commercial enterprises, then you have missed the target.

    These are just some thoughts, some of which you may already have considered.
     
  4. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,927

    Do you have no choice but the 20X20 space? I have done many trade shows in the past (different industry) and I remember many spaces at 10X10, for much less money.

    In a 20X20, you have an opportunity to bring equipment, or make arrangement to have visitors "inside" your space. With a 10X10, you would entertain the visitors "out front," that is, across a table, or within a small recess into your space.

    Another question to ask is the area of draw of the visitors. You have already done the phone book ad. That would draw calls from a large geographical area. A trade show would do likewise. Is this part of your plans? Or, are you trying to concentrate customers in a more localized area. A trade show would NOT help to accomplish the concentration goal. Obviously, you know your area, and where you wish to build a customer base.

    Another question is the kind of visitor that most likely would be attending the trade show. Is it the home owner who might be interested in having lawn services for their private residence? Is it property managers who work for commercial enterprises or HOA, schools, or municipalities? You want to use your time and resources wisely to target the audience that contains the best candidates. If the show is frequented primarily by homeowners, but your business is centered around doing work for commercial enterprises, then you have missed the target.

    Another consideration is how to outfit your booth. Do you have the appropriate items to outfit the booth? If not, that could cost you much money beyond the booth rental space. Maybe that is part of the $4,000. A poorly done booth will do a good reputation damage -- looks shoddy and will not attract potential customers.

    These are just some thoughts, some of which you may already have considered.
     
  5. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,927

    Sorry for the near duplicate post. Response is very slow, and apparently I got entangled in the wrong pages -- read the second one. I made a one paragraph addition.
     
  6. earthly

    earthly LawnSite Member
    from IOWA
    Posts: 243

    We focus on residential jobs and homeowners are the people that go to these shows. i know i would get to talk to them one on one so i could qualify them and see if they are serious or not, in the past i worked at one of the local shows with a company and i think that we got like 30=40 good leads. i think i am going to try it but i want some advice. maybe some of you have done them before. and i already have the 20x20 booth. i will a retaining wall in it, i sitting wall, patio and a fire pit with adrandotic chairs around it. Also it is the middle of march when people have spring fever, cabin fever and there impulse to do something is higher than during July maybe when things are dry, brown (grass) and hot! I don't know, what do you think
     
  7. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,927

    OK, it sounds like you have sorted through some of the questions I raised. Good!

    Apparently, your work is hardscape and other kinds of outdoor living installs (as contrasted to grass mowing, fert/squirt, etc). I think you have the right idea to build some good examples of your work. This will be your draw to get folks "inside the booth" where you can speak one-on-one (rather than just passing by, taking a brochure, piece of candy, or ???). Having some examples will give you something specific to discuss.

    Do you have photos of previous work that you have permission to share? You know better than I, but every job is undoubtedly different. Having pics to show of work in progress --> finished result would also be something that can help stop folks for a few seconds, enough time for you to begin a conversation. It could help get the discussion moving. A small screen with a projector/PC/PowerPoint in a highly visible area, but apart from the hardscape examples might work for you.

    How about brochures? Do you have something firm that people can take with them? You are looking for the serious folks, not just "tire-kickers." This means you can afford to have a good, well-produced brochure, but handed out in limited quantities. People at these shows have a bag with materials from all kinds of places. This means your piece should be distinctive. The serious folks will want to have something to refer to when they return home.

    I also would suggest you try to close as many visits as possible at the time. In other words, "when the iron is hot, strike." Have your schedule before you, and try to get a commitment for a sales call at their home as soon as possible. Don't wait for them to call, but try to get the first step. Obviously, people will sense the "pushy" approach quickly, but good sales people will nudge the customer to make a decision. Since you have done this work for a few years, you know how the sales cycle goes. But, I suspect getting the first call, getting your foot on their property to discuss specifics, is very important.

    Since you will have that much space, be sure you have enough people to staff it properly, especially during the anticipated heavy traffic times. Even if somebody isn't as knowledgeable as you, somebody to engage in discussion, extend the friendly hand, and get some conversation going, is all important. If you are busy, they can keep the potential customer involved, until you are free. I can see some of the discussions lasting for more than a few minutes -- when somebody is genuinely interested. You will have to make decisions on the fly, how much time to spend with one party, while three others walk by because they have nobody to talk with. Sometimes these are tough calls.

    Allow yourself plenty of time, and have plenty of help to get set up. Usually, setup times are pretty short. You have some building to do, and it may take you more time than expected. All good intentions sometimes have a way of going wrong, leaving one short on time to get prepared well. Be sure to check out the facility. You will have much heavy material to move. What about loading docks? How will the heavy materials be moved to your booth? Do you have a union issue on who can/cannot do what? [Don't chuckle, this is a MAJOR problem in some places] Remember on setup day, EVERYBODY will be fighting for the same resources (e.g. unloading space, fork lifts, etc).

    Check out pre-show publicity. If you have opportunities to get your name in any materials that are part of the show promotion, do so. This probably will not cost you, but it will help the show promoters to inform their potential visitors what will be at the show to see. Some folks may come to the show just because you are there, and want to talk with somebody who does just what you offer.

    I hope these are some more thoughts for your consideration. If you have not done a trade show before, and this one shows signs of success, be assured the next one will be easier. You will know better what to expect, and how to prepare.

    Feel free to shoot more questions or thoughts ...
     
  8. earthly

    earthly LawnSite Member
    from IOWA
    Posts: 243

    15,000 people attended the show last year, i know that friday and saturday will have the most people how many people do you think i need to work the 20x20 booth. worked for a company we did a 10x20 booth and had 2-3 people that worked it and i think did pretty well. my buddy is dropping off his brand new cat skid loader for me to use for setup, the plants are in the greenhouse being forced and we will have the block delivered. they are only letting the 6 landscape companies set up tuesday so it will be less crowded. any other good suggestions for the show i want to make the most out of it. nobody will be sitting during the show i dont think that looks good to customers.
     
  9. Rayholio

    Rayholio LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,461

    the real question for me.. how many customers do you have to sign up to break even?? is that number achievable?

    factor in EVERY expense... and only count the NET profit for each customer..
     
  10. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,927

    I had one other thought today to share. Have the folks staffing your booth wear something distinctive, such as same polo shirts, same ball caps, or some combination. Find something that is sharp looking, yet distinctive. This will help visitors easily identify who is part of the company.

    Having a small name plate also helps generate an identification the visitor can use. Small ones, say 1X3 with engraved letters are easy to do, and will do the task.

    On other reason for taking the booth spot and participating is to learn your potential customer base better. Keep you ears open for opportunities that may be open for you. If you talk to 100 prospects, and 30 of them say, "...I've been looking for somebody to do XXXX, but can't find anybody, ...." Maybe this is a signal for you to add some additional services to your suite. If you just put ads in the paper, or fliers out on doors,
    you wouldn't get that kind of feedback. Obviously, you don't want to stray far from your core strengths, but a smart business owner will always look to improve their bottom line with unique services.

    It can be a very hectic time, but could prove to be very effective in getting new leads you wouldn't otherwise obtain.
     

Share This Page