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Getting a High ROI From Your Booth

My first ever booth. 2008 at a 5K race in Utah. Learned some tough lessons.

I've been through a handful of business ventures and through them all I've been to A LOT of trade shows where I've seen A LOT of booths. I've had some opportunities to manage or execute a booth or two of my own and today's blog post is my attempt to point out the obvious lessons that aren't so obvious.

Have A Clear Core Objective

A big mistake I see are booths that suffer from having too much going on. They have sale signs, fish bowls to enter to win something, swag, flyers, and more.

This confuses the target consumer and makes it difficult to stand out. Like almost everything else in business you tend to succeed when you pick one thing and do it really well.

Potential Objectives May Include:

  • Lead Capture. Gather contact information for potential customers
  • Real Conversations. Talk to target consumers and understand their needs
  • Brand Engagement. Get consumers to use or better understand your company / product / service
  • Sell product and generate cash revenue

In addition, having a core objective also helps you understand who your customer is and how to target them in the crowd. Most likely you do NOT want EVERY person at the event to stop by your booth. Just the people in the market for what you are selling.

So identifying your objective leads to identifying your target consumer at the event, which should guide my next few points.

Lead With Value

A booth at an event is no different than any other marketing medium. If you want someone to do business with you or buy your product you need to lead with value.

What experience, product, tool, insight, or conversation can you provide to your target event attendees that will be inherently valuable on its own and relevant to your product or service?

The SilencerCo Booth at SHOT Show 2016. As you walk in it tells a story in timeline form along the walls about the history of gun control and specifically suppressors in America. Very captivating and provides and valuable experience that is RELEVANT to their products.

ONLY AFTER you provide some immediate and inherent value do people tend to be willing to hear your sales pitch.

A common way businesses will try to do this is to hand out a product sample but unfortunately, this doesn't create a now experience. You need something that creates a NOW experience that causes the person to stop at the booth and engage with you.

Benchmade Knife Company has a busy booth each year because they will sharpen, service, and laser engrave your knife on site for FREE.

Your lead must be relevant to your service. In the last few years I've seen booths that setup comfortable chairs and charging stations so people will stop, sit, and charge their phones for a few minutes. This is effective at getting people to stop but they aren't stopping because they have any interest in you or your business and that is a problem.

Now you may be thinking you just have a 10×10 booth with a limited budget and you just can't afford to do something huge. It is ok to start small, but it isn't smart to think people will stop and talk to you at your booth just because you have a fabulous product.

They do not know they need or want you. In order to let them know you need conversation time. You earn that conversation time by providing something valuable.


At the USCCA Expo 2018 we handed out FREE pistol cases valued at about $15 each. People went absolutely insane. You want to be the booth that someone walks up to and says “Hey I see people everywhere with %%THING%% how do I get one?”

If you are handing out candy, pens, koozies, frisbees, balloons, or some other cheap trinket that anyone can buy at a dollar store your SWAG sucks.

Attributes of Awesome SWAG:

  • Visible at the event. When people take it from you and walk around the event everyone else sees it and wants to know where they got it. If your swag fits in a pocket it becomes invisible
  • Relevant to your product/service. People associate you with whatever you give away. Make it relevant to your business
  • It doesn't have to have high retail value as long as it has high perceived value. Free bottled water on a hot day doesn't have high monetary value but it has high perceived value.
Design Pickle booth (don't know where or when). These guys always let you take a picture with their mascot… which is a pickle. They also give away cold crisp pickles. Real ones… that you eat… because apparently a lot of people enjoy a fresh crisp pickle.

I know what you are thinking… you can't afford it right?

On more than one occasion I've been able to partner with a 3rd party company to provide me with some products either at steep discount or free to be able to give away at a booth. A joint-venture on a swag item can be a big win for both parties.

You can also lessen the cost of a swag item by including along with it a coupon or offer that, with even a low percentage of conversion will help you generate some cash to offset the cost.

In the above picture, those pistol cases we handed out were stuffed with about 10 coupons from various companies that paid us to deliver their offer to event attendees. It was a pain to stuff those cases but it offset the cost of buying the swag.

When you still can't figure out a way to justify the expense, think of something you can print that would be valuable. A flyer or card with some sort of inherent value like a tutorial, recipe, tips, or something that you would normally sell.

Start Small!!!

