The Dark Site of Trade Show Exhibiting

One of the greatest advantages of trade show marketing is the ability to feature your business in front of thousands of ideal prospects. Even better, the trade shows are usually organized around an industry group or user group, so you can focus your presentation on your ideal prospect’s specific pain point and explain exactly how your company resolves their problem.  

But trade shows also have a dark side.

Not only has the show gathered all of your ideal prospects in one place, they have also gathered all of your competitors.  

And, show planners are increasingly organizing exhibitors into product-specific “zones” and “pods” on the show floor.  

Now, your ideal client can quickly go to a specific part of the show floor and see dozens of companies who offer the same type of product, neatly lined up in rows with the product on display. 

Smart marketers know it’s a recipe for commoditization. And commoditization is death.

As we’ve show in other blog posts, that’s generally show attendees rarely look at every booth at the show. In commoditized industries, they might only visit two or three booths for given product or service. (Link: Three Reasons Your Ideal Prospects Stop)

With all the industry players neatly arranged on the trade show floor, attendees can quickly decide that all the product options at a show are basically the same.  

And when show attendees figure that out, they make their decision according to the one differentiating factor that they do know: price. That means your profit margins get cut, your current clients leave you for cheaper competitors, and - ultimately - industry consolidation. Companies get absorbed or closed, and people - from the shop floor to management - get laid off.

So how do you avoid commoditization on the show floor? Here are five ways:

1). Know Your Product: Even if 95% of your product is the same as everyone else’s, there’s still 5% that’s different. That 5% should be the heart of your marketing message. Focus all your time and effort driving home the added advantage that your 5% will give your ideal prospects. If your product is made to tighter tolerances and designed with more rugged construction to last longer, find a way to clearly demonstrate this to your prospect at the show. Cut one of your products in half so the can see inside. Give away logo-typed rulers so they can measure the thickness of your steel components (and then go to your competitor to check - what will they think when their competitor doesn’t even have a cutaway example to compare?)

2) Know Your Competitor: In the Ultimate Business Strategy, Jay Abraham points out that your competitors’ marketing systems tell you a lot about what potential clients want. Find out if you are addressing those issues and how your product solves those problems differently. Find tangible differences, and then use your display to demonstrate them. Invite people into your booth to see for themselves why your products are better.  

3) Know Your Prospect: Survey your current clients and find out what they like about your product, why they choose your product, and why they don’t choose your competitor. Do not do this through an online survey; instead, send your marketing team out to do phone conversations and on-site visits. Ask your sales team to do recorded calls and videoconferences with their clients: clients love to talk about themselves, so the request will not be an imposition. You’re literally asking “do you like our stuff, and how can we serve you better?”  

4). Focus Attention on Your Booth: If you want to be perceived as different, your booth has to look and feel different. Very few of the “5% Differences” that your product and company offer will be immediately visible from the trade show aisle. The easiest and most efficient way to communicate these ideas to your ideal prospect is to build a large crowd, explain the difference to the group, and then invite interested prospects into the booth to see the difference for themselves and learn more about how it affects their particular application.  

5) Follow Up: Research shows that up to 90% of all trade show leads are never followed up on. That’s a tremendous opportunity for any company to differentiate. Most companies talk about how important “customer service” is to them, and everyone says their customers are the most important people. How important is the customer, however, if the company’s sales team doesn’t call to keep in touch after the show? Customers do perceive this, and follow up calls built around questions that genuinely seek to help the customer show that you do seek to help them and value their business. (See blog: "How to Get Better Trade Show Leads When "Excellent Customer Service" Is Your Competitive Advantage.)

Trade shows are a tremendous opportunity to solidify current relationships and develop new business by differentiating your company from everyone else in your industry. As more companies see the value of exhibiting and shows attract more attendees every year, capturing attention, differentiating your product, and effectively following up after the show are more important than ever before. 

Mike Duseberg creates trade show presentations that stop huge crowds at his clients’ trade show booths and deliver a persuasive message that identifies their ideal prospects. Mike’s clients experience 10X more booth traffic and often double (or even triple) their qualified lead count. 

You can learn his secrets process for generating an avalanche of trade show leads by downloading “The Little Booklet that Transforms Your Trade Show Booth into A Lead Generating Machine” at .