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Earlier this month, we showed people how our small business expense management systems work at the AccountexUSA trade show at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston and the concurrent Think Forward Diversification without Assimilation meeting. 

Bento has participated in a only a few trade shows, so it was a great opportunity to learn more about running a booth and using Bento’s platform in real life for our marketing team. Some of what we learned will be obvious to experienced trade-show exhibitors, but it was new and exciting to us. We also learned more about what accountants look for before recommending small business expense management programs to their clients.

Things we would absolutely do again

Fly Southwest. We didn’t have time to get everything together to ship to the convention, so we carried everything with us. Because Chicago’s Midway Airport is a Southwest hub, we were able to fly non-stop to Boston with our personal stuff as well as a banner, a booth backdrop, and all our supplies. (Southwest didn’t pay us for this endorsement.)

Use our phones for demos. We had a video loop running on a laptop in our booth, but we found it easier to pull out phones and show customers the My Bento app and how it helps us with small business expense management. We had some great conversations in the process.

Things we would do differently

small business expense management

Pallavi and our booth at the airport.

Bring different giveaways. We gave our booth visitors notebooks which were really nice but really heavy. One of our checked suitcases weighed in at 87.5 pounds, resulting in a $75 surcharge. The weight made it challenging to get around, too. Next time, we’ll either ship the notebooks or choose something lighter.

Pick up printing on arrival. The day before we left Chicago, we were scrambling to pick up some signs for the table in our booth. Our heavy suitcases had booklets describing our full product line. And then, we trudged our luggage past two FedEx Office locations, one in the Hynes Convention Center and one next door in the Sheraton Hotel. Next time, we’ll send the files electronically and pick up the finished printing when we arrive.

Get a second banner. When we arrived, we found that our booth location was fantastic—it was right at the end of a row and next to the coffee break stand. Unfortunately, we had only one banner, so we couldn’t catch people’s eyes as easily as we would have liked. Also, that banner had to go with us to the Think Forward event that ran at the same time as Accountex. As the banners are relatively inexpensive, we’ll start bringing two for more flexibility in arranging the booth and for use at concurrent events. If we don’t need to carry as many giveaways or brochures, we have room to bring another banner and still be within our baggage allowance. 

How we used our Bento for Business cards for trade show management

When our manager decided to send us to AccountexUSA and Think Forward, she put $1500 on each Bento card for the duration of the trip to cover our travel and incidentals. She set it to cover all merchant categories to ensure we could pay for airfare, hotel, meals and transportation. As our cards are accepted everywhere that Visa debit cards are, we used them to pay for the extra baggage weight and for a cart at Logan’s baggage claim to help us get the 87.5 pound suitcase to the car. Our card was also good for the Logan Express from the Hynes Convention Center back to the airport, which is a bargain at $3.00, and I had a good conversation with another conference attendee during the ride. Networking and transportation for three bucks? Talk about a bargain. 

When we arrived at the convention center to set up our booth, we found that our manager had not purchased the lead-generation app (bad @digitaltracy) that let us scan name tags to track our booth’s visitors. It was $495, which would have blown our budgets before we even had lunch. We texted our manager and she was able to use the Bento mobile app to quickly increase the available spend on my co-worker’s card to cover the unexpected cost. 

Our own small business expense management system allowed us to have the tools we needed to do our jobs while still staying within the travel budget. And that’s good, because we’re planning to go to more events in the future. If you see us, stop by and say hello! (Or, sign up for a demo to see what you missed at Accountex.)