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Trade Shows – The Companies You Dream About Doing Business With – Stop Dreaming, Start Selling!

Just about every business owner will know the names of the dream companies that they would love their company to be doing business with.

These are companies who if they place an order can have a transformational impact on a business.

I call them the “High 5″ wins. These are the orders that the owner’s sales team live to achieve and will celebrate mightily over when they win their first piece of business however small from one of these prospective giants.

In all of the years that I sold exhibition space to trade show exhibitors, I was never once asked by an exhibitor if any of these particular companies attended the show that I was selling and yet, I was in all modesty, hugely successful at my job.

The reason I was so successful was that I always asked who those “High 5″ companies were for each of my clients. When I was able to show would-be exhibitors the people that attended our show from their dream businesses and others very like them, I always made a sale.

And when I say show them, I mean I highlighted the names of people, their job titles, the number of individuals attending from each company. I showed them to be real living and breathing people.

People that could be reached, could be pitched and could perhaps be sold to if the two parties were able to get together at the show.

Which brings me to the importance of pre-show marketing and a curious mindset among some exhibitors.

Trade Shows Hatch New Beings

If I told you that trade show organisers hatch completely new beings to be their visitors in advance of every show they run, you would wonder what I was talking about and yet, many exhibitors would appear to hold this belief.

They aren’t thinking clearly about how to use events to enhance and develop their list of prospective customers especially when it relates to those businesses that they are already communicating with.

They don’t see the value in alerting people within companies that they want to be doing business with to their presence at an upcoming exhibition or see that some of those same people might well be planning to attend.

When this is the case, it highlights a disconnect between ongoing marketing ambitions as laid out in a marketing plan versus a company’s trade show activities. Sometimes the two things seem to be only very loosely connected and this must be the reason why some exhibiting businesses undertake so little promotion in advance of a show.

The reasons most commonly given for this lack of pre-show activity are;

“That’s the organiser’s job” or more commonly “we just didn’t think it was necessary – we will be meeting lots of people at the show.”

Yes, you will meet people but you don’t have to wait until the show to be talking to many of those “brand-new” specimens. They have already been hatched. They are already out there in the world and that includes those mystical “High 5′s” you’ve been dreaming about.

Your Prospects Are The Show’s Prospects Too

A trade show is a platform, a platform that through the activities of the organiser generates a huge amount of publicity in advance of the event’s opening.

Organisers invest heavily to attract the best possible attendance to their events because the attendance is their product.

Pre-show messages from organisers to the marketplace can be both indirect or direct in nature.

Indirect messaging is designed to create awareness of the show, to highlight themes and reasons for visitors to attend. Direct invitations are issued when organisers contact their database of past visitors and people who enquired about attending previously (many direct invitations will also be issued by your fellow exhibitors at the show).

Given all of the activity highlighted above, if you don’t undertake any kind of pre-show promotion about your presence at an exhibition; alerting current clients; prospective clients; people from businesses that have recently asked your company to quote or to send them samples etc… then you are missing a big opportunity to set-up meetings and interactions at the show.

People (businesses) will be attending and people from the companies that you most want to meet and sell to may well be there too. Let them know that you will be there and why it’s in their best interest to visit your stand.

What Is My Client Doing On Their Stand?

Over the years, I’ve had conversations during shows with exhibitors who have expressed shock and dismay because they have seen a client (or clients) on a competitor’s stand or they have seen people from known, new business leads, walking the halls with neither group having been invited to the show by the dismayed exhibitor.

When you take part in a trade show, you will certainly meet people and businesses that your company has never met or dealt with before, this is one of the massive attractions of shows when it comes to developing new business.

But you will also have the opportunity and more importantly, an excellent reason to contact your current clients, your dormant clients, your hot prospects, your slower-burn leads, your would-be distributors, those friendly journalists and the many other people that you have already invested time and money in with a view to making them interested in some way in your business.

This is such a straightforward piece of trade show marketing, but it is so often overlooked and neglected and it will cost you sales if you don’t take the opportunity to alert people to your presence.

Trade Shows And Databases

If you are a brand new company just entering a market, then a trade show is going to be great for helping you build a database of prospective and confirmed clients.

I know and have known many exhibitors who use trade shows as the only form of marketing to build their enterprises.

For them, trade shows are the only form of marketing activity that their company undertakes (other than their website). They have never advertised, never run email or telemarketing campaigns, have done very little with social media but their businesses have thrived none the less.

If you have been trading for some years and you already have an extensive list of clients and prospects on a CRM system, then the names and details that you collect at a trade show will help keep your database up to date.

