Do the math. Assume the next trade show you participate in expects a total audience of 10,000 people over a period of 20 hours. The number of people you can expect to walk past your booth each hour on average is 500. Now divide that number by 60 which results in the possibility of having 8 + people walk by every minute. It’s a pretty daunting thought.
As a conscientious exhibit manager, you want to ensure that you are getting the biggest rate of return. To accomplish this you have always encouraged your booth staff to speak to as many people as possible. Maybe it’s time to look at rationale that has been used at trade shows for so many years and question whether it still makes sense. Addressing this dilemma means asking some pretty serious questions, one being what’s more important to your organization – the sale or the relationship? The knee-jerk answer is the sale. After all, we are all managed in the short term on how each activity you invest in reflects positively on the corporate bottom line. Corporations report quarterly results and a slow quarter causes shareholders to doubt the integrity of their investment. Long term relationships are important, you may argue but if the results aren’t there show after show, the budget for those events will be dropped or severely cut. In the past this resulted in a tunnel vision which caused us to set goals for each staffer in terms of leads or sales generated at the show.
All of the recent research of visitor behaviour says that today’s attendee has more knowledge about products and services, is further along in the selling cycle and wants to be engaged in the procurement of the services they seek. They are serious shoppers or they wouldn’t have chosen to attend the show. One thing that has not changed is visitor’s perceptions of booth staff. Study after study concludes that what these sophisticated visitors detest is “pushy sales people.” When this same visitor stops at your booth and listens quietly and attentively to a sale pitch is a waste of everyone’s time.
Clearly the attitude of booth staff that focuses on achieving short term goals only may not be appropriate in an environment that former CEIR CEO, Doug Ducate, often referred to as “the last vestige of face-to-face marketing.”
Here are three thoughts to help booth staff develop the right attitude and achieve success at their next trade show:
- Focus on relationships rather than the transaction.
Sixty years ago Walt Disney discovered that when visitors to his theme parks were happy they spent more money and came back more often. He changed the focus of each and every member of his staff from selling souvenirs and frozen chocolate dipped bananas on a stick to dedicating their time to one thing only – happy customers. The same principle holds true every time your staff meets someone at a trade show. If this customer leaves happy the chance of them returning is that much greater. Leave them grumbling about how badly they were treated and they will tell countless friends about the experience.
- Replace the selling attitude with that of a host Your trade show booth is your remote location for a few days. Booth guests should be greeted in the same fashion as you would greet a guest when they arrive at your home or office. The new attitude says that your staff is now a host whose job it is to welcome visitors and make them feel comfortable.
- Develop a new set of metrics for moving measurement beyond the short term gains. It cost less to keep a customer than acquire a new one. Your metrics should reflect the cost savings of participating in a trade show in terms of both customer acquisition and retention.
Participating at a trade show is a unique opportunity. A change of attitude is an investment in the future growth of your organization – don’t squander it with the wrong attitude.
© 2014 by Barry Siskind. Barry Siskind is author of Powerful Exhibit marketing. He is also President of International Training and Management Company who offers a number of services to exhibitors including the creation and implementation of a mystery-shopping program. Contact Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.