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updated: 1/23/2012 5:31 AM

Trade show booth can help build brand, business

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Although the company attends several trade shows each year, HGP exhibits at just one: The annual conference sponsored by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Chicago.

Elmhurst-based HGP, or Healthcare Growth Partners LLC, is a boutique investment banking firm that focuses on health care technology and services. The company is one of only two investment banking organizations that exhibit at the HIMSS annual meeting.

At 10x10, "It's not the biggest booth," says HGP Managing Director Jon Phillips, "but there's no need to go overboard. The booth gets our name in front of clients and helps us build our brand."

With delegate appointments set in advance for the booth location, "It's a much more effective way to meet people," Phillips says.

That's a solid exhibit strategy, especially for a smaller company.

Deborah Venable isn't surprised at the HGP approach. For one thing, Venable is president of Nimlok Chicago, a Niles distributor of Nimlok trade show equipment and services. HGP is a Nimlok Chicago client.

For another, "Nothing replaces the face-to-face" contact opportunity that a trade show offers, Venable says.

In fact, Venable expects an increase in trade show participation this year by small businesses, an expectation based in part on the amount of planning and preparation work Nimlok Chicago did for clients during the fall.

Trade show participation needn't be a budget breaker. "No one is going overboard and spending $1 million on a booth," Venable says. It's possible to outfit a 10x10 booth "for under two grand," she says.

That doesn't include the space rental fee a trade show charges, but it is low enough to make exhibiting a real possibility. For example, roll-up banners -- single-sided, lightweight retractable units that can fit into overhead carry-on bins -- can cost less than $500.

Further, the same banner that helps your booth stand out as delegates roam the show floor can be used to add appeal to the podium when you give a speech at the general session -- or back home at the Rotary Club -- or as part of a welcoming display when important clients or prospects visit the office.

A power point or some other type of video will be useful when you talk to prospects at your booth -- and will cost additional dollars. But you likely can do a decent power point in-house.

Renting a display booth is another generally low-cost option. So is sharing a booth with sister companies or noncompeting like-minded businesses.

HGP owns its booth -- purchased in 2007 for an initial cost of $5,000-$6,000, Phillips says. The company spends $500-$1,000 annually on such updates as logo and tag line changes. HGP is in the midst of redoing the booth this year with a branding move from the longer name to HGP.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com.

2012 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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