The American trade show has been a staple of business-to-business (B2B) and business-to community (B2C) marketing for decades. As someone involved in the trade show business designing everything from exhibit line displays to complete booths, I find it fascinating when potential customers insist that trade shows do not work. Many of these customers have tried using the trade show in the past with very little success, so they simply dismiss the idea as outdated and not worth the time and expense.
According to Business-2-Community’s Ken Thoreson, trade shows do work when executed properly. I could not agree more. I have seen firsthand how getting involved in trade shows helps a company grow from a small start-up to a regional or national powerhouse. It is all about how a business approaches the trade show and executes the marketing plan.
Thoreson makes some excellent points about trade show execution on the B2C website; points worthy of talking about here. Needless to say that the vast number of successful trade shows now held all over the country, and the world for that matter, prove that the medium is successful for marketing. If it were not, companies would not be collectively investing millions of dollars in show participation.
Trade Show Preparation
Successful trade show participation does not happen without plenty of preparation. No business activity does. Successful participation requires taking the time in advance to figure out what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Why? Because those working the booth have to know what to do when traffic arrives. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for a colossal fail.
Prior to attending any trade show, a company should set clear goals and expectations. Those goals and expectations should be a joint effort between senior management and marketing staff. If there is anything that can be done pre-show to help achieve the goals, those things should be done. Examples might include an e-mail marketing campaign, setting up appointments with potential customers, and designing a follow-up program that could be initiated at the time of sale.
Trade Show Execution
The other significant area of failure is that of trade show execution. Thoreson divides this category into two subcategories: messaging and trade show workers. Again, I agree.
Where messaging is concerned, it must be clear and concise. It must be visually engaging in order to catch the attention at first sight. Far too often, the exhibit line displays at today’s trade shows are incoherent insofar as messaging is concerned. People walk right by vendor booths because there is nothing there to demand their attention. Moreover, even in cases where slick graphics or video do cause potential customers to pause, they very quickly realize they do not know what the message is. They move on.
As for trade show workers, they need to be more than just sales associates picked up from the local temp agency. They need to be trained in the nuances of effective display booth marketing. This includes engaging customers, asking the right questions, and so on. It also means behaving in a way that shows enthusiasm. Nothing can kill the potential of the trade show booth faster than a worker with his/her face buried in a smartphone or sitting in the corner looking bored and embarrassed.
Whether your company is using pop-up, exhibit line or backlit trade show displays, your success comes down to preparation and execution. Trade shows do work when you do things the right way. Before investing thousands of dollars in the display, learn how to present effectively. It will pay off in the long run.