Sure, we’d all like to make big changes. Swoop in, push all the old stuff aside, and institute something NEW and DASHING and DAZZLING and TERRIFIC, something that impresses the hell out of customers, the media, and especially your boss. Because if your boss is impressed, he’ll remember you and you might be in line for a promotion, which means a raise and so on and so forth.
Sounds great! Except that making big changes, making that one BIG CHANGE that gets all of that attention, isn’t easy. You have to start from scratch, tear everything down and do something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. And if you change everything, you’d better have a damn good reason. First off, it’ll cost more. Probably a lot more. It has to be a big bold idea. How many of those have you had lately? And you have to get buy-in from the right people, and especially the people who control the purse strings.
There’s a better way, and it doesn’t cost as much. It doesn’t require big bold ideas. It doesn’t change everyone’s job that’s involved in the initiative.
Make improvements at the edges. Opportunity lies in the margins. Find a way to bring ten percent more visitors to your booth. Generate another five or ten percent leads by adding a small interactive element to your booth. Move your booth space closer to the main entrance of a big show once you’ve accumulated enough points and time in the show to warrant it. Take a survey of half of your visitors to uncover what they really think of your new products or services, adding just a little new information to your product development.
There are a lot of little things you can do on the margins to make a notable improvement that doesn’t cost a lot, take much time, or strain the system (and your brain). Yet little changes can still have a strong positive impact on the bottom line.
We don’t know when tradeshows will return, or what “normal” tradeshow schedules will look like.
We don’t know how many attendees will plan on going because we don’t know how they feel about mixing with thousands of other attendees.
We don’t know how many fellow exhibitors will decide to spend the money to exhibit at the show because they don’t know how many people will actually show up. No doubt some will decide to go; others will hold off for another year.
It’s the uncertainty of it all that is probably the hardest. Not knowing. Like restaurants now knowing when they can finally have full capacity. Like sports leagues not knowing when they can invite a full contingent of fans. Like schools across the country having all students back, knowing that they’ll be safe.
Until then, we’re all stuck in the long slog.
A really freakin’ long slog.
S. L. O. G.
What to do in the meantime, especially if a lot of your job or monthly planning includes tradeshows, events and conference?
Find something else to focus on. Marketing is marketing, and in a recent post, I mentioned a number of ways to market. But what else can you do besides marketing?
I suppose you could try and come up with a viral video or promotion, but chances are the more you actually try to make something viral, the more forced it feels and the less likely it’ll happen.
Maybe you can write more blog posts, or read about what other businesses, both competitors and those that are in different industries, are doing. Learn from them, try new things.
Obviously, every person and every company are dealing with the long slog in a different way. But business still has to come in. Marketers still have to market. Salespeople still have to sell.
Let’s go back to learning. What can you learn that will help you in your current position?
Perhaps one of the first things is to gain some perspective and realize that everyone is in the same long slog. Next: realize that, yes, one day you will get back to normal, and so will everyone else.
Then, determine what you can do RIGHT NOW. What skills do you have that can be used, either inside or outside your company, that can be applied to the current situation. Is there any way you can help others find their way through the morass? Maybe, maybe not.
Mark Schaefer, in his short free ebook The Pandemic Business Strategy Playbook, writes, “the long-term relevance of the brand is more important than short-term sales.” He references several big brands that have put their marketing on hold or shifted to finding ways they can help not by doing ads, but by doing things: offering free food to volunteers and first responders, making donations to hospitals or homeless shelters. In other words, taking action.
In fact, taking action that benefits others, no matter how small or large, is probably one of the best things you can do.
For example, I think many of us have a tendency – I know I do – to walk past the dozens of homeless people I see on the streets in my city every day and try and pretend we don’t see them. They’re standing with hand-written cardboard signs at stoplights, or camped in groups under overpasses, or shuffling aimless down the street. It’s easy to keep walking and ignore them and not even think of them as humans. But when you do take a few moments and offer a few dollars and a smile, it counts. Certainly, to them, and hopefully to you.
The COVID-19 Pandemic will permanently change the world. We don’t know how all those changes will affect us, or what the changes will be. Finding a way to be open to helping people through the long slog is one of the most important things we can do to get through it. And we will get through.
Are you guilty of any of these? Don’t feel bad. We’re only human, but if we know ahead of time what things to know, what to avoid and how to prepare, we can have a much better and more successful tradeshow exhibiting experience.
With tradeshow marketing on the sidelines, now is as good a time as any to brush up on your tradeshow marketing skill and knowledge. And here’s a great place to find a whole lot of tradeshow marketing tips – all in one place, and all worth their weight in gold. Check out this short under-three-minute video:
What kind of question is that, anyway? How personal is your tradeshow exhibit? An exhibit should be the best representation of a brand, which is aimed at a broad market. Isn’t that correct? If that’s the case, it has to have the right graphics with the right messaging. Any images should be chosen to reflect the best your product and brand have to offer. And if all that is true – and I suppose it is – how can your exhibit be personal?
Selling is Personal
Except…selling today is personal. People want to know that you care about them. The challenge is that people don’t really care about your product or service. When it comes to your products, they care about themselves, and themselves only. How do your products or services affect them – personally? The messaging should relate to what they’re going through. As we slowly move back to the tradeshow world with exhibits and face-to-face meetings and larger gatherings, every person is going to have a slightly – or perhaps significantly – different perception of what they need or want. And they’ll have some level of anxiety or distress or challenge in moving forward.
So how do you help them…now? How does your product or service help them…now? What do they need…now?
Your challenge isn’t that you don’t know how to present your products or services. No, your challenge is that you need to understand what’s going on in the mind of your customers and prospects. And the only way to learn that is to ask. In a sense, your tradeshow exhibit should be an invitation to join them. An invitation to walk into their space. Make them feel safe and wanted. There are a million ways to do that. I’m do designer, but I do know how I feel when I walk into a space that welcomes me. With people around that want to see me, and not just to sell me something, but to understand where I’m coming from. And frankly, that’s kind of rare. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee, or a warm smile. Maybe it’s an image that they can relate to that doesn’t look like it’s been chosen out of a stock photo library. Or if it has, it resonates with them.
What makes people buy?
When they finally get to a place where they feel understood. Where they feel you “get” them. Where they feel comfortable and wanted. It’s a bit like belonging to a tribe, but it’s more than that. And less.
It’s personal. What is it your customer wants?
Be creative in how you interact with people. Be creative in how you uncover what’s important to your clients. Learn from them. Then design your next tradeshow exhibit based on what you learned.