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Making the most of trade shows.

Given the right venue and proper planning, trade shows are another opportunity to increase your casting sales.

Exhibiting at trade shows is one of the largest investments a company makes. If planned properly--from start to follow--up-trade shows can be an excellent and cost-effective way to reach your foundry's target audience.

The first article in this series focused on the importance of an effective company brochure. Another important part of a foundry's marketing strategy is trade show participation.

Trade shows offer foundries the chance to meet face to face with current customers and open doors to passers by that may not have known the foundry existed or provided certain capabilities.

There are many opportunities for foundries to get involved with trade shows. Most trade associations host regional shows. To obtain information about various shows, identify and con tact associations that relate to your foundry's products. For example, if your primary product line includes automotive castings, the Society for Automotive Engineers is a good place to start.

A more economic way for smaller foundries to exhibit at larger shows is to participate in a "group" booth. One example includes the MetCast booth, which exhibits at the National Design Engineering Show held each March in Chicago. Designed to promote the foundry industry, this exhibit is a group effort supported by individual foundries, allowing each foundry to display their literature and staff the booth Dart-time if they choose. offering the exposure of the show without the crippling cost.

Preparing for the Show

Conducting a successful trade show exhibit takes more than just showing up and setting up a booth. A considerable amount of effort and money is involved. after setting a budget, which can range from $4000-$10,000, depending on the size and location of the show, the next step in planning is to determine what you intend to achieve by exhibiting.

Several marketing objectives can be achieved through exhibiting at trade shows, including making sales, introducing a new product or service, educating others on your processes, maintaining or creating an image and continuing or initiating contact with customers.

"Our number one goal for exhibiting at a trade show is to find prospects and turn them into customers," said John Kleinhenz, Avalon Precision Casting, Inc. "Exhibiting at shows is a cost-effective way for our sales representatives to meet many new prospects; more than they could ever contact regularly."

Designing a Booth

First-time exhibitors must start from scratch by contacting a booth display company. There are various styles of booths available and your company should decide which model will work most effectively.

Photographs, signs, logos and graphic elements must then be designed and created. As shown in Fig. 1, graphics should attract the attendees' attention and convey important information about your foundry's products and services. The graphics should include a brief description of the company, providing enough information to screen attendees. This allows the sales staff to spend time with those most interested in the company.


Attracting Attendees

In order to achieve your goals, it is important to attract your target audience to your exhibit. Distributing news releases is one method. Another common practice is to invite customers to the show.

"We send a series of pre-show mailings to customers inviting them to the show," said Michael Sheehan, Sheehan Communications, representing Dynacast, Inc. "It is too difficult to rely on people to randomly enter your booth. We want to be on the attendees' list of booths to visit."

In addition to current customers, send the letter to potential customers, those who have stopped by your exhibits in the past and to attendees from previous years.

Booth Demonstrations

"Like most companies, we attend a show to obtain leads," said Tim Mathers, Signicast Corp. To draw a crowd, many companies use product demonstrations, video presentations or entertainment.

Live product demonstrations are one of the most effective ways to attract qualified buyers.

According to Kleinhenz and Mathers, castings are an important part of a foundry exhibit. "Sample projects are always popular and hands-on displays are even better," said Mathers.

Another way to attract attendees to your booth is to participate in technical presentations at the show. This will generate more exposure for your foundry and may draw more customers to your booth with follow-up questions.

Preparing the Staff

Although the graphics and products/services are what initially attract people to your exhibit, the staff is what makes the exhibit work. Booth personnel should be trained to listen to prospects and gather data that will be useful for lead tracking.

"It is important to have sales and technical support on-hand at the exhibit," said Mathers. "Because our target audience consists mainly of engineers, including technical support builds our exhibit's credibility."

Due to the staff's limited time, they should concentrate on spending it with serious prospects. Take this time to learn about the prospect, and explain the benefits of your products or services.

To conserve literature, don't leave stacks of brochures on tables. It will disappear and probably end up in the trash. "We very rarely hand out information at the show because we can't track it," said Mathers. "Instead, we take their names and send a follow-up letter and brochure package to them after the show."

Lead cards are one of the easiest and simplest methods to obtain detailed information about prospects contacted at a trade show. They serve as a valuable link in the sales process because the person who initiated contact with the customer at a trade show is usually not the same one who initiates follow-up activity.

It is a good idea to find a system to prioritize lead cards right away to expedite the follow-up process.

Post-Show Follow-Up

Using the prioritized lead cards, follow-up calling should begin right away. The highest priority leads should be contacted immediately following the show, before a competitor makes the sale.

"We generally start by calling our hot priority leads," said Mathers, " and 70% of the time we arrange a face-to-face meeting."

Within two weeks of the show, a letter should be sent to everyone who visited your booth, thanking them for their interest.

For lower priority leads, a schedule of mailings should be developed to provide a stream of information about your products or services. Following the mailing, the sales staff should contact prospects by phone to determine their interest in your products. Research proves that phone follow-up is more effective in generating sales than mailings alone.

Maintain these mailing lists and periodically send these prospects literature updates, new product information and invitations to other trade shows. A steady flow of information increases the likelihood that they will call you when the time to purchase arises.

For a trade show to be an effective marketing tool, a plan must be developed for each show a company attends. Remember, participation is time- and labor-intensive, and does not end after the booth is broken down. Any insight obtained must be strategically processed, or the whole experience will be wasted time.
COPYRIGHT 1995 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Marketing for Foundries, part
Author:Holic, Deborah L.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Dec 1, 1995
Previous Article:Erie Bronze constructs billboard on 'information superhighway.' (Erie Bronze and Aluminum Co.)
Next Article:Profitability, productivity linked to leadership.

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