Tradeshows: One of the Oldest and Most Reliable Forms of Experiential Marketing

There is a very complex – relevant definition of experiential marketing, and I was asked to write a blog post about this subject as it relates to tradeshows.  Tradeshows are really my specialty.  I can tell you that experiential marketing – as it is now defined is marketing that “influences” all your senses.

In the tradeshow business we call this interactive or face – to – face marketing, and we’ve been doing it for many years.  The problem is the same, no matter what the medium or circumstance. How do you break through the clutter?  How do you get noticed on the tradeshow floor when you have so much competition to get attention?  What can you do to make yourself different?

What you do, is develop a strategy that captures the attention of the attendee for as long as it takes to qualify that lead in the booth.  In corporate sales, it’s all about getting to the next step, the next point of contact.

In the world of tradeshows, you get about 3 seconds to get the attention of the attendee that is walking by – after all there are 800 other exhibitors to see and as an exhibitor how will you make that attendee remember you.  What do you do?

You develop a strategy that captures them before the show, during the show, and after the show for a follow up.  You develop something memorable to do in the booth so it’s easy for that attendee to remember you above all the other exhibitors in the hall.

One year at the PGA Show in Orlando, we were introducing a new product – book your tee times online – something very common now, but a new concept in 2000.

The owner of the company wanted to show that not only could you book your tee times from anywhere in the world – but you could see that the system was automatic – as soon as your tee time was booked online – it was captured at the other end in the pro shop.  We set up stations with double monitors one on top of the other and a person was encouraged to book a tee time, and watch as one monitor recorded the tee time, and in the second monitor you could see the tee time record on the other screen (mimicking the pro shop screen).

A cousin of the owner was an adventurist and the head of the Mount Everest climb that year for Team Canada.  He booked a tee time from base camp at Mount Everest.  In the exhibit – we had a replica of Mount Everest (one you could walk inside).  We had the cousin signing autographs in the booth.  You could have your photo taken in front of a green screen that showed you- in the photo holding the flag on the green – on Mount Everest – and you received a mouse pad with the web address of the company with your Mount Everest photo inside.  (You would always have that mouse pad with the web address convenient when you wanted to book your tee time).

You were invited to the booth with an invitation (direct mail), and there were follow up postcards and thank you notes as well.

In addition – Jim Flick – golf pro and coach for Jack Nicklaus, was in the booth to offer tips on your golf swing – and – we gave out Mount Everest gum – brand new that year.  We pretty much covered every one of the senses.

The secret of course was the interactive element – inviting attendees into the booth to experience booking the tee time and then getting a photo on Mount Everest.  Not only was it memorable, they had a physical reminder of their experience.

The goal in attending most tradeshows is to get a qualified lead – and the only way to do that is to talk to and question the person that is attending the show, but you have to keep them in the booth long enough to do that.

Tradeshows have a great captive audience.  The people attending have an agenda – to find new products or services to help them grow.  As an exhibitor you have a wonderful opportunity to mingle with other people in your industry, meet a new audience, see continuing clients, and see what is new in your industry.  The only problem with any medium now is breaking through the clutter – being noticed.  It’s necessary to create a memorable experience for all your potential customers.

Experiential marketing blog

From this view you can see the two screens to see your tee time as it was booked, the round rooms were private conference rooms, and notice that mountain in the background.  PGA 2000.

Join us as we chat about experiential marketing at our March Ad Lab, tonight at 6pm at the Saturn Club.