As a firm believer in the power of face-to-face marketing, I really like exhibiting at shows. I know it can be expensive and time-consuming, but I think it’s the best way to promote my “brand” (which, after all, is me).
To maximize my success at shows, and to make the most of the time and money invested, I have some guidelines that I’ve developed over the years:
- Picking a show: I like to pick shows that attract the right demographic for my business (educated, upscale professionals) and where I will be the only travel agent. For this reason, I tend to stay away from bridal shows and women’s expos and instead choose “niche” shows like the Saltwater Sportfishing Show or the Fine Furnishings Show. They both attract consumers with significant disposable income (to be able to afford expensive habits like boats and hand-crafted artisan furniture), and I am always the only travel agent, which makes me stand out. The overall size of the show (expected attendance, number of exhibitors, etc.) does not matter as much to me – I’ll exhibit at very small events if they meet my criteria. For example, I had a booth at a recent Holiday Bazaar at my old high school (a private girls’ school) because I knew the audience would be right, and there would not be any one else promoting travel.
- Planning your booth display: While my booth display is fairly standardized, and always includes the same basic components (a tabletop display, banner, laptop slideshow, and brochures), I try to tailor it to each audience. For the fishing show, I made it very tropical, with a grass skirt around the table and a stuffed parrot peering over the laptop screen, and I talked about Costa Rica and Panama. For the furniture show, I used nicer (richer-looking) table linens, bottles of wine and an expensive silver dish full of high-end chocolates, and I talked about European river cruises. The content of the booth is focused on the agency, and the benefits of working with me, as opposed to any particular vendor. I do bring some vendor brochures, but I focus more on handing out my agency brochures and my business card.
- Working the booth: Since I am the face of the agency, I pay careful attention to first impressions. I wear appropriate agency logo apparel (a baseball cap at the fishing show, a button-down shirt at the furniture show) and comfortable shoes, because I never sit at the booth. I stand near the front of the booth and smile and say “hello” to everyone who walks by. I think it’s important to be friendly and approachable.
- Following up after the show: I try to capture contact information from everyone who visits my booth (easiest to do if you have a giveaway of some kind) and I get their permission to add them to my email database. Within one week after the show, I send an email thanking them for stopping by the booth, reminding them that they will now be receiving my monthly e-newsletter, and asking them to let me know if they have any travel plans with which I can assist. This way, they’ll remember who I am when they get that first issue of the newsletter, and not report me as SPAM! I also make follow-up phone calls to anyone who had spoken with me about specific questions – I provide additional information, and ask if I can help them with their vacation plans.
These guidelines work for me, but I’m interested in hearing what works for you. Please share your feedback with a comment below.
Ann Petronio is a travel consultant and the owner of Annie’s Escapes, Inc. in Cranston, Rhode Island. She creates custom-tailored vacations for busy couples, families and groups. www.AnniesEscapes.com