There are two types of companies: Those who make things happen. And those who wait for things to happen.
And all exhibitors had the same convention center; the same program; the same advanced planning opportunities; the same website; the same exhibitor list; the same sponsorship opportunities; the same 24 hours in a day; the same calendar announcing EXACTLY when the event was to take place; and the same access to all the tools that make trade shows potentially worthwhile.
But at a trade show, there are two types of companies:
1. The companies who said the foot traffic was weak. That there were too many logistical hurdles. That the bus service was too slow. That their booth was too small. Or that their booth was too far off into the corner. That the show didn’t do enough to promote all of the exhibitors. That it probably wasn’t worth their time next year…
You get the idea.
2. Or…the companies who said the show kicked ass.
So what’s the difference?
One grouping of companies let things happen to them…
And the other grouping of companies made things happen.
They didn’t try to connect to thousands of people at the show. They had a very select target list of people they were trying to connect with, and that’s all that mattered. They started working on planning and prep months, if not 365 days, ago. They didn’t see this as time away from the office [AKA vacation]. They didn’t groan when they had booth coverage for the 2pm to 4pm shift.
No, the companies that kicked ass knew exactly who they needed to see, and had a plan set — well in advance — of who they needed to work. And had a strategy of how they were going to make it happen.
If you rely on walk-up traffic to make your trade show spend worthwhile, you’ve already lost.
The trade show is where all the months of planning you do is executed. A trade show is NOT where you hope things happen.
You don’t go there because that’s what everyone else in the industry is doing…You go there because the people with which you need to connect with are there, and you are going to connect, serve, interact with, and advance the ball on all of them.
And maybe it’s just 65 people…65 organizations.
But it’s the winner who knows that advancing the ball on those 65 relationships at the 2015 trade show, moves the needle on the 2016 opportunities. And deals.
If you exhibit at a trade show, and if you say the show was weak and there wasn’t enough traffic coming by your exhibit?
You are doing it wrong.
He is a former marketing strategist, national political operative, and lobbyist.
Todd has published five books, writes a business + lifestyle column, is a distance runner, and lives in Chicago with his wife Stephanie + family.