Trade Show Trick-or-Treat

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It is Halloween, which means kids will be taking to the streets in costumes to collect candy.  They will navigate the neighborhoods, checking out the houses and their varying degrees of festive decor. Once they see a lit doorway, “Trick or treat” they exclaim, which really means “hand me candy please!” and off they’ll go. They may not even know the people they’re receiving the candy from.

For several years I worked as a brand ambassador, exhibiting at events and often utilizing giveaways. I got to see first-hand what trick-or-treating looks like in a non-Halloween setting. Then moving into b2b events and trade shows I saw that the costumes became business attire, but that trick-or-treat nature still existed to a degree. I was a little surprised to see a number of people just looking to collect whatever free items they could, their “treat.” It was never fun to see good prospects waiting (or worse, walking away) while being tied up with someone who has no intent to buy, or even understand the product/service being represented.

On the show floor, you start to realize quickly the importance of qualifying leads. Especially if a giveaway is involved.  So a plan must be in place for “tricking” the “trick-or-treaters.”

Fortunately, in many b2b trade shows, the show organizer will begin the sorting process for their exhibitors. A positive show experience for the exhibitors is important for them to keep coming back, so show management will do things like making identification easy. I know at the EXHIBITORLIVE show for instance, my badge includes my name, location and company name big and bold. It is also placed in a lanyard that has a color designation for my industry segment. Right off the bat there will be some obvious cues to booth staff whether I’m the type of lead they’re looking for.

Secondarily, badge scanning can provide that next tier of information. At EXHIBITORLIVE that scan shows company size, number of events, spend amount and the individual’s purchasing role. I know getting this level information in this manor is fairly common for trade shows today. A badge scan does require booth staff to initiate a conversation, if nothing else than to ask to scan the badge. Make sure in these situations they have responses prepared for what the badge scan reveals.

Next, which may be first in scenarios without badges, prepare booth staff to funnel different people different ways so not to miss the key customers/prospects. Make sure they know which companies (and even better, names) to be on the lookout for so that as soon as they arrive they can be engaged properly in the booth space. It can be advantageous to assign someone as a gatekeeper to send the qualified leads one way and everyone else another. You can also have the gatekeeper run through some quick qualifying questions and should be able to weed out a lot of the unqualified.

The “treat” itself, or giveaway, needs to be considered as well. Some opt for none. That’s a quick end to anyone coming for the wrong reasons. With that approach, make sure there is some sort of pre-show promotion to draw the qualified people. The next approach is to offer tiers. Big prizes like ipads, alcohol, meals, etc. for their real leads and little things like candy, pens, bags, etc. for those in it for the “treat.” Some even have 3-4 prize tiers based on the level of the lead. Lastly, some opt for an approach with no differentiation. This is great if the goal is to build a brand or reinforce a positive brand image, and the attendees in general are all eligible potential leads. If not though, this can fast become a way to invest a lot of time and money into the wrong audience.

Overall, consider the goals of your trade show campaign and the attendees of the shows you are exhibiting at. Have a plan in place to entice your “A” leads and dissuade those who end up being essentially trick-or-treaters. If you find that you’re bogged down with the wrong crowd, you may have to keep the lights off in your doorway (reevaluate participating in that show) and find the shows that treat your organization instead of trick.