Weekly News & Insights: The Keys to an Interactive Customer Experience

Photo: stock.xchng / Ariel da Silva ParreiraRecently while cleaning my office, I came across a flier from a unique road show I attended with my husband 10 years ago this month. The memories are so vivid from that day, it’s hard to believe so much time has passed. The event was GM’s AutoShow in Motion. We spent most of an afternoon test-driving about a dozen cars on closed-course tracks, including a once-in-a-lifetime experience for my husband. But let me share the concept with you from the beginning…

We first received an invitation in the mail for the four-day event that outlined what we could expect: the opportunity to test-drive over 100 different vehicles, both GM and their competition. The mailer included a CD-ROM with more anticipation-building teasers. We were told to RSVP via either a Web site or an 800-number. The invitation also said that since this was a family event, children were encouraged to come.

After quickly registering at the free event, it was off to the first driving area. We drove about a dozen vehicles that afternoon, from SUVs to luxury cars. Sometimes we preferred the GM options, sometimes the competition, but there was no sales pressure from anyone.

When you conduct an event of this magnitude, there are numerous “little” details that must be covered. GM did a great job with these. Remember how families were encouraged? There were child safety seats available in every tent so kids could ride along. But if they got tired of that, there was a kids’ corner in an air-conditioned tent. And since the heat index was in the triple digits that day, we were thankful to find coolers filled with bottled water and sodas at all of the tents. They even provided us with a box lunch!

And remember how I said my husband had a once-in-a-lifetime experience? He had the opportunity to drive a Hummer on an off-road course (I simply went along for the ride). We climbed about a 50-degree mountain, as well as a sideways-tilting hill. It’s an experience he’ll probably never forget.

So did GM sell a lot of cars on the spot? No. There were none there for sale. But they certainly did a lot to build loyalty from existing customers (we decided we like our Buick better than most any other vehicle we drove), as well as establish interest from prospects. And everyone left with a goodie bag that contained an “I drove it at the AutoShow in Motion 2003” t-shirt and a list of all local GM dealers.

So if you’re thinking of incorporating a mobile customer exhibit, either as a part of your next trade show exhibit or in addition to your show schedule, think about how you can go beyond a simple mobile display. A lot more people will show up when they feel like they’re attending for an experience instead of a sales pitch. Make it an event they’ll remember … and tell all their friends about (maybe even for the next 10 years)!

© 2003-2013 Marlys K. Arnold  (The majority of this article is reprinted from the July 2003 TradeShowTips Online. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

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