Posted by Frank Murch | Dec 9, 2013 11:07:00 AM
Since the crash of 2008 there are a lot of changes in the tradeshow area. Going to a trade show and working each show is more difficult. The crowds are more careful and less dense, the competition is often not at the trade show, or there with a smaller booth, the papers are less innovative and the customers much more careful. Still Trade Shows still exist and for good reason. There is no internet venue, or telephone strategy that gives a prospective buyer better exposure. The buyer can see what they are searching for and also newer products and innovative designs they did not imagine existed. Also, even in the “Skype” world, there is no real substitute for a face to face meeting. These are the some of the changes:
1. Continued Uncertainty: This down cycle really never had a matching up cycle. People – that is companies and employees, never really emerged from the 2008 uncertainty. This makes top management resistant to spending on trade shows and promotion. It makes purchase slower and postponements longer. Still, in long term trade shows – you may be measured by who attends and who does not. You are also measured by the size of the booth. Showing commitment to a trade show relates to a message to your customer base that you are a player.
2. Quantify the effort: In the past many tradeshows were measured by feeling. If it felt like a winner – it was and not further measurements were wanted or pursued. Now the true measurement is the number of sales dollars realized because of attending that specific trade show. The problem with this is it is impossible to consistently or accurately measure. So we use the number of leads, the number of quotations, the number of supporting people at the show and the cost as measurements. Cutting people, reducing booth size are obvious, but boosting trade show booth visits and working your existing customers is also much more important now.
3. The remaining Trade Shows are Stronger : Trade shows went through a period of consolidation. Now the Trade Shows remaining are much more important. Trade Shows are a marketing success. The successful methods today are not magazines, newspapers, TV, direct mail, or cold calling. There ARE inbound internet marketing, Social Media, Trade Shows, Email, Vehicle wraps, and Point of Sales displays. Using these winning methods to boost Trade Show Attendance is smart – very smart. Trade Show Attendance is a key indicator for serious buyers. Smart Trade Show Booth owners try to invite people to the booth, use meals as “one on one” meeting events, use a script to convey product information and targeted displays to introduce product value.
4. More Serious Buyers: Trade Show attendees are fewer, but much more likely to be the most serious buyers. They are researching the products before the show and they want to meet with people that are knowledgeable and skilled at these shows. They see the show as an opportunity to meet with you and your competitors is a time effective way. They are right!! You need to help them see and learn about your products with the correct people, displays, and photos. This is an opportunity to drive deeper relationships with these key people. 5 years from now, it is likely these people will not be the ones at Trade Shows, they will be the ones signing the Purchase Orders and creating the budgets for products like yours – Drive these relationships now.
5. More serious Pre-Show Promotions: Traditional Pre-show mailers and invitations may get ignored. Try using a special after show hours invite, a solicitation for a private product screening, an invitation to a meal. Make your promotions as personal and as targeted as you can. When a Trade Show attendee gets off the plane, they have the same problem we all have, they are faced with an uncertain schedule and a series of random meetings. In many cases this is inefficient and not time effective. Help them help you be trying to block out the times you want with events targeted to them.
6. Social Media: Social media, that is LinkedIn, and to a lesser degree Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus can help put events and ideas in their smart phones and in their heads. If they are looking for the next thing, and you just twittered them to come and joint you at the booth – they just might do it. Announce the times and location of the next product demo, the paper or presentation being given, the people at the booth, and the products. This is not a substitute for a great booth display or a meeting, but it eases the way.
7. What works and what does not? Trade show attendees moving through the isles are looking at the booths from the isle and may walk past if you done give them a good reason to approach. Make sure your most interesting products are displayed on the perimeter – focused into these isle ways, and not positioned inside. If you are fortunate enough to have a product that moves (like a machine) make sure it is in motion, making noise and open to the viewer.
8. Customize your displays to the market. There are always main themes or messages line you company logo and the tag line. In addition there are products, services and messages for each region or niche market. Put the customized messages on the perimeter where they can be seen. The goal is not to inform, but to cause a question, to create an engagement, to get the prospect to come. Be provocative.
9. Exhibits are larger, but weigh less: 10 years ago, having a semi truck arrive with the booth was the norm. Today the transport of a heavy booth is not necessary. With the use of light weight structures, cloth and frames, it is possible to carry small booths as baggage and ship the larger ones via UPS. Take advantage of the newer Trade Show Booths: The look better, they are more flexible, and save on shipping, install time and tear down time.
10. Qualify Leads on site: Your sales force is probably smaller and more overworked than it was 5 or 6 years ago. Write down the type of conversation had at the trade show and rate the leads during the conversation with the attendee. Suggest having your regional sales person contact them after the show. This will help in getting that contact and bridging the post show gap. Also, the first to call often is the one that ultimately gets the order. Follow-up quickly!
11. Use Technology: Technology has changed the lead gathering methods radically, but often it narrows the ability to add additional information. Keep a paper lead sheet and run the electronic lead as well. Use the paper for drawings or comments the lead retrieval system can not handle. If you are using an I-Pad, photograph the notes and email them with the lead – from the show to the sales person. There is no longer a reason to wait for the end of the show.
If you are feeling that Trade Shows are obsolete – take a look at your supporting materials and tools. Have you adapted to the latest technology? Are you using the best techniques? Your competitors probably are and that gives them the edge. You need to compete with modern techniques if you want to achieve a reasonable ROI.