Testing whether your business model works

Building block gameTesting your business model to make sure it will work is the next step after you have researched the market, gathered information and identified the niche opportunity for your products.

How do you go about this?

You will need to get  your concept down on paper or into a model and test it. This is a process that can mean hours and hours of spreadsheets, pain and pressure, and involve assistance from your accountants and many other things to get it right.

There is an easier way.

You can use a business tool that takes you through the process.

We use CashMAX Forecaster™ (www.cashmaxforecaster.com) when we want to  evaluate a business model to look at Cash, Profit (& Loss) and your Balance Sheet timing (a three way forecast) to see how everything fits together. It takes into consideration GST and other related tax and legal requirements.

Testing your business model is testing the process of what you are selling and how you are going to sell it.

Forget about the ACTUAL numbers just for the moment. The numbers are simply the end result of the plan.

Just for now, we won’t consider the actual dollar value of the product / services that you need to sell (eg $10,000), instead we will start thinking about the dynamics that make up the dollar figure.

———————————————————————————

In your business model, the dynamics of the numbers are what tells you that you need to sell x amount at y dollars with a margin of z%.

 

———————————————————————————

For instance this allows you to say if I want to sell x amount in Month 4, what actions will I need to take in Months 1, 2, and 3 to make that happen?

And what are each of those sales/ marketing / and other activities going to cost me?

What we are starting to build is not just a financial model to see if the numbers work,  but also a picture of all the steps that will be required to make it work, and what each of those steps will require both in cost and activity.

Activities are what drives business.  Your task is to assess the balance between the cost of the upfront activities and the returns on the results these activities generate.

This allows you to decide what you need to do, and what can you afford to do upfront, to drive results and build business. Once you have worked this out, you will be able to determine if your business model is viable.

Remember that at this stage everything is based on assumptions. The assumptions you make will drive the model so be realistic on all assumptions that you put in place.

Swap You! Some interesting maths on acquiring new customers

Archive cabinets exchanging filesAcquiring new customers is generally one of the most difficult and expensive things to do in business –in fact it is five or six times more expensive to sell to a new customer than it is to sell again to an existing customer.

 

There has to be a better way to acquire new customers. And as you’ll see in a moment, there is.

But let’s set the scene.

Let’s say you placed an ad or did a promotion that cost $2,000. And let’s say that you had 20 people enquire and you converted 5 of those to a sale. Then using those figures, each new customer cost you $400 simply to acquire.

Realising this is an important step. Just for starters it becomes pretty obvious why spending one dollar writing back to a customer (who just cost you $400 just to acquire), is a worthwhile investment.

Now, here’s an alternative way to look at that.

Let’s say you have a customer base of 4,000 people. If the average acquisition cost was $400, you are sitting on an asset that cost you $1,600,000 -interesting revelation in itself! It serves to illustrate that your customer base is one of your most valuable assets.

O.K., let’s look at how to double your customer base inexpensively and rapidly by harnessing what we call a “Host/Beneficiary” arrangement.

Host / Beneficiary Arrangements for acquiring new customers

Let’s take a business that deals with a similar customer profile to yours, and presume that this business is somehow (though not necessarily) logically linked to your business.

For example, a gym and a fashion boutique might be linked – both help people look and feel better.

Go ahead and make a list now of 5 businesses in your geographic market that “fit” with yours.

Imagine if one of those businesses has a customer base of 2,000 people. Like your customer list, that has cost them a lot of money to acquire. With acquisition costs of just $50, it’d be a $ 100,000 investment.

Using the acquisition figures we put together earlier, if you were to add 200 customers to your customer base by the previous means with a $400 acquisition cost, you’d be looking at an $80,000 outlay.

However, if you were able to tap into the other business’ customer base for just a few hundred or few thousand dollars, clearly it would be an astute investment.

So how do you do it?

Well, there are literally scores of different ways and slight variations. The guiding principle though should be win-win.

There must be something (not necessarily monetary) in it for the other business, and there must of course be a benefit to you. Where the other business wins, you win, and the client or customer wins because they receive great value.

Here is one way to do it (there are others we will discuss in future blogs).

Swap lists

But not just “swap”. It is many times more attractive where the other business is directly or indirectly endorsing and recommending you to their customers via an “endorsed mailing”. One of our Western Australian clients did an endorsed mailing in Tasmania, and acquired in 16 weeks as many customers as they had acquired (using traditional means) in Western Australia in 2 years. It works.

