Say the word “tradeshow” to a group of sales and marketing professionals and ask them for the first word/phrase that comes to mind. I got answers as varied as “booze-fest” to “waste of time”. Very few mentioned anything related to being a productive way to advance their brand. I believe the problem comes in the lack of focus most companies give tradeshows. Let’s look at a couple of real life teams and what they are doing well and what could use some improvement.
A Tale of Two Groups
First let’s think about how you select tradeshows for your company to exhibit at. I work with two departments in the same client company and I know there methodologies are completely different.
Group A attends the same 2 or 3 shows each year where they are buy the same size booth, change their giveaway and backdrop only marginally each year and they sponsor the same paid speaking session. They do create show specific collateral and update their collateral for each show annually. Their show staff includes 2 or 3 sales reps, a sales director, a pre-sales/marketing coordinator and an alliances/partnering rep.
Group B rotates very rarely attending the same show in two consecutive years. This is driven by their VP’s desire to attend as many shows in Las Vegas each year as possible. They have no show specific collateral and they use the corporate standard booth display with generic messaging. They take the same pieces their reps use as leave behinds. Their show staff is the Vegas loving Sales VP and 4 or 5 of his best performing reps so far that year.
Group Therapy - A
Group A is chipping away at their target market. They started virtually unknown with their product line so their consistent attendance over time has allowed them to increase awareness and market share. Their off to a good start because they update their collateral each show and have show specific collateral but there is no tie in between their messaging and say their booth give away. In the past their competitors have given away Lego figures with the booth tagline of “Building Your Data with You” and Transformer action figures with the tagline “Let us Transform Your Data”. Group A needs to come up with a memorable campaign that is true to their brand but also drives traffic and creates a connection with the attendees.
The best thing Group A is doing is having a diverse group of staff at their booth. Because they have both sales, sales management, pre-sales and partnering they can service a large variety of questions and leads on the spot.
Group Therapy – B
Group B is pretty limited in that they aren’t putting much time or energy into their show efforts. They are basically using tradeshows as an excuse to have a team incentive retreat with the boss a few times a year. There is something to be said for team bonding at tradeshows so I don’t want to totally discount that. Sales reps who are typically out calling on clients alone do need some time to huddle each year and discuss best practices but I am doubtful 3 days in Vegas is the best setting for such discussions.
They are mixing it up and going to many different shows. The vertical industry they sell into has a lot of available shows so the fact that they hop around to different shows each year is likely a positive for them. I don’t think they are maximizing their full potential since they aren’t creating show specific collateral or messaging.
Group B really need to diversify their staff at shows. They are unable to do a full product demo or discuss partnerships because the only staff present is sales people. Additionally the sales people that are being “rewarded” with the trip are already the top performers. Those who need to drum up leads and perhaps would be more diligent about their booth duty at the show aren’t attending.
What other advice would you give our two Groups? What has worked well for you in the past with getting your messaging out and making the most of your tradeshow time and money?
About the Author: Heather has spent the past 15 years advocating for the customer perspective in her approach to software development and product marketing. Her penchant for collaboration is what drew her to the Savvy B2B team. Read more of Heather's posts here or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.