So I am sitting in the office with 8 days to go until BETT 2018 begins and I am beginning to feel a strange mix of apprehension and excitement. Up to 40,000 visitors in three days and the likelihood is that due to our working with another Partner in the Microsoft Education Campus, we will be lucky enough to meet most of them!

That’s right, it is going to be mental! I have never been to this trade show before, so I am asking myself a few basic questions….how different can it be from other shows? What should our commercial expectations be of a trade show? Have we chosen the right objectives and messages as we planned our marketing?

In over 20 years of delivering marketing for global businesses at trade shows and other events, it is common that amazing companies, large and small, make the same mistakes time and again when attending trade shows.

Marketing departments can end up using messages that make the CEO happy, but fail to connect with the priorities and concerns of their customers. Inevitably, those company leaders end up thinking that the financial failure was because there weren’t enough people attending or that there weren’t the “right” sort of visitors at the show. All of this is rubbish of course, but it makes everyone feel like they did a good job and then they promptly sign up for the event the following year.

Bett 2018 is the first education show I have attended and I’m determined to not fall into this predictable trap! I am focused on what are the messages prospective customers “need” to hear and not on what are the messages we “want” the customer to hear. Why do I say this?

Well the reality is that for every visitor to the stand over those three days, it is likely we will at most have two minutes to capture details, assess the commercial potential, establish a friendly, personal conversation and close the chat with a meaningful next step….not much then!

Oh and critically you must perfect your “decoupling” routine for visitors who have little future value….this is the hard but vastly under-appreciated art of working a trade show!

Once the show is underway, remember that your brand reputation can be boosted or ruined with key decision makers in a matter of moments.

So here are my Top 5 trade show sales and marketing mistakes….

  1. Create sales and marketing messages that are for the prospective customer NOT the CEO or MD – I call this the internal/external marketing trap. Never set up for a trade show in order to keep the leader of the business happy! They are usually detached from 80% of the customer base and have little understanding of what “cuts through”. Always focus on the 80-90% of customers and appeal to their concerns.
  2. Give your customers alcohol! – it seems like a friendly gesture and the suggestion will usually come from a salesperson….do not listen to them! Why? Because the team on the stand end up drinking more than anyone and inappropriate comments or conversations can occur!
  3. Assume facts due to appearance about stand visitors – Oh the tales of woe from companies that have incorrectly assumed facts about stand visitors are legion. The gent who “looked like a geography teacher” but instead turned out to be the MD of a massive construction company is a prime example I have witnessed. Initially treat everybody as though they are the biggest opportunity of the day and go from there!
  4. Oversell! – Establishing a personal rapport with a prospect is your sole objective in the limited time you have on stand. Never try to oversell and close a deal at a trade show. Would you buy a car after a 2 minute conversation with a salesperson? No you would not, so don’t ask your visitors to do the same!
  5. Fail to follow up on promised conversations – Capturing the correct prospect information is one thing, then following up with that prospect in a timely and appropriate manner is another thing completely. Capture how the prospect would like to be contacted and when would be a good time to re-engage with them…..then keep your promise! Do not prioritise and filter opportunities – as a rule – all prospects deserve to be treated equally.

So I ask only this…please come to see us in the Microsoft Education Campus stand E300 and I promise to not serve you champagne, sell our product in an aggressive manner and assume I know everything about you before we speak!

I am looking forward to Bett 2018 and meeting lots of amazing educators and leaders.