I spent a couple of hours this week as part of a focus group for Portland adult alternative radio station KINK.FM. There were about 18 of us, and I found it to be a very interesting experience. Having worked in radio for more than 25 years (I left the industry in 2002), it was interesting to experience being on the ‘other side’ for once.
I’ve seen focus groups, read about them, helped form them…but never been on the other side of the coin.
We were asked a lot of questions about our favorite stations, fave music, likes and dislikes about the station. All the stuff you might expect. For 90 minutes the facilitator guided us through a number of topics, while KINK’s Program Director scribbled notes quietly.
To the radio station, each of us represented thousands of their listeners or potential listeners, so they listened closely to what we had to say.
Do you do any market research in your industry? If you’re a professional speaker, do you take time to find out what your audience wants? Do you ask them what they DON’T like? Do you ask them what’s missing?
KINK.FM did all that and more. They fed us and gave us free CD’s and bumper stickers, too!
Now…here’s your task: can you use a tradeshow as a focus group of sorts? If so, how?
Would you have a short questionnaire that you can use to engage booth visitors? Can you set up a short demo of a new product and get their reaction? Can you show them mockups of a half-dozen proposed ads that your ad agency has conjured up? Should you bother to waste their time with annoying questions like ‘what do you think of this…?’?
Of course you can. You’re paying good money for your booth space. You have an audience of people that are interested in your industry – and probably your products – or they wouldn’t have paid to attend the show.
So take advantage of the situation. Set up your own series of mini focus groups during the show, and mine them for useful information.
Cold calling isn’t rocket science. If you’re in sales, you gotta do them at some point in your career. Heck, I do cold calling on occasion. You never know what you’re going to get. But before I pick up the phone, I want to make sure I have a good prospect. So I ask questions of myself:
Do I know if this company exhibits at shows? If so, what shows? Who’s the person that directs that effort? Is he/she the decision maker? What have they done in the past? How many shows a year do they currently attend?
Y’know, that kind of thing. A little ‘market research’ so you might have a clue as to where a conversation might go, or to perhaps keep up if it takes a swift turn.
This morning I received a cold call from a sales woman who hadn’t done much of anything before dialing my number:
She: Hi, I’m with (insert company name). Do you do any business with the federal government?
Me: Yes…But I’m not sure exactly what it is you want from me. We already do a fair amount of business with the federal government.
She: You do? I’m not sure exactly what it is you do.
Me: Well, I suppose if you’d bothered to check out our website or do a little research on our company so you’d know what you’re talking about when you tried to sell something it would help. Which is what I do before I cold call someone.
She: So you’re not interested?
Me: It doesn’t sound like you know what we do. Did you even try and find out what it is we do before you called us?
She: (giving up waaaay too easily): Well, I hope you have a nice day. Thank you for your t— (hangs up)
Hey, don’t give up so quickly! I might be interested in at least hearing your pitch – but by not getting a specific answer, and abandoning the effort, it was a wasted call all around.
At a tradeshow it’s a different beast altogether. It’s almost as if you’re allowed to ‘cold call’ without doing an research. People walk up to your booth, you start zinging them some pre-planned questions. Based on their answers, you quickly determine if they’re a prospect or not. But you still will be in a better position if your questions are well-thought-out to elicit responses that pertain directly to your product or service.
Do your customers ask questions at your tradeshow booth?
Are they curious about things like flavor, color, delivery time, production values, technical details or design elements?
Do they want to know MORE?
Of course they do! That’s what customers do. They’re curious. They give feedback. And often it comes in the form of a question.
At your next tradeshow make a point of writing down questions that your booth visitors ask about your product, service or company. This can be beneficial for a number of reasons.
First, you get more insight into what’s important to them. Yes, you may already know a lot of those questions. But pay attention and see if any of those questions are new. Are they bringing up things that you haven’t heard yet? Is there an indication that your customers are shifting desires around your products? Do they want something new? Can you find out now and provide it before your competitors?
Next, you can compile those questions and put them on your website or blog. By creating an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page or post on your site, you’re reaching out to those visitors who are interested in learning more. While a specific visitor may not have that particular question, by browsing your page or blog post they get a chance to learn more about your products – and especially to find out what’s important to other customers. They may find out a new way to use your product or service that they hadn’t thought of before – which makes your product more valuable to them.
You can also use questions as market research. If your customer are asking questions about something that your company DOESN’T provide, it gives you some insight into what the marketplace is interested in. Maybe it’s time to look at developing solutions to those problems they’re bringing you. Which gives your company a wider reach in the market.
So many businesses look at questions as a nuisance – something to be avoided.
Not you – you welcome them, right? You welcome them because it gives you more opportunities to learn about your market, and gives you a leg up on the competition (who are trying to avoid those questions).
