Boothmanship & Beyond

by: Darol Dickinson

Business expansion using a Beef Expo or State Fair display booth is one of the great ways to locate new Longhorn buyers. Let's look at boothmanship, and how to squeeze the system for the most it will yield. This is a check list for effective exhibiting. It doesn't just happen. Rather, it is the result of meticulous application of PREPARATION, PRESENTATION, and POST-SHOW FOLLOW-UP.

Marshall and Darol at the Ohio Beef Expo

ORVTLA Booth at the Ohio Beef Expo - The Tallest Sign Wins!

Budget for a well planned event. It will require display space rental, electric connections, large color graphics, product displays, a power point or TV presentation, bright lights, a standing display back drop, colorful materials, transportation costs, motel costs, food costs, volunteer or hired labor, training, and lastly a follow-up plan.

Keep in mind this is a competition. While you are working to expand your product sales or business, several hundred people will also be doing the same thing. Don't be surprised when the Angus booth right beside you may have a $30,000 budget and the most elaborate display that money can buy. With well thought out preparation you can compete and succeed no matter who is beside you.

Select an event that will have potential Texas Longhorn buyers. Locate a spot in the exposition area that has a good traffic pattern. You want to be near main entries, halls, doors, and traffic areas near food service, or known popular spots.

A unique display, different from others will attract attention. Make the back drop as tall as possible-----the tallest display wins. Have very bright lights shining on your graphics--the brightest lights help grab the most attention.

Assume competitive displays will have absolutely beautiful graphics. Yours have to be as good or better. Take your best photos of your very best cattle.

Keep the display area neat and clean. Dispose of waste promptly, vacuum the floor daily, make sure handout materials are piled straight and orderly.

Prior to the event, design condensed, colorful, positive selling materials for handouts. The ITLA Legacy brochure is the very best. Do not, DO NOT place handouts near the quick fingers of children. They will grab a handful of colorful materials and be gone. Require visitors to enter the display area to acquire promotional materials. Provide materials compared to their interest and financial capabilities. Obviously good prospects should get the whole package, free promo DVD, post cards, brochures, etc. Others may only need a handshake, business card, and a pleasant sales pitch.

If the display is sponsored by an affiliate or group of people, every display guest should receive a printed list of the names of all sponsors with their address info.

Do not assume the booth visitors will ever contact anyone. They may say they will call later, but most won't. Get their names and addresses. Don't let them write down their addresses. Just because they can read their writing doesn't mean that you can. Record EVERY person who appears to be legitimate and a capable buyer. Only bother to record names of good prospects. Make notes about each person; ranch size, number of cattle owned, size of mobile home, etc. Guard these names and addresses.Your success depends on harvesting these inquiries and what you do with them.

If this is an association or group effort make sure every volunteer has written procedures on how to get to the display area, parking procedures, grounds entry passes, display open-for-business procedures, handout instructions, display lockup procedures, and detailed instructions on how to deal with the public.

The staff should consist of at least two people at a time. Every one must have time for personal breaks. If it is a good show sometimes several sales conversations will be conducted at the same time. The number of booth staff needed will be determined by the traffic flow.

Think of a display booth as a store. You are standing in the store window and all the people going by need a Longhorn herd. You may notice the crowd getting slightly numb after looking at hundreds of displays.At this point old fashioned carnival "hawking" will be the best tool. Be prepared with one line conversation/interest starters; DO YOU RAISE TEXAS LONGHORNS? WHAT KIND OF CATTLE DO YOU RAISE? WHERE IS YOUR RANCH? HAVE YOU CONSIDERED PUTTING SOME FLASH IN YOUR PASTURE? Develop your own script that will work on the crowd. Never ask, "May I help you?" You always get a no answer.

Many displays use drawings to get names and addresses. An item is offered as a free prize. This normally is a waste of good time and real money. Just because every little kid wants something free does not mean they will buy a cow, or that you will want to send them a $10 promotion packet when you get home after the show. The best idea I ever saw was when an old rancher held a drawing for anyone who wanted 5 free units of Texas Longhorn semen to breed their cows. He told everyone the lucky winner would get 5 straws of free semen. (They had to pay the shipping) No one signed up except people who had cows. After the show was over when the free semen drawing was to be held, to their surprise, each one who signed up won! The old rancher, being more clever then the average cowboy, knew once they started raising a few Longhorn calves they would want more. He had a legitimate mailing list and everyone who got free semen was his future potential customer. Considering the costs of the booth, the semen cost was small compared to how many people started into the business. When they wanted to buy more Longhorns, who was the nicest fellow they could think of to buy from? That was absolutely brilliant!

Stay on message. Each display hour may have an actual cost of $30 to $60. Don't talk about the weather, water melon, or sports. Talk about what you are there to sell, and don't forget it.

Do not allow display volunteers to smoke. Don't do anything that will repel people. Wear appropriate attire. Dress neat and by all means western for the occasion. Wear comfortable shoes. Comfort is better than beauty. Always stand to greet guests. Eating and drinking in the display area should be minimal. Do not have food laying around.

Cell phones are good, but don't turn your back on a guest to answer the phone. Have one person do phone sales while another deals with live bodies. Cell phones aren't a status symbol, they are cheap and everyone has one.

Volunteers must be ready to greet every passer by. Don't let the crowd miss the only really important display in the whole building. You must be quick to stand, smile, shake hands, and start talking about Longhorns. Volunteers should be well versed to answer detailed questions about the cattle. Have photos of cattle for sale with printed price sheets if you expect to make sales.

Longhorn videos or DVD's should run constantly. It should be loud enough to hear above the crowd. (A TV on with no picture shows the volunteers aren't paying attention.) Videos may require cleaning or changing as some display areas are dusty.

Don't allow "huddling" in the display. Friends will huddle and visit when good prospects are wanting to ask questions. Don't huddle and turn your rear end to the public. Huddlers fail!

If you are not sure what to do, here are some objectives: Meet buyers face to face, Develop contacts, Identify special consumer interests, Diffuse consumer complaints, Check out the competition, Create a positive public image, Learn more about consumer attitudes, Distribute product information, Introduce new sires or inventory, Understand consumer problems, Dramatize your message, Obtain customer feedback, Enhance word-of-mouth market, Create a customer/client list, Sign up new affiliate and ITLA members, Reach unknown and new prospects, Generate qualified leads and prospects, and Prove you are alive and well.

Evaluate. Set goals of inquiry numbers per day and numbers of memberships enrolled. Divide the number of inquiries and new memberships into the total cost and that will be the real cost each. Evaluate your own, and other associates' success. Decide if a booth display is the right way to promote your product? Is it practical? Is it more successful financially than placing display ads in trade magazines or using direct mail?

Display booth work is fun when well planned and faithfully conducted. It can be the life blood of an organization. It is great to meet interesting new people every few minutes.

After the show, the real fruit develops. (People are busy at shows and seldom whip out a check book.) Send follow up materials to every valid address. Call the good ones and keep in contact. Communication should be soon after the event while the personal contact is fresh on their minds. Invite them to your ranch to see the cattle. If it is an organizational effort, send a list of inquiries to every member that wants to work on it. The spin-offs are numerous and often very profitable.

Good luck. . . . be determined. You will just keep getting better and better!