“Just because ‘everybody else goes for a wide open stand’, doesn’t mean it is the best way of operating or the most efficient use of resources”
“……and we need a wide open welcoming stand – no barriers – everyone needs to be able to see what we’ve got and come in to talk to us.”
How many times have I heard that observation about the way a stand should look at a Business to Business exhibition or tradeshow. But in all my years experience in the exhibition business leads me to the conclusion that this is the worst possible approach to securing the right kind of leads in this environment.
“But everybody else goes for a wide open stand…”
and “we’ve always done it that way”
but it doesn’t mean it’s right. Or the best way of operating. Or the most efficient use of your resources – space, money, people and time.
If you would consider for a moment – as I did many years ago – what happens to us when we visit that other subliminal trade show – the theme park. Consider Alton Towers – or Disney World – or any of the attractions in Las Vegas. When you think about it, the experience which we enjoy is very well and carefully controlled by those who own the attractions. And this is where B2C marketing, retail, shopping malls and consumer events can inform B2B marketing. After all what do we do when we visit a theme park? We are attracted to a particular ride or experience – and then we are controlled. Attraction and control. We queue up, sometimes for as much as 45 minutes or an hour and we then go “on the ride”. We experience sensations which are generally pleasing or challenging or thrilling. And then when we emerge from this event we curiously find ourselves near the gift shop. So if for example we’ve enjoyed the visit to Merlin’s Magic Kingdom in the catacombs under Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, we’ve had our dinner, we’ve been entertained by the magician, we’ve then been escorted out into atrium to where the large illusions are taking place, where does our exit lie? The gift shop. Where we can buy souvenir goblets, tricks, books etc.
The same principles apply to B2B exhibitions. Attraction and control.
There are many ways in which we are attracted to an event, an experience, a stall or an exhibition stand. On the one hand you see an interesting exciting, dramatic occurrence taking place on a stand but you can’t get in because there are barriers – rope and post perhaps – or plants – unless you register at the reception desk. At the other end of the scale there is the entirely enclosed space. And let’s face it, if we see a black box in the middle of a table we want to know what’s inside it; if we see people queuing to get into a club with closed doors and “commissionaires” outside our curiosity is once again pricked. We are dying to know what’s going on inside and in my experience between these two approaches will lie an appropriate degree of attraction to your stand at your next exhibition. This is especially enhanced if a pre show invitation process has taken place aimed at those key visitors – the VIPs – who you want to make a special fuss of. So by cordoning off your stand, even going to the extent of creating an entirely enclosed area around it (or within in) you will generate an enormous degree of attraction.
Unfortunately, today at trade shows it is more and more necessary to qualify visitors before you let them into your space. When ever I do an in-house workshop or masterclass we brainstorm the list of people that our clients DON’T want on their stand. And the list is growing. There are the obvious “no nos” your competitors, very often students, retired colleagues, job seekers, your own suppliers, and vendors who want to supply you, existing customers with a problem (!) and maybe even existing customers themselves if your strategy is to attract mainly new prospects. A cordoned off or closed stand gives you the opportunity to approach prospects and qualify them and at the same time restrict people who seem to be making a beeline to your stand but who frankly have no right to be on it.
This degree of control has a seriously beneficial impact on your results – mainly because you will end up spending far more of your time talking to the right people and far less of your time with time wasters. Obviously the scripting for your front of house team – or hired professionals – needs to be spot on. You don’t want to leave a bad impression of your brand but you need to formulate a target strategy, which enables you to see who you want to when you want to.
The entire journey
The best and most effective stands have always involved a journey. Prospects are escorted or directed or attracted around the on-stand experience in a way which delivers your credentials, your products, your services, and what you want to do then as a result of this visit – but all on a pre considered route. You must remember that, ultimately the destination is your data capture point where you can agree what the next steps should be in your relationship.
It’s interesting to note that at a show in Bangkok – the Thailand International Furniture Fair a few years ago – 90% of the stands were totally contained in “black boxes” and whilst there was a degree of attraction there was also a substantial element of control. Why? It’s a well known fact of life that on the first day of an exhibition in the Far East, oriental manufacturers attempt to discover the latest styles of product, photograph them, and within a very short space of time have copied them and are exhibiting just across the aisle. Thank goodness that’s not happening here yet. Or is it?
I am certain that in the near future your contractors will be faced with the challenge of creating an exciting, attractive and yet discrete space without contravening the organisers rules. This can always be done – but at the end of the day the principles must be attract – and then control.
Give us a call if you would like us to help you put these principles into practice. We can even provide the staff to do it for you!