An endorsed mailing is simply a letter that you prepare, but it is written as coming from the other business owner. It goes on the other business’ letterhead and is signed by the other business owner. If l can make one thing clear – make it as easy and appealing as possible for the “host” business.

You cover all his or her costs. You do all the legwork and time consuming logistics. All they should have to do is supply letterhead and envelopes (which you pay for at cost) and then approve and sign the letters. You pay all mailing costs.

Importantly, the letter should make the host look good. Give them all the kudos for arranging or negotiating this special offer (remember, avoid discounts and add value) that you are supplying exclusively to a number of your customers.

The letter could go something like this -on Acme’s (“Host’s”) letterhead -but you write the copy for them!

Hello John,

I want to let you in on something.

You see, I was thinking the other day that it was about time I did something to show you just how much I appreciate your support. And then I had this idea that maybe it shouldn’t be anything to do with my business. Just a gift you’d enjoy.

[Your name] is a friend of mine who owns [Your business]. I was telling him my plans when together we decided that he could help me out.

So this is what I’ve arranged on your behalf.

Just drop into [Your business] and show them this letter, and you’ll receive with my compliments (note how the “host” gets the kudos) an “x” valued at “$”for free (or some other offer that makes sense, taking into account the back end. For instance, a gym could offer a free workout or even a week’s free membership).

Hope you enjoy it. [Your name] is a top bloke and I know he’ll look after you. (Or some other endorsing comment).

Warm regards,

Joe Blow [host]

How to find ten reasons why customers should buy from YOU

Dare to be differentHere’s a super idea that might just give you exactly the right ammunition to create what we call a USP. USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition.And why do you need one? Quite simply because if you’ve got competitors then your customer has a choice. And they make that choice purely on the differences they perceive.

Developing a USP is a way of helping you focus on building and articulating that difference. Here’s a great way to do it.

You sit down with your team (or indeed with your Accountant and your team) with a white board. On the white board, you write this question.

What are the 10 reasons why I should deal with YOU?

Now in that context, the “I” means of course, any potential customer.

When you do it, it’s more than likely that your team will come up with fairly typical answers -answers like better service, better qualified temps, personnel and so on.

As they come up with answers, you write all the answers down on a board and then you do something really interesting. You tell the team that you’re going to be really hard. You’re going to rub out anything you’ve written down that one of your competitors would say to a customer about themselves -whether or not it’s true.

You ask the team to tell you which attributes they want you to rub out on that basis. In other words, you ask them to imagine that you’d asked their competitors the same “WHAT ARE THE TEN REASONS” question and rub out anything they thought their competitors would have given to the same question.

Not surprisingly, all the warm “feely-touchy” things will disappear – after all, everyone says they give great service, everyone says they have better qualified people, everyone says they have top quality products and so on.

If you’re really severe with the board eraser, you may have absolutely nothing left on the board. And that means you’ve got a problem. Either you haven’t got a uniqueness or, just as importantly you haven’t been able to find a way to articulate it.

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

(The point is, of course, that if you haven’t got anything tangible, anything real, that differentiates your products and services from your competitors-you’ve got to find it.)

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

I remember doing the exercise a while ago in Perth with a Personnel Agency. It’s a fascinating story because like most companies, they had difficulty at first coming up with unique things. But as we worked on it, we found they could build a USP.

The company did have two tangible differences.

  • They had a LIFETIME guarantee (yes, you read that right -a lifetime guarantee) on all permanent placements they make.
  • When it came to temporary people, they gifted you the first two hours of that temporary’ s time whilst they were familiarising themselves with your business.

But we needed to get some more. And by brainstorming it, we found them.

  • We decided that the temporary staff that the company sent out have to be the very best. They had to reflect the company’s values-they had to be different.
  • Training was the answer there. Every temporary (even though they might be skilled in their own particular area) got a special programme on Customer Care through a special video we created for the company. Remarkably, it’s a programme that the temporaries gladly paid to participate in!

That gave us another difference to communicate to potential customers.

But that left one more critical question – how do you communicate these unique differences to potential customers?

It called for a truly “classic” letter. You’ll see that letter in future blogs.

In the meantime, you could try considering what might happen if you took time to do the “WHAT ARE THE TEN REASONS I SHOULD BUY FROM YOU” exercise. It really is a fascinating one to do.

