The ropers at Annie Oakley’s Real Western Dudette Ranch were all riding high in the saddle. It was just before
their first adventure travel trade show, and they just knew they would rope in big sales.
Annie and her all-woman cowpoke staff were confident thousands of American working women were just itchin to pay $795 or more to learn the fine art of cattle roping and bronco busting. Annie sent her two best cowgirls; figurin’ if they could handle cattle, they could sure rustle up some sales. The cowgirls brought to the show a couple of hay bales, a big sign with genuine spurs dangling from it, a table clear across the front of their booth loaded with hundreds of small snapshots of the cowpokes in action, a four-page story Annie had hand wrote to give out. They wore their most trail-worn chaps and their fanciest boots.
Dang! Three days later, Annie’s seasoned cowgirls left the show more tired then after a three-week cattle drive, ornery with their throats as dry as dust. They had only four leads, and had made no sales. Annie was as irritated as a stepped-on rattler; she had spent over $5,000. and was sure it was the show promoter’s fault her cowgirls were not more successful.
Annie is fictional, but the way she fell out of the saddle is not much different than dozens of businesses I observe, and even some I have consulted to. I don’t let the ones under my reins keep going down the desert trail that Annie followed. You can end up more like this fictional company…
Secrets of Travel Trade Show Success
Tropical Bill’s Amazon River Windsurfing tours had not lost any clients to Piranha during the first months of business, and they were ready to expand his small outfitting service through adventure travel trade shows. Bill and his staff’s goals at their first show were to raise broad awareness for their unique trips to consumers as well as secure travel agent representation.
An expert windsurfer, Tropical Bill had little experience with promotion, sales and trade shows and knew that, like windsurfing, it was a learned experience. He admitted his ignorance and assumed what I call “beginner’s mind.” He sought out as much advice and information as he could. He visited other adventure travel trade shows first, took a workshop on trade show marketing and read all he could on the subject.
Then his team created a solid plan on how to achieve their specific goals. They called and sent out several mailings of personalized cards and letters to key prospects before the show offering a show special. They invested in a quality exhibit with easy-to-read graphics and bold benefit-oriented copy. Bill role-played and practiced boothmanship with his most knowledgeable and motivated team of four that were staffing the booth at scheduled intervals.
Show management was excited about Tropical Bill’s Windsufing Simulator and gave them excellent floor placement. A follow-up sales letter was pre-printed and sent from the office to key prospects immediately with several new color brochures. The preparation, booth, staff activities, offers and prospect follow-up were all well executed.
Tropical Bill implemented many other strategies all covered in this article, raised the flag to their existence, made numerous bookings, established promising relationships with many travel agents, signed up for representation by two large adventure travel wholesalers, and even generated interest for a editorial story Outside Magazine.
Unlike Annie Oakleys’ Dudette Ranch, Tropical Bill’s Windsurfing company was now on the map, generating some cash flow and filling its sails with some powerful promotional winds. Bill could hardly wait for their next show opportunity. Annie was last seen commiserating around the campfire with her cowpokes.
Both outfitters knew that attendees at adventure travel shows were their best markets. Both hoped to have some sales during the show and create awareness for future bookings. Clearly different attitudes and strategies yield different returns on investment. “Beginners mind,” planning, research, goals, and specific strategies make for happy trails and high wind days. Don’t reinvent the wheel. The resources you need, like the Texas Rangers, are awaiting your request for assistance.
4 Strategies For Maximizing Exhibiting Results
1) Have a team-created plan. Unity provides more sales. Incorporate your most knowledgeable and motivated staff from start to finish. When the staff and owners share the same vision and agenda, achieving your goals will be far easier.
2) Do pre-show mailings and phone invitations can triple attendance.David Garfinkel and Jay Conrad Levinson in the soon to be released book, “Guerrilla Direct-Mail Marketing” suggest to use multiple personalized invitations promoting special offers redeemable only at your booth.
3) Arrive a couple days before show.Tap into guaranteed opportunity. There are unmatched opportunities to meet with media, establish sales representation, and network with fellow adventure travel business people. Share what has worked for you and help others. When the show starts you’ll be better prepared and rested then most.
4) Taking care of yourself will yield better results.Schedule your staff so that everyone is smiling and well rested. Drink plenty of water. Eat well balanced meals for higher energy. Avoid alcohol at all times during show. Wear comfortable shoes. Stretch your muscles while checking out other exhibits.
In 1995, U.S. consumers spent $200 billion dollars for adventure travel related equipment, travel, lodging, meals – and with hundreds of outfitters like Annie Oakley’s and Amazon Bill’s. All this just to have fun! Proper trade show marketing can be a magical and fun part of your total marketing plan.