So Hazel and I were making a last pass through the show floor at Ad:Tech San Francisco yesterday, and while checking out a display, we were approached separately by  different salespeople; since we were interested in the product, we let ourselves be led into separate conversations and demos.

When we’d finished talking to our respective pitch-people, we strolled away, and the conversation went kind of like this –

Me: So what did you think?

Hazel: Meh, it’s ok, nothing great.

Me: Did you see the part where it does this?

Hazel: No!  I had no idea it did that.

I’m not naming names or calling out companies since this is unfortunately an all too common occurrence.

If you’re going to spend the money on a booth at a show, please — I’m begging you — get your message in order before the hordes hit the floor.

  • Make sure each person in your booth understands what your product does and doesn’t do, how it does what it does, and what the target is for your particular product or service.
  • If you’re hiring ‘booth babes’, take a few minutes to educate them on which person in the organization should be matched with what prospect.
  • Do not allow them to assume that the CTO is the go to guy to talk to a marketing person who’s asking a question about dashboard reports, and do not, I repeat, do not make the mistake of having a sales rep discuss the technical variances in iOS, Android or Windows 8 with a programmer (unless the sales rep is absolutely up to speed on the tech aspects) who’s asking about what you’re pushing.

Two things are terribly frustrating to a trade show attendee.  First, it’s not being able to find the product or service they are expecting to demo at a show.  The second, and even more egregious, is finding a product that you think is perfect and then discovering that it’s been misrepresented.  The attendee has sometimes gone to great expense in registration and travel fees to get to the show, and they’re looking to recoup that cost by gaining new insight, knowledge or contacts on the floor.  Respect that, and make sure the prospects at your booth walk away happy to consider doing business with you when they’re back at a desk explaining to accounting that yours is the product they should be buying, and doing so today!

On the flip side of the cost coin, as an exhibitor, you will never get a handle on ROI from show traffic until you implement the simple steps above.   Trade show long tail recoupment is difficult to measure; most of your gains should be in the first week or two after the show is over, as people get back to work and follow up.  Speaking of follow up, make sure your reps are managing their contacts ASAP.   We like to see followup within a couple of days, if not during the show itself.  Getting a prospect back to your booth before they leave for a second showing is like gold in your pocket.  They are not just a warm lead, they are a red hot lead.

One other tip… do not load up your booth with business cards.  Cards should be given out on an individual basis to prospects, and should belong to the person pitching.  Putting a stack of VP, CEO, etc cards out just means that a prospect will be contacting someone they did not meet and might not relate to without some introduction by the pitch-person.   Putting out generic cards with a promo or discount code or using flyers and other collateral is something we encourage as an alternative.   Those responses should go into the general funnel for disbursement to the correct department as they are received and should be counted as warm leads.