Let’s discuss body paint for a minute. (Yes, you clicked the right link!) Not too long ago I attended a trade show in the Business Services Sector. The attendee composition was evenly mixed between professional men and women doing what most do when attending conventions and trade shows…going to educational sessions, networking, and kicking the tires on the trade show floor. As a card-carrying trade show nerd, I go into behavioral observation mode and go from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds at these things. Wandering around in full nerdom, I happened upon a booth where a few models in bikinis stood along the aisle as a way to attract traffic to the booth. Taking “booth babes” to the experiential marketing age, this exhibiting company in fact encouraged attendees to actually pick up a supplied paintbrush and apply body paint directly on these models in some sort of weird, overly intimate, collaborative art installation. Keep in mind, body paint was not anywhere near the realm of products this company was promoting. The models looked like they felt out of place and passersby looked uneasy. It was uncomfortable to say the least.
What I noticed was that many attendees were shocked by the spectacle. Several women were disappointed and walked away shaking their heads, while many guests, who intended to learn about a specific product, were visibly hesitant to enter the booth. Only a few liquid-enhanced men really got into the spirit of things. Consequently, I didn’t see one of them move on from the art class to actually engage further with the fully clothed booth staff behind the models. The booth itself was a 20’ by 20’ island booth that was well-designed with high end materials, rigged with a hanging structure and a light truss, and engaging technology to top it off. The booth was well staffed with professional looking men and women ready to engage with attendees. CEIR reports that companies spend an average of $20,000 to exhibit at a show. My estimate is that this company probably hit closer to the $40,000 mark all in. Here was a company that had invested a lot of money into exhibiting at this show. They designed, built and staffed a high-quality booth environment, which is no small task, and represents the thousands of hours of work by several team members to get to this point. However, by making one crucial error in judgement, all the money and time invested was wasted as the body paint debacle backfired and repelled potential leads, drowning their ROI in a bucket of paint and a tone-deaf gimmick.
My fear is that with a poor showing, this company decides to funnel marketing dollars away from exhibiting efforts, not recognizing that it wasn’t the trade show that failed them. They missed the mark and squandered the opportunity! I also fear that if too many exhibitors make these kinds of mistakes attendees will also drop off citing no real value to attending the show. Those of us who are stakeholders in the trade show marketplace know that marketing budgets are the Holy Grail of our industry. Whether you are a show organizer, official services provider, venue operator, or have any interest in exhibitions, we must do everything we can to protect and even grow the share of the marketing budget that goes to participating in exhibitions. In CEIR’s latest Marketing Spend Decision Report, 41% of marketing budgets, from companies that use face-to-face marketing channels, are spent on participation in exhibitions. This metric has held steady over the last few years indicating that while brand marketers are generally satisfied with current results, they aren’t necessarily investing more either. The best way to make our case for the value of face-to-face engagement, is for all of us to help exhibiting companies make the most of their exhibiting experience. Once they see the results they seek, it will become clear why they decided to exhibit in the first place. The aphorism “a rising tide lifts all ships” applies here. This is certainly an area of focus at Fern as our show organizer clients rely on our expertise to help equip their exhibitors for success on their show.
While I’m sure there are some valid applications for the body paint medium, though I can’t think of any off hand, let’s go over the top 10 ways exhibitors lose a trade show while onsite, no matter how well the process has gone up to that point.
DISCLAIMER: Many, if not all, of these may seem like obvious violations of common sense. However, based on the feedback from our professional network and personal observations, these poor practices can still be found somewhere on most shows.
- Disengaged or distracted booth staff
- Having an unmanned booth or booth with too few staff
- Dismantling your booth early
- Misinformed or ill prepared booth staff
- No holding engagement while waiting for booth staff
- Creating physical barriers between booth staff and attendees
- Poorly prepared hook; asking the wrong questions to spark engagement
- Not qualifying leads, or no follow up at all
- No plan on how to handle different types of attendee engagements
- Ineffective gimmicks
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll go over each trade show misstep and give you tips to remedy any blunders and not waste your money.
For now, check out some of our other Blogs here!