An ‘All Star’ idea for growing a spectacular team

Happy business team winningCustomer service can make or break a business. How do you create a team that offers it? Here’s an idea from the Pavilion Hotel in Canberra that might help you build what they call “an all star team”.

I checked into the hotel (it’s a great place, by the way) very late one Tuesday night after a drive from Sydney. Check-in was great, terrific smiles, low desks, all the right sort of “vibes”.

Together with my room key and my “introduction to the hotel” I was handed an envelope headed “Your All-Star Credit Card”.

Although it was past midnight, the envelope heading was irresistible -after all, I’d never had an All-Star Credit Card before. So, I opened it. Here’s exactly what was inside:

Dear Guest,

Everyone of the team here at The Pavilion is a potential ALL STAR – someone who is dedicated and committed to ensuring your expectations of us and our services are met and even exceeded where possible.

You may come across an ALL- STAR during your stay at The Pavilion. We believe that spontaneous recognition is the best form of encouragement and praise.

These ALL STAR CREDIT CARDS are designed for that very purpose. We are inviting you to participate in the recognition of an ALL STAR by giving a card to a member of staff who you feel merits one.

On the back of each card is a space for you to insert the name of the ALL STAR you spotted in action. Please fill in the name and location of the ALL STAR and any comments you wish You may either give the card to the ALL STAR or leave it at reception.

I would like to thank you for participating in our search for ALL- STARS and hope that you have the good fortune of meeting one during your stay.

Kind regards, Don Goodie

GENERAL MANAGER

Interesting idea isn’t it. And it’s one you might well be able to implement.

 

Trampled under the total rush of social media

Announcing Tweets ConceptAccess to social media means that these days the voice of one quiet person can cause far-reaching damage to businesses and individuals. Or comments on Twitter or Facebook from outsiders who have little or no knowledge of your business can cause a sudden public backlash that damages your reputation.

Let’s look at three different examples.

1] Example 1: Total Rush Launch Panned by Outside Tweeters.

In the latest bout being reported by the media a Melbourne bike shop, Total Rush, is being condemned in social media for using topless women painted with body art as part of its brand re-launch promotion. I should probably point out a few factors that are relevant to this case.

  • The bike shop promotes women’s cycling. 
  • The guests at the launch enjoyed the occasion and made no complaints, reports the business.
  • The bike shop said it drew on the example of other well known brands who had used this marketing ploy successfully and without public outcry. 

A simple photo posted on Twitter (subsequently removed) and seen by the general public caused the swell of public indignation.  The way a business manages the follow up situation when faced with negative social media attention, can help or hinder their cause.  In this case unfortunately the company has exacerbated the backlash by deleting comments rather than responding to them. 

2] Example 2: Employees Post Comments on Social Media

On a business trip to a township in country Victoria I witnessed a personal example of the risks when I visited a client.  Imagine for a moment that you have just asked a group of team members to do their work and not to stand in around in public area of the business chatting with one another. Not an abnormal event to occur really, is it? And it’s something that you generally wouldn’t think anything further about either.

Now move to a day later when one of your senior team comes to you and shows you the comments made by that group on Facebook. The comments are negative and very derogatory.

What do you do? Take the high road and simply ignore it – it’s just a group of young people venting after all. No.

___________________________________________________________________________

Ignoring comments made about you and your business through social media is not really a choice you can afford to take any more.

___________________________________________________________________________

Firstly, it’s been brought to your attention by another team member, so something has to be said. It has implications for how they themselves can manage those younger members.

And secondly it’s now in the public domain. It’s out there talking about you or your business for years to come.

In a small community, or indeed any community where people are thinking about you online, this is the new reality.

The flip side is that if one of those people came to me for a job I would be able to see those comments on their Facebook page, and they would no longer have a chance of obtaining a job with me. If they make comments about a previous employer online aren’t they likely to do the same again??

Are their pages closed to the public – is anything really ever closed these days?

3] Example 3: Business Named in Error on Social Media

Here’s another case to demonstrate the point of how fragile and vulnerable your business can be when social media starts going against you.

A hotel found that its bookings started dropping off rapidly and it even began receiving cancellations. The reason quoted to baffled staff was that they had received some bad reviews online.

