In preparation for your next trade show, a variety of decisions must be made. Booth staff selection is arguably one of the most important (and, for some exhibitors, challenging) decisions. In this article we will discuss three reasons why you should consider including your current clients as you narrow down your potential trade show team members.
First, as the saying goes, “birds of a feather flock together.”
If you want to attract more high quality leads while exhibiting, you should focus on understanding as much as you can about your target audience. If you can align the way you offer information about your products with the way they prefer to receive it, you will be more successful; a thorough understanding of your target audience is the key to creating this alignment …and who better to educate you on their demographic than your best clients?
Before your event, survey your best clients to understand what issues keep them awake at night, why they were drawn to (and eventually selected) your offerings, and what keeps them coming back today. Refer to your clients’ feedback before finalizing the most important aspects of your event planning (especially your pre-show marketing, preparations for on-site support, and structured process for following up after the event).
During your event, even if your clients aren’t being as liberal with traditional referrals (offering contact information or making specific introductions) as you might have hoped, they will guide you to the places where you can find the people you want to meet. By identifying and participating in the sessions, receptions, and other activities that appeal to your best clients’ interests, you will have an opportunity to interact with many others like them. Pay attention when you are out in the convention city; you never know who you might run into.
After your event, don’t let the open dialog you’ve been building with these top clients fade away! Continue studying your best clients throughout the rest of the year to deepen your understanding of your target audience. By incorporating the insight you have obtained into your long term sales process, you will be in the habit of focusing on your target audience; that will carry over to produce an improvement in your future exhibiting efforts too.
Next, social proof has a huge impact on buying decisions.
Today’s buyer doesn’t make his decisions alone. Instead, he gathers information from a variety of sources and discusses his findings with friends, family, and sometimes even strangers before processing everything he’s learned and, finally, selecting the best option for him. A complicated decision making process can be overwhelming, but one of the ways trade shows improve this process is by amplifying a buyer’s opportunity for direct comparison (this is one of the main reasons professionals participate in these events). By bringing all of the major industry players to the same place at the same time (your trade show), attendees can set their extensive research aside and focus on how they feel about what they see. One way to help your visitors connect with your brand (as opposed to your neighboring competitor’s) is to give them strong social proof… how better to accomplish this than through an introduction to one of their peers (and your best clients)?
Welcome your best clients (those with only good things to say about you) into your booth space with open arms. Their presence alone serves as a memorable testimonial (after all, how many professionals would willingly take time out of their day to hang out with a company they don’t like, know, or trust?), but their ability to communicate with your target audience on a peer-to-peer basis according to their positive personal experience with your company is where you can really stand out.
Maximize the impact of your clients’ involvement in two ways: (1) create case study documents to reinforce the overall marketing message (intended takeaway) from your clients’ stories and (2) give your clients enough room to interact with attendees on their own. The latter suggestion is important because, if you are hovering awkwardly as your clients attempt to connect with attendees, the attendees will wonder if there’s something unpleasant you’re hoping your client doesn’t mention. Whether their encounter ends up being awesome or awkward, the image portrayed by offering in person access to your top clients will resonate with your visitors long after the event is over.
Aside: Although you completely trust your top clients, it may be wise to include them in a brief pre-show training (or at least a quick discussion of your goals, etc.) to ensure that the experience is positive for everyone. You might even find that they are appreciative of any direction you can provide so they can be as helpful as they’d like to be.
Finally, it’s an opportunity to improve your relationship with those clients.
There’s something about trade shows that brings people together… They remind me a little bit of summer camp because (if you’re doing things correctly) even though your show might only be three days, by the time it’s over, you will have created memories that last much longer. Maybe it’s the planning, the travel, the unique activities, the old friends meeting again, or something else entirely; but, whatever “it” is, it’d be a lot harder to convince anyone to participate if that summer camp factor didn’t exist …and who better to experience “it” with than (you guessed it) your best clients?
In a typical encounter with your clients, you are likely to be focused on their business needs, their current situation, and anything your company can do to help them accomplish their goals. However, when your clients are helping you with your trade show, you’re still a little bit focused on them (after all, they will always be your clients), but you’re mostly focused on your exhibiting efforts and improving your own results. This causes the dynamic to shift providing a unique opportunity to bring your relationship to a new level.
Take advantage of quality time with your top clients to share more about yourself and to get to know them in a new way. Enjoy your interactions and make note of any unexpected common ground (ie. do you share a favorite sport or least favorite food? These might sound like little things, but it’s often the littlest things that help connections grow in the biggest ways). Don’t lose sight of your purpose in getting together (to maximize your exhibiting return on investment) or your role in the relationship (again, they will always be your clients; make sure that you’re acting appropriately around them), but appreciate this time as much as you can.
Trade show planning can be tough (and booth staff selection is no exception) but, now that you know three great reasons to consider including your current clients, perhaps choosing your next trade show team will be less of a chore. Have you ever included a current client in your exhibiting efforts? What was the biggest benefit? Can you think of any other reasons why they shouldn’t be overlooked during the booth staff selection process?