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HOW NOT TO DO TRADE SHOWS

Last week I visited a large mining and oil & gas trade show. This was probably one of the biggest showings of mining, oil and gas, new energy, commodities and fuel sources. It’s the kind of show where you, as a potential investor, get to walk around and talk to and meet up to 400+ different companies, wanting you to buy their stocks. I’m sharing this experience since, luckily, it was NOT a hospitality industry-oriented show.

As a dyed-in-the-wool marketing guy, I found these exhibit booths and the people in them most interesting. There were many companies there who obviously knew what they were doing. These firms knew how to capture the attention and hopefully the acceptance of the individual investor, as s/he walked in a sea of competing entities and offers.

Unfortunately the majority of those exhibiting there seemed to have missed the boat. If you think about why an individual investor (or in some cases, investor-to-be; but you can think of it as potential customer or guest) goes to a show like this, you are faced with a variety of potential scenarios: education about the market, seeking out income opportunities, obtaining stocks for the long term in a ‘safe’ portfolio, complete naiveté about how the market works, and so on. Each of these is a different raison d’ệtre (reason for attending); a motivation that must be met by the exhibiting company.

Most firms didn’t cut the mustard. For example, only on three occasions was I asked why I was at the show, or what I was looking for there. Naturally, this would have allowed the person working the booth to immediately have a much better idea of what was motivating me and what they could say or offer to get my attention and perhaps convert me into a stock-holder, (read: customer) or at least be more inclined to buy shares in that company. No one wanted to acquire relevant information first. Who is your prospect? What does s/he want, need, lean toward or usually buy and why?

Most of the people in these booths simply “pounced” on me like a mountain lion (sound familiar?). I had no chance to read the copy on the back wall of the booth. If I picked up a piece of the sales literature, they wanted to know what they could explain about the sales sheet...before I even had a chance to read the first sentence. This is somewhat intimidating and is irritating after walking down only the first aisle in the show.

At one booth I accidentally overhead one woman telling another about her @#&*%”? boss, (as she put it) out loud! I asked her why she needed to use language like that – especially in a public place, while representing her employer – and she set me straight, saying, “if you don’t like my language, buddy, you can #$%&*@ too!” Nice. The girl you’d like to take home to meet Mom, right? And she works for this company!

If you are going to spend this kind of money to influence potential buyers, it pays to think through what your “audience” will be looking for, how they will assimilate the information you want to share with them, how you will want to talk ‘with’ them, not ‘at’ them. Finally, you will want to examine and control how every part of your presentation (booth design, copy, collateral materials, audio visual, business cards, promotional give-aways; and booth staff...especially those who won’t use profanity) will affect the overall image or positioning you want to convey during the show; and more importantly, every single day...in your marketplace.

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