Now normally, my response would be, well if it’s been due to bad service  then I can understand. However, on investigation, it turned out that the reviews were actually about a different hotel. The reviewer had linked them to the wrong hotel or put in the wrong name.

So what do these three examples add up to for your business.  A hell of a lot – this is not something you can dig your head in the sand and not think about anymore. Every  business needs to get a social media strategy in place sooner rather than later.

Having a social media strategy in place for your business means:

  • be conscious of everyone’s actions and the far-reaching consequences
  • have a social media policy in place
  • provide strict guidelines about what is allowable for an employee, division, department or associated brand to say. (Rather similar to past times when the company controlled who could speak to the media.)
  •  make employees aware of the ramifications and implications (both to the business and to themselves personally)
  • ensure they are committed to it even after they leave your employment
  • encompass it into your way of doing things, your systems.

Get your business social media policy in place NOW, not in six months time when it has become an issue. If nothing else, it’s sound risk management in this highly-networked social media-dominated world.

Secrets to turning your business plan into action steps

Business planAny plan, be it a holiday or a business plan, is only as good as its execution. Planning without taking action is pointless. Preparing a business plan is a two step process.  First you create the plan and test whether it is feasible. Then you determine the action steps and timelines needed to achieve it.

 

Testing your plans

  • Are my plans feasible?
  • Do I have attainable objectives?
  • Do I have enough time to follow all the plans that I have?
  • Have I contacted everyone involved in the plan?
  • Are all the resources that I need available?
  • Do I have a back-up plan for unforeseen events?

When you are satisfied with your answers  here are your next steps.

Turning plans into actions

  1. Allocate an adequate budget to implement your plans. Your business will continue to need cashflow to run smoothly, so set aside some funding for the plan – and tailor the plan to your budget. Options like social media might be cost effective resources for you.
  2. Ensure your team members are all on board. Hold meetings, explain your ideas, and if possible ask them for suggestions. With your team involved, and working with you, your plans will have a much better chance of success.
  3. Contact all external suppliers involved in your plans. Suppose part of your marketing and promotions plan includes sending out greeting cards to your customers and vendors. Then you should contact the company that can provide you the cards that you need. Perhaps your plan involves re-packaging of your products, just for a season or longer term. Then the action step would be to research and contact a company that can provide you with bags and packaging – appropriately theme-related if that is the concept.
  4. Stick to the schedule. Allowing timelines to drift will jeopardise the likelihood of a good outcome. After all you probably worked out the timeline based on the optimal timing. It might also encourage your team to feel less committed to supporting the drive to achieve them. If you don’t seem too worried – why should they be?

 One easy tool we use for our clients and ourselves, to assist the process, is our new proprietary tool CashMAX™ Forecaster.

 Call us for a trial to see how easy it makes planning the next stage of your business and working out if it will really work.

Good luck!

Christmas boost juice! 9 Top tactics to re-energise your business during the holiday sales season

berry smoothieEvery business needs to re-energise and re-vitalise at intervals, but when is a good time to start and how do you go about doing it?  For small business owners, it’s hard to go past the Christmas / New Year period. Customers are in a festive mood buoyed up by carols and decorations, and people are generally open to spending more in this period. It’s a great platform that you can use to renew, re-energise or boost your business up a notch or three.

My mantra that business success doesn’t just happen applies here more than ever. It’s all about planning and implementation.

My 9 top tips to using the Christmas / New Year holiday season to re-energise your business.

  • Be creative! – People look for uniqueness.
    What are your points of difference in your market place? Something unique about both your products and your service is vital. Without the two, you cannot expect a boost in sales and may experience a decline.
  • Ensure you satisfy and exceed your customers expectations.
    Don’t confine yourself to traditional business plans. Go for innovative and surprising ideas (within your cost constraints).
  • ALWAYS and at ALL TIMES aim to please your customers as an integral part of your business model.
    Your efforts and service levels during the holiday season can have residual effects in the following months. If you have offered excellent service you will surely attract more customers.
  • Plan promos and giveaways.
    If you don’t plan and commit to these actions and timings they won’t happen.
  • Ensure gifts you give represent your business well.
    Your gift does not need to be expensive. Just bear in mind that creativity is needed, otherwise you might be wasting your efforts.
  • Share the love!
    Consider using local or affiliated businesses when obtaining / creating your gifts and  encourage those around you to do the same.
  • Carry additional stock levels.
    If it is your busiest period then be prepared.
  • Start PR activities as soon as possible.
    This is imperative because there are many competitors locally, domestically and internationally. As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm.
  • Choose a marketing strategy that fits your business’ budget.
    There are a lot of free platforms that you can use, especially in the social media. Reach as many people as possible.

