Not All Trade Show Crowds Are Created Equal

May 25, 2014

Steve Peterson

Steve Peterson is the marketing director at Pinnacle Displays,  a trade show display
company that specializes in portable displays for new and smaller trade
show exhibitors.

Did your mother ever tell you that you need to hang out with the right crowd, and more importantly, you need to avoid hanging out with the wrong crowd? Not only was your mother right, but her sound advice applies to trade show exhibiting as well … there is the right crowd, and there is the wrong crowd. Not all trade show crowds are created equal!

One of the biggest mistakes trade show exhibiting novices can make is thinking “the more the merrier” and believing that the key to having a successful trade show booth is just attracting the biggest crowd you possibly can in your booth.

Unfortunately, the biggest crowd is seldom the right crowd. The attendees you should want to attract are potential prospects, that is, people you can convert to leads or, even better, sales.

However, if an attendee has absolutely no need for your business, all they will do is take up your booth space and time, and potentially get in the way of real potential prospects stopping at your booth and talking to you.

Target the Right Crowd:

To target the right crowd with your trade show booth, you have to know why you’re exhibiting at a show and what your goal is, and most importantly, who your prospect is. As an overly simplified example, if you’re selling dog food, your prospects are likely people who have a dog, and not people who have fish, or no pets at all.

Once you determine why you’re exhibiting, what your goal is, and who your prospect is, you need to develop a brief marketing message that clearly states what you offering to your prospects.

Pre-Show Promotion:

Your pre-show outreach (via attendee email lists and social media, for example) needs to clearly state who should visit your booth and why). Don’t just say “stop by our booth”, tell attendees why they should stop at your booth, and be honest. Don’t make promises (or imply promises) that you can’t fulfill.

Your mindset should be that you only want to attract attendees who are prospects. Not only can vague or generalized marketing messages attract non-prospects, they can also miss attracting real prospects who instead allocate their limited time at the show to exhibitors who make it clear what the exhibitor can do for the attendee.

At The Show:

Your trade show display is critical for bringing in the right crowd. Your display graphics must have a clear message on them telling people what your company can do and for whom. If your trade show display doesn’t do this then your staff may resort to becoming trade show barkers, which is seldom a good thing.

Your trade show display graphics need to make your booth stand out from the other booths, but even more important, your display graphics need to entice potential prospects, and not draw in people who aren’t prospects.

If the biggest words on your display are the vague tagline “Imagine what we can do” (and believe it or not, this trade show booth graphic tagline is a real example), most people more than likely will be scratching their heads as to what your company does, while busy potential prospects just pass by and the wrong crowd with time to kill stops to ask what the heck you do. Don’t be vague with your display graphics. Be clear with what benefit you offer and to whom.

Trade Show Contests and Entertainment:

Contests, giveaways, and entertainment are very popular on the trade show circuit, but they are a quick and easy way to flood your booth with the wrong crowd. If you have raffle to give away a new 80” flat screen TV, will you only draw potential prospects, or will you pull in everybody and their cousin? If you have Kate Upton signing autographs in your booth, who do you really expect to show up?

If you are going to have a contest, make sure it doesn’t clog your booth space with people just looking for a freebie. If you have a contest, it needs to be geared towards potential prospects, and it needs to be brief and limited so your trade show staff has time to talk with prospects and generate leads or sales.

In summary:

Think through your trade show booth promotion tactics, and be skeptical of them. Always ask yourself, who will this promotional tactic bring to my booth? Will it bring a real potential prospect, or will it just bring somebody who will get in the way and keep me from attracting and talking to potential prospects.

Nobody like an empty booth, but it’s generally better to have no crowd than the wrong crowd. With proper trade show planning and a clear marketing message and trade show goal, you should be able to draw the right crowd and let the wrong crowd go somewhere else.

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