Now, if you are about to have your first experience with a booth I strongly recommend you start with the standard 10×10 booth and do your best to follow the above ideas. No point in investing a lot of money in a big booth and then losing that money due to poor execution due to lack of experience.

A booth for my promotional apparel business JP Tees. Setup at a local 5K race trying to convince people to buy our shirts or hire us to print shirts in bulk. We sold one shirt and I'm still frankly shocked that we did even that well. This was not the right target audience and even if our target customer was in the crowd we didn't do anything well to attract their attention. But we gave away a lot of bottled water which was a good primer to understanding how to attract bigger crowds.

If your first time is anything like my first… 6 times, you will make some critical mistakes and learn some important lessons about your target consumers that will make it easier to do a bigger and better job the next time.

Learn From & Network With Others

Always take the time to walk around the event, even if you have a booth there, and observe the other booths. Look for the crowds and see what is attracting people.

See if you notice a pattern of products or swag items that everyone seems to be carrying or using or wearing.

Your market or industry is unique to you and there is no shame in copying the best ideas of others in your industry.

In addition some of the highest ROI from the event will be in the contacts you make if we work hard to introduce yourself to other vendors.

Maybe you will find some dealers for your product, someone with whom you could co-sponsor an upcoming event, join in an online product giveaway, a potential celebrity endorsement, or someone willing to trade promotional assets like direct mail or email.

When I go to the effort, especially at a very industry specific and targeted event, to go booth to booth and introduce myself to the other vendors there I always leave the event with the confidence that my greatest ROI will be in the contacts that I made.

What other things have you found that make for a great booth experience and ROI? Let me know in the comments below.


I Don’t Have the Problem That You Are Trying To Solve

Products solve problems. If you are a business owner, salesman, or entrepreneur of any kind ask yourself what problem does your product solve?

Understanding the problem is the first step to all marketing. Your customer is in their current state. They have a problem. How does your product solve that problem and get the customer to their desired state? Here are additional thoughts on this marketing approach.

Now, as a consumer you also need to approach product purchasing this way. Using the “what problem” paradigm of shopping has some great benefits. When you see an advertisement for a new product ask yourself… what problem do I have that this will solve?

Here are the core advantages to this “Problem Solving” method of shopping:

  1. You actually get to the root of the issue. Sometimes you might be tempted to buy products that address a symptom of your problem but don't actually address the problem at all. A lot of money and time can be saved if you figure out the actual source of your problem and buy to address it.
  2. Often you will discover you don't have the problem. This happens to me all the time. Fellow business owners will tell me about the latest program or service they are using that has made life so much better. I take one look and say to myself… “This solves a problem that I don't have” and then I move on. Hey don't get me wrong the squatty potty ads are hilarious but I don't have an issue with my bowel movements so I'm good to just laugh at the videos on YouTube and move on in life.
  3. You can make more logical priced based decisions. What is it worth to you to solve that problem. When you really understand the problem you are trying to solve you may more easily understand what you would be willing to solve that problem.

7 Habits of Highly Successful Sales People

At my organization we are planning a new year workshop to help the sales team plan for 2012. Its important to help your team and your department focus on whats important. No matter how many books you have read or how many seminars you have been to; we all need reminders and time to “sharpen the saw.”

The outline below is an adaptation of Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as it may apply to media sales. Use this outline and adapt it for your industry and business.

Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Vision

  1. The first step in creating strong income is pro-activity.
  2. Create a lifestyle that helps you meet new leads. Make calling on new leads a top priority.
  3. Identifying potential conflicts or issues that will slow you down and addressing them with potential solutions to management.
  4. Take accountability for your results. You are the factor of your success or failure.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Leadership

  1. Deciding early on what your objectives are. What do you truly wish to accomplish in your job?
  2. Creating a mission statement that reflects your goals as a sales professional.
  3. Beginning each event, activity, or meeting knowing what you want to get out of it.
  4. Foreseeing possible problems with retention, discouragement, accounting, traffic, etc.
  5. Taking the proper steps to prepare to be an effective sales person and marketing consultant.