Re-energising your business is something that you want to achieve for the longer term as well.

To do that effectively, ask the following questions:

  1. What are the specific goals I want my business to achieve?
  2. What is required to achieve the goals and objectives that I have?
  3. What resources do I have to accomplish the plans and bring them to fruition?
  4. What is the time frame for the plans that I have listed?
  5. What strategy will I use that will benefit the business and bring the best results?
  6. How can I incorporate the holiday season boost into the longer-term plans?
  7. Do I have back-up arrangements if things don’t go according to plan? Many one-off crises can be prepared for ahead and while difficult don’t have to be an unmanageable disaster.

Feel like doing a bit of a brainstorming on how you might re-energise your business?

Ask us, it could be fruitful! (Sorry, obviously getting into the season’s cheeriness a little too soon. But we do have a lot of good ideas!)

 

How to prepare for the festive season sales race

The winnerAs a small business owner what’s not to like about the three months that are arguably the best period of the whole year when it comes to sales. That is of course if you have a structured plan to take advantage of it!  A quick glance at the calendar says it’s time to get out those pencils and start planning festive season business sales campaigns.

In Australia, compared to Northern Hemisphere nations, it packs a particularly hefty punch.  Days are warmer and longer and people are happily anticipating the holiday season (my team have already booked the party). The Spring Racing Carnival season culminating with the heady delights of the Melbourne Cup (pun intended) rolls rapidly into end-of-year parties. The Ashes Series gets underway, school breaks up and ushers in the long summer holidays punctuated by Christmas, Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race, and New Year and wraps up in the grand finale of the Australia Day long weekend.

7 helpful action steps for your festive season business sales campaign.

Adapt them to suit your business goals and objectives.

1] For retailers and etailers – store/website appearance

The over-all appearance of your store / website should be fresh and presentable. Give it a spring clean. Adopt a Christmas theme; promote New Year or any one of the many summer celebrations that might fit with your business. This will help you entice more customers. If you have an online business relate the theme of your website with the holiday season. A Christmas-themed website conveys festivity and cheer.

2] Seasonal greeting cards

Think about how you can give back to your customers. By giving back I don’t mean expensive and grand gifts. A simple festive greeting card or email can help show how much you appreciate your customers. People love to feel valued. If your customers feel that you value them then they are more likely to be loyal to you. Aside from the customers, you can also send Christmas cards to your prospect customers and vendors.

3] Marketing strategy

Plan the marketing strategy that you intend to use ahead of time. There are many new media technologies that make it easy to reach out to people cost effectively. Even the smallest businesses can use the different social media platforms to increase their customers. Review how you can turn them to your advantage.

4] Adequacy of staff and stocks

Christmas is a time of giving and people are often impulsive when buying gifts for their loved ones. Be ready for this with adequate stock levels. You might also need to be prepared to hire extra staff to see you through the holiday rush.

Develop contingency plans for the hiccups this season may bring. Expect employees to call in sick or go in vacation. Have a manual system for managing if the electronic systems black out. Don’t let these known vagaries of business life catch you unawares and cost you a lot of money, effort or lost opportunities.

5] Staff training

It’s highly irritating to customers battling crowded stores in limited time frames to be forced to deal with staff who don’t know about the products or services they are selling. The bad experience they had with your business during the silly season taints their view of your whole operation – even if you think it’s not representative of your normal business standards.  In your customer’s mind it will be.

Plan to train even your temporary team so that they know your products and how to sell them effectively. And while you are at it, make sure all your team understand how vital this selling season is to the business and how important their role is in making it successful.

6] Promos, bundling and discounts

Promos should always be part of your business plan. The more enticing the promo you have, the more customers you can expect. Create genuine offers that people will not be able to resist. Avoid offers that are too pushy or extravagant.

7] New products

Are there any new products and services you could release that are related to the season? If new products are not feasible then think of ways to associate your existing products with the coming festive celebrations. For example, change your packaging to something seasonal, or set up a wrapping station for the customers.

Whatever you do, now is the time to start brainstorming your festive season business sales activities and preparing to implement them.

