5 Ways to Make Yourself Irresistible at Trade Shows

Do You Have the Trade Show "It" Factor?

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Have you ever wondered why attendees gravitate toward certain booths in the exhibit hall and all but ignore the rest? Is it the design? The sales pitch? If only you knew the secret...

Luckily, you don't have to be one of the exhibitors waiting it out on the sidelines. If you've got these 5 ingredients in your trade show marketing arsenal, you too can stand out on the show floor like a bonfire at midnight.

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It's been said that "it’s not what you look at that matters, it's what you see"; that "a work of art doesn't exist outside the perception of the audience"; that people's perceptions are their realities.

How Is the View of YOU?

These beliefs ring especially true in the business world, where the perceptions consumers have of a company and its products or services can have a dramatic impact on buying behavior. The truth is, buyers are constantly synthesizing all the information they have about a company to decide whether it can offer them value, which is why businesses have attempted to influence consumers' perceptions since the dawn of, well… COMMERCE. With careful planning and execution, a business can favorably influence people's attitudes and elicit profitable buying behaviors. Without that strategy, they're up a creek without a paddle.

Another business endeavor in which perception is key is a trade show, where you have a very small window to make a favorable impression on your target customers. How you're perceived by attendees is what ultimately determines whether your show is successful (or not). If you're going into a trade show with attendees carrying a poor perception of you, or no perception at all, you're already behind your competition. The best way to get noticed and win big is to exceed expectations and stand out among your peers, which brings us to…

SERVQUAL

The brainchild of behavioral researchers A. Parasuraman, Valarie Zeithaml, and Leonard Berry, SERVQUAL (aka the "Gaps Model") is a marketing principle that has helped emphasize the role that service quality plays in a consumer's perception of their buying experience. The research team identified 5 variables – Tangibles, Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance, and Empathy – that can either make or break you during interactions with your potential or existing customers.

Below, we'll show you how applying these five SERVQUAL attributes to your face-to-face interactions can help you influence buyers' perceptions, exceed people's expectations, and profit from your next trade show.

1) First Impressions Last

When you walk up to a store, the first thing you'll probably notice is the appearance of the building and its interior. Is it well-maintained, or is the façade cracked and faded? A customer's perception begins with a company's "servicescape," a concept that highlights the impact a customer's physical environment (aka Tangibles) has on the customer's overall experience. A "servicescape" includes everything from a building's design to how products are packaged.

Make no mistake, attendees judge trade show exhibitors on those same criteria. To convey your company's competence and credibility, you need the essentials: good signage, an aesthetically pleasing booth, and attractive product displays. When you invest in good Tangibles, not only will you draw visitors in, but you'll also raise their perception of your company before you even have your first conversation.

2) We All Need Someone to Lean On

The next attribute (and the one that's often the most important to your customer) is Reliability. When you're reliable, your prospects and customers are confident that (1) your products and services will fulfill their needs, and (2) you will deliver what you promise.

So, what's the best way to demonstrate reliability to trade show attendees? Outline your products' features and benefits in relation to your clients' needs, with special emphasis on how you're dependable (like that iron-clad guarantee your competition doesn't offer); this will give people the assurance that they need to move forward in the purchasing process with you. Where marketing content is concerned, social proof – company reviews and customer testimonials – is your best friend. You can weave social proof into your booth conversations or put it on company literature for attendees to mull over after the show.

3) The Glazed Eye Epidemic

Have you ever noticed the look in people's eyes while they're on the show floor? Often, it's a look of sheer, unbridled boredom, the result of attendees being bombarded with sales pitches from exhibitors who view them solely as dollar signs.

The root cause? Marketing myopia, where exhibitors tend to focus on their needs, rather than their customers'. To set yourself apart, you must be willing to be Responsive – to take care of attendees' needs promptly and efficiently. And needs change quickly, which is why responsiveness is a fundamental factor in earning a buyer's trust. If you stay focused on uncovering people's problems and showing how your company can be the solution, you'll spare many a grateful soul from "The Glazed Eye Epidemic," and you'll find yourself with tons of new leads to boot!

4) Assure to Ensure Success

Assurance stems from a customer's belief that your company is competent and trustworthy.

One of the best ways to foster buyer assurance at a trade show is to position yourself as an opinion leader, someone whom others seek out for their knowledge and expertise. You can portray yourself as an opinion leader by showcasing the depth of your product knowledge or providing valuable insight into the nature of your industry. (Note: This could include talking about your competition, which actually helps you (a) sound less biased and (b) prove you're the better choice.)

When attendees think,"This is someone who really knows what they're talking about!", they become more invested in their relationship with you, and it creates the confidence they need to choose your company when decision time comes.

5) "I Feel Your Pain."

The final SERVQUAL attribute, Empathy, is defined as "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." In a SERVQUAL context, it's understanding and showing concern for your customer's specific pain points, like choosing the right bookkeeping software for their company, learning how they can boost employee morale, or figuring out how to show up in search engine results for their industry. In short, your clients want someone to help them fix their problems – the reason they're seeking you out in the first place.

When you're on the trade show floor, smile, make eye contact, and use active listening techniques to demonstrate that you're genuinely interested in helping attendees with their issues. When you make the effort to connect with others on a human level, you'll be rewarded with positive perceptions of your company and what you have to offer.

Put Your Best Face Forward

What makes SERVQUAL unique is that it looks at all aspects of your company, and it can be implemented easily into your marketing strategy. Let's review the 5 SERVQUAL attributes:

1) Tangibles – your company's physical assets, such as products (and product packaging), buildings, equipment, and your trade show exhibit

2) Reliability – the ability, in your customers' eyes, to be depended upon for accuracy, candor, and/or consistent performance

3) Responsiveness – the capacity to acknowledge and address your customers' needs quickly and efficiently

4) Assurance – customers' certainty that your company is capable and ethical

5) Empathy – the ability to experience your customers' feelings and problems as your own

Now that we've revisited each aspect of the SERVQUAL model, you may find it helpful to choose one or two of its facets to help reach your trade show goals. First, consider what you want to accomplish, then rank each SERVQUAL attribute in relation to how it will help you achieve your goals. Once you've done this, you'll find it much easier to construct a compelling and effective trade show dialogue.

For example, you'd like to show off your product's sleek, new design (Tangibles), while stressing that the core product hasn't changed (Reliability). Or, perhaps your company has overhauled its customer service program (Responsiveness & Empathy).

While all five elements are essential for success, each SERVQUAL component goes a long way in helping to encourage positive perceptions of your company. When you prove that you're in business to serve your clients' best interests, more sales (and happy customers!) are yours for the taking!