Dale Obrochta joins me today for a wide-ranging discussion of tradeshow marketing, focusing on how to draw a crowd at a tradeshow booth, and once you do that, what you do with it! Dale and I had a great time on this interview – which didn’t make it live to Facebook because I’m still wrestling with the software that interacts with Facebook live. AAAND, when I checked the video screen recording, his video was gone, but the audio remained. Must be a Ghost in the Machine, makes me #wannacry. Yikes. But we punted: Dale sent along a handful of photos which almost makes it look like he’s live with me if you squint or forget to put your readers on. Take a look – or listen to or download the audio podcast below:
If you’re standing at the edge of your tradeshow booth ready to engage with a visitor, remember that as try you qualify him or her, you’re really trying to find the prospect’s real issue. Once you do that, you can determine if you can be of assistance, or if you can’t.
Tradeshow selling take place in a chaotic environment. Hundreds or thousands of competing exhibitors, and thousands or tens of thousands of attendees means everyone is vying for attention and they all have their own personal agenda. So when you get an opportunity to interact with a booth visitor, the best recipe for a successful encounter is to know where you want to go.
And often that destination is reached by trying to uncover the prospect’s real issue. How do you do that? By asking questions.
Let’s say you’re exhibiting at a show to get more leads for your IT business such as virus eradication and firewalls and related services Your visitor mention that they think their IT department is doing okay. That’s a bit of an opening – not much – but it should give you an opportunity to peel back the onion a bit.
“When you say that ‘you think’ the IT department is doing okay, what do you mean?”
They may tell you that from what their IT guy says, they seem to have dealt with most of the recent viruses with a rebuilt firewall. Or something. He’s not an IT guy.
“What do you mean by most? Can you tell me more?”
They go on to say that the IT guy only “swore for half the day” earlier in the week at something-or-other that was taking up all his time instead of being able to add on to the network which he was supposed to be doing.
“So your network administrator only ‘swore for half the day’ at having to deal with viruses? It sounds like he must have dealt with it. So it’s a done deal, right?” (You’re trying to backpedal a bit: psychologically it’s going to spur them to open up a bit more. If you suddenly tried to sell them your services without knowing if they need it, their defenses would likely go up).
Naah, he says, still some work to do. But he doesn’t know because he’s not the IT guy. Maybe it would be worth giving you his contact number, he says.
“Well,” you say, “that may be a good move. But he probably has his own go-to team to deal with issues like this, right?” (Still back-pedaling and acting like it’s not a big deal, to get him to open up more).
He doesn’t think so. In fact, just an hour ago when he was having lunch with the IT guy, the guy got a phone call from his assistant and they must have sworn back and forth for ten minutes over the situation. In fact, the IT guy may have to leave the show early to go deal with it.
“He and his assistant swore about the situation for ten minutes while you were eating? So the assistant has it handled, then?”
Uh, no, says the visitor. Gulp. Doesn’t sound like it. But then, he says again, he’s not an IT guy.
Now you’ve uncovered the real issue. It took a bit of doing, because your visitor was unwilling to reveal that information until you kept asking questions – and following up those questions with some ‘aw, shucks, it’s probably not a big deal, right?’ questions. And with your laidback but curious approach designed to get more information, he’s revealed the issue: that there really is a problem that your IT guy is trying to solve. Trying to put out a fire, in fact.
Sales is essentially the same whether it’s on the tradeshow floor, on the phone, or in someone’s office. It’s not about features and benefits. It’s about uncovering the problem and seeing if there is a fit between your prospect’s problems and your potential solutions. If there is, you’ll find an opportunity to discuss it in full at the earliest opportunity. If there is no fit, you wish him or her well and move on to the next.
Next time you’re on the tradeshow floor, try to refrain from hitting your visitors with a list of features and benefits at the first sign of a possible lead. Instead, drill down by playing a bit dumb, asking more questions and getting to the prospect’s real issues. Then you can schedule the next move that both of your agree on.
In case you hadn’t noticed social media video is exploding, driving traffic and eyeballs both on and offline. So it makes sense to strongly consider making video a part of your tradeshow strategy. Posting videos or going live from the show gives followers a sense of the show without actually being there, and if done correctly can help paint a picture of the people behind your brand.
If you’re going to put some videos together to promote your tradeshow appearance, it helps to color inside the lines as it were. Unless you’re a creative genius like Scorsese. So let’s take a look at some of those guidelines you might follow.
Facebook: Go Live from the show floor from your phone or laptop or tablet. Keep it short, but look to connect with viewers using short product demos, in-booth interviews with clients or visitors, interacting with booth staffers and more. Give your followers an intimate look at the people behind the products and services.
YouTube: Great for longer-form videos, but don’t overdo the length. You can go live, but it’s not a simple one-click from your page as it is with Facebook. Create videos that give information: product demonstrations, how-tos, and stories that build your brand.
Instagram: Now that you can combine stills and videos into short stories, capture several items and publish together as a single post. Aim for collections that demonstrate a lifestyle that relates to your brand. And of course, with a click you can go live on Instagram.