 

Making my business run independently of me. Month end..all hell breaks loose

Fighting-fur-sealsI have committed myself to the goal of setting up my business so that it runs independently of me. Unless your business can operate without you, it becomes a job, perhaps a lifestyle (desirable or otherwise), but not a saleable asset. In this month’s progress update I have to report – it’s not easy.  But I have five tips to help you create an independent business that you can sell one day – and survive the chaos on the way through.

Life is a flow: the flow of events over time, the flow of a business, and the flow of people’s personal lives. And each of these area impacts on all the others. Around 600 years ago a English poet called John Donne wrote ‘No man is an island’. Whatever happens to the people around us, says Donne, in effect happens to us too because we are all connected. I’d have to say that this month showed me the truth of that big time.

When my business and personal life is in flow everything just works and seems effortless. No bump is too big, everything is surmountable, everyone works together and it just happens.

The period of life I am currently experiencing is the opposite. It’s all about chaos rather than flow. In attempting to remove myself from the processes and ensure everyone follows their responsibilities and pulls together to assist me, the very reverse has occurred.

Tempers have become frayed, relationships have soured, and issues we have not encountered for a long time have arisen.

The nature of my business has one particular feature that militates against flow. We deal with many clients in a wide variety of businesses and industry sectors, so there are always at least two clients with fairly major issues at any given time. Our commitment to our clients is that we will do everything we can to assist. This can threaten to interrupt our internal processes and generate a certain amount of upheaval as we pull out the stops to help our clients through their difficult patch.

The combination of a business that inevitably operates under a degree of pressure coping with one-off unpredictable crises, my program of working towards removing myself from the middle of communications, (plus a few personal issues happening at present) and you get &%#&#&%$$& – in spades.

So now to sort it out. In order to move forward, I have to take two steps back.

Processes and training for the unpredictable

I have been following the enquiries into the management of the great bushfires that swept through Victoria and Tasmania. Bushfire management by definition is conducted through periods of chaos, high emotion and lack of predictability as to the likely flow of events. The idea of the reviews is to devise systems and processes and train people to manage through these situations.

It struck me that there were similarities to my situation. My business and my people need this kind of training and preparation.

What is the key to systems and procedures working smoothly – communication.

I’ll need to clearly communicate my goals, give direction and set some standards regarding mature and professional behaviour.

One of the reasons we employ a variety of people in the workforce who have different skill sets and personalities is to ensure a balanced organisation capable of being effective and competitive in different arenas. But a balanced organisation leads to potential internal conflicts when not actively managed.

5 Key Tips For Managing The Tough Times

Here are my five first-hand learnings for managing through the tough times when chaos seems to be more dominant than flow.

  1. Communicate clearly to all stakeholders
  2. Reinforce – use the black stick if you have too. Consistently reiterate your decisions, reward or point out where they are not being adhered to.
  3. Actively manage – don’t let thing get out of hand in anticipation that things will sort themselves out ‘after all we are all adults’. The reality is that everyone is capable of quite child-like behaviour when old wounds and buttons get pushed, or other personal / business issues are under strain.
  4. Persist. Don’t walk away and just give up. Persisting through the hard times means that your organisation and your people will evolve to be much stronger, better organised, more resilient and capable of dealing with the ups and downs of business life.
  5. Keep your goal in the forefront of your mind. What are you trying to achieve? What and who is important to you?

Life rarely flows smoothly. Personal and business worlds collide, individuals might be struggling in some area and often people try to escape rather than stay and work it out.

If you keep your goals in mind and work together then I truly believe anything is possible and achievable.

Remember at all times we are here to help you through.

Using Tradeshows and Expos to promote your product and services – a real life case study

CashMAX at BusinessExpoToday we released CashMAX Forecaster, our business forecasting software tool, into the wider market place. It was exciting to see the software out there. It was also a valuable experience for learning the ropes about running a successful tradeshow campaign.

Why attend tradeshows and expos?

The secret to success with tradeshows is having a clear goal and selecting the right expos.

  • Is your goal Brand or Product Awareness? Lead Generation? Sales? Market or Product Research? A combination of several things? Focusing on one particular area and preparing with this in mind will achieve your best outcome.
  • Decide if this particular event has the focus and attracts the kind of attendees to be the right forum for you to achieve the outcomes you seek.  Think laterally.  When they had a major exhibition of Indian religious and mythological art coming up, the Art Gallery of New South Wales chose to attend a Mind Body Spirit Expo in Sydney that promoted alternative healing therapies and philosophies. Sounds crazy? Amongst the astrologers and sellers of crystals, their stand was heavily patronised by attendees who were interested in world religious traditions, gods and goddesses. They generated significant awareness and many potential visitors for their exhibition.

