The trade show floor is a symbol of innovation. It’s where businesses come together to show off their latest products, reveal their groundbreaking services, and prove to their prospects that they have something no one else can provide. And they do it all in booths, standing shoulder to shoulder with their fiercest competitors.
But among all those cutting-edge products is something that seems to never change: the trade show industry itself. All too often, marketing teams return to the same strategies to connect with attendees. They rely on assumptions, bias, and the status quo to guide their conduct. It’s time for that to change.
As we think about how to be more innovative at trade shows, here’s what you can do to help alter the industry for the better.
Change the Status Quo
Today, businesses have greater access to a wealth of information that has the ability to help inform all decisions. This is especially true of marketing, where we can gather countless data points on prospects who are attending the trade show. Marketing managers can use that information to craft a personalized experience that addresses the individual needs of each person.
Beyond personalized marketing, there are broader opportunities to use data to guide a trade show experience. For example, key findings from sociological research offer insight into a host of things that attendees experience in your booth, from color associations to preferred methods of learning new information.
For too long, decisions on trade show strategies were based on what’s been done in the past. Now, we can use new resources to shape curated experiences that foster better connections with attendees.
“My suggestion is to use a data-driven approach when creating experiences for attendees. Most companies have access to things like persona information and demographic information. Let's use the information to help fuel decision-making, as opposed to leaning on the past to give us the answers.” — Rhiannon Andersen, Steelhead co-founder and CMO
Find Ways to Innovate
Breaking free from the status quo isn’t easy. Recycling old methods of doing things, especially when they’ve worked before, feels less risky. After all, why fix what’s not broken?
The thing is, if there’s no attempt to innovate, things will never improve. That’s why it’s just as critical to put as much effort into innovating the way we communicate as it is to come up with new products.
With that in mind, these are our top three favorite ways to make sure you’re always striving to innovate on the trade show floor.
1) Consider the Learning Pyramid
Let’s go back in time for a moment, shall we?
Remember history class, when it felt like your teacher was just rattling off dates and events that you were expected to remember for the upcoming exam? If you struggled to retain much of this information, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that we only retain about 10% of what we hear through lecture.
The Learning Pyramid was created out of those studies and reflects all the different ways people can learn new information, including lectures, reading, demonstrations, and audiovisual presentations.
As you think about your marketing strategy for an upcoming show, refer to the Learning Pyramid to guide the way you teach prospects about your products and services.
Quick tip: the more active the exchange of information, like an interactive demo, the better people remember.
Andersen says, “It’s about being thoughtful. We know more about how people learn now than ever before. Let’s use that information to create better learning experiences.”
2) Reframe Your Mindset
Old habits die hard, and that’s especially true with the way we run our businesses. It takes time and effort to find things that work. This makes it extra scary to try new things. Yet, this is exactly what’s necessary to drive innovation.
Reframing your mindset is about stepping outside the box and looking at problems and challenges from new directions. “I think it's about being curious. It’s about constantly asking questions in order to be more progressive,” says Andersen.
“So much of what we do as marketers has to do with the ways humans are evolving. So be curious about what we’re seeing happen in society, and that will help fuel your own innovations.”
3) Control Your Sphere of Influence
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn
A person’s sphere of influence isn’t just affected by the people they’re around, but by the people, places, and ideas that they’re surrounded by.
With that in mind, seek out companies who are looking to innovate and connect with them. Always look to others who are reaching, practicing curiosity, and pushing the envelope in directions you find inspirational.
Andersen shares, “At Steelhead, one of our favorite ways to grow our sphere of influence is through our Leaders are Readers program.” Through the program, Steelheaders read two books every year on a wide range of subjects including business, marketing, and sociological issues.
By staying curious, striving to innovate, and inspiring those around us to do the same, you can help change the status quo and launch a new era of trade show marketing.
Want more tips on creating an incredible trade show experience? Check out our white paper: 7 Keys To An Irresistible Trade Show Campaign.