In a comprehensive trade show study, the thing an exhibitor can provide attendees that has the highest correlation with purchase intent is new learning. Not tchotchkes.
If you've attended enough trade shows, you've seen them. They get bags with an exhibitor's logo on the outside and then hit the trade show floor with one mission: to pick up as many promotional items as they can stuff in the bag(s). The effort they put into picking up exhibitor swag can resemble an episode of Supermarket Sweep.
Not surprisingly, many exhibitors put a lot of time, planning and money into distributing promotional tchotchkes to get visitors to stop at their booth. But research shows that's not as important as teaching an attendee something new.
The study interviewed 3,341 trade show attendees at 30 events, including one of the biggest defense contractor trade shows, the AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition.
As shown in the graphic below, when combining the results of 'obtaining product information' (32%), 'product demo' (11%) and 'seeing a rep' (10%), 53% come to learn about what the exhibitor has that is new.
While giveaways are not unimportant (17% of respondents say that's why they visit a booth), they should not be the primary focus of trade show exhibit planning.
In addition, there are the other important factors that prompt booth visitation that should not be overlooked such as pre-show promotion, exhibit staff training and display appearance.
However, the primary focus of a defense contractor's trade show planning should be on how to help the attendees learn something new.
We have noticed in all of our studies over the past six years that there is a correlation between learning and inclination to buy, prescribe, recommend or influence after visiting an exhibit where there was new learning.
The Skyline/Marketech 360 study explains that what an exhibitor wants "is to change the perception of the attendee, change their behavior, or get a commitment to recommend, purchase or prescribe."
The key is when learning occurs: "...what we have found in study after study - regardless of the industry segment - is that when learning takes place, the inclination for behavior change occurs."
To help get you started planning for your next trade show, the study includes 15 examples of trade show exhibit tactics that can lead to meaningful attendee learning:
- One-on-one conversations
- Product demonstrations (individual or on-demand)
- Expert live theatre
- Live presentations (Xpert Centers)
- Case studies (using AV interactives)
- Interactive AV
- Product theatres
- Pre-arranged meetings/demonstrations
- Lunch and Learn
- Client led discussions or presentations
- Separate areas for attendee networking
Click here to download a copy of "What Attendees Tell Us About Best Exhibiting Practices." (Registration required)
Question: What trade show tactics have helped you learn something new? Please join the conversation below. And if you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!