By becky Gillette I contributor
Facebook or face-to-face? Both have their advantages. While many businesses are taking advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other types of electronic social media to connect with customers, it is still a good idea to take advantage of events like the Mississippi Business & Technology EXPO for opportunities to interact face-to-face with customers, business associates and vendors.
Now in its 30th year, the EXPO has become a valued business reunion for veterans who have been loyal contributors to the EXPO for many years. From speaking with the vendors who attend, the greatest advantage is the networking opportunity EXPO provides for them to meet and greet customers and potential customers, said Tami Jones, advertising director for the Mississippi Business Journal.
“And, of course, another major objective is to gain new customers from the traffic that the EXPO draws,” Jones said. “Participating in the EXPO allows vendors to further brand their company to individuals who may have never heard of them before, not just from Jackson, but from all across the state.”
EXPO attendance over the years was impacted from the recession. But last year’s attendance was better than the year before.
“We have noticed a trend to see a lot more business people throughout the day, instead of just a big surge at lunchtime,” said Becky White, marketing director, Eubank Betts Hirn Wood PLLC, an accounting company in Jackson. “And Business after Hours seems to have better attendance every year.”
Tempstaff Business Development Manager Penny Danford has been with Tempstaff for 13 years, and each year she has looked forward to the company participating in the EXPO.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for us to network our business,” Danford said. “We are able to promote our business and to receive positions that companies were recruiting for. We are a full-service staffing company, so we can assist our clients with any marketing, technological, industrial or clerical positions. Last year we were able to meet with some new clients we weren’t doing business with, and then received business from them.”
An estimated 1,500 people attended the EXPO in 2012, and Danford says about 1,200 of those came by the Tempstaff booth. Tempstaff keeps track by counting how many large Tempstaff bags they give out, with 1,200 given away in 2012.
This year, Danford is particularly excited about the 50 Leading Business Women of Mississippi Alumni breakfast at 8:30 a.m. “Tempstaff owner Carolyn Boteler and I are both former recipients of that award, and are really looking forward to this event kicking off the EXPO,” Danford said.
Lisa Clarke, marketing director, TEC, said the EXPO increases TEC’s exposure in the local business community and gives them the opportunity to educate business customers about the depth of their technology service offerings.
“The EXPO provides TEC an opportunity to speak with potential customers in an atmosphere that is conducive to business interactions,” Clarke said. “We find that it gives TEC a better chance of substantive Q&A with business people than most casual meetings, or cold calls because it offers fewer barriers.”
Clarke said the best part of the Expo is the networking opportunities with other exhibitors. “We become acquainted with other representatives and often can find opportunities with their companies, or even obtain sales leads,” she said.
Melanie Morgan, senior vice president and director of corporate communications, Trustmark National Bank, said being involved with the EXPO helps Trustmark to showcase what it has to offer customers, as well as support other businesses in the area.
“Because Trustmark is headquartered in Jackson, it is obviously important to be involved in events that showcase and support other businesses in our marketplace,” Morgan said. “We hope to help the businesses in our area understand what Trustmark is about, and that we are dedicated to bringing products and services to our customers that will help them with their banking needs. This EXPO is a great platform for making those connections. It is also beneficial not only for businesses, but for the public to attend the EXPO in order to see new trends and technologies in the market, as well as learn about businesses in the area that may be able to provide products or services that can assist them in their individual lives or businesses.”