Trade shows are a big expense for building materials companies, and shows that don’t deliver results will lose the support of exhibitors. Greenbuild, like the AIA show, is one of those shows that is headed toward fewer exhibitors.
I just attended the 2016 Greenbuild show in Los Angeles. For most companies, I would not recommend that they exhibit at Greenbuild, in the future.
The Good, the Bad, the Better and the Amazing of Greenbuild
Good for Attendees
The Greenbuild show is great for attendees as it provides a lot of opportunities for attendees to learn more about how to design and build better buildings. New materials and systems are being developed daily. Building codes are changing. Science continues to learn more about construction on a regular basis. These advancements are being made globally. Greenbuild provides an excellent forum for anyone wanting to stay at the forefront of Green construction.
Greenbuild is also a great networking event for professionals in the field of Green building.
Bad for Exhibitors
Empty Aisles Mean Empty Booths
There was plenty of time for exhibitors to play Pokèmon Go at Greenbuild. These people could be out making calls on real customers instead of sitting around with their cell phones. These companies can make better use of their marketing budgets than wasting it like this.
Some exhibitors thought they had an advantage by being located by the door of a show floor classroom. These exhibitors told me when the classes let out, the attendees rushed past their booth like they weren’t even there.
How Green is Greenbuild?
I saw a lot of printed literature in booths across the show hall. I thought the unnecessary use of paper was a green no-no! And how necessary is paper when the majority of it will be left in the trash can of the attendee’s hotel room?
The attendees at this show are seriously Green. They bleed Green. Some of them could be called Green Zealots. Handing out literature at Greenbuild, however, shows the attendees that you really aren’t Green.
But what about the Greenbuild show management? While they promoted use of the show app over attendees printing out show information, maybe they could have gone a step further. If they were really Green, shouldn’t they refuse to allow exhibitors to hand out literature at the show? Think of the potential and innovation in meeting that Green challenge!
Exhibitors Also at Fault
A common problem with building materials companies is that they take a “one size fits all” approach to trade shows. They don’t take the time to think about who the attendees are at each show and tailor their message for that show.
This frequently happens with smaller companies who have limited marketing budgets. But it can also happen with larger companies like Sierra Pacific and Marvin. Both of these companies are very good marketers but I couldn’t find a Green message anywhere. It was as if they brought their builder show booths to Greenbuild. Marvin was promoting very large windows. Green people see very large windows as being very large energy wasters. Sierra Pacific just said we make great windows that are very attractive. Where was the Green message?
It seems to me like someone added Greenbuild to their list of trade shows and the trade show manager just picked one of their booths.
Better Messages Make Better Exhibits
Here are three companies who took the time to tailor the message on their exhibits to a Green audience. And they didn’t create entire new exhibits; they did it with some simple signage. I also saw a number of small exhibits that had a message for the Green audience. I still feel there was not enough booth traffic, but at least these companies gave it their best effort.
Kohler Shows How It’s Done
As usual, Kohler had an impressive booth. What they really did right was the messaging. Every message on their booth was about their commitment to Green. It wouldn’t surprise me if they use this booth at other shows and simply change the signage to meet the needs of each show. Smart, very smart.
Kohler Misses a Detail
Kohler also had an impressive mobile showroom. The problem was that nowhere on the outside or the inside of the showroom of was there any mention of anything Green. The message they are unintentionally sending is, “We’re very Green, here at the show. We’re not very Green when we come to your city with our showroom.” Assa Abloy made the same mistake with a mobile showroom at a previous Greenbuild show.
Stanley Access Controls made their entire booth out of cardboard. How creative and how Green! They also stayed with a small ten-foot booth. If a company still feels that Greenbuild is an important show for them, they should use the smallest booth possible. There’s no need to impress anyone with a larger booth if there’s no one around to impress!
Stego Takes Green to a New Level
I was sitting in the food court area when a very fit woman who was pulling a very large cooler on wheels, sat at the table next to me. I wondered, “What is this all about?”
She proceeded to open the cooler and remove covered bowls of salad along with sliced chicken breast, apples and grapes. Then she set up three place settings with salads.
The next thing I know, three guys from the Stego booth show up. They all sat down and had a healthy salad for lunch. When they were done, she set up for three more guys who arrived a few minutes later.
My curiosity took me to the Stego Industries website and LinkedIn page. I found that they have a director of wellness, Leah Stephens.
Everyone in the Stego booth looked like triathletes. Imagine how much sales energy they must have! I wonder if they also take care of the health of their consultants? I could be Leah’s pet project:)
There are a lot of Green companies but this is the first one I have seen who extends their commitment to Green and sustainability to the health of their employees. Can you top that?
Greenbuild Exhibitor Next Steps
You may think following up on the leads from Greenbuild is your next step. You are wrong.
Your next step should be a review of the show with everyone who was involved. Most companies don’t review shows and continue to waste precious marketing dollars. Now is the time to decide if you should exhibit at Greenbuild in the future or if the money could be better spent on a more effective program. Now is the time to share what you learned in talking to all those architects and show attendees.
You would pay thousands of dollars to a research firm to find out what Green customers are thinking. You just did your own market research by exhibiting at Greenbuild. Now you should get the results of your research! You made an investment by participating in the show. This simple review gets you an additional return on your investment.
How to Review a Trade Show
Get your Greenbuild team on a conference call. This should include anyone who attended the show or was involved in its planning. This should also include your ad agency.
- 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 attendees asking?
- What are they looking for?
- What did attendees 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 Greenbuild, what can you do to improve your results? No matter how pleased you are with your exhibit and efforts, this is the time to ask, “What could we have done better?”
- Is this the right show for you? Would you get better results at a different show, such as CSI or Design Build?
- And finally, should you exhibit at Greenbuild next year?
Of course, you also need to follow up on your leads, but a serious debrief done soon after the event will pay even bigger dividends. Be sure to use multiple followups and be patient. Most companies give up after an email, a voicemail and a brochure mailing.
The Challenge for Greenbuild
If Greenbuild wants to keep exhibitors from abandoning the show, they need to make some changes. Moving classrooms to the show floor was a good idea but it hasn’t paid off. Using passport promotions won’t work either.
I thought more about the companies who value the Green market that weren’t there than the ones who were. Many of the ones who were there, told me they weren’t coming back.
The changes required are not that difficult; they just require a different strategy that reinforces the value and benefit of exhibiting at Greenbuild along with some exhibitor education. With some simple changes in the exhibitors’ displays and the show floor, booth traffic could also be increased to attract more exhibitors.
Looking to the Future
As I said, trade shows are a big expense for building materials companies. Shows that don’t deliver results will lose the support of exhibitors. At the same time, many exhibitors can be doing more to get a better return on the investment. Strategy, messaging, analysis are key points for all involved.
What exhibitors, attendees and Greenbuild management find in their trade show reviews will play into the future of this event. Let’s see what happens next year.
Thanks for the following comments. I’d like to hear your feedback and suggestions on how to sell architects.
Director of Marketing
TERM Barrier Systems