Posts by: Greg Strosaker

7 Ways to Extend your IMTS Presence

this is your goal in pre-show promotion - get visitors to sign up to see you at the showAMT recently coordinated a series of IMTS exhibitor workshops at various locations throughout the country. If you chose not to attend, you really missed out on an opportunity to pick up some helpful information for planning and executing a successful show.

I attended the session in Columbus, OH on March 2. While all of the presenters had useful advice, my biggest takeaway was the idea of “extending the IMTS experience.” This theme was persistent throughout the day; in fact, Peter Eelman, in his opening review of the state of the show, highlighted the steps IMTS has taken to, specifically, make a destination for anyone seeking news or developments in manufacturing technology at any time, even in the normally dormant (for IMTS) off-show years. This also dovetailed with an article I was working on for my own blog, Constant Cogitation, on 10 Ways to Extend your Brand for Industrial Customers.

A shocking fact that should make you think more about this idea is that 75% of booth visits at a trade show are planned before the attendee arrives at the show. Think about how you spend your time. I’m guessing you spend at least 75% of your time thinking about how to attract visitors to your booth once they arrive at the show. Given this statistic and the recognized importance of good lead follow-up after the show, can you afford not to extend your IMTS presence?

It may sound easier said than done – after all, we do have other priorities, right? – but here are 7 ways that you can extend your company’s presence before and after IMTS (and I’m not talking about the basics like making sure your profile is up to date on – which you should). Ideally, you want to drive up the number of visitors who tag you on theIMTS My Show Planner service, so you know in advance who plans to find you at the show.

  1. Consider a show-specific promotion to drive visitors to your booth – this can be a memorable giveaway, a discount, free consultation session, or something of value to potential visitors. It’s even better if you can at least give the impression that these promotions are aimed specifically at pre-registered visitors. On a related note – don’t throw away your giveaways. Make your visitors have to earn them by providing you with valuable information, at least their contact information and some semblance of “qualifying” attributes.
  2. Promote your show presence on your website and / or company blog. This is a great place to highlight your show promotion and provide a link for visitors to register to attend the show (with a reminder to add you to their visit list).
  3. Develop pre-show advertising and article content for key publications that support your theme for the show. You do have a unique theme, with a compelling reason for visitors to find you, don’t you?
  4. Follow up with planned visitors before the show (you can view who has noted your booth in the Show Planner) to find out their specific interests and schedule a time to make sure you have the right resources (like the region manager for their area) in the booth. This will also help them feel a bit more committed to visiting your booth.
  5. At the show, consider ways in which you can be present beyond your booth – perhaps your equipment (especially if you are an accessory provider, like we are at Mayfran) is present in other exhibitors’ booths, and they will allow you to provide a label directing visitors to your booth.
  6. On your lead form or questionnaire, seek permission to add them to your email distribution list or invite them to subscribe to your news or blog feed, so that you can maintain communication after the show. This is particularly valuable if their need is not immediate.
  7. Make sure you have a follow-up plan established before the show even starts, including an email response within 48 hours (have your template prepared), a follow-up call within 10 days, and another at 30 days, as recommended by Marlys Arnold at the IMTS Exhibitor Workshop.

These tips can help you maximize your return on investment from this critical trade show while forcing you to define your objectives and communicate them consistently both before and after the event itself.

Planning What to “Wear” for IMTS

Before choosing your attire, you need to dress up your boothWhile it might be a little early to worry about your attire for IMTS in September, you must think about what your company will “wear” very early in the process. Not only is it mandated by show coordinators: the equipment you choose to exhibit, and the manner in which you do so, serves as an anchor for the rest of your booth design and pre-show planning. Here is an approach we at Mayfran International (booth E-4645 in the East Building), a long-time IMTS exhibitor, take to address this challenge.

First, there are many who view core shows like IMTS as a “must-do” event and use that as the sole justification for exhibiting. This immediately limits your thinking to a minimalist approach (what “must” we take to be ”present enough”) and misses the opportunity to highlight what is new or exciting about your company. If this is your attitude, well, maybe you really do still need to be there, but you are likely to be disappointed in your results. With the Inspiration theme for IMTS 2010, showing up in last season’s outdated “attire” may leave your visitors feeling anything but inspired.

Instead, we use IMTS as a catalyst for setting our overall marketing approach for the year and, even more importantly, as a deadline for getting new products launched. These new products don’t have to be earth-shattering – too many companies don’t realize how little prospective customers really know about developments in their field in the past, oh, DECADE. Customers have a lot of things to think about and generally don’t trouble themselves to keep up with the intimate details of your recent product introduction history. So make mountains out of molehills: if you don’t show excitement about your offerings, your visitors certainly won’t. Repackaging existing solutions in a way that better highlights their benefits to prospective customers can be pretty inspiring too.

Second, while IMTS is a “generalist” show, it is so big that you will find it is also chock-full of potential “niches” for which you may have a solution. Don’t try to be all things to all potential visitors – instead think of the segments for which you can provide unique value, and make sure you are emphasizing that message and your solutions to these prospects. This will play a bigger role when you plan promotional activities around the show, but don’t hesitate now to pick solutions that will have great appeal to even a limited scope of visitors.

Third, and let’s be honest, hunks of metal, even if moving in their basic mode, aren’t very exciting. OK, maybe to some visitors it will be, but there will be lots of hunks of metal moving around in nearly every conceivable way. If you want to draw attention, be creative. Use video or demos that function in a more memorable (yet, still representative) way to stand out. Noise, lighting, motion can all play elements, and need to be considered early in the show planning process.

And finally and most obviously in this environment, one must consider cost. Is everything you want to bring really useful? Can it be represented sufficiently via video? Does it really need to operate, or is a shell (perhaps with a creative quasi-functionality) sufficient? Prioritization is critical from a space and cost standpoint, so some tough decisions often need made.

IMTS will be here before you know it (and the deadline for initial plans is already past). This exhibitor, for one, is using it as an opportunity to really consolidate priorities for marketing, sales, and engineering for the year, so that when the turning point that IMTS marks (hopefully) in the industrial recovery comes, we’ll be well positioned for growth. For other ways to get more out of the show, we’ll be following additional tips on maximizing the return on our trade show investment.