Shot Show or S*** Show?
This week marks the beginning of SHOT Show 2023. It will be a slower week for me I am afraid as almost every business I need to communicate with will be in Vegas dealing with thousands of potentially new clientele. The great thing about that is that it will create many busy weeks for me after the fact.
Since you all are heading to SHOT right now or perhaps have been there for several days already setting up, here are some thoughts as you head out. If you are not heading to Vegas this week but are staying in the home office planning out this year's conference/expo schedule, this may hold some valuable insight for you as well.
The only thing worse than being taken advantage of is not being taken advantage of. Think about that for a moment...when someone takes advantage of you, it is not always a negative.Have you ever been at a friends house and had them say “Hey, while you are here, I would like for you to help me because you are stronger than I am...”. How about a client that says, “While you are here, I would like to ask for your expertise...”
See? It makes us feel good when someone takes advantage of us in a good way; it validates our existence, our expertise, our strengths and our knowledge.
Now, to apply that to a trade show, we have to think like the show.
Why would you come to me and NOT ask for my expertise? Why would you be near me and
never read anything I wrote or ignore events I was hosting for you and your industry?Why
would you come to me and not take advantage of the networking capabilities I have built in to
my very existence?
A year or so ago I had the opportunity to watch different companies and how they used the trade show experience.
One company planned for months in advance.Before the advertising for the show even began, the company began to call clients and make arrangements for joint ventures, meetings, networking events and shared booth spaces.The company had the best show ever. Meetings went well, new dealerships were signed, new contacts were made, plans were formulated for the next year and sales were almost staggering.
One company planned last minute and sent staff that knew very little of the industry or the show. They set-up the booth on time, manned the booth during show hours and retired to their hotels at the end of every day.They met few new people, never attended any available classes (so they kept their knowledge limited), started no new relationships to work on and sales trickled into the booth.
The third company did the minimal. Maybe less. The booth was manned by an employee
more concerned with updating his FaceBook status than in meeting new people. No networking events were attended, no classes.
The booth was a reflection of the company’s complete lack of knowledge of the industry and so collected no traffic. By the second day, the booth staff complained about the high cost of the show and on the third day, their booth was not even manned 50% of the time the exhibit floor was open.
How do YOU take advantage of a show and all it has to offer?
Do you use the show as an opportunity to train new sales people? This is easy to do by simply paying for an “all access” pass which will allow those employees to attend classes that directly relate to that industry and its current trends! Look at every show like an affordable University that you HAVE to attend in order to get a degree in industry success!
Do you take advantage of networking events?Sure, these events sometimes turn into parties, but have you attempted to place yourself in the midst of the folks that make up this industry you are investing in? Here at EG Weiss & Associates, we know the value of meetings that begin at cafes, by outdoor ashtrays and at networking events. Being a “clock-watcher” at a show will only insure that you never meet anyone and will never build any new relationships.
Think about volunteering a day before the show to help set up the show itself.If you want to get to know the industry professionals that DRIVE the industry, you will find that an extra day of helping out can build the biggest relationships your company may ever have.
Try to coordinate where you are staying with clients or contacts.At the last few shows, we have put in more hours in the lobby of the hotel than we did at the show and the meetings were more productive!
Arrange for unique meetings. Research local cuisine or interesting local stops and then invite that “target client” to join you. I was recently introduced to Brazilian dining by a client and have often become a “tour guide” for potential clients.
Share rides. Uber has become a great way for me to meet new people at a show; just offer to
share your ride with them (use UberX). We have two new clients we met on Uber rides and it cost me no extra.
Don’t ignore the booth. Make sure your booth shows you understand what the show is REALLY about. The attendee can tell the difference between your “standard set-up” and the booth you put thought into. There is never a reason to abandon branding just because you are customizing your booth.If your branding does not allow for you to fit the show, you are at the wrong show or need new branding anyway.
Understand the show. Is this a selling show? Do people come to this show primarily for education? What percentage of attendees are actually decision makers?
Do people attend this show with cash in hand? Is this an instructor’s show? Do you need to have an educational booth? Is this a learning show? Do you need to have a hands- on experience available? Is this a dealer show? Make sure you have a target list of other vendors you are going to see.
Oh, and about that... don’t target other vendors if you have not at least been to their site and done your homework. How are they set up? Are they a corporation or individually owned? What is their mission? How long have they been around? What have their sales been like? What other markets are they in? Remember, all the vendors have a purpose for being there.
Coming unprepared will only make you an irritant and waste of their time.
Lastly, pick your booth staff carefully. This can only be done by knowing your audience. Some industries require the soft-spoken employee while other industries can be gruff and cold or harsh. Ask yourself this question: are the people I am sending to this show going to ATTRACT the attendees and fit well within their world?
Take advantage of the show. The more vendors that take advantage of a show and all it has to offer the better the show becomes. Shows are expensive, so once you have pulled the trigger on the initial investment, its time to start really planning to take advantage of the show. Any company can have a booth, it takes a smart marketing executive to take advantage of the show.
Here’s a great statement from Inc. Magazine:
“Be on the offense, not the defense.Some companies who think of trade shows as an expense attend to defend their turf from new competition. Others see trade shows as investments: Those are the companies that end up building real relationships on the floor.
‘Don't just buy space and expect miracles because that's like Russian roulette,’ says trade show coach Susan Friedmann.
‘Maybe you win, maybe you won't. It's an expensive exercise just to find out it doesn't work.’ In order to make your trade show experience an investment, set measurable objectives before the event and stick to them.”
Remember when trying to see a return on your show investment that first impressions are
everything and you only get one chance to make one.According to scientists, our first opinion
of someone forms in only one tenth of a second.At a recent show,we had the opportunity to
make over 2500 first impressions per day.This week I will get to make 1400 in less than three
hours.That’s a lot of responsibility and deserves some thought.
Be the full parking lot. Design your booth and the experience AT and IN your booth in such a
manner that you attract a crowd. We have a client that has been doing this VERY successfully with great videos. Nobody is attracted to the restaurant with the empty parking lot.
On this same note, if you have a myriad of products, the temptation is to "show off" and bring it all. This accomplishes very little as it leaves little room in the booth and is more distracting to the attendee. Simplify your booth with your best products and help your booth visitors focus so you can close the deal.
Support any dealers you have at the show. Remember, many dealers carry multiple products not just yours, so how have you made sure that they are pushing YOURS while at the show? Their booth cost them as least what yours did... make their investment not only count, but make it profitable for you. A dealer at the same show is literally extra booth space YOU did not pay for!
Lastly, learn first. Too many companies set up at a show for the first time and then never return because they are not successful at the first show.Remember that you are introducing yourself to that market and to those attendees.Over the course of two to three years,
attendees at a a conference begin to trust the companies that have “been there” for a while, repeatedly at the show.We find that it takes two to three years before a company starts to gain that notoriety and trust as being a PART of the industry.
Before you sell...learn. Talk to other vendors, talk to show staff. Ask questions, look at other booths, attend classes, ask questions, but mostly listen.
Someone told me once that a trade show is a non-stop series of new beginnings.Ask yourself:
What are we starting?