7 Reasons Why Not All Exhibitors Are Exhibit Marketers

August 1, 2013

In a recent blog post on btoboonline.com (“I just flew in from the trade show and boy are the booths tired“), Tom Nightingale laments the poor trade show habits of exhibitors at a show he just attended, and offered 7 concise, valuable tips on how exhibitors could do better.

Tom was frustrated that, even with the wealth of best practices available with just a Google search, too many exhibitors were not searching for and implementing exhibiting best practices.  I know we’ve tried to help them, too – we’ve published about 200,000 words on this blog over the past few years, plus hosted dozens of webinars and hundreds of seminars.

But I also know that, as much as we’d like to eradicate poor exhibiting habits from the face of face-to-face marketing, it’s never going to happen.  Here’s why.

We as trained, established B2B marketers have high standards.  We know about writing ads that appeal to our target audience.  We can list on our right hand the top 5 industry keywords we have optimized our website for.  We know what makes our email marketing CAN-SPAM compliant.

We also learn from the best.  We see the print ads of the biggest B2B companies.  We visit the websites of the Fortune 500.  We receive direct mail from major players — either in our industry, or within the marketing industry.  We might even see a TV ad from a billion-dollar B2B company during the Super Bowl.

But at a trade show, the barrier to entry is much lower.  For every full-page advertiser in an industry publication, there are dozens, even hundreds of companies who get a trade show booth in that same industry’s largest show.  I’ve seen estimates of anywhere from 300,000 to 1.5 million companies that exhibit at trade shows.  Not all these exhibiting companies have full-time, trained marketers — let alone trained exhibit marketers.

What prevents some exhibitors from being exhibit marketers

So why do companies that invest thousands of marketing dollars at trade shows not get professional help, either through experienced, empowered staff or from outside consultants, before they exhibit?   Here are 7 reasons why there will always be exhibitors who aren’t exhibit marketers:

  1. 1. B2B companies too often put their trade show marketing in the hands of a well-meaning, but overworked and unprepared administrator — and don’t provide any trade show training, because trade shows look deceptively easy.  They are actually harder than they look.
  4. 2. Some exhibit marketers are not allowed to choose their booth staff, and get stuck with staffers who don’t want to be in their trade show displays — and those unwilling staffers plainly show their displeasure to prospects.
  7. 3. Some exhibit marketers lack the authority to make the changes necessary to actually market at trade shows, rather than just show up.
  10. 4. Some show owners wash their hands of the continuous need to provide coaching to their exhibitors, both new and returning.
  1. 5. Some people responsible for their company’s trade show program think they already know all they need to know — and so they don’t want to find out what they could do better.
  4. 6. At some companies, there is no primary owner accountable for their trade show program, so multiple departments fight over what to do, or just as bad, don’t care enough to fight over it.
  7. 7. Sometimes, exhibit marketers know what to do to succeed, but frustratingly, lack the budget or the time to create a fully integrated trade show program.

Those are 7 roadblocks to trade show success that are never going to go away — at least, not for everyone.  Fortunately, there are companies that want to do trade shows right.  Many of those hundreds of thousands of exhibiting companies want to learn how to improve their trade show results, so we will keep providing as many tips, insights, blog posts, newsletters, webinars, seminars, white papers, and best practices that we can muster.

Are you at a company that unfortunately fits one of those 7 reasons?  It doesn’t have to be a life sentence.  You can take control of your trade show program, and make it one that Tom Nightingale would like.  Even better, be the exhibitor that potential prospects would want to visit, too.

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