Trade shows metaphorically are impromptu business-to-business malls. Under one roof, an industry will allow vendors to set up store fronts and entice consumers passing by. There’s even food courts and free giveaways. Playing off of this metaphor where you are the mall consumer, I hope to more easily place you in the mindset of trade show attendee.
“I’m heading up to the mall to shop at ___”
Like consumers at the mall, trade show attendees have an predetermined agenda. Certain stores/booths they plan on visiting before leaving their house. They will enter the mall/show hall and map out their route and key destinations. It is possible that they stop at places off-route, but the majority of their time and resources will be allocated to the original list. It is important as an exhibitor that you market yourself in a way pre-show that will get you onto this list. Examples would be making calls, sending mailers, email campaigns and creating a unique pre-show promotion.
Advantages of the department store
Their reign may not be what it once was, but department stores still anchor every mall. Seemingly half or more of mall entry points are through them. They hold the best positions and utilize massive usually two story spaces. You can go to a department store for an hour and not see the rest of the mall, but there is no way to see the rest of the mall without seeing a department store. These are your large island booths. Typically positioned at the entrance, more than likely offering something the attendee is looking for and acting as a filter to sift attendees down to other booths. They get maximum branding and exposure. Clearly this has its advantages if you can afford it.
Giveaways work when relevant
Walking through a mall consumers are handed freebies, which most of the time will be a product sample. I’ve seen many times a sample chicken nugget lead to lunch for a family, or a few sprays of perfume lead to buying a bottle. Spending money to make money scares store owners, just like it does exhibitors, but ROI can boom when the sample is relevant. I caution exhibitors who giveaway items just to give something away. A free pen will not likely give an attendee an insight about a company, but a relevant giveaway can.
Work the senses
Retail stores do a great job of appealing to all five senses (well maybe not always taste). Each store you walk into has its unique music, smell and style. You can walk into 10 stores all selling clothes for instance, but each experience is different and catered to their specific target demographic. Likewise, the best trade show booths create an environment comfortable to their ideal attendees. The look will give the attendee an impression from down the aisle, and may even draw them in.
One thing we know for sure is that people will be people. The behavioral patterns of the average mall shopper are not going to vary much, if at all, from those of the average trade show attendee. Consider your shopping behavior as a consumer and figure out what draws your attention, and even more importantly, your purchases. Maybe even do this exercise as a team. Then apply this behavior to your target attendees, and figure out how to best create an accommodating experience in your trade show booth.
Author: Chase Howells
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