So that headline got your attention quickly! It was a shameless ploy to get you to read at least these first few sentences — and it obviously worked. The point is that just as you flipped through the pages of SDM or scanned the headlines on your favorite industry website, when you came across the headline above it had stopping power. Whether you’re a security dealer exhibiting at a home show, a systems integrator exhibiting at a vertical market show such as retail, or a manufacturer exhibiting at an industry show, your exhibit should do the same, while maintaining a level of decorum that reflects your company’s branding proposition and messaging.
And speaking of decorum, let me get this out of the way now: the employment of “show babes” seems to be a given at almost every industry trade show I’ve ever attended, but I assure you that the majority of interest they generate has little if any effect on real business activities. On the other hand, slapping a few products into a rack with nothing more than signage and company logos isn’t going to do the trick either. The fact is that trade show preparation needs to be a strategic marketing task that requires planning, creativity and a commitment to execution.
Size Doesn’t Matter
(Noted — this was shameless ploy No. 2). Before I joined Samsung, I worked with several smaller professional security companies that didn’t have the luxury (or budget) to imprint a massive footprint on any show floor. The key was to employ mechanisms that increased show floor visibility as best as possible within the constraints of the exhibit space, be it a 10 x 20 ft. booth or even a 10 x 10 ft. space. The trick is to make most effective use of your prime exposure areas to capture the attention of show attendees facing the highest traffic aisles. This includes the use of engaging headers and dynamic visual display materials. The quantity of information you display is a critical factor as well. The most common temptation is to cram as much info into an exhibit as possible, but the problem then becomes lack of focus — both visually and cognitively — which will cause people to walk right past your exhibit.
The key is to be focused. What is the one most important message you want potential customers to see or perceive when they first see your exhibit? Is it a corporate-themed message, a specific new product offering, a service? This is probably the first question you should ask of your peers and management the very first time you meet to discuss your exhibit. Focus on the one most important thing that you want to convey to show attendees. Once this is defined, it’s amazing how things will fall into place and creative ideas will start flowing on how to best communicate your message.
Before you look to identify your focal messaging point, it’s best to start by reaffirming your company’s core attributes with management:
1. Define the core performance and value advantages that your company and products and/or services deliver.
2. Define their key differentiators in terms of innovation, depth of offerings, and/or leadership position.
This may seem to be a simple exercise for management and marketing personnel all working together every day in the same company, but you’ll be surprised just how difficult it may be to get people to commit to key positioning points and messaging. Without this consensus, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle long before the show even opens. Push this agenda to define core attributes and messaging points and you’ll achieve better overall results with a unified and focused team effort.
Envision What Your Prospects Want to See
There are numerous reasons why people attend trade shows. I recently read an independent study that placed trade show attendance as the most valuable source of new product information for security professionals. This study reaffirms the need to remain highly focused on what prospective buyers want to see from your company when designing your display. If you’re selling cameras, show them why they are better — whether it be through demonstrations to highlight resolution, low-light performance, distance, ruggedness, etc., and put it up front and center.
Another important consideration is the education factor that your display offers show attendees. Strive to tell attendees something new. Even if you don’t have a new introduction, freshen up your messaging with a new angle. Then provide the resources to educate prospects so that you become their benchmark for comparison with competitive solutions. Simply stating that you have something “new” also won’t cut it on its own merits. It may do the trick to solicit conversations with existing customers, but you don’t need to undertake the resources and expense of a trade show to talk to people you already have an open line of communications with. You want to develop new business opportunities. Walking away from a show with hot leads is the true measure of success for trade show participation.
Highlighting your technology partners is a great way to demonstrate technology savvy. Very few (if any) companies offer a truly turnkey solution that delivers everything you need for professional security applications. Be it brackets, power supplies, routers, software, cabling — show potential buyers how you’re working with reputable partners to make their purchases easier and trouble free. Consider displaying information or demonstrations of recent integrations or projects that you have worked on together with your partners that illustrates the synergies between your technologies and provides a proven solution to a common challenge.Having your key partners represented in your exhibit is a great way to build greater customer confidence.
Another proven way to attract attendees’ attention is to speak directly to their application. This has its pros and cons as virtually every vertical market has security needs. But there are some vertical markets that are trending more than others, such as education and municipal surveillance. The key is to know the demographics of the people attending the shows you participate in, and pair your technologies and solutions to their vertical market challenges. Demonstrating expertise in specific verticals can be a real deal closer by eliminating the potential buyer’s apprehension with proven performance and success case histories.
Raffles, gimmicks and giveaways have their place at trade shows, but trinkets mean little to real purchasing influencers and decision makers. Their jobs and careers are associated with every product they purchase for their companies or offer to their customers as resellers. A shiny new pen or screwdriver may be a welcomed thank you and brand reminder once they leave the show floor, but the people you want to attract most to your exhibit are those who are there to conduct business.
There also are usually numerous marketing opportunities available outside of your core exhibit — many of which are available directly through the show sponsor. They range from banners in registration areas to floor decals, aisle signage, lanyard sponsorships, and more. The real eye catchers are those promotional activities that are outside the box. Weigh these options carefully, and be creative. Doing more of the same will ultimately yield the same results, which is a waste of everyone’s time, effort and money.
You may not be afforded the exhibit space or budget to do all of these things, so keep the basic premise top of mind when putting together your trade show plans: remain focused. Don’t lose sight of what you are selling, who the prospects are, and what they want to see. Bundle it up into a professional display that differentiates your company and provides valuable information to show attendees, and you’ll be more successful. See you on the show floor!