Make a point to keep track of as many of those questions that come up at tradeshows. Take them back and share them with your sales and marketing team, management, designers, product gurus…whoever can benefit from having front-line questions that are burning in the mind of those clients and potential customers. And you know those questions are burning because they took time to stop at your booth and ask them!
Treat questions as valuable bits and pieces of information. Tradeshows are a great place to field questions – make sure you’re doing it on a regular basis.
The following is a guest post by Dennis Nixon, Sales Manager at Smash Hit Displays
In the days leading up to an exciting trade show attendees are likely tweeting about it, Facebooking about it, and blogging about it too. You’re likely doing the same as a trade show marketer, right? So take advantage of it! Integrating social media marketing into your trade show marketing before, during and after the main event can be the difference between having a successful trade show booth, and an unsuccessful one.
The world of social media and blogging can be quite an overwhelming one, but never fear. I’ve put together a list of 10 tips to help you put a social media spin on your trade show marketing efforts.
Did you know: every single conversation on Twitter (except those from people who have private Twitter streams) can be searched via Twitter search? Simply type in the name of the trade show you’ll have a booth at and you’ll quickly see others talking about the same event. Make sure to vary your keywords, and soon you’ll find a plethora of data to start prospecting prior to the event.
If you’re an avid tweeter than you likely know about Twitter lists. These can be a great way to compile a list of potential attendees, whom you can follow during the trade show. What will they be saying at the event? Where will they be having dinner or after-trade show events? Stay up to date. You don’t even have to actually ‘follow’ the users to put them in a list. AND you can keep the list private if you don’t want your competition finding all the users you spent time finding. In addition, don’t forget about the value of using Twitter for traffic, discussed in the recent post: “Are You using Twitter to Drive Traffic to Your Blog and Event?” on this blog.
When you’re logged into Facebook you have access to their huge internal (and external for that matter) search engine. View all results for a specific term, people associated with that term, page associated with that term, groups, posts by everyone, posts by friends, etc… This can give you back results for many users going to the trade show, thinking about going, or just associated with it.
Facebook Groups and Pages
Using the search function detailed above, you can find groups and pages of prospects interested in the trade show you’re attending. This can be extremely helpful to start a conversation with prospects and tell them about your booth, where you’ll be located, and the fun stuff you’ll be giving away/doing at the event.
Have a prospects e-mail address but not sure if they are using social media? You HAVE to check out FlowTown. With this website you can upload your prospects e-mail addresses (before, during or after the event) and get information such as name, age, gender, occupation, location AND all the social networks that person is on.
Contests on Social Networks
Some trade show marketers suggest utilizing contests on social networks to help you spread the word about the trade show you’ll be at, in addition to getting a bit of notoriety and branding your business. Tell your fans and followers that you’ll be at the next big event, and the first five people to retweet or repost about it will get a prize when they show up to the event. There are so many ways you can spin a simple contest before and during the trade show, the possibilities are endless.
You’re likely using LinkedIn, heck millions are. But are you utilizing it to help with your trade show marketing? Tell your connections about your upcoming event, ask them to help you spread the word, or even connect with prospects after the event takes place. There’s so much you can do with LinkedIn, you just need to think outside the box.
If the event planner for the trade show you’re is good they’ll have set up a LinkedIn group. Use this opportunity to start connecting with prospects and chatting them up. Connect with others, help spread the word about the event, and afterward discuss what was learned or how it can apply to their future endeavors.
Connecting with bloggers that are going to events is extremely important. They’re already tapping into the vein of your industry, so why not utilize their current reader base? Try securing a guest blogging spot, schmoozing them when they’re at the event, and staying in contact afterwards. You never know the types of connections you’ll be able to make over a few drinks.
If you still aren’t convinced that social media can work for you (or that others are using it), check out Tradeshow Insights post “Social Media and Tradeshow Marketing Results”, where respondents to a poll stated that a whopping 31% have already incorporated social media into their exhibit marketing!
Have you used social media in your trade show marketing before, during and after the event? What successes have you had with it?
About the Author: Dennis Nixon is the Sales Manager at Smash Hit Displays, a company providing trade show displays and booths to vendors throughout the United States.
When exhibiting at a tradeshow, you’re there to make sales, brand your business, brand your product, schmooze with industry partners, scout out competitors and okay, do a little partying (perhaps).
Are you using the time to do some specific research by using surveys? No? Too bad, it’s a great way to uncover useful information that you may not find elsewhere at ten times the price.
Since you’re already there at the tradeshow, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity. Here are seven ways you can use surveys at tradeshows to bring home more than just some sales and the memory of a great after-hours party.
1. Product comparison: put your product up against a top competitor, much like the old cola wars taste-tests. Take the labels off of your brand and a competitor’s (if you dare), and put them up against each other side by side. If the results come back in your favor, issue a press release, tweet it out.
