Lately, I’ve been researching websites of trade show displays and trade show distributors. What works, what doesn’t, what looks good and appealing, what looks good and appealing but doesn’t offer any fruit? Personally, I want to find information quickly, which is why I like Classic’s Exhibit Design Search.
I’m an online shopper. As many of you know, my house caught fire last fall which meant I had to replace a lot of stuff. I bought our new TV online, actually ordered it and spent $2400 after working with an online sales consultant. The entire transaction took about 30 minutes, largely because the website was informative and comprehensive and the consultant knowledgeable and professional. I knew if I had questions after the TV arrived that I could call the consultant, and he would gladly work with me. The online company made shopping and ordering easy. I have since recommended the company to friends.
Now, not all trade show websites are e-commerce sites. In fact, most are not.
Based on my research, I’ve discovered there are three basic categories:
1. It’s a website but not a deep website.
It really isn’t an online marketplace — rather it’s an online billboard where you can find some basic information about the company. Perhaps you’ll see a couple of exhibits built for their loyal customers. There is a “status quo” feeling to the website. Most trade show exhibit websites fit this description. The quality varies. Some are excellent with professional graphic design and intuitive navigation. Others have that “brother-in-law” look and feel. What’s important is that they have a web presence.
2. The online catalogs where price is the driving force.
Again the quality varies, as does the product assortment. Let’s not kid ourselves. Price matters, especially in a down economy. However, as Maslow describes it, “When your only tool is a hammer, then all your problems begin to look like nails.” There is nothing wrong with this approach. But exhibits are not nails and exhibit marketing requires more than just a hammer.
Are some exhibit products becoming commodities, such as banner stands and pop ups? Perhaps. However, there are tools you purchase at Barney’s Bargain Barn because you only need them to last 4-5 times and you don’t care that Barney doesn’t know much about tools, construction, or warranties. There are other tools that need to last years. Those tools are of a higher quality, and you purchase them at Fred’s Hardware. Fred makes sure you get the right tool and honors the warranty should it break. Trade show exhibits are no different. You get what you pay for.
3. The last website, which for lack of a better term, I’ll call the Business Relationship Websites.
These websites mirror my personal approach. The goal is to build a relationship with the customer to the point where they want to call and talk about solutions to problems or to find a method of reaching a goal. The person is willing to measure past results and change the path based on the results needed. They are generally interested in design and trade show marketing, and not simply products. This suits my taste. I want to talk to experts and this type of website seems to communicate that type of relationship.
This is like the car dealership who says, “We have a lot of different methods of transportation, from trucks to hot rods, from a used Vega to a new Cadillac, but after we sit down and decide what works best for you and your budget, we are going to be there to service you and take care of you long after the sale.”
What kind of website do you have? What websites do you purchase from and why?