Most trade show veterans will agree— there are few places less desirable than the back corner of the exhibit hall. After a year of setbacks and cancellations, many brands are struggling to get back the prime spots they once had at their industry’s biggest shows. What to do when life hands you a disappointing trade show location? In most cases, you can file for an appeal. But you may only be rewarded with a better spot next year. Until then, a few alternative strategies.
LEVERAGE SOCIAL MEDIA BEFORE THE SHOW
Brands that decide to stick it out on the trade-show floor despite a poor location may want to do some serious outreach leading up to the event. One effective way to do it is through social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, where potential customers may be lurking. Tap into their conversations and encourage them to schedule a few minutes with you at the show. This usually involves obtaining that person’s contact information, which is another great way to start building business relationships and a customer database.
“We encourage our clients to search on social media sites for potential customers,” says Keith Goldberg, senior vp-client strategy at Livonia, MI-based EWI Worldwide. “This way we drive traffic in advance of the event and people often download a white paper and set up an appointment to visit our booth.”
Though pre-show promotion is smart in any case, for brands buried on the exhibit floor, it can make or break a company’s performance.
TAKE MATTERS INTO YOUR OWN HANDS
Eschew your bad location altogether and instead opt for an entirely new location within the show, such as in a conference room or in the lobby. Or even more drastically, create your own “off the show floor” experience at a nearby hotel. The latter is what DIRECTV did during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas two years ago. The company says that this strategy was less expensive and increased the number of qualified potential customers it projected would go through its traditional show-floor experience.
“The controlled environment enabled us to effectively demonstrate and discuss our technology with a much more targeted audience,” says Ruby Guzman, manager-trade shows and corporate events at DIRECTV. “We also found this approach to be much more cost efficient.”
More than 4,000 potential customers (the company’s objective was to persuade 1,000 prospects to visit the space) immersed themselves in DIRECTV’s offsite exhibit at the Venetian Hotel. The brand wanted to promote its high definition channels, so it presented its product in a 3,000 square-foot labyrinthlike experience adorned with 100 flatpanel screens, each broadcasting a channel in HD. Black chrome DIRECTV satellite dishes suspended above the space doubled as works of art (Sparks, Burlingame, CA, handled).
In 2009, DIRECTV kept things untraditional once again at CES by securing a few meeting rooms where it held discussions with key players and aired live DTV satellite feeds within partner booths.
“It’s important for companies to identify their target audience and get their attention,” adds Guzman. The differentiator, however, is that once a target audience is inside an off-the-showfloor experience there’s no more competing with other companies for attendees’ attention. Sounds like a good reason to explore the road less traveled. EM