Great Expectations: A Tale of Two Experiences

Graphic: © DesignCuts/Flat Icons

Graphic: © DesignCuts/Flat Icons

If you’ve signed up for any customer rewards programs, you’ve probably received some birthday deal e-mails. Earlier this month, I set out to claim a few of the ones I’d received and stopped by two stores, experiencing night-and-day results … and numerous lessons for exhibitors.

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At the first store, I needed to purchase several items in addition to the free birthday gift. I brought along a printout of the e-mail just in case they needed it as proof.

Even though there were several staffers milling around the store, they seemed more intent on their peer-to-peer conversations than helping me find what I was looking for. I finally managed to locate all of my items and headed to the checkout.

I presented my e-mail coupon, along with my items. She could obviously see it was a birthday reward, yet did not once make any birthday-related comment. Her only reaction seemed to be that it was an annoyance, since it required her to ring the gift separately from the rest of my purchase. (Hmmmm … if that was such a problem, perhaps I shouldn’t have bothered to purchase from them at all …)

She completed the purchase by tossing all the items in a bag and shoving it across the counter. Yeah, that really makes me feel warm and fuzzy … NOT!

Later that afternoon, I entered the second store and was greeted by at least three staffers as I browsed a number of different shelves. They offered to help me find whatever I needed. It turned out that I decided not to purchase anything that day, so wondered if they would still honor my birthday offer.

What a different reaction I got from that staff person! Once she found out why I was there, she wished me happy birthday at least three times during the course of our conversation. She inquired whether my birthday had already passed or not, since the offer lasted for the entire month. She pulled out a gift bag and placed the item inside, along with a fluff of tissue paper. She even said, “Let me add a little something extra for you” as she tossed in another small sampler.

So how did that make me feel? Like I was their most valued customer! Will I go back there soon? You bet!

Now … the lessons for how to make trade show attendees feel special should be pretty obvious by this point, even though you’re not likely to be dealing with birthdays.

  1. Greet people who enter your booth with a smile and sincere welcome. Don’t make them feel as if they are an interruption in your day. They’re the reason you’re at the show, remember?
  2. Ask questions and pay attention to what they say. The more you sincerely inquire about them and their needs, the more special they will feel.
  3. If your conversation reveals some kind of personal tidbit, take note of that. After filling out a lead card or scanning their badge to get a printout, jot down that quick note so you can reference it during follow-up. They will be so impressed that you remembered!
  4. Go above and beyond when fulfilling on their requests. They might not need that extra something you add on right now, but it will be sowing seeds for your future relationship.
  5. Thank them. Yes, sometimes this simple act can go a long way to create a positive feeling toward your company. Besides, it’s simply good manners!

I probably don’t need to ask which of the two experiences you would prefer as a customer. So be sure you keep that answer in mind as you prep your booth staff for your next show.

© 2016 Marlys K. Arnold  (from the November 2016 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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