My kids love trade shows as they get to “touch and feel” new products and fill their bags with free candy, pens and stickers.
My small business customers at the same time are hesitant to sign up for trade shows this year. They turn to me for advice.
We talk about their experiences in the past and that’s how we came up with some reasons why small service oriented businesses should NOT attend trade shows.
- No measurable return on investment. You pay for the booth, spend time setting it up and talking to trade show attendees, give away hundreds or thousands of key chains and calendars with your company name on them and talk to hundreds of people. Weeks and months later you can’t tell whether you have any leads, prospects or clients resulting from attending the show. Was it really worth the effort?
- The only people stopping at your booth are your current customers or little children taking candy out of your candy dish. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to see your current customers, you could take them out to lunch or send them a present.
- Major networking events take place off the trade show floor behind closed doors and you have no access to them. This is a continuing trend, take notice!
- You will play catch up for 2 weeks (also think of lost income) after leaving your office for 3-4 days to attend the trade show. You may miss some opportunities and important phone calls while attending the trade show.
- Your competitors’ booths with bells and whistles indicate that their marketing budgets are substantially larger than yours. Unless you target a niche market and have a very good marketing strategy, you will not get noticed.
- Don’t go if you don’t enjoy socializing. Networking is the primary reason why many small business owners attend trade shows year by year. In my opinion, trade shows are most beneficial for small retail businesses and manufacturing businesses showcasing their new products.
If you are like many other busy small business owners, you wear many hats and may easily find yourself in a situation where you need to leave your primary place of business during a busy season to attend a weeklong training in another state or help out a sick family member who lives 500 miles away. Small business owners often don’t have corporate Intranets set up, but they need access to certain files from remote locations in order to finish a project or collaborate with other team members while travelling. It can be complicated to call the home office and stay on top of all projects. It is often a hassle to keep sending large files back and forth. What alternatives do busy professionals have?
Anyone can set up a free online workspace for ongoing projects at BlueTie . You can customize your workplace, upload your files, contacts, calendar, and create to-do lists. A free account lets you have 20 users and as an administrator you can grant access and deny access if necessary. And you can access your online workspace from any place with an Internet connection. Don’t like the interface of BlueTie? There are other free options out there, such as Basecamp. With a free account, you can work on one project and give access to team members and clients. Customization is limited, but isn’t a workspace mainly for getting the job done? Still not satisfied? Try Wrike. It is built with the understanding that e-mail collaboration is crucial to completion of most projects. All members of your team get e-mail notifications about changes posted to your projects. I like their Timeline feature, it is easy to track the progress of any project. In need of more features? You can test drive WebEx Office by signing up for a free trial.
HyperOffice offers a Pay As You Go option that you can choose after your free trial expires. HyperOffice may also be an affordable alternative to Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint.
Google Docs (formerly Google Docs & Spreadsheets) makes it possible for several users to view or edit a presentation online. Users can create a presentation from scratch or import and share an existing PowerPoint presentation. During a web-based presentation, participants have a chat room to the right side of the presentation slides. Participants need a Google account. Streaming audio or video and screen sharing features are not available.
Some of us like to travel everywhere with our laptops and wireless cards. It is possible to send and receive faxes as well as make phone calls from your laptop when you sign up for RingCentral. A free trial is available.
Need to schedule a conference call with several participants while travelling? Try freeconference.com. Their “Web-Scheduled Standard” and “Reservationless Standard” conferencing services are free, but Toll-Free (800) Dial-in Numbers are not provided. Most callers should expect to dial a long distance number to access conference bridges therefore should expect to pay domestic long distance rates charged by each caller’s long distance carrier for the length of time they are on the call.
Don’t let technology enslave you, let it free you up to work wherever you would like.
My customers ask often – how are you able to respond to my emails so quickly?
How do you stay on top of things? After all, you have your business, 3 children and plenty of errands to run. The answer is simple – my BlackBerry. I can use the idle time while waiting in line or sitting at the airport to respond to my emails. I can browse the Internet and get answers to any questions that require research. I may be cooking my breakfast, but I know when my customer needs my help because my BlackBerry is buzzing. I can also log on to my online office and get the files I need to forward to my customer. I can even do some bookkeeping online with my BlackBerry. And my nimble assistant Ms. BlackBerry does not ask for much: I pay my monthly bill to Verizon Wireless and keep her charged, that’s all. No office space, paychecks or training required.
What makes a customer come back to buy from the same company again and again? A survey by USA Today and Genesys Telecommunications Lab sheds some light on the subject. Their findings:
Good customer service was cited as their reason for buying again from the same company by 48 percent of those interviewed.
Product quality ranked second with 37 percent of buyers giving quality as their reason for coming back.
Surprisingly, price was named by only 13 percent of return buyers.
A product’s brand name or reputation was named by only 2 percent.