by Jennifer Barham
With 13,000 trade shows happening every year just in the United States, you’d better believe (if you haven’t already experienced) that the competition is stiff out there. That number more than doubles if we look at annual trade shows globally. That’s about one every fifteen minutes. Yikes! Talk about frequent flying!
Once you figure out which and how many of those 30,000 events your company will exhibit at, and all the technical pieces for your booth and imaging and getting them there, and the different moving parts for flights and stays and food for you and your staff, you might feel tempted to breathe a sigh of relief.
But don’t exhale completely. There’s still lots to be done. The “show behind the show” is actually the most important part of the whole thing. (There’s a reason that if you Google quotes about preparation, you’ll get 160 million results: everyone from Sun Tzu to Benjamin Franklin knows that preparation is THE critical piece to success.)
Have no fear! We’ve outlined the TOP SIX most overlooked that can derail your trade show success strategy.
LACK OF A CLEAR FOCUS: Sometimes companies select and attend trade shows that are in their general realm of business (e.g., healthcare, technology, etc.), but they won’t have a precise picture of who they are targeting as buyers. Therefore, their marketing efforts are scattershot and ineffective.
Trade show exhibitors should develop clear, accurate buyer personas so as to make their booths’ graphics and messaging appealing and engaging to their particular audience. Your displays and content can ideally attract the interested crowd, so keep it simple and laser-focused. And remember that, while you want your booth to be “dressed to impress,” it is your responsibility to strike the balance between not enough and too much when it comes to charming your intended attendees. Concentrate on what they need and what they want.
POOR PRE-EVENT PLANNING: Planning prior to an event is two-pronged: promoting the event and preparing the exhibit. The majority of companies will do a bang-up job in one area and a “meh” job on the other. Think of the two prongs as an invitation and a party – you want the invitation to be enticing enough to draw a crowd, and you want the party to be rewarding enough to make guests glad they came. You don’t want to skimp on either one.
The number of people visiting your booth is at least somewhat directly proportional to your advertising and publicizing your presence at the event. So let your audience know about your brand, your products, your services, any specials you’re running, the full specs of any important pieces of the show. Draw them in through social media and email blasts and encourage interaction with surveys, quizzes, and raffles.
As for as preparing for the show, endless planning awaits. From making sure expensive shipping ends up in the correct destination to staying on budget during an event to directing traffic into your booth, organization is a must. Every task must be written down, delegated, double-checked, and assessed. Keep checklists from show to show to make notes, adjustments, and changes if needed.
NOT SAYING WHAT YOU MEAN TO SAY: First of all, we all know that first impressions matter, so know what your booth says at first blush to any approaching visitor. Make sure that your booth, your imaging, your content, and your staffers are communicating your message – not just trying to outshine competitors. Who cares how flashy your exhibit is if it’s not connecting with your prospects.
You want visitors to have the thought, “There is something here for me!” You do not want them feeling uncomfortable or having to work too hard to figure out what you’re marketing.
Second, knowing who your audience is means knowing if you have potentials who might be from different cultures and speak different languages. These distinctions in language/culture make a significant difference when trying to bond with a client. If a large part of your business is done in a foreign market, you’d best have a plan for how to communicate verbally and nonverbally in the language of that market.
UNTRAINED BOOTH STAFF: This should go without saying, but unfortunately I’ve seen a LOT of staffers that are way less than professional (and so have you, I’m guessing). At the very least, booth staff should be nicely dressed and groomed, welcome guests, initiate brand talk, match the visitor’s speech and tone, and not go overboard to push a sale. Beyond these basics, fantastic booth staff can have all manner of personalities and temperaments that are suitable for work.
One caution: there is strong evidence showing that salespeople have a higher purpose at trade shows and in-person events and can deliver much better results when placed outside the booth.
INADEQUATE FOLLOW UP & FOLLOW THROUGH: Sadly, much potential energy is squandered by lack of follow through after the show. A company’s professional post-event communication can either close the deal or leave high-quality opportunities on the sidelines.
Make sure that you are in regular touch with customers that seem interested in your brand offerings. Even attendees who were a “no” at the show might have head a change of mind or of circumstances by the end of the show, and a call from your company might just be the sale they are looking for. Gently remind your potentials, post social updates, and continue to reach out until they let you know they are at the end of their buying cycle.
Now that you’ve read the potential pitfalls, which ones do you need to avoid? Which challenges do you need to embrace and face? It might just be that one or two areas need a little tightening of the screws, or it might be that you’ve completely overlooked something. Whatever it is, rally the team and tackle it before the next big show!
Photo by Brett Jordan