Twitter: Short videos are the rule on Twitter, as the stream is going so fast. One or two minutes is all you really need to capture someone’s attention. To the best of my knowledge, you can’t go live on Twitter (is Periscope still a thing?), so you’ll have to upload to YouTube or Vimeo or some other video platform and post a link.
Regardless of the platform you’re on, plan on posting multiple times during the day. If you’re going to do video from a tradeshow at all, make a full-on commitment so that your followers that are not at the show are able to anticipate your videos and join in the fun from a distance. Be sure to use show hashtags so that people outside of your company social media followers can find your video posts. And have fun – it’s just video! Everybody’s doing it! You’ll learn and get better as time goes on.
All this talk and angst about ‘repeal and replace!’ Yet it happens all the time in the tradeshow world. Yesterday I walked the floor of the Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim as exhibitors assembled exhibits for business later in the week. Many of the exhibitors there have performed a version of ‘repeal and replace’ on their exhibits. Others have done a partial makeover, hoping to satisfy the budget-minded constituents in the company. And yet others have stuck to their guns, not making any changes from last year.
That’s the way of the tradeshow world. Every year there are new competitors in the marketplace. Every year there are new potential customers that are going to view your exhibit with new eyes. Every year there will be the same visitors who have seen your exhibit before.
So what prompts a company to throw out the old – repeal – and bring in a new exhibit – replace? It could be any number of things, but a recent client described it perfectly: their old exhibit was a ‘train wreck’ and the new one fixed all those issues with something that was well-planned and well-executed.
Certainly budget comes into it. So does function. So does the competition, company growth (or contraction), change of direction or any number of things.
When you’ve come to the decision to repeal and replace your exhibit, take the time to get it right. You’re going to want to live with it for several years.
Secrets to tradeshow success? There’s no secret! It’s all out in the open. Actually, it’s all lurking online somewhere. Just for fun, I plugged the search term “tradeshow success secrets” into the Google to see what I came up with.
Success is measured by how much effort you want to put into it. I suppose that’s true of pretty much anything you do. But good effort is important.
Trade leads and information with other exhibitors (that aren’t your competitors). I admit, I’ve only heard this one a time or two, and I suspect it’s rarely done. I wonder if you could actually get anyone to do that with you.
Let people play with things. Yes, adults like to get hands-on experience as much as kids do. Create an experience where visitors can interact with something and they’ll stick to your booth longer than others.
Have a booth host that knows what’s up. A trained staffer is worth their weight in gold. The really connections are person-to-person.
Speak at a show. If you can’t speak at a show, sit on a panel. It’s better than nothing. If you can’t do either of those, create your own event that you speak at and invite everyone in your database.
Steam live video from your booth. With the advent of Facebook Live, it’s easy to pull out your phone and go LIVE! Interview guests, do product demos and more.
Stop people in their steps with creative flooring. Put your logo or some other attractive graphic at foot level. It’s still enough of a new thing that it’ll stand out and get people to stop.
Know what to say to people. It’s great to have a trained staff member, or to have booth staffers who are knowledgeable on the products you offer. But spend time honing a brief 30 second pitch that focuses on the pain people have around things that your products can solve. For instance, if you sell roofing with a lifetime guarantee, ask visitors if they experience leaks, or if they are due for a new roof but are afraid of hiring some fly-by-night firm that won’t back up the roof installation. Let them identify their pain, then tell them that your product can resolve that pain.
Follow up. When you do get leads, don’t sit on them. Pick up the phone and get back to them. Nuff said.
I love a good discussion where I come away with more information than I had at the beginning. That’s what happened with the 20-minute webinar discussion I had with Dave Beck of Foundry45, a company that creates content for virtual reality viewing. Virtual reality can be used in a number of ways, and content can be created from many different angles and for many different reasons.
Stage One: Don’t we have a show coming up in, oh, a few months?
This is the stage where you KNOW you have a show coming up, but you haven’t confirmed dates, haven’t confirmed who’s going, don’t yet know what products or services you’ll be promoting and, well, basically, anything to do with the show. There’s still plenty of time, right?
Stage Two: Have you signed up for the booth space yet?
The dates in the calendar are definitely getting closer. Should we confirm the space? Who’s going to do that? What about travel – should we book that yet?
Stage Three: When are we going to look at the booth to see if it still has what we need?
Just a few weeks left. Maybe time to update the booth. Let’s get someone to set it up and see what shape it’s in. Does it need new graphics? Is anything broken? You know the drill.
Stage Four: Panic!
Frantically shipping the booth, confirming lodging and travel with just a week or two left. Samples have shipped, right? What about the company branded shirts and promotional products? Isn’t Larry handling most of this? The PANIC stage moves from the brief pre-show panic into nearly full panic during the show, and finally subsides when you hit the airport.
Stage Five: It’s over, thank God! We don’t have to deal with it until this time next year!
Last fall I put out the book “Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level.” I’ve done several promotions around it, given away a bunch of copies, and use it as my main calling card.
But I’ve never done a webinar on the book. Until now. Check it out: