Existing customers are a vital currency for many businesses at trade shows, notwithstanding the valuable opportunities they present for further sales. They populate the stand, making it ‘busy’, and endorse your business by their very presence. Get a steady stream visiting and you have a vibrant atmosphere that others will want to be part of.
However, get too many, and the stand becomes clogged and your sales staff become bogged down by small talk. They’ll miss those elusive new customers who drifted through the outer reaches of your stand ready to engage with your staff, had your staff not been on coffee-delivering duty.
Stand design is key to managing this problem and it comes down to clear delineation and priority. Have a publicly visible area for customer hospitality. It does no harm to signpost it so, especially if you want more customer visits to your stand. And just because it looks exclusive, it doesn’t mean that other visitors to your stand cannot be invited to sit in your customer area – indeed, many people would take it as a compliment to be ‘allowed’ in to such an area. But make sure that your ‘sales area’, the entrance to the stand, is not restricted by the customer area. Your stand entrance is vital in pulling in all potential stand visitors and the customer area should be prominent but secondary.
A hospitality area does provide a somewhat captive audience, so make the most of that by providing ‘content’ to be consumed alongside the free refreshments you are providing. Newsletters, case studies, show special offers, technical guides, AV displays can all provide passive promotional content for the times when there are not sufficient staff to do so face to face.
Using high level stools can make it easier to maintain eye-level contact without the need to sit down. We’ve all known the customer-who-won’t-leave because they are comfy and getting a constant supply of free coffee. Stools are a ‘shorter term’ mode of sitting. If you need to turn customers around in a quicker fashion, stools are less comfortable after a while and they are (psychologically as well as physically) easier to leave for stand staff if they initially sit with the customer.
But of course it is not just the physical management of visiting customers, it is the appropriateness of their handling which is vital on show day. Show staff should be well-briefed on how they are expected to deal with existing customers. Perhaps a checklist such as the following could be the basis for such a briefing:
- establish at earliest opportunity if stand visitor is a customer (there’s ways of doing this semi-automatically, contact us to learn more) and thank them for visiting your stand
- if they are a customer, establish reason for visit. If apparently for hospitality then hand off to hospitality area but hold open possibility of engaging in a sales pitch now or later as opportunity presents
- even if there has been no selling opportunity, your face to face interaction is a great way of capturing the customer’s permission for marketing contact in the future, make sure their contact preferences are recorded. But don’t let them leave the stand without having achieved something with them over and above the soft benefits of keeping the customer relationship warm with coffee (again, there are ways of making a solid final gain with each customer, contact us to learn more).
- lastly, again thank your customers for visiting your stand when they leave
Having too many visitors for the number of staff is a good problem to have, but make sure you have a plan B if this happens. Next year, you’ll know to bring more staff.