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End User Shows…Are they really worth it?

10/11/2008

If you have never hosted an end user show, for your clients and are asking yourself if it’s worth the time and expense… keep reading to find out the answer! End user shows are a great avenue to build brand loyalty for your company, establish yourself as an resource to your clients and generate sales.

To have a successful show it’s much more than calling a few suppliers, throwing together a venue, sending out a quick email and bam! all of your clients and prospects show up… If only it were that simple, we would all be a Fortune 500 Company 🙂

We recently hosted an end user show in Austin and below are some tried and true tips that worked successfully for us. 52% of our guest list RSVP’ed yes and 92% of the RSVP’s attended.

  1. Set the date of your event at least 6-8 months in advance. *Make sure to check industry calendars to ensure that there are not any other events that would prohibit your favorite suppliers from attending your event. Also, if your clients are in one business segment make sure there are no competing events, in your city, on the date you selected. We decided to have our event in Sept. because clients are just starting to think about the holidays (which can be a huge sales opportunity) and many companies are planning budgets for the following year.
  2. Pick the suppliers you would like to exhibit at your show and call them ASAP. You would not believe how quickly these guys book up! We had 4 suppliers (2 were multi-line reps) at our show. You have to decide what the magic combination is for you but we picked suppliers based on having a wide variety of products to show and personality. I would recommend that you have a preferred list and at least 2 backups – it usually works out that at least 1 person will already be booked.
  3. Set a budget for your event. Try to budget for every cost: pre-show marketing, invitations, venue – don’t forget tips, food, drinks- will you serve alcohol?, decorations, post-show marketing, postage, apparel for your staff, etc…
  4. Set a time for your show. We hosted our show from 10 am to 2 pm on a Thursday. I know another distributor who hosts her show on a Thursday evening. There is no right or wrong answer on this… look at your invite list and make the best decision you can. We decided to host our show “open house style” so that people could come and go.
  5. Secure the venue. Location– think about where your client base is located… you want to pick a location that is easily accessible. Parking– this is especially important if you pick a location in a downtown area. Space Available– Think about how you will arrange the suppliers. Will you have 6″ or 8″ tables? Not having enough space on show day is a bad thing. If your going to serve food, do you want to do it all in one room? Cost– refer to your budget and look for space that will work within that budget. Will the venue be willing to work you on cost because you will be advertising for them on all of your pre-show marketing? Time Frame– is it available when you need it?
  6. Confirm the date, time and venue with your suppliers and anybody who will be helping you with the show.
  7. Now the fun part begins!! Pre-Show Marketing – this will be your biggest challenge but the most rewarding when it pays off and you have a great turn out at the show. You need to create hype and excitement about your event. If your going with a theme, now would be the time to select it. We hosted our event at a Mexican restaurant and our event was called “Marketing Fiesta.” We wanted a fun logo that was colorful and would grab peoples attention abd we used a combination of mail outs and email marketing. As I said earlier we held our show in mid-Sept. This is the pre-show marketing schedule we used: mid-June, sent out a “Save the Date” post it note, late June: sent out a “Save the Date” Email. Mid-July, sent out an imprinted mouse pad coaster with logo and time/date/location of event, end-July, followed up with an email of the same information. mid-August, mailed an invitation with pre-stamped RSVP card, end-Aug. sent an invitation via email with link to RSVP. In the 2 weeks leading up to the show we emailed the invitation again, called everybody who had RSVP’ed the day before the show and finally sent an email reminder at 8 am on the day of the show. I can honestly can that we gave 120% effort to get people to the show- if they did not come it was not because they did not know about it!
  8. Will you give each person who attends a show bag? We did and our clients LOVED it! We asked each supplier to send us there catalogs 3 weeks before the show. We put our sticker on each catalog. Additionally all of the suppliers who attended donated a self-promotion item specifically for our show. We bought grocery totes, with our logo, to use as show bags. In every bag we put catalogs from every supplier who attended and we wrapped up all of the self-promotions in cello bags with our imprinted ribbon as a gift. The really nice thing about this was that not only did each client get a gift and catalogs but they could just pick up there show bags on the way out vs. being weighted down with catalogs the whole time they were talking to the suppliers. NOTE: If your going to do show bags make sure you get what you need from the suppliers weeks in advance – these can take 2-3 days to assemble and you don’t want to do this at the last minute.
  9. Door Prizes- this is a decision that you will have to make based on your budget, etc… We had 3 nice door prizes. I realize that many people are opposed to “bribing” clients but I am of the opinion that we have to do what it takes to get them there and then we can sale them on the effectiveness and usefulness of the products.
  10. In the week leading up to the show be sure that you confirm again with your venue and the suppliers. Make sure to ask them if they have any special requests and be certain they know where to be and when.  You don’t want any last minute surprises the day of your show!
  11. The day before the show you will need to print name badges for your guest. Lori Ford from Norwood gave us a super suggestion that worked out great. On the badges print the persons name and then assign each person a unique #. Be sure you keep a list of the persons name and corresponding #. We kept that list at the registration desk and it doubled as the check in list so we would have less paperwork to deal with when the show was over. Back to the #’s… create lead sheets for the suppliers. The general information should be simple: client #, items of interest, action requested and taken. It is easier for the suppliers to make notes during the show using a # system and when the show is over they will give you back the lead sheets for follow up. TIP: Make sure the #’s are big enough so that the suppliers can read them without starting a hole through the client… i’m talking like 24 pt. font!!
  12. On the day of the show get there early enough so that you are not stressed out! Go over everything with the venue staff and anybody who is helping you with the show. We decided that with so many of our clients attending we needed a non-company person to work the registration desk so that we could all be mingling with clients. This worked out very well for us!
  13. If you choose to have a supplier wrap-up meeting once the show is over. We hosted a lunch for them and us so we could talk about what went right and what we need to improve for next year. Feedback from the suppliers is extremly important to keep this event successful year after year.  This is also a good opportunity for them to go over the lead sheets and let you know who you need to go back to the office and call ASAP!!!!
  14. Whew – the show is over!!! Go home, go to bed, close the office the next day to recoup b/c your going to be exhausted and you will have your work cut out for your over the next couple of weeks with follow up.
  15. FOLLOW UP- THIS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY OTHER PART OF THE SHOW! IF YOU DON’T FOLLOW UP, ALL OF YOUR TIME, EFFORT AND MONEY WAS WASTED! My suggestion would be to prioritize based on hot leads, warm follow up and so on. We sent an email out to everybody who attended the very next morning announcing who won the door prizes, then everybody got a hand written thank you note for attending (I am a BIG Fan of this!), we sent a survey a few days later and in the mean time we are calling everybody who attended. Many of them we set up appts. to meet with them which is your goal. We have added each of them to our newsletter and send out weekly eflyer specials to stay in contact. We also plan to send a special gift to every person who became a new client as a result of the show.

To answer the question… YES, it’s asbolutely worth it to host                                       a end user event for your clients!

Do you have a story you would like to share with us about an event you hosted? Do you have more questions about end user shows? Whatever you want to chat about, please post a comment – click on “add comment” below and to the left of this article.

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