Exhibit Well or Stay Home…Period.

Exhibit Well or Stay Home.

By Chris Wilson

I’m often asked what I mean by “Exhibit Well”.  In my opinion more than half of trade show exhibitors go to trade shows for the wrong reasons. If directly asked, their response predictably falls into three usual answers, 1) “To get leads”, 2) “Because all of my competition goes” and 3) “Because if we don’t go people think something is wrong”.

Granted, those are legitimate reasons for exhibiting but a company that gives generic excuses for exhibiting is usually guaranteeing generic results. The fact is exhibiting at a trade show is an expensive undertaking and should be part of a company’s strategic marketing plan. There are so many benefits from exhibiting “Well” at a show that simply settling for the generic is inexcusable.

Several years ago I was privileged to give a talk to the Medical Marketing Association about effective exhibiting at trade shows. One of the most requested elements I handed out was a list of 60 Good Reasons to Exhibit. Many in the audience were nodding their heads in agreement as I reviewed the list. In fact, I ended up handing out over 100 lists after the program. Individually, the 60 provides nothing earth shattering but having them grouped together on a single page seemed to drive the point home that setting fundamental goals for success is essential.

Once a company has developed specific goals as an exhibitor, the entire process can be designed to achieve the desired results. Those results can then be measured. For example, #6 on my list of 60 Good Reasons to Exhibit is “Build personal trust with buyers”. This is huge. Building trust is very important in establishing long term relationships with clients. If this is one of your essential exhibiting goals, specific display techniques can be designed and implemented to ensure the experience a client receives reflects the high level of care you give this subject. For example, the display space can be designed with comfortable lounge areas for more intimate discussions and relationship building. High-end refreshments might be served or perhaps an important client receives a VIP demonstration experience.

#33 on the list is; “Be compared against the competition”. This one is so obvious but also one that is constantly overlooked by many exhibitors caught up in the haze of just getting to the show. I would guess that most of us would not dare show up at a wedding wearing a pair of sweats…it’s not appropriate and our vanity wouldn’t hear of it. Yet, I see exhibitors standing on the show floor with a display that looks like it was built in their backyard when their competition is the industry leader. It doesn’t make sense…

Aside from having a set of exhibiting goals, one important thing to keep in mind is; if you are spending the money to exhibit at a show remember that you are there for the benefit of your clients and prospects. So many bad display decisions are made because companies loose sight of this fact and purchase exhibits simply based on a “pretty picture” or buy a structure that makes their own lives convenient but may not reflect their true brand. In fact, going to a show with this approach is dangerous and can severely damage your image.

[In the months ahead I’ll talk about “the myth of the pretty picture contest”; How to effectively choose a display marketing partner.]

I’ve seen companies with mediocre products have amazing success on the trade show floor because they knew how to exhibit effectively. I’ve also seen companies with superior products fall flat on their face because they missed their opportunity to stand out when compared directly against their competition. With all of the visual noise on the trade show floor it’s not always about the product that drives interest. At first it’s about image…do you have a presentation that says to your prospect: “We are the company that you should be doing business with?” If so, it unlocks the door for trade show success. If not, I honestly suggest you stay home and save some time, money and headaches and let your competition take the stage…Period.

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