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The Biggest Mistakes Exhibitors Make

Here are five common errors to avoid, to help ensure that you have a successful and productive experience at LIVE! 2014.
Posted By Mark Roberti, 01.13.2014

I have been hosting our RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition for 12 years now. During that time, I have seen some exhibitors attract hundreds of potential customers to their booths, while many others have attracted only a few. Here are some mistakes that exhibitors make, which I hope you will avoid if your company is exhibiting at this year's event.

1. Not using RFID Connect to reach out to potential customers
The single greatest mistake that exhibitors make is not using RFID Connect, our social-media and event-planning tool, to search for specific attendees and send a personalized e-mail inviting those most likely to be interested in their products or services to visit their booth (see Use RFID Connect to Get More Leads).

Most RFID solution providers do not advertise, so attendees seeking products don't know what they do, and thus have no reason to stop by their particular booth. During the past few years, we have introduced several new features at LIVE! to help attendees find the exhibitors offering the products and services they need, including speed networking, product showcases and the RFID Connect smartphone application (see RFID Journal Releases RFID Connect Smartphone App). The app allows attendees to highlight booths on the exhibit hall map that offer specific products—passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags, for example, or real-time location system (RTLS) technology—or that have solutions for particular industries, such as health care or retail.

Even with these features, it is a mistake for exhibitors to passively wait for potential customers to find them. They should reach out proactively to attendees from manufacturing companies if they have solutions for manufacturing firms.

2. Turning potential customers away with bad body language
At every event, there is always at least one exhibitor whose staff seemingly want to turn visitors away from their booth. They sit in the booth focused on their laptops or phones, or stand with their backs turned toward the aisle. Attendees do not want to walk into a booth in which personnel appear preoccupied, disinterested or downright grumpy. Booth workers should be trained to greet passersby, and to ask what business issues they are dealing with. Ask if someone would like a copy of your white paper, or even offer a piece of candy as an icebreaker.

3. Having a poorly designed booth that fails to inform visitors about the products or services a company offers
I was speaking to an end user from a large Midwest manufacturing firm toward the end of last year's conference, who told me, "As you walk through the hall, it's hard to know what any of these companies do." That's because the graphic design of many booths do not indicate whether firms offer antennas, readers, software, tags or something else. As a result, attendees interested in a particular exhibitor's products will often walk right by those booths without stopping in.

4. Not getting out of the booth and networking
A lot of exhibitors think that once they sign up for a booth, potential customers will flock to it, and that they merely need to sort out which ones will likely buy their products. It does not work that way, however—at least, not in an industry in which the technology has not yet crossed the chasm, and in which very few technology suppliers advertise. There must always be one or two people manning a booth, but you should also have staff members walking the floor, handing out cards and inviting people to visit your space. It also makes sense to attend sessions related to the products you sell, and to talk to those around you before and after the session.

5. Not offering a white paper or other collateral to entice potential customers to your booth
A trade show is much like a shopping mall's food court. The fact that there are many products available at the same location attracts buyers, but it also means there is a lot of competition for those buyers. Therefore, you need to entice them to your booth. Having an objective-sounding white paper—"How to Cut Costs by Using RFID to Track Work-in-Process" or "Best Practices for RFID in Retail," for instance—is a good way to do that. An interactive DVD or some other item of value can be used to attract people, especially if you let them know about it via RFID Connect (see number 1 above).

I would also add that many exhibitors do a poor job of following up with attendees. I know this because I stop by at booths and hand out business cards. A few weeks after the event, I often receive boilerplate e-mails thanking me for stopping by and inviting me to contact the company to learn more. That's the best you can do? Really?

A far more effective approach would be to take notes about the business problem that a potential customer has, and then follow up with a call from an informed salesperson who can explain how your products or services can help solve that potential customer's problems, or help improve its operations.

There are a relatively small number of companies actively researching RFID solutions. RFID Journal LIVE! attracts those most likely to deploy the technology during the next year or two, so it provides your best opportunity to win new business. It is important to invest the time and effort to court potential customers. Those that do so will be rewarded with new business. Those that do not? Well, let's just say they are dependent on good fortune smiling upon them.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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