Archive for the ‘Trade Show Strategy’ Category
What’s gender got to do with it?
As a tradeshow lead generator, my job is to stop traffic at my client’s booth, show a quick magic trick that showcases their brand, and finally to introduce qualified prospects to my sales team. It’s a number’s game. I’m able to increase leads by 25% to 100%. That’s quite a range. Why the difference?
Professional tradeshow lead builders calculate a stop ratio for each show. If I am asking attendees walking by our booth to stop for a moment so that I can show them something amazing (as I fan my cards), how many out of ten will actually stop and how many will ignore me? My worst ratio ever: less than 1/10, and my best 9/10. Again, that’s quite a range. Why the difference? Gender.
The lowest 1/10 stop ratio was for my client Vencom at a Yankee Dental Conference. While there were hygienists and students attending, my job was to stop dentists. At this show, most of the dentists were older men in conservative suits with dour faces. The best ratio I experienced was at ASHRM where I had to stop hospital risk managers, most of whom were women with nursing backgrounds.
When Fidelity asked me to build leads for them at the AFP conference they told me that the large majority of attendees were male. I selected my female lead builder Clair Park, and her stop ratio was better than 9/10.
This experience is not unique to me. My fellow trade-show lead builders concur: Gender matters.
At least on the trade show floor, women will stop for men and men for women with far more frequency than the opposite scenario. This has little to do with age, looks and approach and much to do with the opposite sex.
Application: If you work tradeshows, have a male to approach female attendees and have a female to approach male attendees. A good stop ratio is vital because when attendees walk by your booth without hearing your message, you are burning your tradeshow dollars.
Off the tradeshow floor: Do you think the same dynamic carries over to the networking arena? Will a man have more success breaking into a conversation, when the conversationalists are women? How about vice-versa? Weigh in with your thoughts here.
Amusing side note: To a lesser degree, stop ratio is also determined by industry. For example marketing professionals are more likely to stop than are plastic surgeons. Of the hundreds of professions I’ve targeted, dentists were the hardest visitors to stop, and they smiled least. I remember one dentist who actually was smiling. I stopped him and said, “look around at all the faces. Not a smile to be seen. Why are you smiling?” He smiled even more broadly and replied, “I’m retired”.
The little guy cares. In the hundreds of trade shows that I’ve attended, here is my general sense: the budding entrepreneur who invests anywhere from $300 at a chamber event to $10,000 at a national convention is going to work his booth. He cares about converting leads to sales, and he acts like it. Usually he is excited to be there and welcoming attendees into his booth. He is engaging and follows up on all leads.
Conversely, the salespeople from big companies tend to view the process not as an opportunity, but rather “BOOTH DUTY”. They use that word all the time in phrases such as “Ohhh, I got BOOTH DUTY . . . hey Jay, when do we get out of here?” A trade show is more of a sentence to serve than it is a privilege to network.
Granted, there are many exceptions to this, but nevertheless the generalization holds true.
Just walk down the aisle at your next national show to see how many salespeople are sitting, have their arms crossed, talking amongst themselves, on their cells, eating, or looking like the alive dead. You’ll notice these signs of “poor booth behavior” are less prevalent at a home show, where entrepreneurs are trying to build their business.
Why is this?
Human nature. People respond to incentives. Entrepreneurs know they are there to put money in their pockets, and it is easy for them to see the process: 1) stop traffic; 2) qualify leads; 3) follow-up; 4) make the sale. Sales reps at big companies don’t believe that trade shows will lead to direct benefit to them; therefore it is a duty.
If they believe there is no direct benefit, it is probably because, as things are, there isn’t. Bigger companies tend to have a more convoluted system that may include territories, longer sales cycles, sophisticated distribution etc. In addition, the show may be obligatory for branding but not so effective for sales prospects.
While the salespeople may have a hundred better things to do that day, the leadership of the company usually does care, just like the entrepreneur. But the CEO is usually too far removed to get involved, and so the show goes on to help branding and market presence, but sales? Not so much.
Any leader of a larger organization would cringe at the wasted sales opportunity. Marketing is important, but sales keeps the organization breathing.
What to do?
