They’re Just Not That Into You

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A lot of exhibitors (as well as some show organizers) still take the “Field of Dreams” approach to trade shows, believing that all they need to do is be there and the attendees will be magically drawn to them. But the fact is that a very small percentage (if any) of the people walking the aisles are there specifically to see what any given booth is offering.

First of all, are you even exhibiting at the right show? Are attendees at that show seeking what you offer, or are you trying to convince them about something they’re not even in the market for?

There’s no tolerance for one-way conversations anymore — attendees are seeking thought leadership, engaging content, and a customized experience. You have to delight and inspire by making your message feel as if it is speaking only to a single person, rather than to the masses. Statistics show that 57 percent of customer research takes place before the first contact with a salesperson, so attendees are coming to a show already well-informed. It’s no longer about educating people about your product or service, but rather impressing them with how your solution is exactly what they’re seeking.

Forget the inward-focused language — whether you’re marketing the show or an individual exhibit. Attendees don’t ultimately care about your new CEO, your prestigious awards, or the latest patent you’ve achieved. They simply want to know how you can solve their problems. In order to craft your message, you have to first get inside their heads to understand the psychology of their pain and what solution they’re really seeking. Then incorporate that message into all your marketing, before, during and after the show. Use the same language that your prospective clients would use … no corporate mumbo-jumbo!

And when you’re working the booth, it also helps to understand body language and buying signals. Learn the right questions to ask and how to tell a story that not only draws them in, but makes them think, “Wow! This company really gets where I’m coming from! They really understand how to help me.” Be genuine and friendly, not stuffy or preachy. Let them know that you’re truly on their side and ready to be their guide to a solution.

Want to learn how to better communicate with attendees? That’s our Strategy of the Month in the Exhibit Marketers Café during June. We’ll focus on ideas for defining your ideal client or buyer personas, telling a story, asking the right questions, and touching their emotions (even if your product or service isn’t exactly an emotional one).

So what’s your biggest challenge in communicating what attendees want to hear? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

© 2014 Marlys K. Arnold (from the May 2014 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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With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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