Posted by: jmwilsonmga | August 16, 2011

Inside the Trade Show : Observations from an Insurance Tradeshow Exhibitor

As Marketing Manager for J.M. Wilson, I’ve been an exhibitor at numerous trade shows over the years. I’ve seen a lot of different behavior from the convention goers I am trying to attract.  The objective of my presence at a show is to meet and reconnect with customers and old friends, but also to engage and interest potential new customers.  It can be tough sometimes when the attendees have a different agenda.

Here are 5 challenges that I have experienced and tried to overcome while exhibiting at a trade show:

  1.   “Middle of the Aisle Walker”   These are the folks who want to be non-committal to the booths on one side or the other.  By staying in this “no man’s land”, the attendee thinks they are safe from an exhibitor trying to engage them and lure them closer to their booth.

Strategy: I move out further in front of the booth area – even better, if I have our door prize giveaway or cool trinket in hand, I try to engage them with that. Even if they have no intention of visiting our booth, I at least want to get my company’s name in their hand or a business card from them to follow up at a later date.

 2.  “I Forgot to Bring My Business Cards”   Really?  You come to a convention where you are networking with your business partners and you “forgot” to bring your business cards? 

Strategy: The only way I can be sure I know who I spoke with at a convention and gauge the traffic, is by capturing the customer’s contact information usually in the form of a business card.  For these instances where people do not have a card, I try to have forms ready to complete with their information so that they can still enter our drawing for a door prize. That way, I can contact them if they win, and also follow up with them after the show.

3. “Take and Trash” I don’t necessarily know that this is what happens with all attendees, but I know it from the point of view of having been a convention attendee myself.  There are so many booths to visit and marketing materials to collect – much of which I don’t really need or want.

Strategy:  I try not to bring too much paper information that I expect will get tossed when the attendee gets back to their hotel room or home.  I focus more on obtaining that business card, rather than pushing marketing materials, at the show.   With the customer’s contact information, I can follow up with them after the show when they are in their work environment and not inundated with so much information.  Perhaps there is a fit, perhaps there isn’t, but the likelihood of finding that fit is greater when there isn’t so much noise.

4. “Trinket Hoarders”  You know these folks…often with multiple “grandchildren” they are snatching up your logoed trinkets for.  After all, who can say no to the children, right? 

Strategy:  I just smile and drop another trinket in their bag.  The reason we bring the trinkets to the convention is for customers and potential customers to take anyway. Do I really care if it’s for the staff back at the office or if it goes in Cindy Lou’s toy box? I want that customer to see and remember my company!

5. “Exhibitor Free For All”  This is probably my biggest pet peeve.   When fellow exhibitors come around with their “trick or treat” bags snatching other exhibitor’s trinkets….sometimes under the guise of being a customer! 

Strategy:  I’m all for sharing ideas and goodies with other exhibitors, so if there is something I really think is cool that another exhibitor is giving away, I approach them with my trinket and ask if they would care to swap. 

Exhibiting at conventions is a big investment for a company both in terms of time and expense.  The better I can utilize my time and materials while engaging with the people I am there to see, the better return I can bring to J.M. Wilson.  What are some experiences you have to share?

About the Author : Cathy Baldwin, Marketing Manager

Cathy has been a member of the J.M. Wilson Team for over twenty-one years and currently serves as the Marketing Manager.  She oversees the marketing team, which provides marketing support for our underwriting teams in commercial transportation, property/casualty, professional liability, personal lines, and surety.  Cathy loves the variety in her position as marketing manager.  She has the opportunity to work with everyone at J.M. Wilson, our agents, and the companies we represent.  In her free time, Cathy loves to run and ran the 2011 Kalamazoo Half Marathon.  She also enjoys reading and listening to music – her favorites range from Neil Diamond to Led Zeppelin. 

Connect with Cathy on LinkedIn

Disclaimer :  This article is for informational purposes only.  There is no legal advice being suggested or proffered.  The author assumes no responsibility or liability for the actions taken or not taken by the readers based upon such information.  This article is the opinion of the author and is not supported or endorsed by J.M. Wilson.  It should not be relied upon and may contain inaccuracies or content may have changed over time, contact your underwriter for the most current and accurate information.  Any comments or responses are the opinions of their authors.  Content on this site is believed to be covered under Fair Use.

Copyright 2011 J.M. Wilson Corporation

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