It would be easy to think heading to Phoenix at the end of January is a simple case of escaping the mid-west winter. That’s only partially true. Brand Thunder is attending its first trade show, the National Sports Forum, January 26 – 28, to show off our branded browsers.

So, how does a startup that’s trying to preserve cash decide to attend a trade show? It wasn’t an easy decision. We’re frugal in many respects and the cost of attending a tradeshow is no small matter. In the interest of sharing, here are the decision points and discoveries we made in this process.

1. Know your target audience.

We’re a growing company trying to reach critical mass. Our data suggests sports teams understand the value of our branded browsers, move from prospect to client at a reasonable rate and have audiences that adopt our product at a rate that satisfy our clients and our business model.

2. Know the show’s audience.

The show’s sales staff told us that major teams and their decision makers attend. We researched this claim. And while past results are not an indicator of future performance – the odds looked good. Based on the attendee list we just received, this has borne out.

3. Cost effective booth design.

Elegant doesn’t need to be expensive. Through we found Pixl Designs who gave a very reasonable estimate, and outstanding results, despite the design challenge of communicating the visual power of our browser themes in a vertical format. We wanted banners to hang from the curtained framing provided by the show creating a booth feel without a booth expense.

4. Cost effective banner production.

We chose to use 2’x6’ banners due to the low, online prices we found. Prices were so low, we ordered early anticipating the potential need to reorder. The truth was delivered excellent results, at an amazing price. The order was placed late on a Monday and in hand by Wednesday – despite choosing 3-day shipping.

5. Getting attendees to stop.

We have a range of tactics to generate booth traffic including video loops demonstrating the transformation from standard Firefox to immersive branded browser (also produced by Pixl). Monitors showing the video will be positioned to attract passersby and “sell” on their own or act as real-time examples for our sales staff to discuss. We’ll also have useful information from our other sports team partners as “leave behinds” and a contingency plan for a daily giveaway – just in case. This show has such a focused audience for us, we can’t risk missing this lead generation opportunity.

6. Have a full schedule prior to the show.

We’re now in process of using our network to help arrange as many meetings as possible prior to the show. The goal is to have the off-show hours filled with appointments – at least as much as possible.

We’re optimistic about this event, and in a few weeks will discuss our learning from it. And if you have any suggestions for us to act on before we travel, please share them!

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