Habit 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Personal Management

  1. Understanding the four quadrants of effective production and knowing how to apply that to our business. Focusing on Revenue Producing Activities!
  2. Creating habits of time management and effective planning.
  3. Reserving time for all your roles in life, so as not to neglect anything.
  4. Setting time aside each week for Prospecting, Service, and Production, and Education/Training.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Interpersonal Leadership

  1. Commit yourself to Win/Win or no deal. Agree to sell clients who you need as clients and who need your stations.
  2. You must listen first. Discover who the client is and what problems they have in their business. Look for the solutions in your stations.
  3. Each part of the media buying experience has to be a new win. Show the client how accounting, production, and reporting is a win for them.
  4. Train the client to respect your time and learn to respect theirs.
  5. Understand how to create win win situations with other departments in the company.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

  1. Seek to understand the situation of each client. Find out what they want out of the advertising and what has brought them far enough to listen to you.
  2. Practice active listening skills. Truly listen to your clients and your team members to best understand their desires.
  3. Continue building a relationship with your clients to develop trust and credibility through listening to, and understanding them.
  4. Only when the client trusts you and believes you understand them, and have their best interests in mind, will they follow you.

Habit 6: Synergize Principles of Creative Communication

  1. Create environments of synergy with traffic, production, promotion, and accounting.
  2. Practice habits 4 & 5 in making synergistic moments happen.
  3. Synergize with each client individually to get full buy in.
  4. Seek out potential synergistic activities, such as creative meetings, brainstorming sessions, etc.
  5. Understand the unique abilities/responsibilities that each of our departments have, and think of how best to utilize them.
  6. Seek out the very best training in the industry and in your company from the top leaders.

Habit 7 Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

  1. Set aside Monthly, Weekly, and Daily planning and evaluation sessions.
  2. Renew your commitments and covenants in all aspects of life through sincere evaluation.
  3. Evaluate the best and less effective practices that you have been using in prospecting, retaining, and up selling your clients.
  4. Review this and other handouts and notes that will increase your effectiveness in prospecting, retaining, and up selling your clients.

Make the Numbers a Part of Your Life


I'll never forget an old manager of mine who once told me “What can be measured, can be improved.” I have always felt strongly about the importance of keeping track of results in order to improve. In high school I charted all of my race times for Cross Country and Track and Field into a spreadsheet for 4 years. I used charts to measure my improvement over time during a season and to closely compare improvement on the same tracks or courses. I know I was a freak back then, but this methodical nature has paid me back 10 fold.

If you have ever read any book about goal setting you know that goals must be written down. They must be specific and measurable. If you can't track it you can't achieve it. My sales team understand the importance of this. Every day when they come into my office they see a list of all of my personal and business 2011 goals written on my wall. Next to each goal is either a check-mark or a % of completion. On Mondays or Fridays I update each of my reports (mostly in Excel) to illustrate progress or regression.

Keeping track of the numbers is the very last thing that anyone wants to do. Its time consuming, boring, and hard to justify when a pile of urgent tasks cover your desk and email inbox. Never forget the long term necessity and importance of keeping track of the numbers. Numbers are an important part of every aspect of every business. If you are in advertising you need to keep track of your response in correlation with your advertising spend. If you are in sales you need to keep track of each activity in your sales cycle to track what is effective and what is not, in addition to defining when you are trending high or low in activity. If you are a web programmer, keep track of which activities take the most time so that you can accuratly manage your boss's or client's expectations.

Being methodical about watching the numbers will impress your superiors and your boss. If you are the boss then you know that a large part of your day needs to be engaged in analyzing the numbers. Without a range of measurement you will never be able to make wise decisions to increase productivity or return on investment.

What parts of your business are you measuring well or poorly? Are your tracking methods effective and consistent? Where does your data come from and are you taking the time to read it?


Cuss Words:: The things you say that lose you time and money

salesI come from a sales background. I started out doing outside sales for Verizon, T-Mobile, and Nextel and not too long after I was going door to door arcross the country selling satellite tv. When I would train newly hired sales reps I also went through a list of the industry sales people cuss-words.

What am I talking about? In any industry of sales there are always a series of words and phrases that trigger potential buyers into saying no or becoming defensive. These words tend to be the most common phrases that your customers are accustomed to hearing from your fellow sales reps.

The most effective salesman are able to get past the baricades that potential customers put up instinctively when they think they are being sold. This is the single most important skill perhaps even with the skill of closing. Telling your customer about features and benefits isn’t difficult if you can put them in a situation where they are truly listening to you.

Consider if you will what some of the cuss words might be in your industry. Telemarketers have a distinctive different set of cuss words than do kiosk in the mall sales people.

Please feel free to share your favorite industry sales cuss words below.