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'Trade Shows Don't Work'

I have heard the phrase "trade shows don't work" and similar comments from people when discussing why they don't include trade shows in their marketing programs.

In reality, the reason many organizations do not gain a payback from their trade show investment is that they don't work the trade show.

We discussed this topic in great detail last week while working with a client. When I reviewed our Trade Show Planning tools from our Sales Management Tool Kit the client was amazed at what they were not doing at events in terms of planning and executing. I speak at many trade shows and conferences. To better understand the audience, I normally walk the exhibit hall to listen to conversations and view the exhibits. I have always been amazed at what I find when I walk the floor:

  1. Most trade show booths are either confusing or do not clearly show what the company, product or service does or what benefit it provides an attendee. You only have a few seconds as someone walks past your booth to capture their interest or make an impression -- does your booth do that? Take the time to look at your booth with fresh eyes or simply ask your sales team to tell you what the booth says to them.

  2. Most individuals working the booth have never been trained on how to work the booth. There is an art and science to capturing awareness. In most cases, several good, open-ended questions should be asked as individuals are walking past your booth. Too often I see individuals sitting behind a table or looking embarrassed that they are even in a booth -- or worse, they are reading their phones!

  3. Another sin I see often is that pre-event work has not been performed -- no lead goals set, no booth appointments/meetings pre-arranged, and no trade show specials created. This is obvious when there no traffic at the booth.

  4. Just as we see No. 3 not performed, many times post-trade show work is not performed or tracked. No mailings are sent out or every lead is not followed up within three days of the event.

One of our recommendations is that at the end of each day, everyone who worked the booth should meet to discuss each lead, capturing the quality of the lead and any insights they recall about the conversation with the prospect. This is done as soon as the trade show closes for the day, not when everyone gets back to the office.

Trade shows can be expensive, what with exhibit fees, travel expenses, time and marketing costs. Working a trade show effectively is a must -- execution on all phases must be carefully managed and inspected. If you would like one of our Trade Show checklists from our Sales Managers Tool Kit, send me an e-mail at [email protected].

What are you best tips for working a trade show?

Posted by Ken Thoreson on June 01, 2015 at 3:50 PM


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