People move jobs and join other companies or they get promoted so job titles change. They may move locations or get married; their companies may acquire others… all these things can affect the data you hold and this information is what you rely on to develop sales.

The Most Active & Interested Companies Attend Trade Shows

Contrary to belief in some quarters, trade show organisers do not hatch new people for their events, but what they do very effectively, is attract the most active and interested specifiers in a market to their shows.

Anyone who makes the effort to travel to a show is telling you that they are on the hunt for something or someone that will solve a problem for them or help their business to grow or develop in some way. They are interested in finding solutions. They are in a buying frame of mind.

And many of these active and interested people will be the very same people that your business markets to throughout the year. They will be people and businesses that are on your sales database or CRM system. They will be from enterprises that you would like to know more about and that you would like to be talking to including your “High 5′s.”

They are real people. They can be reached. They can be sold to. So, stop dreaming and start selling.

10 Reasons You Should Redesign Your Small Business Website in WordPress

Your business website is arguably your most vital resource. It is your 24/7 digital shop window and will be the first interaction that the majority of potential customers will have with your business. So if it doesn’t look the part, loads sluggishly or, most importantly, lack a mobile version then you will be letting custom slip through your fingers.

You can market your business as effectively as you like but if the website customers land on doesn’t cut it then you are just throwing away good money after bad. So what is the solution?

Say hello to WordPress. WordPress is the wildly popular content management system that powers over a quarter of the whole web including some of the world’s biggest names like the New York Times, Forbes, People Magazine and National Geographic. So if it works for them it can work for you right? Here’s why:

1. It’s flexible

Whether you a dog grooming parlour, coffee shop, boutique fashion house or a high-flying legal firm the WordPress content management system (CMS) has the flexibility to give your business exactly what it needs. The possibilities really are just limited by the imagination of the business with bespoke looks, function and style to match what you want from your company all achievable.

2. Great blogging platform

Every modern business needs a blog because it’s the easiest way to communicate the latest company news and product offering to your customer base, so it makes sense to have it in the same place that customers can buy products and contact you. Up to now platforms like Blogger and Tumblr have been popular choices for small business but now it’s time to bring it in-house.

A WordPress-based site allows you to have a dedicated page for your blog which will give voice to your business and also be a source of regular new content for your website – something that Google loves when it comes to SEO. Plus all of the social shares that you receive across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc all lead right back to your website bringing potential customers with them.

3. WordPress is open source

What ‘open source’ means is that those that use it are able to contribute to its development, generally by the creation of plugins that perform specific tasks and also the development of best practices. But why does this benefit you if you are hiring a web developer to build your website?

Simply put you benefit from the constant improvement. So many people use WordPress now that it is constantly evolving thanks to the influx of new ideas from users so your website will be built on a platform that is continually getting better and you don’t have to pay a penny!

4. WordPress is constantly updating itself for safety and maintenance

Some CMS systems leave the business of updates in your hands – if you don’t check then you don’t get the benefit of the latest version. Not so with WordPress. It updates instantly to keep your site safe, up to date and inline with the latest best practices around security. In short, it’s as safe as houses.

5. WordPress is SEO friendly

We all want our websites to show up effectively in the search results and WordPress can be a powerful tool in helping make it happen. Its default framework and site architecture is easy for Google bots to crawl meaning that they like it, to the point that company CEO Matt Cutts publicly endorsed it, and as we know when it comes to search, Google is king.

6. It’s a language that all developers understand

In their search for the perfect website a lot of small business owners hire web developers who create complicated websites that may look the part on the outside but that no one other than them can manage. A bit like buying your dream car and finding that only the dealer can actually get it to run.

WordPress is such a big part of the modern web landscape that all developers have at least some experience of it and can turn their hands to coding and building for it. This means that you can run your website day-to-day, adding blogs and new products, but each time a problem comes up or you decide the time is right for a makeover you won’t be short of people who can help.

7. It’s a platform that you can rely on

Having been around for 10 years plus now, WordPress has been continually worked on to remove the kinks and bugs that have been known to plague other content management systems. It’s not absolutely problem-free (what in the world is?) but it’s about as close as you will find anywhere.

8. WordPress is mobile friendly

By now you are sure to have heard the stat that mobile web-browsing now outstrips desktop and laptop by a tidy margin and this change in user habit has had an effect on the online landscape. These days Google actively bars websites from its mobile search results if it isn’t mobile friendly. If that’s you then that’s more than half of your potential traffic gone at a stroke.

Happily if you base your website on WordPress you have all of the tools you need to succeed on all devices because WordPress doesn’t just work on mobile, it thrives. Your website still needs be well designed but done properly WordPress can provide an excellent user experience on any device and an easy to use site brings in sales and leads.

