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Attract visitors to your industrial marketing trade show exhibit

Thu, Jan 02, 2014 @ 10:04 AM / by Chuck Lohre

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You hate it, you love it, you hate it, you love it! The industrial marketing trade show conundrum.

Industrial marketing trade shows offer much anguish and apprehension for many a marketing director. All the time and expense to build an exhibit can never be justified by sales made at the show. You might see it as a costly get together for employees and sales representatives with clients and customers. While you might think a better solution is to forego the show and hold court in a nearby hotel, that's an "illegal" move according to most show organziners. That hasn't stopped some exhibitors from taking a booth at the show and booking a large hotel suite where they control the hospitality. It's all part of building the best mousetrap to attract your customer. In the end, though, the show floor is the place to meet current and potential customers and make a lasting impression and in that way, the expenditures are "priceless." It's up to you to work it on all customer touchpoints!

But for companies with machinery to display, there's no way around taking space on the show floor. This article will try to help you make the best of your next trade show effort. Read on to learn some time-honored visual marketing techniques used notably by retailers. Plus we'll look at some new display products.

Industrial trade show attention getterHere's a short history of visual marketing at retail: Before L. Frank Baum wrote a series of books based on his characters in the "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," he was a retailer and later a trade magazine ediitor for retailers. His story dates to 1888 at a Dakota Territory mining camp. He decided to get into retail with "Baum's Bazaar" and spared no expense to bring in the finest products to the new store. Thousands of folks attended his store's grand opening, but no one purchased anything. Turns out his audience didn't have the means to buy anything that expensive. Baum may have abandoned his store, but he went on to start The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors (trade publication, 1900), where he dispensed advice on how to display goods for sale and published photos of what retailers around the country were doing in their show windows.

Baum knew the window was both the store's billboard and newspaper advertisement. And the trend for years was to put a representation of your goods in the windows. Anyone walking by could see exactly the type of merchandise offered for sale -- all they needed to do was walk in and ask for it. In time, though, owners began removing barriers between shoppers and their wares. That was the start of self-service retailing where customers no longer needed the assistance of a sales clerk to unlock the merchandise from behind the counter. It meant customers could touch and feel the goods they wanted to buy and that became a powerful force in pursuading customers to purchase.

And now more than 100 years later, the science of visual merchandising has been honed to a fine art. Just think of the stores you shop and how the displays attract your attention. For instance, Target uses the real estate at the end of aisles to present promotionally priced or seasonal goods. Similarly, the end caps at Lowe's or Home Depot often feature a DIY project complete with the necessary materials and tools paired with the finished piece. Most customers are passing by these displays as they travel the store. Bingo! These stores are capitalizing on their captive audience with economical, smart strategies in these high-visibility areas. Goods placed in the path of customers always post good numbers.

Did you know that an electrical distributor can increase sales 20% by just placing the most important merchandise where a customer can see it and positioning related products nearby? The photo above shows ILSCO's "Connectosaurus Rex," a monster made from hundreds of its electrical connectors. The competition lamented the fact that they would never have been able to get it through their engineering department!

Industrial trade show promotionTrade show exhibits must attract attention from the show floor, just as your neighborhood store does from the sidewalk or street. Now that might be easy if you brand is Ferarri. Just slap your logo on a blank white wall, shine a light on it, and the guys will line up, right?  The photo to the left illustrates an easy way to increase the lighting in your booth, provide overhead truss structure to mount extra lighting.

Turntables are a great way to catch the eye as well as well-informed sales representatives practiced in engaging the visitor and encouraging conversation. Educational signage can tell your story when you can't. You can see these display techniques in action at the Detroit Auto Show and Disneyland's Epcot while you stand in line for a ride. You'll see mouth-watering engine cutaways and in no time you've learned the history of NASCAR, as you wait for the next group of stock cars to take you around the track at Epcot.

So if you were to think about your display as a diorama telling a story, there's nothing like the Dayton Ohio Airforce Museum where standing next to Col. Dolittle getting ready to launch his B-24s to Japan off the deck of the Hornet, is one way to learn and remember.

Industrial Trade Show IdeasMake your equipment the star, but if you can't bring the actual star you have to make it with smoke and mirrors. Think about a well-done museum exhibit of paintings and sculpture. Your message needs to be presented front and center in a manner that compels the viewer to stare and stop right in their tracks. Not easy. For industrial marketers, we have the country's science museums to help us get ideas for presentations. Check out Milwaukee's Discovery World Center for Public Innovation. The photo to the left is a Sony Aibo mechanical dog we programmed to present Post Glover's high resistance grounding resistors at the Power-Gen Show. Every time we would fire up "Spike." a crowd would gather. His short, two-minute presentation and dance act was mesmerizing. High-resistance grounding is a unique application that requires some education. Spike was perfect for the job.

Industrial Marketing Show DesignAs for what's new in exhibit design, there are now lightweight, but large displays and new LED internally lit frames. There's also a version of transformers -- systems that can morph into many different displays by spinning or flipping around. Check out all the new displays by downloading the 2014 Exhibitor's Handbook. Another cool new idea is to control a monitor with the LEAP motion control, priced around $100. Plug it into any computer and with a wave of your hand control a 3D model of your equipment or when you get bored, fly around the world in Google Earth with your body motion! The most awaited display, a rollable monitor, is still to come!

All told, the best way to make the most of your industrial trade show effort is to invite your customers to meet with you, attend the industry association events, engage with the editors of industry publications and finally but not least go out into the show and introduce yourself to related businesses, potential customers and partners. We'll be at the upcoming CONEXPO - CON/AGG show for three days meeting some of the 1500 exhibitors and attendees. Stop by the Stedman Machine Company booth, Exhibit # 51871 Central Hall 4, LasVegas, NV March 4-8, 2014, or give us a call at 513-260-9025.

If you liked this article you may also like Trade Show Display Exhibit Booth Marketing Trends.

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Topics: Industrial Trade Show Displays, Trade Show, Trade Show Displays, Industrial Marketing Trade Show, Business to Business Marketing, Trade Show Exhibits, Business to Business Advertising, Trade Booths, Trade Exhibits

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Written by Chuck Lohre

Owner of Lohre & Associates Marketing Communications. The company celebrated their 80th Anniversary in 2015, his 38th.