Trade Show Planning
When you have a well-planned strategy and budget, trade shows can be well worth the investment.
By Bill Neal, CDT
Now that the New Year is here, manufacturers and laboratories are preparing for upcoming dental trade shows. Trade shows can be a waste of time and money if they are not carefully planned in advance. And, with the economic downturn, it is vital to find ways to make sure you get a positive return on your investment as an exhibitor.
Many different types of trade shows are held throughout the year—from national exhibitions to state dental conventions and local or regional dental shows. Each meeting has its own requirements, so make sure to read your contract carefully. Before you hit the trade show circuit, consider a few key points in your planning process.
Establish a Budget
The costs associated with trade shows and trade show materials can add up quickly. In order to avoid any surprises, plan well and establish a budget to make sure your finance controls are in place. Different shows will require different types of set-ups, from tables and drapes all the way up to manufactured trade show displays that cost thousands of dollars.
Make sure you do not present a negative image by having the only draped table in the convention hall. Find out from past exhibitors or show representatives what to expect, then plan accordingly and within your budget.
Purpose for Attending
Many companies use trade shows to kick off a new product or campaign. Others use them to meet with existing clients, demonstrate a new technique or to entertain clients after the exhibits close. Unfortunately, some salespeople may view trade shows as a great time to party. This might mean late nights, fuzzy heads in the morning, and an overall bust for the company.
It is difficult to sell dental laboratory services to dentists at a dental show, so the main purpose is to take advantage of meeting dentists and familiarizing them with you or your team. You want to get interested leads and try to make appointments for follow-up office visits, or make arrangements for dentists to visit your laboratory.
Make sure you have “lead cards” for interested parties to fill out, so that you get proper addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and names of key office personnel—which will make follow-up much easier. Include check boxes for areas of interest and a comment section.
Advertise the Show and your Presence
Prepare and send out proper marketing materials to promote your attendance at the show. Use direct mail, newsletters, websites, and statement stuffers to get the word out. Consider doing a drawing at the show, and highlight this in your marketing materials.
Make sure all staff and delivery personnel have the trade show information available, and that they provide this information to clients when possible.
Bill Neal, CDT, is president of AMG Creative, Inc. in Fort Collins, Colorado. Check back next month for Bill’s tips on how to promote your laboratory at the show and how to follow up afterward.