By Greg Hannoosh and Mark Malloy, Next Step Communications, Inc.
After a six-year absence, North America’s biggest plastics event is back, and NPE is coming to Orlando, Florida, from May 6-10, 2024. If you are one of the more than 2,000 companies exhibiting at the show, the booth space has already been chosen. Now what? How will your company be presented at NPE? And, how will your company’s success be measured?
One thing is for sure: Exhibiting at NPE is a major investment. It’s an investment in terms of what it’s going to cost, but it’s also an investment in your company. If done right, companies will come out of this show with a better image, better prospects and better sales. Therefore, it is important – critically important – that you do all you can to make NPE2024 the best show ever done.
‘NPE Season’ for exhibitors starts now and runs through May 2024. There are two parts of NPE Season: Marketing Season and Sales Season. From now until May 5, 2024, it is Marketing Season. On the morning of May 6, it’s Sales Season (more about that later). Read on for some tried and true tips for getting the most out of exhibiting at NPE.
Step 1: Marketing Season
Marketing Season starts with NPE booth planning. If you haven’t started already, it’s time to get moving on designing the booth. How should it look? What will be displayed in it? Pay attention to the ‘selling areas’ in the booth: How will guests enter the booth? How will booth staff lead guests through the booth to show them displays, etc.? How will your company’s branding (logo, brand names, messaging, etc.) be presented in signage?
There are plenty of excellent, professional tradeshow houses that can help design and produce great-looking displays. Seek them out, get a few quotes and design options, choose one and move forward. Having a strong tradeshow display partner is a major step, and once they’ve been engaged, you can be confident the ‘look’ is covered.
Next, it’s important to hone your message and then get that message out to the masses in as many ways as possible over the next eight months. To do this, companies need an integrated marketing strategy. This is essential to getting the best results. Remember, there are over 2,000 companies trying to do the same thing. Cut through the clutter and ‘cover your bases’ by addressing the following parameters:
- PR and Social Media. For PR, write and distribute press releases promoting what will be presented at the show. Most of the plastics industry publications – including this one! – will be doing NPE previews, features, etc. For social media, post regularly on LinkedIn, Twitter and any other platforms that make sense.
- Website. Keep the company website updated and populated with news about what will be shown at NPE. All the marketing efforts made for NPE will drive traffic to your site, so make sure it’s current and provides good information.
- Email marketing. Send out regular eblasts to your customer base with news on what the company will be doing at NPE, and invite them to visit the booth at the show. Exhibitors can access assets on the NPE2024 site that can be used to help with this, including free passes that can be offered guests who plan to attend the show.
- Advertising. Produce a print and/or digital ad campaign promoting your NPE presence. Tell people what the company will be showing, explain why it’s important and invite them to visit the booth. Try to match the ad placements with the editorial issues of each publication that match the plastics industry sector your company is in (injection molding, extrusion, etc.).
- Collateral. Produce digital and/or print brochures and flyers about any new products that will be introduced at the show and put them on your website. Also, consider producing a flyer that shows a schematic of the booth, pointing out the highlights so visitors will know in advance what they’ll be seeing.
These five key marketing parameters are all important for spreading the word about your company’s NPE plans. So, how do you get it all done?
Again, there are plenty of excellent, professional marketing firms out there that can help with some or all of these functions. The same advice is offered here that was offered in the booth planning paragraph above: Seek these firms out, get quotes, choose and move forward. Having a strong marketing partner, especially one that knows your business and is familiar with the plastics industry, will go a long way in helping to achieve your objectives.
One word on the power of PR: Consider inviting industry editors who will be at the NPE to stop by your booth. If an editor visits and produces an article that mentions your company, you have scored in a big way. Think about it: You may see a few hundred to a thousand attendees during the five days of NPE, but an article in an industry publication will be seen by thousands more.
Step 2: Sales Season
It’s the morning of Monday, May 6, 2024. The booth is ready, and you’ve done all you can up to this point to prepare for the show. Hopefully, those marketing efforts will pay off. Now, it’s time for marketing to take a back seat, and turn it over to the sales team. But first…
Leading up to the show, it’s important to gather the team and train them on best practices on the show floor. Sales activities at a tradeshow are very different from a typical sales call. Instead of 15, 30 or 60 minutes visiting a customer, the sales team may have a few minutes. It’s important to make the most out of that limited time.
By now, the sales team staffing the booth should all be on the same page… meaning, they’ve been briefed on how to work the booth over the next five days. This can include:
- Asking the right questions. To pull visitors in from aisles, have a qualifying question specific to your business. Examples include: Does your company do injection molding? Does your company use purging compounds in your machinery? Does your company do maintenance on injection molds? When talking with visitors in the booth, ask other questions, such as: What’s new for you? How is business?
- Booth etiquette (ground rules while working in the booth). What fits your company’s culture? Is it okay or not okay to sit or be seen on a cellphone? Remind the team they are there to sell and not to be sold to, so be careful not to get caught up in conversations with non-customers. Train for it, and have someone in charge of watching and preventing this from happening. Make a booth staffing schedule and include breaks.
- What’s the pitch? Make sure everyone has it down, so they know what to say about the products on display, what their benefits are, how your company can help, etc.
- Capture leads. Don’t let your visitors get away without getting their contact information. Consider producing a lead sheet for the team to fill out on each visitor – something easy to use, with checkboxes that capture the information needed after the show. Include a way to prioritize lead follow up, such as rating visitors with an A, B or C. If possible, schedule follow-up meetings immediately with guests by saying, “Let’s get something in our calendars now.”
- Encourage teamwork. Make sure staff is trained to hand off guests to the best person in the booth for their needs. For instance, “I handle the East Coast, so let me introduce you to John, who covers the Midwest for us,” or “I’m the product manager for purging compounds, so let me introduce you to Bryan, who’s in charge of our mold maintenance products.”
If the sales staff is properly trained in advance of the show, you’ll be getting their best efforts over the five days of NPE. Making the best use of their time will result in getting the best leads and potential future new business for your company. During the show, schedule time with the team to review how things are going and make adjustments, if necessary. A good time to do this is in the morning at the booth, before the show opens each day. Ask the staff how things are going, what’s working and what’s not.
After the show closes on Friday, May 10, take some time to celebrate! The team has all worked hard, and it’s important to enjoy and acknowledge those achievements. Then, once NPE2024 is done, NPE2027 starts on Monday, May 13. Don’t miss this step. Call a meeting with all stakeholders, and document what went well and what could have been better. Put those notes into a time capsule, and pull them out when it’s time to get serious about planning for the next NPE!
Greg Hannoosh and Mark Malloy are partners in Next Step Communications, Inc., a marketing firm specializing in serving clients in the plastics industry. Hannoosh has supported clients at every NPE show since 1988, and Malloy since 1994. As president of Next Step, Hannoosh manages day-to-day operations and client relationships and guides marketing program strategy to ensure all deliverables exceed expectations. Malloy has spent his entire career in the plastics industry and joined Next Step as a partner and equity stake holder in April 2021.
More information: www.next-step.com