In 15 years of managing and working tradeshows, one of my biggest frustrations was to see a person hesitate by our booth only to continue on, stop, look back with a quizzical look, then keep walking. After all the hard work and time we put in, after all the money we had poured into the exhibit, why couldn’t someone be courteous enough to let me talk to them?!
All kidding aside, haven’t you honestly felt that way at times? We can forget those who realize they had no need for our company and move on. We kindly speak with those who are tired of walking the un-padded aisles and venture onto our extra-padded carpet to soothe their aching shins. We tolerate those who inquire about our products on the pretense of getting enough free pens to supply their entire school district. We understand they come with the territory, and yet, the mystery remains, why are there those who consider engaging in conversation but ultimately don’t?
Yes, there are a variety of reasons, they could be a competitor perusing what you have and they don’t (or vice versa), or another exhibitor just examining your super-cool booth for ideas. These are not the ones to which I am referring. Regardless of how much activity we did have or the great leads we did collect, I couldn’t dismiss the lingering images of people who reluctantly walked on by. Why? Why?!? Clearly they had a question we were not answering with our booth presence. My sense was these “reluctants” were curious; we just weren’t compelling them to ask their question.
I thought we finally had the answer! We incorporated monitors with snazzy visual and audio elements. Opening day of the show – Oh, we captured people’s attention, we generated a buzz and we made upper management happy! It appeared the simple addition of A/V clarified who and what we were, thereby eliminating those pensive looks. As the show wore on however, the monitors being positioned on the outside perimeter of the booth presented a new challenge. People watched, they talked with our booth staff, but many would not step into the booth. So, despite our best efforts to answer the question of “reluctants” from past shows, we had simply exposed what was possibly a more confusing category, “active reluctants”. This new breed of passer-by seemed to get engaged, appeared as if they needed our products, but we noticed they still dis-engaged and went on their way.
Growth comes in stages, and so it is with success it seems. It wasn’t until a new booth afforded us the space to position monitors inside the space that we seemed to eliminate both forms of “reluctants”. So, what had changed? It was embarrassingly simple. The A/V element answered the question of who we were and what we did in a way static product couldn’t and it was a graceful conversation starter. The crucial placement of the monitors, well inside the booth space, facilitated a better quality of discussion with potential customers. Once someone walked into the booth they had made the conscious choice to engage and a captive prospect is a captured prospect!
When you are effective in attracting prospects to the comfort of your gushy-cushy padding, you will be able to wow them with your highly trained and intelligent booth staff and you will be able to show them how they’ll benefit by being your customer. The questioning glances will never again be by those confused about your company, rather they will simply be from people trying to determine if you have any freebies they can scoop up by the handful for all four kids, one of which they’ll admit is the family dog should you make the mistake of asking for names.