All Our Yesterdays – Trade Shows

One of my clients is planning on attending a couple of trade shows as part of their 2007 marketing plan. It was a case of recalling all my past learning and trying to formalize that so that we made the investment worthwhile.

In the middle of the planning, I attended MacWorld in San Francisco. I’d forgotten the sheer exhaustion of attending – let alone exhibiting at – one of these events. It all came pouring back!

So did the glaring shortfalls that seem so obvious as I walked around. Clearly organizations go to such events to generate business, awareness, or to reinforce a purchase decision. There were companies there who, it seemed to me, had not thought about any of these things. Many clearly had. I’ll focus on the sins I saw:

* I’m a big Tivo fan and TivoToGo has just been announced for the Mac. To use it you need a copy of Roxio Toast (a multimedia application and CD/DVD burner) and Roxio had a booth with the product for 1/3 off – way to go! Now the MacWorld folks are one of the many who believe that in order to register and pay them money, I must be forced to submit (i.e. it is mandatory on the form) all manner of information.

As an aside, this is one of the things that pushes my hot buttons (the fact that it is mandatory), so I, as a marketing professional I always doubt the efficacy of such data as I assume that there are many who do as I do and put in information that the recipient, presumably, takes as gospel but is in fact meaningless. So my occupation on this one was Coronation Programme Seller. For those of you not in the know, we haven’t had a Coronation in the UK since 1953. I have also been a chicken sexer and other dubious occupations. I have data for each of the other, in my judgement, intrusive or unnecessary questions. So when YOU, the customer buy this data, be very aware that I, and I believe many others like me, exist. You may not get what you think you are paying for…….

Back to MacWorld; so, I filled in this web form and the basic data (name address etc) are correct and encoded onto my badge. I’m at Roxio, you will recall. I want to buy their product, I really do. So I fight (really!) my way to the front, and ask one of the staff. I get a huge form. “Still using paper” I joke. I look at the form askance, this is like War and Peace.
“Why do you want a shipping address?”
“So we can ship the product to you.”
“I’ll just take it with me.”
“Oh, we don’t have any here.”

End of conversation! How can you go to a trade show to sell and not have product? They tell me I can order on the web, at the show price. Guess what? I can’t. Do you think I have bought their product?

* More booths than should be the case have NO information to attract an attendee to talk to them. Nothing about their product, nothing about what they do, or why I could/should be interested in them. Why be there?

* There were some booths (mercifully few at this show) that have obviously temp staff who have no idea about their products and services. They can’t answer questions, they don’t ask me for my information – what is the point of being there? It is arguably a negative brand touchpoint.

* How many booths have no product information or literature? More than a few. What was the objective in attending?

* Some get it right. I use (or rather used) a product that was in attendance so I went over. I am a happy mapping advocate with attached GPS on the PC. On the Mac it’s a poorly served segment. I was overjoyed when I saw a review of such a product, and bought it (expensive too). It’s a good looking program, it’s just that it is functionally poor (read unusable) for what I want to do. Put in a street address and find it. It doesn’t do that (you have to put ion a lat/long). Anyway, I removed it and vented – quietly – at one of the staff. I had no expectations beyond venting. I got an email from the CMO this week, thanking me for my feedback and asking me to stick with them. Impressive. Maybe I will give the new version another chance.

So all in all, I remain dubious about the ROI of trade shows. We shall see how my client does……

{Product, advertising, Apple, customer, customers, Marketing}

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