Monday, May 9, 2011

Musings on a Munday My Response to Genealogy Conferences - Selling the Goods

My response to Genealogy Conferences - Selling the Goods.

Exhibit Booths are a Gamble:  Gamble is Thomas' word, that I don't like at all, but I'll go with it.  Trade show exhibiting is like anything must research, prepare and practice.  Exhibiting is a discipline (Certified Trade Show Marketer) unto itself and must be approached as any other marketing channel by setting objectives and planning out your strategy.  It's only a gamble if you don't do your research and take the time to educate yourself.  
  • Why are you exhibiting?  Are you only looking for sales?  Do you need to perform product demos?  What about client relationships?  Face-to-face marketing at a trade show allows you to see 10, 20 or more current clients in one place.  There is real value in developing and maintaining client relationships. You need to calculate that into your return on investment for the trade show.
  • Inventory. I am still surprised when I enter an exhibit hall at a genealogy conference and see how much "stuff" is in the vendors booths.  In this day and age of "going green", shipping boxes and boxes of pamphlets, books and do-dads is, and should be, a thing of the past.  Put your products on a slide show and have it running on your laptop or iPad in the booth.  If you feel you must have samples in your booth, limit them to what is absolutely necessary.  Run a special on shipping if an attendee orders from you ten days before, during and ten days after the show. That should help to alleviate any resistance to not having the product in their hands at the show.
  • You should be advertising that you are exhibiting at a conference in the months leading up to it and the conference management should be assisting you with this.  Look at their media kit and sponsorship opportunities.  Ask for an email template that you can use to send out to your current customer base.  Use social media channels to promote your attendance, LinkedIn is a good avenue for pre-show marketing.  If you don't feel you can't afford to advertise or purchase a sponsorship, see if you can co-op with another vendor that is not in direct competition with you.  
  • can not exhibit if you are not in the booth.  I realize many exhibitors go it solo.  Have you calculated the potential to make more sales if you have a second person with you?  You could be missing out on sales when you are away from the booth, but also while you are at the booth and helping others.  Attendees have a limited amount of time and may not wait around for you to finish talking to another customer.  If you truly can't afford a second person, have you asked the conference management for assistance?  Do they have volunteers that could, at a very minimum, keep your booth "open" while you go to get lunch?  Ask!
  • Booth appearance is critical!  As an exhibitor, you want to put the same effort into looking professional as you do in any other aspect of your work life.  Too much information is not helpful, it is harmful.  Project a clear, concise message as to what your product is and what it can do for the customer.  This can be done very economically with some thought and pre-planning.  Booth appearance guidelines should apply to the staff also.  Make sure everyone in the booth is clear about what their attire should be.
  • Booth layout is important and should be planned out.  Exhibitors have a tendency to place that 6 foot, draped table right at the very edge of the isle.  Exhibiting is full of barriers and obstacles why place another one in front of you?  Why barricade yourself in your booth?  Place the table in the back or to the side of your space.  This will give you room to welcome attendees INTO your booth.  Get them out of the isle where they are more apt to just keep on moving.
  • This is where I will vent on my largest pet peeve against exhibitors.  Do not be sitting in a chair in the booth.  Just don't do it.  If you have customers that are in need of a chair, by all means provide them one but they are for customers only.  I know it's a long day (I've done it), I know your feet hurt (I bring a change of shoes to switch into during the day and that helps). When that exhibit hall is open you should be standing up front and center ready to draw the customers into your booth.
Welcome to the Land of Nickel and Dime:  The heading says it all.  Nothing is "included" you will pay for it.  However, you can minimize costs by making sure you place orders before the discount deadlines expire.

Education Included:  If you plan to hold a mini-class in your booth, educate yourself on the other vendors.  Work with conference management to make sure your booth is not near several other vendors that will also be hosting classes.  There will be less confusion and you won't have to try to talk over them. 
New Models:  Educate yourself and think out side of what you know (you thought I was going to say box, didn't you!:)  Don't worry about what you have "always" done or what the other vendors are doing.  You must tailor your exhibit experience to what you know, your product and your personality.  I've listed a few resources (there are many more) that can jump start your ideas.  Theses are NOT just for the large 20x30 booths and don't make the mistake of thinking your are not big enough to implement some affordable and effective exhibit strategies into your program.

Conclusion:  The exhibit hall is probably the most popular area at any genealogy conference.  I agree!  Exhibitors and conference management need to work together to provide a trade show experience that is interesting, informative and engaging.  Good luck to all the current exhibitors who are working on refining their strategy and to the newbies that are giving it their first go!  


  1. Great post. I was hoping you'd weigh in since you're "in the know."

  2. At NGS 2011 I paid for a booth since I spend most of My time in the exhibit hall, and it is very near the conference registration price. 1 free conference admission comes with the booth. It is for GeneaWebinars, Genea-quilters and DearMYRTLE. Will add SL to booth for FGS. Makes it easy as a meet up place and to pick up ribbons. An iPad is the only way to go.

  3. Excellent Post. You are headed for inclusion in this week's Around the Blogosphere!