I think the goals of a trade show should be first to gain new customers and second to keep current customers from switching to a competitor.
Building materials companies spend a lot of money on trade shows and even if they are happy with the number of new customers they get, I know they can get even more.
After all, the prep time and costs associated with these trade shows are fairly significant. Why not boost your return on the investment?
You Don’t Want To Be One of These Guys
You Need To Understand The Trade Show Attendee
First, it helps to walk in the shoes of the architects, builders, and contractors at attending the trade shows. Understand their reason for being there, and you’ll be one step closer to knowing how to draw them to your booth.
The first thing you have to do is realize what you are up against. Your biggest challenge is that your exhibit is a low priority for most show attendees.
I have interviewed quite a few trade show attendees, the answer became clear: they attend trade shows to learn how to be more successful and to find solutions to problems. To achieve this, they have to prioritize and carefully manage their time.
- Their idea of where to find solutions? Classes for new and relevant information, followed by the opportunity to network and learn from other attendees. Their first priority is not the show floor and your booth.
What does that mean for you? The show floor booths are a low priority for them. When they finally get there, here’s what tends to happen:
- They will gravitate to the companies they already know and buy from—unless they have had a problem with one of those products.
- If they buy products like yours from a different company and have had zero problems with that manufacturer, they tend not to see a reason to spend time at your booth. Remember, they see themselves as being there to solve problems.
Here’s Why Their First Stop is Their Current Supplier
- If I walk into a store or a bank that I frequent, the people there know me and greet me like a long-lost cousin, right? That greeting is meant to make me feel special. It works. If I stop by the other company, I am not that important.
- This may be the only time I get to see my rep. I may even get to meet a senior executive who will tell me how much they appreciate my business. I may also get taken out to a nice dinner or invited to a party.
- I want to see what’s new and get some questions answered. I know the types of jobs coming down the road. I come equipped with a list of products I want to learn about for those jobs.
My Next Stop is Still Not You
The next thing I want to do is to work on my shopping list. Before the show, I developed a list of products I want to learn more about. For example, maybe I am interested in switching to tankless water heaters and I want to learn more about them. I have listed the leading manufacturers and I plan to stop by several of them.
Finally, I Have a Little Time Left to Explore and Maybe Stop by Your Booth
As you can see you are at the end of a long list. You need to put in an extra effort to increase the number of new customers you can get at a trade show.
- Give me a reason to stop at your booth. Too many booths have very lame messages like here’s our logo, the product name and some silly headline like “Built for Tomorrow” or “The Quality Brand.” These are easy to walk by. Who cares? Use your signage at the show to immediately communicate how your product solves a problem for a builder. Give me something strong like, “Why More Builders Use Our Products” or “Build it Faster.”
- Make everyone who stops by your booth feel special and important. Don’t just make your existing customers feel special.
- Demonstrate that you are a product expert. Teach them something about your category of products and not just your company. If you are in the lighting business, tell them about trends in lighting.
- Do your own preparation before you get to the trade show. Come prepared with a handful of potential targeted customers. Reach out to them personally before the show and encourage them to drop by your booth because you may have just the solution they will be looking for.
- Finally and most importantly, follow-up after the show. Be patient and stick with it as they may not be ready to buy for several months. Most companies give up too soon.
If you put yourselves in the shoes of your prospect at a show and follow these steps, you will gain more new customers from your investment in trade shows.
If you’d like to read more of my recommendations about trade shows, click here.
Contact me if you’d like to discuss how to grow your sales faster without spending more.
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