“If You Can’t Say Something Nice …”

Photo: FreeImages.com/bewinca
Photo: FreeImages.com/bewinca

It will soon be that time of year again when all the creepy, nasty creatures come out. No, I’m not talking about ghosts and goblins, but rather … politicians! Like most Americans, I’m sure you get sick and tired of all the bitter, ugly TV ads, as well as the pre-recorded, automated telephone calls (the “do not call” list appears to mean nothing to these spooky creatures).

Every election year, my husband and I begin watching the ads, cheering for candidates who take the higher ground. But inevitably, even the seemingly nice ones end up resorting to saying nasty, if not downright evil, things about their opponents by the end of the season. By that point, many of us don’t even care anymore who wins … we just want the ugliness to end!

How does this relate to exhibitors? It’s simple: Don’t run down your competitors. It will come back to you in the end. Building a strong image doesn’t mean at someone else’s expense. How often have you gone into the voting booth without a clear-cut picture of any of the candidates? Sure, you know a lot about them, but all of it negative things that came from their opponents. Remember: If you have to resort to tearing someone else down to build yourself up, you’re creating a very shaky foundation and it can come back to haunt you.

Once while I was “secret shopping” a client’s competitor, the booth staffer made a very gracious comment about my client (not even knowing they were my client). He said they were very well respected in the industry and pointed out comparisons between the two. He also mentioned another competitor and spoke kindly of them too. Now obviously he wanted me to see his company was the best choice, but laid out the pros and cons of his competitors as the basis of his sales pitch. I left there with a good feeling … not one mean thing was said.

How different it would have been if he would have railed on my client and said how terrible they were, or how badly they treated customers. My blood pressure would have been boiling, and it would have been really hard to hold my tongue. Now just think if you had a competitor’s client walk into your booth. Would you really win them over by citing all the awful things about your competition? Probably not. They would be more likely to defend that company. After all, they chose to do business there, and do they want to admit to you that they made a stupid decision? I think not!

The best solution is to speak truthfully about your competition, pointing out both similarities and differences, much like my client’s competitor did. But don’t let any unkind words come out of your mouth. If the attendee (their client) makes conclusions of his or her own and points out problems, that will work more in your favor anyway.

Need more tips for educating and rewarding your booth staff? Join us for October’s Strategy of the Month in the Exhibit Marketers Café. We’ll cover how to connect with attendee personalities as well as tips for training and motivating your team.

© 2006-2014 Marlys K. Arnold (reprinted from the September 2014 TradeShowTips Online – original article published October 2006. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

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