In our case, our experience is that entrepreneurs are not paying enough attention to monitoring and planning business strategies that will help build their businesses. We identified a problem – business owners don’t know where to find the right information and they lack the tools to monitor it easily and effectively.

So we chose to use this business expo to build awareness of CashMAX, a software tool that we have developed to help businesses simply and easily get the right information to monitor their businesses, manage cashflow more successfully and implement smart strategies at the right time to build their business.

(See my blog post What made you decide to create a business forecasting tool like CashMAX? for the full story about our new tool.)

We had a second purpose. We are interested in potential future sales of course, but we were not planning on sales today – this product is in final stages of preparation. The expo was an important part of our market research that to enable us to decide on future directions for pricing and marketing. We wanted to test the response to our product, to gather data such as what information triggered interest? What pricing might be readily acceptable, or encountered resistance?

 Preparing for the tradeshow

In the lead up to the expo we had to:

  • Brand the product (decide on logos and other aspects of the brand and style that would support its positioning in the market);
  • Create a welcoming environment for our stand;
  • Create the brochureware, demos and so on that provided an overview of the product;
  • Design and create all the promotional collateral (signage etc) that would draw attention to our stand in the midst of all the competition.

My team did a brilliant job. In literally a week the team created banners and posters (collected on the morning of the event). The brochures were written and designed by my brother John, and myself through till 1am, and then again from early the next day so they could be at the printers the night before the expo. Promotional water bottles were organised and collected the day before by Dan on his day off. Cup cakes were collected in the morning and deliciously displayed. In the midst of this I had a personal crisis, managed to help with finishing student assessments for a family member, and survived on 3 hours sleep – amongst other things.

So was it easy? Hell no, however… Was it worthwhile?

From a business point of view, absolutely. From a personal point of view and the stress of the week leading up, only time will tell; I hope so.

Will we do another one? Yes. We now have the formula, the equipment and supplier contacts in place to enable everything to be pulled together more efficiently and readily next time around.

Here is my checklist for preparing for a tradeshow.

Expo/ Tradeshow Checklist

  1. Find out what space and facilities you have available – electrical outlets, desk space, floor space, and so on.
  2. Don’t anticipate attendees or numbers; be prepared to roll with the flow. Depending on the outlays required to attend the expo for your type of business (fees, travel costs, freight, accommodation etc) work out how many contacts you need to make to recover your outlay. In our case we reckoned that three good contacts would achieve return on investment for this expo.
  3. Have a clear focus on the desired outcomes for the business – branding, marketing, product awareness, referrals, sales etc. Make sure that everyone who will be working on the stand understands this.
  4. Be organised. Assign an event manager. Prepare your running sheet (list) early on of what needs to be done and start months rather than weeks out. Give yourself time to implement alternatives if unexpected blocks crop up.
  5. Test all technical equipment you plan to use before you go and as you set up for the event. Take your emergency kit – pens, gaffa tape, batteries, jotting paper, paper towel, meds etc.
  6. Try not to stress and don’t allow others to stress. It won’t help any of you to deal with your tradeshow visitors, or solve problems. Realise that under tension people react differently. Your best approach is to deal with issues openly and cleanly.
  7. Communicate with the team: timetable, rosters, responsibilities, what to say, how to capture and record key information and so on. Hold a briefing the day before and on the morning before the event commences.
  8. Have a plan for how you are going to collect visitor information quickly and efficiently. You will only have a few minutes to introduce yourself and your product/service and gather enough contact details to follow up later. Three approaches might be collect business cards, make appointments in phone/diary while they are with you, and email whilst in conversation with them.
  9. Monitor and measure the success of your tradeshow so that you can assess and improve your performance next time around. This includes gathering feedback and debrief the team. Look at what worked in achieving your outcomes, what could be done better, what should be dropped out next time.

(Heartfelt thanks to Daniel Emsermann, Erini Diakoumis, Carmel Edgecombe, my brother John and everyone else in the office. They excelled themselves and I could not have asked for more.)