This week’s newsletter contains my review of the good and bad of the 2017 IBS show exhibitors. I also cover the next steps you should take to get the most out of your investment in the show.
IBS 2017 Orland0 was well attended. There were a lot of builders on the show floor. And these builders were full of optimism and ready to do business—they weren’t just focused on finding a lower price.
The biggest problem I saw at this year’s show, however, was that most of the booths didn’t have a message that would be effective and compelling to a builder.
We can debate the order, but the three most important elements of an effective trade show booth are:
1. The name of your company
2. The product you’re selling
3. The problem your product solves for the builder or why you are a better choice for a builder.
These three elements need to be communicated simply and boldly from every side of your booth. Think if them as the headline to your exhibit.
You can see photos of the good and the bad from IBS here.
Most companies do a good job of letting everyone know who they are. But there were a few expensive exhibits on an island that only had their company name on the front side. You could see their booth from four sides, but unless you were looking at the front, you couldn’t see the name.
This is like buying four pages of ads in a magazine and leaving three of them blank!
I was also surprised by the number of exhibitors whose signs did not tell me what they are selling. With many of them, you could tell when you saw the products in their booths. But with others, you had no idea what they were selling. Don’t expect the builder to connect the dots. Make it easy for them by spelling out exactly what you make. Simple words like “windows,” “doors,” “HVAC,” and “air barriers” may seem unnecessary but they are very important.
The next problem was telling the builder why you are better or different or what problem you can solve. Too many companies left this important piece out of their booths.
I saw this with a lot of companies who sold products like windows. They would have a brand sign and show that they sell windows. Yet almost none of them had a message that set them apart from their competitors.
Most of them looked like just another window company.
Most companies didn’t do a very good job of maximizing the return on their big IBS show investments, all because of poor or non-existent messaging.
Several companies had drop dead beautifully designed booths with no messaging. It was like the designer decided that messages would detract from the beauty of their design.
There was also a beautifully designed booth that left builders confused about what they were selling. You may have thought they were selling suits or furniture. They used words like “Shabby Chic.” I have never met a builder who is looking for anything called “Shabby Chic,” and this company is trying to sell molding.
Why don’t they just let the builder know that they are selling molding that will help a builder be more successful? There were a lot of dots that the builder had to connect in that booth.
An unattractive booth with the right message beats a beautiful booth with no message or the wrong message.
I also saw companies wasting valuable space on messages that have no importance to the builder. The builder doesn’t care how long you’ve been in business. This may even be a negative since the most innovative companies tend to be the younger ones.
Builders also don’t care what your plant looks like. They have seen plenty of companies with large plants that have quality problems or poor customer service.
The next mistake I saw companies make was bringing displays that were designed for other shows. I saw booths, for example, that were designed for the roofing contractor and the commercial architect shows. When the builder sees these, he just assumes you have no idea what business he’s in.
These companies should at least update some of their copy and photos for the builder show.
The good ideas I saw were booths that made it easy for the builder to understand product they showcased. Companies did this with cutaway drawings, product demonstrations and booths made of framing.
I also saw a number of companies who had messaging that told the builder the “what” and “why” of their products. You can see photos of the good and bad exhibits here.
What Is the Next Step to Growing Your Builder Sales?
Most people think that following up on your leads from the IBS Show is the most important next step.
That’s the second step.
The next step is a show review with everyone who was involved. Most companies don’t take the time for this and continue to accept the same results each year.
Companies pay thousands of dollars to research firms to find out what builders think. You just did your own market research by attending the show, so now you should get the results of your research!
How to Manage a Trade Show Review
Get the IBS Show team together on a conference call, including anyone who attended the show or was involved in its planning.
• What was everyone’s opinion of the show?
• Did they feel it was well attended?
• How was the traffic on the show floor and in your booth?
• What did each person learn or observe?
• What questions were builders asking?
• What are builders looking for?
• What did builders think about your products?
• What did you learn from your competitors’ exhibits?
• Are there changes in your sales and marketing approach that you should make, based on what you learned at the show?
• If you decide to exhibit at IBS in the future, what can you do to improve your results?
• And finally, should you exhibit at IBS next year?
Make sure you listen to everyone, even the new kid or those you disagree with. This is where you will find the most valuable insights.
Of course, you also need to follow up on the leads from the show, but a serious review, done soon, will pay even bigger dividends.
Effective Show Follow-up
Follow these simple rules to turn show leads into sales:
1. Do what you say. Builders tell me how they ask for samples or literature to be sent to them and it never arrives. They ask for a rep to call on them and they never hear from one. If you can’t do what you say, how reliable a supplier will you be?
2. Don’t give up too soon. Many building materials companies send an email, leave a voice mail and mail a brochure. When they don’t hear back from the builder, they assume the builder is not interested.
In reality, builders will frequently take several months before they are ready to consider your product. Stay in touch with them through email and rep calls. Your patience will be rewarded with sales.