Stop Exhibiting at Trades Show if You’re Going to Act Like This

New England Xpo for Business held it’s 2010 event on May 18 in Boston. I had attended in 2009 but I decided not to go this year. Big deal, right? But wait…

A week or two after the event, I began to receive follow-ups from exhibitors—emails and direct mail—saying they hoped I had enjoyed this year’s show and thanking me for visiting their booths. Huh?! HELLO…I WASN’T THERE. I didn’t sign up and then not go…I never did anything to suggest that I’d ever been in attendance. So why then am I getting these follow-ups? (And yes…they’re still coming!)

I have decided that they come from lazy businesses who never collected real attendance data from their exhibits, were working off the event’s mailing list, or worse, the attendance list from the previous year.  It smacks of a basic lack of appreciation of the purpose of exhibiting in a trade show, or how to effectively follow up with those who actually showed interest in their goods or services. What a waste of their company’s time and resources!

On the other hand, if using a show’s general mailing list WAS their intent, what a lack of understanding of basic marketing to think that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to follow up would be an effective tactic. A piece targeting an actual visitor should be very different than a piece sent to someone who was invited. By all means, follow up with everyone if you want, but pay attention and target accordingly—it’s not that hard. Otherwise, all you really tell your prospects is that your attention to detail is lacking, or that you don’t care enough to even bother to find out who really visited you.

Unfortunately, trade show exhibiting is the Rodney Dangerfield of sales and marketing. Too many businesses don’t give it the time and effort it deserves in order to make it effective. As someone who’s worked with companies getting ready for trade shows, I can tell you that the usual process is to get a frantic call anywhere from a week to a month before the show, looking to get displays, collateral, etc. designed and produced in time, even if the show has been on their schedule for months. More effort is put into decided what swag to offer instead of training the staff manning the booth how to  interact and draw in visitors. (Hint: it’s not standing with arms crossed, talking to the other person “sentenced” to manning the booth with you, and ignoring everyone else.)

Exhibiting at trade show doesn’t have to be like this, but it takes planning, strategy and commitment to make it worthwhile. There are companies out there who can help you with this; one that I know of is ExpoVantage. Exhibiting at trade shows isn’t cheap, so you want to make the most of it.

And to the exhibitors who’ve included me in their follow-up for the visit that never was: all I’m remembering is what a lame company they must be! Probably not the effect they were going for, huh?

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