Kenji Haroutunian, the Show Director of the Outdoor Retailer Shows (Summer and Winter Market) discusses how the recent show went, the state of the show, the upcoming year, and how social media is set to explode as a means of connecting people at the show. If it hasn’t already!
One thing I paid a lot of attention to while walking the floor at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Show in Salt Lake City in July was how booth staff interacted with attendees.
It’s the single most important action item that determines the success or failure of a tradeshow exhibit.
You can have the best-looking exhibit in the world – or the worst – but people are not there to see your exhibit. They’re there to engage with the people behind the exhibit.
Based on what I saw a ORSM09 some folks are doing an awesome job – and some have a long way to go. Let’s take a look…
I mentioned Keen Shoes in my last post but it’s worth detailing a bit more how they responded to visitors. As you first approach the welcome counter (which you had to, because the rest of the booth – except for a small entrance – was walled off) somebody smiled and greeted you and asked if they could help you. Note: they didn’t try and sell you anything or give you anything you hadn’t asked for.
Next, Keen had a funky-looking spinner that let you try your hand at winning some prize, including a pair of shoes.
Third, you were invited to enter a contest which took a minute or two: members of the contest crew took your picture while you filled out a small form with your personal information. Once the digital picture was promptly printed out, it was attached to the back of the form and pinned to a giant corkboard. You were then given a raffle ticket and told specifically when you were needed to be in the booth for your chance to win $1500 towards your ‘Hybrid-Life’ adventure.
Whether or not you entered the contest, twirled the spinner or engaged with the folks at the greeting counter, you would see a lot of activity as you went by the booth.
The activity drew a crowd. And as we all know, at a tradeshow, a crowd draws a crowd.
I saw many similar instances of ‘drawing a crowd’ at the show. Whether it was the antics of GoPro Camera, or the contest at Aquapac or any number of other attendee engagements throughout the show, lots of exhibitors were doing the things they needed to do to get people into their booth.
What about the smaller booths in the smaller ballrooms? Same thing there, only on a smaller scale. The booths that had a lot of people in their ‘space’ were doing things to engage attendees.
As for the booths that were empty…. Why were they empty?
Lots of small reasons to my eye: the person in the booth was ignoring passersby while pounding away at a laptop keyboard. Or they were eating (a big turn-off to visitors). Or they were on a cell phone. Or they ignored visitors completely, even when they walked up into the booth (yes, it really happens!).
It appears to boil down to having uninterested, unmotivated or untrained booth staff. Now, even if it’s the CEO of the company manning the booth, if he’s acting as if your presence isn’t important, it will subtly communicate to you: ‘please don’t stop at my booth.’
Are you communicating that subtle message?
Most people I engaged with told me (after I asked) that they were having a good show. The ones that said the show was not good for them usually had a serious deficiency in ‘attendee engagement.’ Either that or their booth was buried at the back of a hall and the bulk of the foot traffic just was not reaching them.
Now I realize that over long shows – especially a four day show that’s open a total of 33 hours – it is extremely difficult to stand in a booth and be “ON” the whole time. When you have a large staff, it helps to have booth shifts that rotate through and keep lively and fresh faces ready to greet people. In a smaller booth where the time is split between two or three people, maintaining a positive attitude for every visitor is extremely difficult.
Keep in mind, however, the single visitor that you’re too tired to greet might be the one attendee who can open doors for your business and help you land a big deal.
Wouldn’t you hate to let that one visitor go by simply because you’re pounding away on a keyboard and are too engrossed with an e-mail to engage with a real live person?
I was in Salt Lake City last Monday the 20th through Friday the 24th attending the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009 show, thanks to Dean and the great guys at Lifelines. Now if I can only convince the powers that be that I need to be there in January to review the same show. Just because I’d…uh…like to see the area with snow on the mountains. That’s it! Got nothing to do with the fact I’ve been a skier since the age of seven…nope.
Unfortunately I was unable to blog during the show, so I made notes to gather my thoughts for a post-show post. Did manage a few tweets from the show from the busy bank of PCs at @tradeshowguy.
First thing at the show was to respond to several of the tweeters that were doing things to draw people to their booths, like Sole Shoes, who were offering a pair of ‘platinum sandals’ to the first dozen people to come to the booth to say ‘It’s Your Sole!’ Which I did, and they did. Also chatted with some great folks at @ENDFootwear from Portland…not sure who is the Tweeter there, though.
Impossible to keep up with all the promotions; you can’t be everywhere at all times. But there were some standout in-booth events/promotions that caught my eye (as well as many of the attendees):
Keen Shoes of Portland: taking photos of people and pinning them to a large bulletin board where they answered the question: where would you like to travel in your Hybrid Life (promoting their hybrid life shoes)? My answer? Jamaica. After collecting names and handing out buttons for three days, Keen gave away $1500 to someone to help them make that trip. No, I didn’t win! During the same time period they gave away the grand prize, Keen also sold a couple of styles of their sandals for $35 (about half price) with all proceeds going to a fund-raiser.
