Now It’s Time To Clean Up

I just flew back from Atlanta, and boy, are my arms tired…from shaking all the hands of potential new friends and customers and from hugging old friends we’ve made over the years.

Atlanta proved to be everything that we hoped. The hospitality was terrific, the rain and traffic was manageable and the opportunity the CLEAN SHOW offered us made it well worth the visit.

For the exhibitors, planning for a trade show, especially one like CLEAN where you only get one opportunity every two years to speak to so many of your potential buyers face-to-face, the preparation can start almost a year in advance. How much do you budget for booth space, how can you best design it to attract the most visitors, what kind of pre-show marketing do you do to get the most people possible excited about visiting you, do you run show specials, what kind of giveaways, whether samples or catalogues, do you bring to get the maximum impact for your investment?

Whatever you do to prepare, it feels like it’s never enough. “Why did we pick the right side of the hall, the left side is getting all the traffic.” “Why didn’t we think to bring the cotton candy machine, the booth giving away cotton candy is always packed.”

In the end, though, chances are you’ve gotten to see the people you wanted to see and told your story until you were more than happy to pack up, race to the plane and head back home.

Where the real challenge begins. Now it’s time to close the deal. What’s the best way…phone calls, e-mails? Do you bring up your competition, telling them why your product is better, figuring that while your potential buyers were on the trade show floor they probably saw a half-dozen companies that they could buy from instead of you.

How businesses answer these challenges is the biggest difference between the good and the great tradeshow exhibitors. Whoever does the best follow up, whoever best keeps in touch with their current and potential customers after the event will over time reap the biggest rewards. Which means that trade shows are just microcosms of how business in general works…it doesn’t matter how good your product is, or how pretty you package it, if you don’t do the follow up, your company is destined to never reach its potential.

Follow-up…the concept has been drilled into us since we were kids, from the first time your parents told you to say thank you. “Someone does something nice for you,” they tell you, “it’s right to show your appreciation.”

It’s sort of amazing when you think about it; the same courtesy eight year old getting cotton candy is taught to give is the exact same standard that businesses should provide.

What do you do to follow up with new customers? Do you send them home or mail them a thank you coupon the first time they visit your store? Do you work with a local florist, restaurant or other vendor to give incentives to visit other businesses you have a relationship with (so you can ask them to do the same)?

How do you keep in touch with your customers? Do you encourage them to like your Facebook page, become your twitter follower or give you a good review on YELP? Do you give them an express bag, so they don’t have to carry their clothes to you in their arms? Or maybe even a reusable drycleaning garment bag, so they don’t have to fight with twist-ties anymore, or have a closet floor filled with paper and plastic, or need a garbage can near their closet for all that waste?

Do you give them Christmas cards, or Halloween treats, or offer a raffle for a month of drycleaning or tickets to a local event? Simply stated, what do you do to say thank you and make sure your clients know you are grateful to have them?

Here’s an idea – give them something that includes an explanation about what makes a good drycleaner, including why you use the processes you choose, the presses you bought, the buttons you use. Give them something, anything that adds to the rationale of loyalty. Drycleaning is changing – there are new delivery systems, new apps, new franchise brands…be sure your customers know why staying with you is better than trying the new place. You’ll be glad you did.

And thank you so much for reading my article.