Breaking Down Invisible Tradeshow Barriers

“What kind of businesses do you most frequently call on?”trade_Show_RB

By my estimation, a combined 30 tradeshows will have occurred in the tradeshow-laden first quarter of 2013. The combined time and financial investment made by our industry participants during this time period is nothing short of staggering, and the economic impact

to the surrounding businesses that our industry generates is awe-inspiring. If you think about it, the effort required to pull off the quantity of these events in such a compacted period of time is massive. I applaud the abilities of those tasked with the successful execution of tradeshow participation. But I must ask: Is all of this effort generating a return on investment?

If you’re like most suppliers, you begin tradeshows in the same way: arrive with high hopes, set up your expensive booth, wait for the doors to open and the crush to begin. Yet, oftentimes, an unusual phenomenon occurs during these shows. I don’t know if suppliers have a name for it, so let’s call it “engagement avoidance”—the lengths an average distributor will go to avoid looking in your direction, much less make a move in the direction of your booth. This must be incredibly infuriating. You’re ready to wow those distributors with your awesomeosity, yet, it must sometimes feel like you aren’t at all likely to get the opportunity. Why? It doesn’t make sense. Aren’t we both at the tradeshow to engage in conversation and see if we can do business together?


“If I could give you one free order from my selection of products, what would you choose, and why?”

While I both respect and question the sanity of my supplier friends for their steadfast participation in this tradeshow merry-go-round, I’m surprised as a participant by the seeming lack of preparation many suppliers have to attract me to their booths as I walk by. If you don't have a well-honed and specific plan for the show, how can you quantify the substantial investment you make?

I have often asked suppliers friends to articulate for me their tradeshow booth strategy. The most frequent response I get is a blank stare, an occasional blush and a whispered admission that they’ve not been made aware of such a thing.

“Quick, what’s the coolest thing you've seen at the show so far?”

Granted, ours is a relationship-driven business, so perhaps it’s acceptable to arrive at the show knowing that those distributors from this region will stop by for a discussion about those projects for which you are a fit. But, I would assert that the busy tradeshow floor is not the place for those types of discussions, as a more personal face-to-face meeting would be the better venue in this instance. My expectation would be that the tradeshow is time for new business development, and a convention hall full of potential new clients is salivation-worthy. If I could create an event that would attract a hundred potential new clients for me as a distributor, I would not only register immediately, I’d already be in a corner, huddling with my coworkers and formulating a plan to start conversations with as many of them as humanly possible. That’s a barrel, and there are fish in it. Why aren’t you practicing your marksmanship?

“What’s the one product you’ve never been able to find?”

Ours is an event-driven industry. A gargantuan piece of my business is generated by virtue of my clients’ involvement in various kinds of events. We’ve worked hard to train our sales force to ask clients a set of questions designed to uncover the evidence (or lack thereof) of a tradeshow lead generation and conversion strategy amongst those folks responsible for putting on and participating in events. I wonder if the same types of discussions are occurring behind your closed doors as well. If they’re not, perhaps it’s time to think about the potential value of doing so.

“Need an idea?”

Ours is a giving community. With that in mind, should this be a topic of interest, seek me out for a personal conversation. Let’s talk about how to make tradeshows more profitable throughout our industry as well as for end-buyer clients. What have you observed as best practices in tradeshow lead generation? Share your ideas below!