Trade Show Fatal Flaws

Exhibiting at a trade show represents a significant investment in time, effort and – of course – money. So it’s surprising to seasoned attendees how often exhibitors neglect to take some basic steps that will maximize their return. Check this list of all too-common “don’ts” to be sure your company isn’t sabotaging itself when it should be shining:

• Not taking advantage of free exposure, such as the exhibitor listing in the show directory and on the website. It’s free. It’s exposure to visitors who can become customers. Make sure you’re present and accounted for.
• Not including your booth number in print ads. This is probably just an oversight – especially when you run the same ad several months over – but costs you a valuable means of promotion.
• Poor booth signage. Treat signage as an integral part of your booth design rather than an afterthought – doing so will practically guarantee making a good impression. Also, study your booth from all angles to be sure your company’s name is readily visible from whatever approach visitors might take.
• Poor booth access. A well-designed booth allows entry/exit through at least two points and is laid out to be conducive to an easy flow of traffic. A booth with a single entry point creates a confined atmosphere – even in a large space – and causes people entering to feel trapped.
• Failing to train booth staff to interact appropriately with visitors. We’re sure you’ve visited booths in which the exhibitor’s staff members ignored your presence because they were (a) deeply engaged in conversation with each other (b) absorbed in making some adjustment to the display (c) staring into space and evidently wishing you’d go away.

To make sure your booth isn’t among the offenders, hold a series of meetings with the staff a week or two before the show to instruct them on how to greet visitors, answer their questions knowledgeably and steer them to your featured products.

Be sure they understand it’s important to be polite and helpful to everyone – even those who are not decision-makers or members of the media – because you never know who may provide the connections that can result in new business. Have your staff dress to impress with matching attire, and enjoy the benefits of your high profile on the exhibition floor.

Maximizing the Trade Show Experience

Although trade shows are held throughout the year for every industry, both the end and the beginning of the year represent the rush season. You may soon be among those dutifully manning a trade show booth, introducing your latest and greatest products. At that point, you may probably think you’ve already done everything possible to make sure that distribution and retail decision-makers stop by for a profitable visit. However, there are a few additional steps which can help you make the most of the face time you spend with these key individuals:

* Work the pre-registered list. Of course, you’ve already reviewed the pre-registered attendee list and highlighted the people you want to meet. For those you haven’t been able to set an appointment with, pay close attention to the name badges of booth visitors. When you spot someone on the list, introduce yourself and make that person aware you’re familiar with him/her or his/her company.

* Even if your target already works with another manufacturer or vendor, acknowledge the fact, but talk about your product’s features. For example, “I know you’ve had a lot of success with your current product, but have you seen the new features we’ve added to ours (or the new generation product that represents a quantum leap over every other product in the same category)?” Everyone always wants to maintain a competitive edge, so your offer to show this initially casual visitor a product that represents a significant improvement in the marketplace can only get a positive response.

* Keeping in the same mode, always focus on the booth visitor. Engaging the visitor in conversation to learn his/her needs is the best way to recommend how your company can meet them. You and everyone who works your booth should know the product lines inside-out, but just delivering a spiel is counterproductive because it implies that you’re more interested in moving product than providing individualized solutions. Position yourself as wanting to be more of a partner than a vendor.

* Finally, make sure that attendees feel welcome to visit your booth. This may seem like a “duh” statement, but body language is important in creating first impressions. Standing at the booth’s border with folded arms creates an intimidating appearance; chatting with other booth staffers sends the clear message that you don’t want to be bothered with any of those annoying potential customers.

Just keep in mind that whatever size the trade show, there are plenty of exhibitors who recognize opportunity when they see it – and when it sees them. You’re in the right place at the right time – so do it up right.

Brand Identity Chain

“Who do you think you are” used to be asked of people when they said or did something rude or presumptuous. But now, it’s an important question that provides valuable insight into what motivates your target market to buy.

Welcome to the world of identity marketing. According to Robert Maxwell – president of research consulting firm Chelsea Media – it is no longer enough to create a brand identity to reach members of your target demographic group. You must first understand the social and pop cultural influences upon which people within your target demographic create their identity and lifestyle, then position your brand as one that integrates with that identity.

As explained in plain English by Maxwell in Advertising Age magazine: “If consumers identify with Prada and also identify with Michelob, Volvo, “24” character Jack Bauer, rock group the Killers and Doritos, marketers suddenly have a ‘brand identity chain’ – a group of consumers who share similar identities as well as product and media consumption.

“In fact, anything in the media marketplace that contains symbols consumers might use in constructing their identities qualifies as a brand. That includes companies, services and, most important, news and entertainment. The building blocks of news and entertainment – personalities, TV programs, characters, sports teams, bands, channels, websites and so forth – are all laden with symbols that invite connections with a consumer’s identity.”

Now consider your target market. If it’s the 18-to-34 male mobile entertainment enthusiast, his brand identity chain is likely to include Red Bull, first-person shooter/car racing video games, Scarface, hip-hop artist Chamillionaire,, Honda Civic, Toyota Scion – and probably also Jack Bauer and Doritos. All of these interests and preferences combine to shape his self-image and determine the other brands he buys.

So how can you make your brand one of the building blocks of your market’s identity? Let’s return to the Scion for an example. A CGA (computer-generated animation) commercial for the Scion tC uses video game-style graphics and action as the vehicle changes body colors while driving through a hip cityscape to a techno music track. The creative team for the commercial recognized video games and techno music as building blocks of the tC target market’s identity, and based the vehicle’s brand identity upon those elements.

The take-home message: let your brand enhance the identity of your consumers, and the resulting sale will be more than a purchase – it will be part of who they are.

EVOK…an inside look

Evok Advertising, the E! True Hollywood Story from Brook Pifer RockstarPhotographer on Vimeo.