What to do at that trade show

Something to think about before your next trade show, convention or industry event…

Come to the event with an open mind. The worst waste of time and money will occur if you arrive there with a mindset that what you’re doing now is not subject to change.

Look at EVERY thing you see and ask yourself “How can that help my business, even if I have to tweak it a little?”

If you aren’t willing to do that, why are you going?

URL the Cat

Oh Happy me !!
Creative Commons License photo credit: rainy city

Last weekend I spent some time visiting my youngest son at college in Western Oregon.

While there, we visited the Portland Saturday Market, which is full of homemade goods from art to clothing to food.

While many of the booths offered business cards that had a website on them, a very small percentage of the booths displayed a website address.

I didn’t see a single QR code.

Extending your reach

After talking to several of the booth owners, I got the impression that many were showing up every Saturday or Sunday at the market and “letting business happen to them”. That’s why I mentioned the booths not displaying a website address or a QR code.

It’s right to be focused on making sales that day, but you want to make it as easy as possible to remember your site, share it and come back for more – even if you can’t make it to Saturday Market.

Lots of tourists visit the market, so it’s important to engage them once they’ve gone home rather than limiting your market reach to “people in downtown Portland on any random Saturday”.

None of the businesses we bought items from asked for contact information so that they could keep us informed about new products and the like.  No question, it would have to be asked in the right way given people’s dislike of spam but that CAN be done.

A motel in Eastern Oregon once asked me, “Can I get your email address so that we can contact you if you leave an item in your room?” Who *hasn’t* left something in a hotel room? It strikes dead center on the “well, of course, I don’t want to lose my stuff” nerve. Simple and smart.

Purrrrr

There was a bright spot at the market in addition to some really great art and hand-made products: the booth for “The Spoiled Cat”, where a woman and her daughter were selling catnip pillows,

The sides and back wall of her booth were plastered with laminated 8″ x 10″ photos that her customers had sent in. Each photo was of a cat mauling, loving, hugging and/or generally having a ball jonesing on their catnip pillows.

Some of the photos were hilarious. That booth stood out to anyone in her target market – cat owners and friends/family of cat owners.

Exactly what it should have done.

Is that what your booth does?

A generic conversation about being specific

MISTY MORNING
Creative Commons License photo credit: kelp1966

One of the things you have to be careful about is making your business too generic.

The conversation…

Them: Could I get you to comment on a booth graphic for my company?  We are pretty simple here and need a banner for a trade show booth. Wondering if the fonts are ‘old’.

Them: (Sends booth graphic, which says the company name, what they do and “Manufactured in Montana USA”)

Me:  The “Manufactured in Montana USA” line should stay no matter what else you do. It’s fascinating how much “Manufactured in Montana USA” improves response vs. “Made in Montana”.

Lesson: Test *everything*.

Me:  This banner tells what you do but it doesn’t say why I should talk to you instead of everyone else who does what you do. What separates you from the others who do what you do?

Them:  We have a large variety of in stock materials, very fast turnaround on materials and parts,  specialize in small run orders.

Me:  Probably too much to put on a banner. Is small run unusual in your business?

Them:  It is in our particular niche.  It separates us from a couple of bigger competitors.  They refer to us when someone wants a small quantity.

Them: It’s also an attraction for the government contracted items as they will only need 32 of something so a lot of competitors won’t take the work.

Lesson: Know what makes you special.

Me: Think about these:

“We specialize in small run orders” vs “We specialize in small run orders. We’ll make 32 of them, if that’s what you need.” (Specific vs. generic)

“Very fast turnaround” vs “Three day turnaround” (“Very fast” has many meanings. What does it mean to you?)

“We stock 1000 square feet of 214 different materials so we can get your order out quickly without material delivery delays” vs “large variety of in-stock materials”.

Me:  Being specific (such as “three day”) provokes them to ask someone else exactly what their turnaround is (for example), without you saying a word about your competitor.

Them:  We’d be on the offensive for once!   This sales stuff is not in our DNA (it was the grandfather’s gift, no one since then)

Me:  Is he the business’ namesake? If so,  I’d be tempted to incorporate a good head shot photo of him (in context of the business) into your signage but thatll greatly change the banner price if the timing and cost make sense.

Them:  Interesting .. to make it more personal?

Me:  Exactly.

Me:  I do have another suggestion for a change for the banner. If you only want to buy it once… “Since 1961”

Me:  If you want to buy the banner more than once, this is the year to say “Fifty years…” or “Our 50th year” etc.

Lesson: State your strengths in strong specifics, no matter how obvious.

Me:  Since its a family affair, you may want to work in “Three generations” and a progression of pics of you, dad, grandpa.

Them:  That’s a really great idea.  Helps with that story you want people to get into.

Me:  Exactly. The question everyone enjoys answering: “So, how’d you get into this business?”

Lesson: Business is Personal.

Me:  Do you guys have booth giveaways?

Them:  Notepads was the plan. We are working up materials and sample parts to display on our table.   Stuff to show off our capabilities.

Me: How do notepads provoke people to think about your product? Alternative: What would it cost to make a 4″ rounds of a mildly heat resistant and hopefully liquid resistant material you use in production?

Them: I think we could make that happen.

Me:  I’m thinking coasters with your company/logo/URL/phone # embossed on them. Put your work in front of them all day, every day. A notepad will get left on a plane or in a hotel room. These won’t be.

Them: We would have to figure out a way to put the printing on there but its a great idea.

Me:  I figured you might have a means of embossing, but I wasn’t sure.

Them:  We are a crafty bunch so now that you’ve given me the idea…

Them:  I really appreciate the help.   This is a new world to me.

Lesson: Use congruent tools to get them thinking and talking about you.