Hidden competitors at trade showsWhen you exhibit at trade shows, you participate in a wonder of free enterprise: Competing firms agree to present themselves side-by-side, allowing potential buyers simultaneous access to a multitude of choices.

That requires a willingness to face your competition head-on in the exhibition hall.  Yet you have much more competition for attendees’ attention than merely your fellow exhibitors.

Here are 7 competitors you must beat to fully engage your clients and prospects at trade shows:

1.  Your Industry Competitors: Well, yes and no.  While you expect to compete with other companies in your industry, your competitors can actually be helping you, too.  Their marketing efforts lure more prospects into the show hall, expanding the potential universe of buyers for your product category.  Some confident exhibitors even seek a booth space close to their bigger competitors to draft off their booth traffic.  To win these head-to-head match ups, make sure your trade show booth graphics, promotions, experiences, and booth staffers clearly articulate what makes you better.  Not sure why?  Ask your newer customers and best sales people why you’re winning sales now.

2.  Time: For years, industry guru Marc Goldberg has been warning exhibitors that trade show attendees suffer from “time poverty.”  Time-pressed attendees are less likely to visit every aisle in the show hall.  Combat this by:

  • Getting booth space in the highest-traffic sections of the show hall, usually in the center and to the right of the main entrance
  • Reaching out to attendees before the show to set appointments
  • Teaching booth staffers to quickly qualify and release unqualified booth visitors
  • Offer prizes daily in your booth that qualified prospects will want

3.  The Office: Even when they’re at the show, attendees are still distracted by their urgent issues from work.  To gain their full attention, bring new products and hold engaging demonstrations in your trade show exhibit that attendees can’t experience in their office.  This insidious competitor can also distract your booth staff , so impress upon your staff the considerable marketing investment the show is for your company, and its potentially huge marketing value — depending on the level of their efforts.

4.  The Location: It’s no coincidence that Las Vegas and Orlando are the top two U.S. trade show cities.  Their year-round warm weather and fun atmosphere offer compelling reasons for attendees to visit.  Other top cities such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego are destinations worthy of a vacation in their own right.  Consider making the venue city your ally, by hosting a hospitality event for top buyers that embodies the local sights.  Whether it’s deep sea fishing in Miami, a show in Las Vegas or New York, or golf in Orlando, enlist, rather than compete with the show’s host city’s allure.

5.  The Conference Sessions: I can’t count how many times a trade show attendee told me they couldn’t stop, or else couldn’t stay long in our booth, because they were rushing to an educational session.  And that’s even at shows where exhibit hours run unopposed to sessions, because attendees still need time to walk from the show hall to meeting rooms.  It’s even harder when a show keeps the exhibit hall open during sessions.  So fight fire with fire.  Attendees come to the show to learn; offer them valuable new research reports, or host your own educational presentations in your trade show displays.

6.  Other media: Even while attending trade shows, your prospects are enticed to consume other forms of media, be it from their smartphone, email, or laptop.  So launch an integrated marketing campaign during the show, reminding them via email, social media, and show-specific advertising, why they should visit you in your booth.  That way, when they peruse other media, you redirect them back to your presence at the show.

7.  Their Family: Trade show attendees are people first, buyers second.  While away from home they miss their families.  That’s why some exhibitors provide giveaways that are specifically meant for their attendee’s kids rather than attendees themselves (Can you say Teddy Bear?).  These exhibitors get valuable at-show attention that lets them start a meaningful conversation, even if after the show their logo ends up in a toy box.

Now that you know who your true trade show competitors are, you can formulate strategies that garner more attention from your clients and prospects, and triumph on the trade show floor.

Click here now to find more ways to beat your trade show competition with the What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper, a 32-page research report filled with ideas to increase your trade show results.