You want to exhibit successfully! You need the processes, principles and tools that work anywhere, anytime.
Tradeshows, conferences, congresses – what is the common factor? People.
People from different cultures, with different priorities, different buying habits, different ways of engaging and different motivations. But still people and wherever in the world I travel, the same challenge is evident. Saying “Hello”.
Working with exhibitors for over 40 years has shown me – with the possible exception of the USA – how difficult it is for somebody to say “Hello” to somebody they’ve never met before, even if the fundamental principle of a tradeshow, conference or congress is to bring innovative showcases to curious prospects. An invisible barrier still exists between exhibitor and visitor.
So, do the principles, processes and tools which we’ve been incorporating in our clients’ live marketing strategies, still work today? Everywhere?
Principle one: your sales reps are not a ‘one size fits all’ engine to generate appropriate leads. Today you need a well-designed engagement strategy. So, my first principle would always be to hire local, multi-lingual, professional ‘engagers’ to engage visitors.
They would be armed with opening questions and be responsible only for approaching, engaging, pre-qualifying and introducing appropriate prospects – feeding them into your stand.
Professionals – usually actors – can learn scripts, maintain high levels of energy and withstand rejection. The single biggest element in generating higher numbers of qualified prospects demands that professionals with knowledge of local culture and languages – perform this crucial role of connecting exhibitors to appropriate prospects.
We have access to over 2,500 of these professionals in 90 exhibiting cities all over the world.
Your sales reps are usually uncomfortable doing the engaging – they’d far rather be somewhere else.
And this principle can be applied universally, anywhere, any time.
Principle two: ‘privileged access’. Psychologically – and in practice – visitors are curious. If there are mystery elements built into the access point to your stand – they are far more likely to want to know “what’s going on in there?”. So, the second universal principle is: create curiosity – establish the concept that not everybody can get into your stand – only those visitors who you actually want to see.
This can be implemented quite simply by applying rope and post barriers around the perimeter of your stand. This directs visitors to one entrance point, a reception area, and only admits those visitors who have been pre-selected.
More intense curiosity can be stimulated by enclosing all, or part, of your stand – subject to organisers’ regulations. Acrylic walls, slats, louvres, curtains – we’ve used them all to create a sense of intrigue for passers-by.
The discrete nature of your stand, can in itself be an attractor. It’s part of your engagement strategy and it allows you to keep out undesirables… your competitors, your suppliers, students(?), vendors trying to sell to you and sometimes even your own management who are not brifed with your tradeshow strategy.
Here again we’ve applied this principle all over the world and it works.
Principle three: avoid giving out any literature – leaflets, brochures, price lists, catalogues. In today’s electronic age information can be efficiently transmitted on-line. Usually visitors who ask for a brochure or a leaflet are really looking for an exit visa and want to get off your stand.
And remember that about 90% of all literature collected at or taken to tradeshows and conferences ends up in the bin.
More importantly, if your brochure does get back to the prospect’s office, and your sales process involves a call to your potential new customer, they have every opportunity to say “it’s OK I have your brochure, I’ll call you if I need you”. This blows away that bridge from your booth to your new business.
What’s the alternative? Wherever we are in the world and wherever visitors traditionally ask for brochures, our response is “you have plenty to carry already – let us have your details and we’ll send you the right information later”. This phrase flushes out those visitors who are serious from those who are simply collecting literature. And … we are saving the planet.
To counter requests for brochures, we strongly recommend Outcomes, a prospect feedback and lead follow up system, which gathers market intelligence, visitor data, and everything you need to make sense of a true prospect. The system also sends out a lead follow up email instantly from the show itself. This transforms your transaction. Instead of giving away an expensive brochure, you are gaining valuable data from serious prospects.
And does it all work? We recently applied these three principles to a new Japanese healthcare client, exhibiting in Spain. We supplied a professional engager, applied privileged access and offered no literature.
The client generated many more leads than they had done in the past – but conducted a far higher quality of conversation with real prospects on the booth itself.