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How to standout at a trade show

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I have been very lucky to travel extensively to conferences and exhibitions on both sides of the pond. For those who don’t know that expression, it means both UK/Europe and over here in North America with the pond being the Atlantic Ocean. This past week I was in London, England at the annual Service and IT Show (SITS) Conference and Exhibition. I have attended 9 of these in the past 15 years. You may ask “why I would go to so many?” The answer is easy. From a vendor’s perspective, it is all about them. It’s an exhibition of products and services from vendors from all over Europe demonstrating their wares. From an attendee’s perspective, it’s free to attend and is content rich with some of the most high profile speakers from the ITSM (IT Service Management) Industry presenting.  The company that put the conference on is Diversified Communications and a special shout out should go to Laura Venables who did a wonderful job organizing the show. For me, it is a must attend event for anyone in the Helpdesk or IT Service Management space.

Why am I writing about an IT service desk event?

I found it interesting that many of the vendors in attendance don’t know the difference between an exhibition and an industry conference. They treat them both the same, when in fact they are different in many significant ways. At an exhibition, the show floor is typically opened the entire time and you have to be on your game from open to close. There are no traffic drivers like getting stamps on a passport to drive attendees to the booth. It is all about how creative your marketing team can be to create the buzz and awareness your brand needs to drive awareness and foot traffic to your stand. At most of the industry conferences, the exhibit floor is opened in 2-3 hour intervals because the event is focused on either education or speakers from the industry. The attendees pay upwards of $2000 dollars each and the expectation is to come back with knowledge and not just a cool key fob from vendor XYZ. The expo hall almost seems like an afterthought for the conference type events and in reality, should be treated as an equal. That’s another blog for another time. The working title is “Vendor Equality – They’re Customers Also”.

At SITS, one vendor stood out in particular. This vendor was ManageEngine. The company has recently started giving away their helpdesk product for free and have created quite a stir in the industry by doing so.  What made them so different this time is what they did at the show to coincide with this freemium play. ManageEngine did something I had never seen before.  They hired a couple of food trucks to serve the attendees, vendor staff and show staff lunch on the first day. They had a traditional fish and chip truck and an amazing gourmet hamburger pop-up stand. It was not inside the event, but outside the building for even the public to see and participate. I’m sure some local construction workers who just happened to be working nearby were thanking ManageEngine that day. Back to what the company did...they did so many things right. They ran a selfie contest, had a twitter hashtag, picked some great food vendors, had media coverage and pulled off something very unique. Inside the show, people were telling everyone what was going on outside and I’m sure some other vendors are kicking themselves for not coming up with the idea themselves.  The event was so good that they ran out of food at one of the vendors.

Some things you should consider when attending an event

  1. 1. What type of show are you attending and who are the attendees?
  2. 2. What can we do as a company to standout?
  3. 3. How are we measuring success?
  4. 4. Where should we spend the budget to have the biggest impact?

If you would like to have a conversation before your next event or while you’re planning it, please feel free to reach out to me directly at william@gotomarketers.com



 

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