GoPro sport camera did a rather loud promotion several times throughout the show, which I stumbled across twice. The founder of the company (don’t think he mentioned his name!) is a natural promoter, getting his crowds to shout out the product name several times. Of course, handing out a couple of dozen GoPro cameras over the course of a few days doesn’t hurt, either!
Aquapac had several great nature photos on display and ended up giving a handful away on Thursday afternoon before the big run-up to the grand prize of a Baja Mexico whale-watching trip.
Booth size and layout
Not having been to Outdoor Retail before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But after walking the floor for an hour, the most obvious thing is that large companies here like LARGE booths, enclosed walls on 3 or 4 sides, second stories and lots of display space. A 100′ x 60′ was not uncommon.
Green exhibit construction was also at the forefront, with graphics printed or mounted on cardboard; recovered wood used as booth walls (from barns or old houses); cardboard tubes, and even booths cobbled together from wire fencing, bike frames, small trees – you name it, this show has it. I came away with a strong impression that most of the companies involved are very aware of the impact on the environment of their booth-building choices.
Dogs and Kids
Yes, ORSM09 is a dog and kid-friendly show. Lots of dogs and lots of friends. Even ran across a post from @theclimbergirl as she highlighted the ‘Dog of the Day.’
Tradeshows are dressed up in flashy graphics, entertaining interactivity and endless hype.
But the real reason you’re there is to SELL. So how are your tradeshow sales skills? Are you asking the right questions? Are you qualifying and disqualifying visitors with ease?
Since selling is generally not a one-step process, do you have the logical steps laid out for company reps? The steps might look like this: engage, qualify, assess interest (cool, warm, hot), gather contact information, agree upon the next step and when that will take place, turn the lead over the sales person.
The steps are flexible depending on your type of service or product. But you’re generally building a relationship to the point where the prospect likes and trusts you and values your product enough to make a commitment to buy.
Tradeshows offer a lot of distractions to visitors and staffers, but by focusing on the end goal – the SALE – you’ll come away with better results.
Let’s say you sell a product that has a long sales cycle of several years. How do you keep on those company’s radar screens so that when they are ready to buy, they think of you?
Trade shows happen to be an excellent and low-stress way to stay in touch. Let’s say Prospect Company A is exhibiting at seven shows in the next year. If you can get to two of them and greet the principals you’ll be making face-to-face contact on average every six months. This gives you an inside track on other sales folks pitching them with a similar product. And the good thing about trade shows is that you have several dozen (if not a hundred or more) potential clients at the same show.
Company managers, CEO’s and movers and shakers will attend the bigger ‘expo’ type shows, so that’s a good place to introduce yourself. Come up with an objective for meeting them – even if it’s as simple as “Hey, I was attending the show because I wanted to meet some potential clients.”
Don’t try and pitch them at the show, but do try and ask a few questions to get a feel for their interest and needs for your particular product.
Follow up with a thank you card within a few days, clip an article of interest a month or two later and before you know it you’ll be on a first name basis with your prospect.
A tradeshow is a unique selling environment. One where you can talk with literally hundreds of prospects over a few days – all one-to-one.
So what does it take to get the most out your personal interaction with booth visitors?
Keep these few tips in mind:
The visitor may or may not be ready to buy. Treat them as if they are on the verge of getting out their checkbook. Be personable and engaging and make sure you’ve answered all of their questions. They may not buy for a month or a year or more, but if they leave your booth feeling good about you chances are good they’ll be more willing to write a check in the future.
A visitor will probably only stop at your booth once during the show. Unless you have something they REALLY want, one stop is plenty for them. Don’t assume they’ll come back. So when they do stop, fully engage for the time they’re granting you.
If you’re tired, try not to show it. Yeah, we know you’ve been on your feet all day. But if you act bored and tired, your visitor will probably just keep going. Make a sincere effort to find out what’s important to your visitor. It may mean having a little fun at your own expense (making a joke about that yawn you just let out) so they see that while you’re tired, they really are important to you!
Perhaps no term is more hyped and less understood in the exhibit industry than “Hybrid.” System manufacturers and custom builders are describing their latest and greatest designs as portable hybrids, modular, hybrids, even custom hybrids. Why the emphasis on this term? The answer is simple: value. More than ever, exhibitors are demanding displays that do everything – assemble quickly, look custom, ship light, and reconfigure. Just a few years ago that was impossible, but not now.
If you’ve spent any time walking a trade show recently, you’ve noticed the profusion of aluminum and tension fabric graphics. In a nutshell, those are the building blocks of hybrid displays. Aluminum is attractive, structural, and lightweight. Tension fabric is vibrant, durable, and cost-effective. Together they serve as the creative backbone for displays priced from $4,000 to $250,000.
But what makes them hybrids? Putting them in context with traditional displays will make the explanation clearer. For the past 30 years, the world of portable or modular displays has been dominated by pop ups, panel displays, and modular laminate exhibits. These are “systems” with defined configurations, components, and accessories. Custom exhibits, on the other hand, have offered endless design possibilities since they were built primarily from wood.
