We read to either learn something or be entertained.
For years, I have read for business or to learn as I traveled from my home
to a client’s site and read for pleasure on
the way home. I always have a fiction and a nonfiction book in my briefcase all the time. Just like most of today’s professionals, I read self-help books from time-to-time.
One of the best books in this genre is Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change:. It was recommended by a friend
and I in turn have recommended it to others. I found it interesting from the outset, because Covey wanted us to look at the world from a new paradigm and from a new
perspective. The trick with self help books is to be able to apply what an author sets out in one context to another to make it work for you.
From time-to-time we see the Franklin Covey
organization at shows like HR, Training 2000 and ASTD, but I am quite
confident that Covey did not write his best selling book
with trade shows in mind. Every chapter is applicable to the unique and complicated world of tradeshows, exhibitions and events.
We can take the Seven Habits, one at-a-time and create a new roadmap for tradeshow marketing.
Exhibiting is strategic, not just logistics. If you
believe this, then you can no longer just be reactive to your internal
customers. Your goal is to be proactive. This means planning
completely, executing aggressively and following-up thoroughly. Proactivity means being ahead of the wave. Understanding how tradeshows fit in your marketing mix -What role
they play and how you can create a plan to fulfill this role? Being proactive means creating a plan to find needs and fill needs. You can accomplish this by having a preshow
promotion plan that creates anticipation for what visitors will see and receive if they visit your exhibit. (By receive, you don’t necessarily have to give them a trinket, it could be
the combination for improved productivity or profitability.) Being proactive means having a staff that is prepared to meet their audience. Understanding your potential audience
from a demographic standpoint, knowing why they attend the show, and what kinds of questions are they most likely to bring with them. Being proactive means having a plan for
capturing qualification information for quick and efficient follow-up and having all the materials preplanned for follow-up.
Too many of us just show up at our events. We don’t
do it because we don’t care. We don’t do it because we don’t know better.
We just show up because we get caught in a trap
of going from one show to another with our focus on the crates, graphics, promotional products and collateral material. Assuring that all of the materials arrive at the right place, on
time and we stay within budget, tends to be our primary mission. Our mind is on the logistics of exhibiting, not the strategy or the tactics of our exhibit marketing efforts. We need
to begin with the end in mind. Why are we going and what do we need to have to display our measure of success? We need to consider what do we want to bring home with us after
the show closes before we even leave for the show. We need to decide if it is qualified leads, number of interviews that lead to articles, the number of qualified visitors who participate
in demonstrations and give feedback. The objectives we set for exhibiting are the result of determining what we want when the show ends. Our objectives determine what the design
of the exhibit will be, the number of demonstrations, if we have a live presentation and the role of collateral materials. They are the foundation for the messages we deliver both before
and at the show. When we begin with the end in mind we are being strategic.
How many times have you heard an exhibit manager say
to their exhibit house, “ I just need a tower, three pedestal tables, and
an information counter.” When we do this, we put
the proverbial cart before the horse. There are four questions we should consider before we do anything after we have decided to exhibit at a specific show. (1) Why are we exhibiting –
what are our objectives, (2) Who is our target audience and are they going to be at the show, (3) What messages do we want to communicate to your audience, and (4) What do you
want to bring home with you after the show ends. When we put first things first, we are concentrating our resources where they count.
Exhibiting has to be a win-win proposition for
everyone involved - the exhibitor, the attendee and the exposition
manager. For the exhibitor to win, they have to achieve their objectives.
For the attendee to win, they have to find solutions to the issues that are facing them. For show management to win, the exhibitors need to perceive they had a good show and the
attendees feel that the show was worth their time and energy. So you, the exhibit professional, need to look at three factors:
· Why do attendees visit your exhibit?
· When they visit you what do they want to do?
· When they visit you what do you want to do with them?
If you think through these three questions, you’ll
find that you will have an exhibit that attracts your potential audience
and meets their needs. The flow, the structure and the components
are selected to facilitate the identification and communication of solutions. You will be positioned for success when you think win-win for you and your show visitors.
Too often our sales personnel fail to remember that
the focus of event marketing is the visitor. They are not attending to
receive an information dump. But how many visitors who are
interested in an exhibit and get pounced upon and deluged with information? None of the communication was solutions oriented since the staff did not qualify them, determine their
or what was on their agenda – they just launched into what was easy – an information dump. Another way to express Covey’s thought is “listen with the intent to understand, not just
reply”. This is a condition that exhibitors find themselves facing daily, since we are used to responding to prospect’s needs by looking for their hot buttons. When we perceive a hot
button, we then stop listening and begin formulating our response. What is needed is patience to listen so we can understand where they are, or what they like and dislike about their
current sources of supply. We need to listen to where they want to go to get to their next level of performance. When we focus on understanding rather than just replying, our prospects
see us as interested in them and interested in solutions to their problems.
Exhibiting is an integrated marketing event. In order
to have an effective exhibit marketing program we need to synergize
ourselves into an integrated plan. When we achieve synergy
we have an event that is more than the sum of its parts. Exhibiting needs to be integrated so that show visitors see a thread that runs through the plan from the preshow promotion,
at show activities and promotions and post show marketing efforts. When it is integrated with the organization’s entire marketing communications plan, then show attendees can
mentally link the ad they saw in a trade press magazine, with the direct mail piece they received with a sales call from a field rep to the show messages and themes. Why integrated?
We live in a “blurr” environment where we are bombarded with messages. If we want our show visitors to remember us, we need to cut through the blurr and command attention. To do
that we need to create a theme that embraces the main messages and communicates it in a big way from our preshow promotions, to our at-show and culminates with our post show
Habit #7 Sharpen the Saw
To be successful at trade show marketing, we need to
keep the saw sharpened. Most of us don’t exhibit often enough to keep all
the teeth in our saw sharp, so we need to take time
to prepare ourselves to work the show. Because exhibiting is a unique and uncomfortable environment, we need to transition our thinking and our skills prior to working a show. How do
we prepare ourselves? Conduct a preshow meeting where we review the strategic and logistic issues of the show and the exhibit. When we take the time to rehearse the messages,
understand the themes, know how to interface with the demonstrations, live presentations and in-booth activities, we are better prepared to meet the audience. When we are better
prepared to meet our targeted audience, we give them a better impression on what it will be like doing business with us. Having a sharp saw means that every one of the teeth works
to complete the task. To do this. each staffer has to have the ingredients it takes to have a successful show and understand the TEAM aspects of exhibiting.
Steven Covey did not write Seven Habits for the
exhibiting and events industry, but it contains seven thoughts that can
help each of us gain a new perspective about what we do every
day – accelerate the selling cycle.
© 2011 by Marc Goldberg