Just flying back from the SHRM National Conference. This SHRM conference was the biggest ever. Over 20,000 HR and TA pros and leaders all in one location. Thousands of others from vendors and support staff. It was a bit crazy and awesome all at the same time.
When you go into the expo of SHRM National (and other giant conferences like the HR Technology Conference in Vegas in October) it can be a bit overwhelming. Not only for the attendees but for the vendors as well. How the heck are you supposed to connect with the people you want? Both sides, by the way, have this problem.
Vendors only want to connect with a small segment of those attending, their actual buyers. Attendees also only want to connect with a small segment within the expo, those products, and services they actually have a need for. The current design of expos at large conferences doesn’t help either side.
Do you know why Home Depot and Lowes build across the street from each other? If someone wants to buy home repair type of items it makes it super convenient for them to be so close. One location doesn’t have what you need, the other might and it’s right across the street.
What if expos put all the same types of tech within the same areas? Need a recruiting tool? Go over to the Recruiting section of the expo and you can see all of the products, solutions, and vendors in one place. Need performance management tech, go over to the performance management selection area, etc.
Seems like this would actually be a better design for both sides, yet we don’t do this because of traditional sales strategies of the conference community. How much are you willing to pay for prime spots and how long have you been coming? Thus we end up with this scatter blot of an expo floor with people wandering around aimlessly collecting bad swag.
I don’t think any conference will change anytime soon, but sometimes you just have to throw out ideas to the universe and see what happens.
So, how can you stand out in a world of expo chaos?
- You can’t just sit in your booth and wait for people to find you. Hire some “interns” for the week and have them moving around the expo dressed up in a way people will take notice and want to find your booth.
- Give an email, direct mail offer so enticing that people have to show up to your booth. Come to our booth, do a 20-minute demo, and we’ll give you a $25 gift card to whatever. People who aren’t interested in you will not waste twenty minutes for $25 bucks so the lead gen is good and cheap.
- Zig when others are zagging. You can have the most expensive, and brightest booth on the planet or you can do something totally different. I’ve seen companies just put down astroturf and fill it with puppies and their space was full all day. I have an idea that you could go buy a bunch of really high-end women’s shoes. Shoes that every woman is interested in trying on, but in reality could never afford. You basically use your booth a shoe store, but you aren’t selling them, you’re just giving them the experience of trying them on and seeing if they would actually want these for real, without the stress of going into these high-end stores. Your salespeople turn into old-school shoe salespersons and have great conversations. In the end, the women trying on shoes can register to win the shoes they like the most. You would have a line into your booth for the entire show. (partner with Zappos or something and probably can get the shoes at cost for the try-on experience)
- Celebrity guest and photo opportunity. You would be amazed at how cheap you can get someone to come to your booth for an hour. Again, partner this with an ‘if you demo, you get to get your photo at the meet and greet” of this celebrity. It might cost you another $10-20K, but if that turns into an additional 200 demos, you win! We are in a world where we are all enamored by celebrities.
- Make it extremely clear what you do. I can walk by 90% of booths and have absolutely no idea what you do and why I would want to buy your product. In big expo environments, less than 10% of the audience is your potential buyer, so you can’t miss anyone, and if one of those buyers walks past your booth because it’s not 100% clear what you do, you lost. No, we don’t know your brand. Just tell us!
I know you already spend a tremendous amount getting the booth, the swag, and having your entire team travel out to the event, but if you don’t attract buyers, all of that expense is just a waste! In expo lead gen, you are either all in or you’re just burning a giant pile of cash.
The best booth experience is one where you are only attracting the buyers you want and not spending half your time handing out stuffed animals to people who don’t know you and will never buy your stuff. I know it’s a risk not doing what everyone else is doing, but great marketing is risky.