2. Quickie 2 or 3-question survey: easy to put together and easy for your visitors to take 15 seconds to answer. You can hold a clipboard and pencil, and ask visitors if they can spare just 15 seconds to answer three questions. Be specific and don’t go past that time. Ask the questions, and then finish with a “Would you like to learn more about our product?” and if they say yes, direct them to an associate. If they say no, thank them for their valuable time and release ’em back to the wild.
3. More in-depth survey: offer this only to people that have indicated a willingness to learn more about your products or services. If they seem like good prospects, ask if they mind if you can take just three minutes with them. The survey should be handed to them either in the form of a piece of paper on a clipboard or a laptop. Either way, invite them to leave their name and contact information at the end so you can follow up with the more interested folks.
3. “Live” visual feature or product comparison: set up a graphic and interactive exhibit that asks visitors to make a choice between various possible features or products you may be offering in the near future. Tell them that this research is part of the evaluation process your company is doing. Whether you’re showing 2 or 5 or 9 choices, make the graphics easy to understand and the choices easy to make (hopefully!). Have baskets or jars set up so that visitors can drop something (tennis balls, marbles, etc.) into a jar that echoes their sentiment. Over time each jar will slowly fill up with the choices. By doing this you are giving a visual accounting of how the ‘voting’ or surveying is going.
4. Brand effectiveness: depending on your company and brand, you may want to survey your visitors on how they perceive your brand in comparison to your competitors. While this may take a little more thought to set up, the survey can yield some very worthwhile results in how you are perceived in the marketplace.
5. Measure effectiveness of pre-event marketing: if you do extensive pre-event marketing within your industry in trade magazines or other media, you can survey the effectiveness. If you do a lot of social media promotion you can also judge its effectiveness. Set up a survey that asks visitors IF they heard of you, WHERE they heard of you and if the MESSAGE they saw inspired them to visit your booth (or if they just stumbled across it…).
6. Get input for future events: take some time to ask visitors what impacted them the most at the show. The feedback can be used to help craft your booth, marketing, graphics and promotional slant for the following year’s show.
7. Get feedback on a new product: if you have a product that’s been on the market a short time, the survey can be used to get feedback on how that product is perceived, used or consumed by visitors.
Take a few moments and ask yourself ‘what can I learn from all of those thousands of tradeshow visitors that will help the company?’ Then come up with a great way to elicit that information via a survey. Feel free to share any ideas you may have in the comment section!
You may have a good grasp about your overall BIG PICTURE tradeshow marketing plan. But what about the DETAILS?
Overall execution of your plan at the show may be great, but if you slip on details, someone – a potential customer, perhaps – is bound to notice.
Some of the details to track: Is the booth clean and tidy? Are all your marketing materials in synch? Do all the colors match or complement your brand? Are your staffers greeting people with a smile? Do they fill out lead cards with all the information you require? Do the garbage cans get emptied when they start to spill over?
Details are important because they help complete the picture. If the carpet hasn’t been attacked with a carpet-sweeper and there are crumbs or bits of paper or junk, people will notice. If your graphics are peeling at the edges, people will notice. If personal belongings are not stowed out of site, people will notice. They’ll also notice if your staffers are talking on a cell phone, eating, drinking or sitting with their arms crossed.
So cross the T’s and dot the I’s – take care of details and the overall perception of your booth will be more positive.
Just back from the Natural Products Expo West show, where some 3025 exhibitors had their wares on display. Interpretive Exhibits, where I’m the VP of Sales and Marketing, had eight various custom client booths on display, including Bob’s Red Mill, Nancy’s Yogurt, Natracare, Mountain Rose Herbs, Bi-O-Kleen, Hyland’s, gDiapers and Earth Mama Angel Baby.
Here are a few photos of those booths, as well as others and a few Twitterers I ran into:
Tunisha Hubbard is a tour manager and brand spokesperson for various live corporate and ‘guerrilla’ events. We met on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and I asked if she would do a brief podcast interview to discuss how she works tradeshows and other promotional events.
Her website bio describes her as ‘engaging, friendly, and enthusiastic, she loves that her job lets her interact with people, whether it is one person or fifty.’ Her enthusiasm is evidend in the interview as she discusses her various appearances and corporate promotions she’s been involved with.
How do you combine your online social media friends with your other tradeshow marketing efforts? It’s a synergistic effort that crosses many online channels. I sat down and, inviting a few of my little friends, looked to explain how those little friends can help you in those efforts:
With their “Follow Me” app for iPhone and Blackberry, Core-Apps started serving the tradeshow market. What is an app? Even if you know what an app for your iPhone is, how does it work? Who creates them?
Jay Tokosch of Core-Apps discusses the company and their new app targeted squarely at the tradeshow universe.