Right now, the business world is a-buzz about Chris Anderson's latest book, The Long Tail. Even if you haven't read it, chances are you've heard of it: the best-selling business book that predicts the future of business lies in selling less of more. Niche marketing, Anderson posits, isn't just tomorrow's trend -- it's today's reality.

The idea has caught on, and in a big way. Many companies are entering niche marketplaces -- tailoring some or all of their product line to meet the needs and desires of a specific target audience. Doing so will allow companies to dominate certain segments of the marketplace, resulting in small but very profitable pockets of income. Perhaps your firm is doing exactly that. Perhaps they're about to.

What does this mean to you? Well, your marketing workload just got a lot heavier. Diversifying your product line into several niche markets can result in the following:

- Increased number of brands
- New and different target markets to attract
- Increased number of product launches
- Increased number of relationships that have to be begun and maintained
- Constant need for new and innovative marketing campaigns to differentiate each individual brand

Does your head hurt yet? All of this is a LOT of work. You know how much time and effort you're putting into your current campaigns. Increasing that to accomodate the niche market strategy can put a real strain on your department, especially since, chances are, your budget did not get proportionately larger.

What can you do? The clear profit potential inherent in the niche model makes it irresistably attractive. However, to maximize the return from adopting this new model means that you'll have to take a good, long, hard look at your exhibiting practices. What worked yesterday won't work today.

For one thing, you won't have the money to do things the way you used to. Budgets never blossom as quickly as enthusiasm for new ideas. You'll have to do more with less.

In this new environment, the key to exhibitor effectiveness is efficiency.

It is crucial that you make the most of your limited resources to promote a wide range of niched goods and services. Applying this concept to the tradeshow environment means embracing the following six steps:

Step One: Do Your Research

At this point, researching which shows to exhibit at becomes crucial. You may be trying to attract many disparate target audiences. Are your interests best served by exhibiting at many smaller shows or one larger, national show? Make your selections based upon the size of the target audience you'll be able to reach. This may mean changing your showing schedule, forgoing some shows you've previously attended that do not focus on your target audience and exhibiting at some new shows that do.

Step Two: Create Unifying Themes

Marketing many disparate brands can present challenges. You want to highlight each line's unique features while reinforcing the parent company's positive image. Using unifying themes, either overtly or in a more subtle fashion, can help accomplish this. Pay careful attention to color choice, language, and more.

Step Three: Offer Educational Programming

Speakers, seminars, hands-on demonstrations and other educational programming are great ways to attract large numbers of your target audience all at once. You'll be speaking to many people at a time, delivering your marketing message in one of the most efficient ways possible.

Step Four: Raise Visibility

Explore sponsorship opportunities to raise your visibility at any tradeshow you're attending. This can be a very cost-effective way to put your name prominently front and center: in advertising, by underwriting the cost of speakers or programming, hosting hospitality suites, and more.

Step Five: Plan Ahead for Key Players

Most attendees are at a tradeshow for less than a day. With hundreds of booths to see and a limited amount of time, there's a real possibility that you might miss out on some great prospects unless you make an effort to preclude that from happening. Schedule meetings ahead of time with your best customers and key prospects. This way, you'll be assured of having at least some face time with them, and they'll know you value their business.

Step Six: Follow-Up Aggressively

All the work you did to prepare for and exhibit at a tradeshow is for nothing if you fail to follow-up. Yet this is where most exhibitors drop the ball. Make a plan covering how you'll follow-up with leads collected at the show, from initial thank you to scheduling sales meetings. Then stick to it. You'll be glad you did.

As you can see, the trend toward niche markets will necessitate some changes in how you exhibit. However, the core essentials of how you do business: focusing on the attendee's needs, qualifying questions, and an emphasis on follow up, remain the same.

Author's Bio: 

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 “10 Common Mistakes Exhibitors Make”, e-mail: article4@thetradeshowcoach.com; website: http://www.thetradeshowcoach.com