All animals, humans included, are creatures of habit. We learn how to survive or just get by, then follow those routines day after day. Breaking those ingrained habits can be tough, even when we recognize the benefits. Scientific studies have shown us that individuals rarely change without a supportive group either encouraging them or modeling alternate behavior.
Trade shows are no different. Exhibitors and attendees find their safe space and get comfortable: same shows, same people, same message.
Let’s examine some “comfortable “trade show habits that are undermining your ability to succeed. Fair warning. Some will be easy. Others much harder.
Your 12 Trade Show Bad Habits (in no particular order)
1. Goals: Once upon a time you were new to trade shows. You asked, “Why are we attending this show”? “What is the desired outcome?” “Who are our prospective clients and what is the best message to attract their attention?” Those questions still matter, even if no one is asking them.
2. Clothing: Are you still wearing that same polo with your corporate logo from 2014? It still looks OK, unless you’re standing next to Randy who was hired in March and has a new shirt. Trade show clothing is the exact opposite of your normal wardrobe. If it’s “really” comfortable, then it’s probably time to switch.
3. Day Three: Yes, it’s Day Three. Experience tells you that nothing happens on Day Three. Until it does. For many attendees, that’s the ideal day to walk the show floor. The crowds are thinner, and they see and hear the unfiltered stories. Often, it’s the BIG DEALS that get done during those last four hours.
4. Leads: On Day 1, you are studying each lead like a forensic scientist. Day 2, not so much. Day 3, Warren Buffett could have dropped his business card in the fish bowl and you wouldn’t know until next week. Reviewing leads notes each day turns cold leads into warm ones. The more notes the better for everyone.
5. Mixers: Every year, the show throws a gala where exhibitors, attendees, and presenters mingle. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people in a casual setting. A long time ago, you were the consummate sales professional, chatting with folks and working the room. Now… you gravitate to the people you know or hang with co-workers. The trade show doesn’t end at 4 pm each day.
6. Labor: We all have war stories about labor. Some are valid… and painful. But it doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Many exhibitors order labor from the general contractor. The form is in the packet which makes it convenient. Instead, consider an Exhibit-Appointed Contractor (EAC). They want to earn your business for years, not just that show. It’s a new habit worth keeping.
7. Graphics: The graphics were awesome at the last show. Same as the one before. And the one before that. Graphics, whether fabric or direct print, have a half-life, closer to a fruit fly than uranium. Graphics are the single most important visual in your booth, even more than the model you hired to demo your new gizmo. At least get them reprinted. At best have them redesigned.
8. Early Bird Submissions: SHIT! You missed the early bird submission date again. How does that keep happening? Perhaps you might want to set a reward for yourself (and your team)? Whatever money you save by completing those forms early will go towards a nice meal to celebrate your success at the trade show.
9. Booth Camping: You love your booth. It’s familiar and comfortable. Your co-workers are there. You see friendly customers. But when someone asks you what you saw at the show, you pause… because you never wandered around. You never saw your competition or discovered new vendors. A trade show is more than finding new customers. It’s about meeting new people, finding alternative suppliers, and upping your industry knowledge.
10. Pre-show Marketing: This one will be short and sweet. You know you should do it. You used to do it. What changed? Don’t make me lecture you about the importance of pre-show marketing.
11. Education: Think back to when you were an industry rookie. You were eager to learn. They couldn’t stop you from attending classes. Heck, you wanted to be the one teaching newbies about the industry you love. Time to reset your priorities. If nothing else, those classes are great places to meet new people (and potential customers).
12. Size: Year after year, you reserve the same size booth space at the same show. Doesn’t it make sense to evaluate it based on your sales, marketing focus, show effectiveness? Of course it does. That doesn’t mean going larger. Sometimes it means going smaller. The same analysis should be made about the shows you attend. Shows ebb and flow for a variety of reasons. Just like your business.
We all know habits die hard, both good and bad. As you head into 2018, vow to be a better trade show marketer. And unlike New Year’s resolutions, you shouldn’t have any problem keeping these. You’ll feel better, and your trade show marketing results will improve.
Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.