For many aviation product and service providers, the most important marketing opportunity on the yearly calendar is exhibiting at NBAA's Annual Meeting & Convention. As the fourth- largest trade show in the world and business aviation's biggest event, NBAA's Convention offers the chance to connect with thousands of potential customers, but reserving a booth for the show is just the first step to closing a deal.
"What you do before the show matters much more than what you do during and after," said Paula Williams, co-founder of Aviation Business Consultants International. "Having a great plan and doing some preparation will do more for your success than having fireworks above your booth."
Reserving a booth at NBAA should be considered part of a larger marketing process, Williams advises. The first step is to invite your existing and potential customers to visit your booth well in advance of the show.
"It works a hundred times better if you make your tradeshow appearance part of a long-term marketing plan," said Williams. "Send a postcard to your customers a few weeks ahead saying 'Come visit us at our booth!' And whatever channel you use regularly to communicate with your customers, whether it's a blog, social media or a newsletter, you'll want to mention your NBAA booth there. You can get NBAA2011 logos from NBAA's Exhibitor web site to drop into your communications."
This year, NBAA is again offering all its resources for Exhibitors through a single web portal, the Exhibitor Service Center, where companies can reserve booth furnishings, purchase guest registrations and take advantage of Convention sponsorships.
At the Convention, driving traffic to your booth is paramount. Exhibitors can buy ads in the show dailies and the NBAA2011 Show Guide & Directory of Exhibiting Companies. In addition to advertising, many companies also invest in Convention sponsorship opportunities.
"Sponsorship provides great visibility and promotion for your company," said Katrina Bradshaw, NBAA vice president of sales. "Our sponsors have found that their investment increases traffic at the Convention and awareness of new products and services, and gives them the ability to lead customers and prospects to their exhibit. From banners to carpet inlays, Internet cafes to tote bags, there are really sponsorship opportunities for every budget and marketing objective."
Another key element of an Exhibitor marketing strategy is building excitement for your booth through trade media as well as social media. "Social media is a great way of extending your reach at the show," said Williams. "Many companies time new product announcements to come out during the show, and last year we saw a lot of Exhibitors using the NBAA Convention Twitter hashtag to announce their upcoming press conferences. You can also find out who the reporters covering NBAA2011 for the various show dailies are and send them news about what's happening at your booth."
The final, crucial, step is follow-up. "You need to a find a low-cost way to stay in front of the folks you meet at your booth," said Williams. "Don't wait. Enter all those contacts as soon as you get back from the show and send them an email or newsletter once a month or at least once a quarter to establish an ongoing relationship."
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