Here are three solutions:
1) Give those on “BOOTH DUTY” goals and rewards. Plus make it competitive with teams. Competition always fuels active participation and peer pressure to produce. Don’t be stingy with the rewards – how much money are you investing in exhibit, space, giveaways, opportunity cost of exhibit team, travel, food, entertainment, etc? Cash is king, gift certificates work well, or simply ask them what they want. Believe me, they’ll tell you.
2) Bring in a trade show trainer who understands techniques to stop traffic. A trainer will also show you how to qualify leads and get attendees to agree to an appointment or follow-up call.
3) Stop doing trade shows. If your show doesn’t generate a measurable ROI, and you don’t want to try the solutions above, consider saving thousands of dollars by dumping it, and invest a bit in inbound marketing for your sales people. They’ll never see that as a “duty”.
Helping Laura Briere, president of Vision Advertising and World Green Business Association promote her company at the Rt 2 Business Expo, I was fascinated by how many exhibitors were making the master blunder of exhibiting: sitting down while their prospects walked right by them.
It boggles my mind as to why companies spend money on a booth, graphics, space and opportunity cost only to watch as visitors stroll by their exhibits with barely a glance in their direction. My theory is that these exhibitors believe that they are “getting their brand exposure” and that is return enough.
You do not need to be a corporate magician to to avoid this exhibiting blunder. With no tricks or gimmicks, Amy Mosher, Director of Programs at the World Green Business Association, did something the majority of the exhibitors failed to do: she stood at the front of her booth, had open body language (smiling and no folded arms) and greeted visitors with a hello and a handshake. After making a connection she sparked conversation by asking a question.
Here is the result: Amy was engaged in conversation about 85% of the time. She qualified and collected contacts throughout the day. For her, the event flew by as she made connection after connection. All it took was a stroll down the aisle to see that she was the exception. Most “exhibitors” were sitting behind a table of brochures and giveaways. What they really were giving away wasn’t pens with logos, but opportunity to do business with every passing prospect that left the hall learning nothing about their company.
Avoiding this exhibiting blunder is almost cured by simply being aware of it. If you know any exhibitors, please forward this link. Chances are they will benefit.
“Our flat-screen TV booth prize was a huge success”.
“Man, we raffled off Red Sox tickets and a flat-screen at our booth – what a disaster”.
Quotes from two of my trade show clients who told me what they had done in the past to generate exhibit traffic. Why the difference? Show type and primary objective.
The first case was a success for two reasons. It was an industry-specific show where the vast majority of visitors comprised the exhibitor’s target market. An example of this type of show is a dental conference, in which almost every attendee has an interest in dentistry. The second reason for success was that the company was aiming to build brand recognition. The flat-screen TV pulled in the masses, who then saw the exhibitor’s logo, heard the company’s tag line and signed up for the prize. These visitors then received follow-up underscoring the company’s message and showcasing the logo.
In the second case, the flat-screen and sports tickets were a wasted investment. It was a general show. For example, a home show attracts some visitors looking for candy and others looking for a kitchen remodeler. In addition, the exhibitor was looking to make sales from prospects interested in his product. He later lamented that he had a whole bunch of leads for a television; painfully few were interested in his product. This exhibitor would have faired far better if he offered a high-value giveaway from his own product line. In this case, it would have selectively attracted prospects.
It’s interesting that broad-appeal products work best in focused trade shows and specific-appeal products are more effective in broader shows.
It is my experience that, in general, larger companies are less concerned with generating hard-sales from a show as compared to medium and smaller companies. This is partly because larger companies see branding as facilitating sales down the line. Smaller companies do not have this luxury.
The trick is to consider the show type and objective before launching into your giveaway strategy. If you are promoting copier services at a business expo – think twice about giving away David Copperfield tickets, unless you want to see your profits vanish. A nifty prize might be $400 worth of toner for the winner’s copy machines. You’ll probably leave the show with significantly less leads than the exhibitor across from you who pulled in the masses with fancy electronics. That’s good, because your sales staff will be calling on a handful of qualified leads, while the other guy’s sale staff will quickly grow discouraged from following up on a mountain of junk.
We invite you to share your experiences with prizes and giveaways right here.