I’m no trade show marketing guru, but after spending a weekend at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, I don’t think too many people are at all.
Here are some of the bad moves I observed while walking the floor:
- Know your product. This should be a must regardless of the audience, but especially when the trade show audience is a mix of experts, manufacturers and retailers from your industry. In this case, it was about nutrition and natural products. I can’t tell you how many times either the trade show junkie would try to sell me on information that everyone there already knew, or mispronounced an ingredient, or tried to make their product a cure-all. Instead of being impressed with what they were pushing, I walked away laughing with my colleagues. Know your stuff.
- Know your workers. I know there are people who are especially good at working trade show booths, and can be hired out to work any booth. Don’t do that. In this case, I had 19 year-old kids selling me on glucosamine products for my joints and college girls selling black cohosh for menopause. And they knew nothing about the product. Some had taken the time to memorize a script, but that doesn’t work. Don’t hire out for any trade show – make sure you’ve got employees working it that deal with your product on a daily basis and talk with strength about it. The worst thing you can do is give your traffic an opportunity to think you’re an idiot.
- Acknowledge visitors when they stop by. This really surprised me. I stopped by a lot of booths, picking up free samples, fliers, etc. I expect there to be give and take there – they give me a sample, I give them info, or at least answer a couple questions they have. I am being conservative when I say that at least 60% of the booths I visited did not even say hi to me. I think I passed out 10 business cards, and I came home with a rolling duffle bag worth of samples. They watched me take their samples and fudge around a bit, but they didn’t approach me. If you’re not going to talk to your traffic, WHY ARE YOU THERE?!? I’m probably one of the more qualified leads you’ve had in a while. But more times than not, the trade show workers were talking with other workers, waiting for the doors to shut so they could hit the nearest bar and act like college frat boys again. Which again underscores the importance of having the right people working the booth that appreciate the opportunity and know what to do with it.
- Decline the cleavage. Can’t have a good booth without girls with big boobs in there, right? Seemed that way, at least. I can’t sit here and deny that this tasteless tactic does drive traffic. But it’s not the right kind of traffic. Do you really think someone coming over to get a good peak at the girl working your booth is interested in your product? Plus, what does this do to your brand? Just skip it, and go with people that know your product and can talk about it. (And if they’re good-looking to boot, then that’s just an added bonus).
- Stick out. There were over 2,000 booths at this show. There are about 7 that I remember what they had and how they looked. If you’re going to spend the money to make this thing happen, make your booth look good. Make it big. Make it memorable. Trust me, with that many booths there, they all start looking the same. Do something to make me remember you.
- Give it away. Don’t be stingy. I expect something free when I come to your booth. Give it to me. Don’t just display your product. Let me take it with me. Find out a way to put it in bite-sized pieces, and give it to me. Give me a book. Better yet, give me something free for logging onto your website later if you can’t give it to me now. Just give me something, or else I will forget you.