9. Ideal e-commerce platform

These days the amount of items bought over the internet is staggering and is only heading in one direction, creating in its wake a marketplace that businesses big and small understandably want to exploit. WordPress is your ideal platform as it integrates beautifully with some of the world’s most popular, and elegant, e-commerce solutions like Woo Commerce and Magento to give your products real wow factor.

What’s more the core of these e-commerce solutions are free but can also be heavily customised to meet specific needs. Are you a wine club that only wants to sell in cases of six? Or a company that sends out monthly snack boxes on a subscription basis? No problem.

10. It’s a powerful marketing ally

Want to get your products out to as many people as possible and measure the behaviours of your customer base? WordPress is your platform. With WordPress you can get your whole product range on Google Shopping and bring customers looking for exactly what you sell, direct to you.

You can also connect your site to an email platform like MailChimp and measure the behaviour of the customers that visit your site from their inbox including things like which products they buy and the last time they purchased from you. This allows you to tailor campaigns targeting those who say haven’t bought from you in 3 months offering them a discount to bring them back. Or reward those loyal customers who buy from you regularly. All using data from WordPress. Powerful no?

Time to make the most of it!

10 Things to Find Out While Selecting a Small Business CPA Firm

Looking to hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm for your small business? Going the CPA way might actually make sense over hiring just any accountant. The problem is, how do you know which is the right CPA firm for you? Here are some of the factors to consider while selecting a small business CPA firm.

1. Does the firm specialize in serving small businesses like yours?
A CPA firm specialized in serving small businesses is likely to understand and address the challenges unique to small businesses more effectively than one that is not. Also, it is likely to be efficient and agile in serving your needs as its services, processes and operations are built to cater to small businesses.

2. Does the firm have any client(s) in your industry?
A CPA firm specializing in serving small businesses in your industry is likely to be more familiar with the accounting principles and tax laws specific to your industry than a CPA that serves clients in any and all industries. This industry experience makes it an effective and informed business advisor for better business decision-making.

3. Does the firm offer all the CPA services you currently need or will need in the near future?
As your business grows, you will need a CPA firm that provides more than just accounting, tax, payroll and bookkeeping services. You will need a firm that can also be your business consultant, part-time CFO and a personal financial planner. Hire one that is a good fit for your present needs but also has the capacity to serve you as you expand.

4. Does the firm have expertise in areas relevant to your needs?
Understand your needs first before seeking a solution. For example, if your internal staff handles your accounting and bookkeeping but you need an outside help for certain types of taxes, then hire a CPA firm that is an expert in those types of taxes, preferably in your industry. If you want to setup a retirement plan for yourself and/or for your employees, hire a CPA firm that also provides financial advisory services.

5. What credentials and licenses in accounting and finance do the firm employees have?
Most highly-recognized professional credentials in accounting and finance, such as CPA, CFP, CFA, PFS, EA, etc., have requirements for continuing education and compliance with their standards to ensure that the professional is not only knowledgeable about the subject matter but also that his/her knowledge is up-to-date. It’s always wise to hire professionals with the highest professional credentials in the field of your needs.

6. Who will actually serve your account?
A typical CPA firm has accounting staff ranging from the most junior staff accountant to the most senior firm partner. Their ranks are largely determined based on their level of expertise and experience. Ask your CPA firm who will be your single point of contact for your account and who else will work on your engagement.

7. What is the firm’s client callback policy?
One of the main reasons to hire a small local CPA firm is the ease of access. Ask whether they have a written policy of returning client’s calls within 24 hours and addressing their queries and getting them resolved within 72 hours. Also, find out whether they will be available over the weekend for an occasional urgent situation.

8. What fees will the firm charge?
Depending on the nature and scope of your engagement, a CPA firm may quote you either an hourly rate or a flat fee. Ask them to explain why their quote type (hourly or flat) is appropriate for your situation. Also, ask whether there is anything you can do on your side to help lower the fees.

9. Is the firm also skilled in preparing personal tax returns and providing other personal finance services, if needed?
Most small businesses are flow-through business entities whereby their business profits and losses flow through their personal tax returns at the year-end. Therefore, as a small business owner, you need a CPA firm that has experts in not only accounting and taxes but also in personal finances.Such a CPA firm applies a holistic view to your finances in devising optimal tax strategies.

10. Does the firm have a strong referral network for your other professional service needs?
For many small businesses, their CPA is their most trusted source for many great referrals. You should be able to count on your CPA for reliable referrals for your other professional service needs such as legal, financing, banking, investment and insurance. Once you hire the right CPA firm, it should become your primary source for other reliable professionals.