The reading level for this article is Expert

That’s what every company wants to be, especially now when stock markets worldwide are falling and threats of recession loom large on every horizon. Management is being urged to ‘cut the fat’. Many times the powers that be interpret this to mean eliminating staff training programs and drastically cutting marketing. But they’re making a mistake. Instead of trimming fat, they’re amputating the very muscles a company needs to stay competitive in today’s global marketplace.

Now is the time to make sure that you’re exercising your marketing muscles efficiently and enough. Regular workouts are important when times are flush and sales brisk, but they become vital during economic downturns. Let’s take a look at five strategies to exercise your marketing muscle, how they relate to your trade show participation, and how all are vital to your company’s physical fitness.

1. Go to the Gym:

You can do your workout anywhere, but it’s better in the gym with the proper workout equipment. In the same way, you can be a contender in the global marketplace without attending trade shows – but how effective will you be if no one sees you in the global marketplace? Companies can not buy your goods or services if they don’t know you exist! Trade shows signify an essential marketing strategy when it comes to visibility. Exhibiting demonstrates that you are a serious player in the industry. Staying in the public eye is imperative if you want that public to remember who you are! Make the commitment to keep trade shows one of your major promotional tools.

If financial circumstances make this difficult, consider down-sizing your booth – but don’t abandon the show completely! Doing so creates the public impression that your firm is in financial trouble – the kind of bad ‘buzz’ no one wants – and that your competitors will happily spread!

2. Set long-term goals:

It takes more than one spin class to shed twenty pounds, and you wouldn’t expect bulging biceps after an hour of free weights. But that’s exactly what many companies expect from their marketing and training routines. Neither will provide a miracle quick fix, but as part of a regular, planned, organized campaign, training and marketing will, in time, produce impressive results.

If on the other hand, you only concentrate your energies on training and marketing when things are good, and discontinue those exercises during down times, your results are likely to mirror your actions. Developing a consistent marketing and training strategy that you can stick to, no matter what the economic circumstances, will help you keep an optimal operational equilibrium.

3. Critique your workout routine:

We all get into ruts, in the gym and in business. How often do you stop to take the time to examine what your companies is doing – and more importantly, why? Upon examination, many of your corporate actions may be done out of habit rather than because they are productive and profitable.

This applies to trade shows in two ways. First, take a close look at the shows you attend. How do they really fit into your marketing strategy? Ideally, attending a show should attract large amounts of consumers from your target audience. If you’re at a show that doesn’t do this, ask yourself why. Are you there just because "We’ve always gone to ABC show"? Are you attending just because your competitors do? If your target audience is not attending, you and your competitor are both wasting money at that show – let them throw their money away alone! Cut non-producing shows out of your exhibiting schedule. Instead, put all your energy and resources into exhibiting at more profitable events that attract your target audience.

Employees who are normally careful with company resources tend to go a little crazy at trade shows. Excessive employee spending is a seldom-discussed problem, but one of the most common ways for a company to bleed green at a show. Combating this can be as simple as reserving rooms at a moderately-priced hotel, setting per diem expense allowances, and enforcing employee accountability for expenses. Watch out for the ‘entitlement’ mindset – "I’m entitled to a steak and lobster dinner at the most expensive restaurant in town because I’m at the trade show." If employees know they’ll have to explain any questionable purchases after the fact, they’ll be less likely to splurge on your dime.

4. Find good workout buddies:

Spending time in the gym can be infinitely more productive if you exercise with a motivated, skilled partner. The same is true for marketing. Here, you are counting on your employees to be the skilled, motivated partner.

When the employee-employer relationship is truly a partnership, both sides will have common goals and ideals. Everyone will be working together to achieve these goals – and what better place to showcase this than the trade show floor? Your booth staff represent your internal customer-service team. They act as your company ambassadors, representing the entire company with everything that they do. Their attitude, body language, appearance, and knowledge help create a lasting impression that attendees will take away with them. Make sure your employees are prepared by providing excellent training and making sure they clearly understand what is expected of them. Training shows your employees that you value their contributions, and demonstrates to the world at large that you care about what image your company is presenting.

5. Keep good workout buddies:

We’re a mobile society. People move an average of seven times in their lives, oftentimes great distances. Therefore, companies are often hesitant to spend money on training. What’s the sense, they ask, of making this investment when the staff are likely to leave, taking their skills with them?

Life is full of risks. When you go jogging the first time, there’s the risk you might stumble and skin your knee. You might wrench an ankle. You might fall into a sudden sinkhole and wind up in traction. But when you weigh the rewards of physical fitness – the increased sense of well-being, the health benefits, and the trimmer physique – and the relative likeliness of the risks – you see it is clearly worth it to go jogging.

The same thing holds true with employee training. The benefits of a fully-trained, top-notch staff clearly outweigh the chance that one or two may leave. Employees leave for a number of reasons, and it is in your power to minimize some of them. For example, employees may leave because of frustration, stress, or a feeling of being under-valued. Perhaps they don’t feel they have enough authority, growth opportunities, or direction. Providing training can remedy some, if not all, of these reasons, and help you retain quality employees.

These five strategies will help you transform your company into a lean, mean profit machine. Keep those marketing muscles working and they’ll be less likely to be trimmed away as "excess fat".

This Marketing article was written by Susan Friedman on 5/2/2005

Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author: “Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies,” working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training. For a free copy of ExhibitSmart Tips of the Week, e-mail:; website: