Thursday, June 25, 2015

Making Trade Shows Pay

I very much like this report by an Australian company for its observations from its research, which tracks my experience and research....
 B2B sales are all about strong relationships, which are only built offline. 
Everyone has experienced the feeling of having made great progress while at the event, however a month later nothing has resulted from the show and most contacts have been forgotten.
Trade Shows are incredibly expensive once the “hidden” costs are factored in, particularly staff time.
... most businesses did not use effective marketing around the show to build long term relationships with potential clients. Instead, those who followed up relied on the old ‘spray and pray’ - scan cards and start sending sales EDMs.
The changes in just 2 years were dramatic. The giant stands with expensive fitouts and lots of free stuff were gone. Also noticeably absent were tacky promotional women (see below).
Passers by are a diverse group: Exhibitors; students; people selling to you; competitors; show organisers; collectors of free food, booze and promotional items; etc.
Maybe 10% are prospects - you need to focus your expensive and scarce time on them.
And have something valuable to send out - remember they don’t need another brochure! 
My replies to these are, yes, customers are made in person, not online.  Trade shows are exciting and fun and they give the felling of great success, but it is very easy to come home empty handed and stay that way.  You have to be disciplined about the show. You must create customers before you ever go to the show.  trade shows are expensive if you do all the pointless stuff those who do not show up again do.  Otherwise, they can be quite economical, if you stick to what is necessary and sufficient.  I think I am one of the rare people who knows what that it at a trade show. Those passers-by need ot be worked and qualified, if they did not come to buy from you, get rid of them.  "I came here to sell wine, why are you here?" This can be done nicely, but it should not take you more than ten seconds to be selling or have gotten rid of the lookie-lou. Right, you hand everyone your LCL MOQ FOB, the most valuable thing you have to offer.  It is the only thing a buyer wants form you anyway.
Relationships start with good conversations and these start with good questions. Trade shows should be about researching and connecting – Converse first, Convert later. 
I am not so sure I like the degree to which the report recommends using LinkedIn to mediate your customer acquisition, viewing LinkedIn as a lead generator.  We do not want leads, we want the name of the decision maker at a given company that needs to be buying from us, so we may approach that person directly by name for a sale.  That is a big difference.  One of my past participants and created an quick video of an excellent use of LinkedIn.

One section to highlight in the report is something frankly I had not thought of...  ask what they know about you...  the reason I had not thought about it is because we are new and not afraid for prospects to know it, we cite its advantages.  But there is something to be said for the intriguing implication they should know about us.  Anyway, I'll be reflecting on these questions:
And now, to ask them about your business...
● What do you know about our company and the markets we serve?
● Do you currently use services like ours? Do you think it’s likely you will in future? What’s blocking companies like yours from using [our services]?
● What’s do you see as the downside to [our services]?
● What’s a positive of [our services]?
● Who in your company is best to speak to about how we might work together? 
Not enough booth-sharing going on, and I much agree with both of these conclusions.
(1) Complementary companies: a big example is mega stands such as In 2013 there were at least six companies who were ‘partners’, each of which added a variety of value and tools to their powerful CRM offering. Essentially they were complementary companies who have Salesforce’s customers before or after they do.
This strategy is a powerful one for all exhibitors, particularly in the rapidly changing ICT world. Also, for SMEs, it is a great way to get a larger, more impactful booth on a limited budget. Plus it ensures your booth is better manned throughout the show which is often a challenge for smaller companies and startups.
(2) Companies from a particular country or region, which group together to keep the cost affordable. These are often sponsored by governments such as Germany, India and regions in China.
We believe this strategy is less effective at major shows when the exhibitors are grouped together by what service they provide. So having a diverse range of unrelated suppliers in one location makes you harder to find and the overall stand perhaps confusing. 
Now, is cited as having a shared booth, but it is even more important for small biz to be sharing booths.  As an aside, the report excoriates in other ways.  I like the criticism of, a company that is a pure mal-credit grown false economy wonder.  I expect that to take a massive hit in the next downturn.

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