Home And Consumer Shows: Groaner Or Winner?

tradeshow-0413Spring is in the air, and that means two thing: first, home and consumer shows popping up at convention centers and exhibition halls in cities large and small. Second, it means marketing people from the shows reaching out to you, the business owner and trying to sell you on buying a booth at their show.

They may not be as huge as they were during the housing boom, but home shows, renovation shows and other sundry consumer shows are still, ultimately, an important source of income for the promoters who make a living putting these shows on.

Go back and read that sentence again. Keep it in mind when talking to a marketing person from home shows, or reading their sell sheet of demographics, in front of which they promise a booth will put your company.

I’m not against home shows, far from it. Just bear in mind that the number one priority of exhibition promoters is to make money for themselves. I don’t begrudge them that, obviously. Just keep in mind that your goal (make money for your company) and their goal (make money for themselves) are not necessarily going to match up.

I’ve worked a lot of consumer shows, and they can be hit and miss. However, if you follow some basic advice and work from a plan and system you can tip the scales in your favor and do better than if you just wing it.

First, involve your vendors. It’s always better to spend someone else’s money than your own. Some vendors are more enthusiastic about it than others, but many vendors have marketing dollars they’ll provide, assuming that you can present them with a sensible marketing plan.

If you can round up 50 percent or more of the cost of the show from your suppliers, that goes a long way to improving your potential ROI.

At the show, your booth has to make an impact, but do it simply. The best booths make a branding statement. A show goer should know instantly what your business is. And you need to dazzle them – with big screen TVs, big speakers and leather furniture, which shouldn’t be too hard.

But keep it simple. Booth clutter is ugly and distracting. You don’t need every single size of flat panel on display.

Create a room setting, focus on one amazing concept, and generate an inviting, exciting atmosphere in your booth.

Oh, and only staff your booth with extroverts. I still spend a lot of time at home shows. Walking the halls, I see two kinds of booth people working booths: ones who are obviously friendly, happy salespeople and quiet, people trying to hide at the back of the booth.

Your company is there for a reason: to meet new prospects, and drum up leads. So everybody there should be a salesperson.

Oh, and put your phone away. The most important customer is the one right in front of you.

Remember why you’re here: generating leads.

So how do you do it? Many companies use a free draw for a prize as a way to get names, addresses and phone numbers from prospects. I disagree.

In reality, show goers fall into two basic groups; prize hunters who fill out a ballot at every booth in the show, and have no interest in your services, and people who won’t fill out ballots because they don’t want to be cold called by you.

Not only that, cold calling thousands of people is a complete waste of time, and mailing a brochure to those same people is a waste of money. You want quality leads, not quantity.

This is exactly why you need your salespeople working the booth: They know how to find quality leads in conversation with passers-by.

If they do their job with show goers; generating interest and taking names and numbers for future follow up, it’s a fact that you’ll get better warm leads, and a better closing ratio than just assaulting everyone who left their name at your booth.

Never forget: Time is money. Not only that, money is money. Planning and executing a home show booth will cost you both. And if you’re going to be spending it then you need to earn a return on it.

Lee Distad is a rAVe columnist and freelance writer covering topics from CE to global business and finance in both print and online. Reach him at lee@ravepubs.com