As I begin to register for the upcoming trade show events I come to realize that, with so much emphasis on content in-bound, digital and social media marketing stratagem these days it might be of interest to take a step into the face to face marketing world of Trade Show Practice. This type of marketing is as much push messaging as it is pull attraction. It is a tough nut to crack, because we have to balance the techniques of inside sales with that of more aggressive outside sales practice.
One of the first things to look at is the booth itself, where it is located, how is it arranged, is it attractive and inviting or does it feel cramped and closed off. The location choice is very import and should be considered with the same level of attention with which you would make any advertising placement. A few things to consider here are the type of pitch you are making and the kind of contact you wish to achieve. Does your product sell itself and does it make a “statement” on its own? If so you would do well to choose a high traffic area where attendees can see your product and your booth staff can talk to and put information into the hands of as many people as possible. IF, like at my company, the product is a little bit more niche and requires some education it is probably a good idea to position the booth in a more quite location to give staff an opportunity to connect with the show visitors. For example, for the upcoming Doble Seminar in Huntington Beach we chose the back corner of the first aisle. The first aisle because we know that all of the show visitors will make their way down it, but the back corner because we know that it will be somewhat quieter and afford us some intimacy with the clients.
Once the perfect location has been chosen, register early to insure the best spots, then it becomes about arranging it in an inviting and attractive manner.
One of the first “don’ts” would be not to put your table across the front of your booth space. Better to lay it alongside in an effort to invite traffic into the booth. The booth needn’t be too elaborate; one can do some very effective layouts on a budget by making use of large poster stands with some eye catching visuals. One thing to be aware of is ceiling height. While most large venues will have very high ceilings some of the private rooms or hospitality suites may have limited clearance so plan accordingly.
An effective attention getting technique that I have employed in the past is to place tall posters at the end of long corridors in an effort to be seen from far down the aisle. When designing the graphic keep in mind the message and imagery and be sure to place you company logo in a prominent location that can be seen.
Keep any literature out and prominent but another “don’t” would be to place it within easy reach of passersby. We want the clients to come into the booth, we want to be able to engage with the client and if they merely grab and go with you literature that opportunity is lost. What we do want to do is bring them in and keep them comfortable. That is why I always suggest springing for the extra padding. Many people are surprised by how soothing it is to have the extra thick padding under foot when you are walking the hard concrete floor of a large stadium venue.
Another thing worth doing would be to say hi to everyone that passes your booth. “Good Morning” and “Have a good Show” should come as easily to the lips as “Please” and “Thank You”. This practice by booth staff will serve to open the eyes of passersby and cause the harried visitor to look your way. Very often this results in the “Oh, Advanced Power Technologies, what do you do?” question the is a great opening.
Once you get the people into the booth the primary function of a tradeshow is to gather information and generate leads for your business. Whoever staffs the booth should at the very least be exchanging business cards with visitors. If you give one, try and get one in return. There are some business card readers on the market that can then scan the cards and import the data, otherwise you can just do the input by hand. If they don’t have a business card then, by all means, carry on with the conversation and create rapport with the client, creating this rapport will enable you to ask for the info you need before they leave the booth. Have paper, computer or tablet available for this purpose. I understand that sometimes these trade shows get busy and it is difficult to follow through with these things when you have half a dozen people in the booth all requesting information. It is a good practice to not give out a business card or brochure without at least requesting they sign a guest list, again have a clipboard or tablet available for the purpose. The minimum info to capture is Name, Company, Email and /or Phone. Also, keep in mind that sometimes, at a busy tradeshow, you might want to cut the conversation short. If the booth is full of people, it may be useful to give everyone a minute or two, then grab the quick badge scan or business card with the promise of a lengthier conversation later. I find that most business professionals understand this “make hay while the sun shines” mentality.
It is often possible, through the event organizer or through the venue, to get the complete list of attendees. You may have to pay for this list and it is a shotgun approach and means you will gather information on folks that may not be directly interested in your products. Another shotgun technique might be to have some kind of offering or drawing, a gift card or a free product upgrade in exchange for folks dropping their business card into a hat or fish bowl (leave the fish at home). I find this does not always yield the quality interested prospects you want, but it is a way to gather the information. In the motorcycle industry we offered a drawing for a free oil change. One person won the oil change, but everyone got a call with some inducement to get them in the door.
It may also be possible to use new and emerging cell phone technology to enhance the visitor experience at a trade show. By enabling push notification Geofencing can offer a unique level of engagement with clients. As they walk around the trade show floor it is now possible to broadcast messages to everyone about products and events at the show. But it is increasingly possible to narrowcast to a specific target audience, coupons, detailed information on products or perhaps even a special invitation to the hospitality suite.
And of course to bring it back to the Social Media and Content Marketing aspect you really want to own the #hashtag, live cast video, snaps, vines, booth staff selfies, anything to maintain the buzz surrounding an event.
In age of #contentmarketing & #socialmedia— Michael Blaustein (@m8qlaff) September 7, 2016
Take look at #FaceToFace practice of Trade Showshttps://t.co/CERkpfYeLw pic.twitter.com/QXloCdNyur
And that’s how it’s “done”. Easy right?