Hybrids merge those two worlds and are less systems than concepts. Hybrids start with aluminum extrusion (such as Octonorm or MODUL) and tension fabric. Beyond that, the design can be anything and can include anything. There are portable hybrids consisting of an aluminum extrusion frame and tension fabric graphics, which pack in roto-molded wheeled cases. There are modular hybrids which add modular laminate components and pack in roto-molded tubs or small crates. And there are custom hybrids which combine extrusion with just about anything else – metal, wood, plex, glass, and sometimes even portable or modular systems. As with all custom exhibits, it comes down to whatever fulfills the design and marketing requirements for the client.
Hybrids may not be the ideal for solution for everyone. For many exhibitors, a basic pop up or full custom makes more sense for their exhibit marketing goals. However, hybrid exhibits are here to stay until there is a replacement the versatility of aluminum extrusions and the bold impact of tension fabric graphics.
Yup, I love marketing. And tradeshows. And loud rock ‘n’ roll. And I take inspiration from rock ‘n’ roll (and all sorts of other music – reggae, new age, grunge, punk, thrash, jazz, folk, etc…) so I thought it about high time to post a list of tradeshow marketing inspirations from my rock ‘n’ roll catalog.
Let’s see if you can find some of the same guidance by cranking up these tunes:
“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. If you don’t market properly who the heck is going to show up at your booth? You don’t want to be standing in the booth humming this song while your competitors are cleaning up.
“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” by The Beatles. Transparency is one of the major currencies available for companies today. This means blogging about your company, answering all questions honestly, and not trying to hide things. It may have worked to cover up a flaw in your product 20 years ago, but in today’s connected world you’re better off dealing with it.
“Heart Full of Soul” by the Yardbirds. When greeting people at your tradeshow booth give a genuine smile, a warm handshake and offer an engaging question. Your ‘heart full of soul’ will come through loud and clear and make you an attractive company to do business with.
“Treat Me Right” by Elvis. Do you treat your visitors right?
“Wanna be Startin’ Something” by Michael Jackson. Okay, technically it’s more pop and dance music than rock, but if it’s loud it sounds great. And your potential business partners appreciate the attitude of this song. If you wanna be startin’ something with a new client show them your willingness to step up to the plate. Warmly greeting people at a tradeshow booth shows that willingness.
“I’m Free” by The Who. What a great way to entice visitors to your booth – by offering something of value for free. If it’s the right giveaway it introduces your company to visitors and invites them to stay in contact with you with the possibility of doing business in the future.
“Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Yes, you’re in a far-away big city. Yes you can stay out late and party. But the bottom line at a tradeshow is: you’re there to take care of business. Do the business first and then save time for fun.
“Rock Steady” by Bad Company. By exhibiting at the important shows year after year you’ll establish your presence and grow a business that people will love and respect. So keep rockin’ steady.
“It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. While everyone else is cutting back on marketing budgets, trimming personnel and cutting corners, they’re leaving a lot of money on the table. A savvy marketer can use the opportunity of a recession to grab a wee bit more market share. When the recovery comes, and it will, you’ll be in a better position to become a market leader.
“Got My Mind Set On You” by George Harrison. Nothing like persistence to get what you want. This cover tune by George Harrison hit Number One in January of 1988 demonstrates that if you want it bad enough, you can get it. This applies to more than tradeshow marketing of course – but it’s a great way to approach your next tradeshow appearance. Just follow these lyrics:
Its gonna take time
A whole lot of precious time
Its gonna take patience and time, ummm
To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it,
To do it right child
Next time you’re planning your marketing strategy, sit back, crank up the tunes and let the inspiration flow. And of course, come up with a few of your own (add ’em to my list if you like!)
You’ve no doubt arrived at a tradeshow booth wanting to find out more about the product or service being offered. Maybe you even scouted them out or found them on a recommendation.
But when you arrive you find that the staff greets you with indifference. Or worse, you find yourself ignored, and not because the staff is busy with other customers but because they’re chatting with themselves.
What do you do? Turn and walk away? I’ve seen it happen.
It’s a missed sales opportunity that will likely not be regained. All because your booth staffers didn’t have the presence of mind or proper training to greet you.
When you arrive at the tradeshow with a well-trained staff, you communicate a subtle message to visitors and fellow exhibitors: We Came Prepared. We’re Ready for You. Bring It On.
It’s all part of your bottom line: a well-trained staff can increase both the quality and quantity of your take-home leads. Team meetings every day can keep your staff focused and on task. A well-trained staff will invite visitors in by smiling and asking pertinent qualifying questions. They’ll determine who’s a quality prospect and who’s not, and effectively move the prospects into the sales funnel and the non-prospects out of the booth.
By taking the time to train your staff in engaging and qualifying your visitors, you’re investing in a valuable resource. And that investment will reap dividends in the real world – your tradeshow marketing ROI.