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4 Things Trade Show Marketers Can Learn from Amazon


It was recently reported that Amazon is creating an “Operations Center of Excellence” here in my hometown of Nashville. The location will be focused on improvements and innovation in customer fulfillment, transportation, supply chain and related functions. It is reported that it is a $230 million investment and will cover 1 million square feet as employ over 5,000 workers.

Since its incorporation in 1994, Amazon has grown from a small startup to today’s Internet juggernaut, surpassing Walmart in 2019 as the world’s largest retailer.

What can trade show marketers learn from Amazon’s success? We’ve picked four things that any business — small or large, product- or service-oriented — can emulate from the e-commerce giant.

As marketers, we rightly hold fast to the 80/20 rule — realizing that 80% of our business comes from 20% of our clientele. Focusing on our core audience while restricting our prospecting efforts thus obviously makes sense from an ROI perspective.

But this mindset can often downplay the long-term significance of risk-taking and experimentation when it comes to tapping new markets. Lock in your bread-and-butter trade show events and then allocate 20% of your budget on wild experimentation: host a private event or virtual event. Add an exhibit at a new trade show within an allied industry. Take one of your lower-performing trade shows and change-up your presence in such a way that you add value to the event program, rather than just being another booth on the floor.

Amazon’s reputation as an innovator is 100% reflective of the risks the company took by exploring ideas seemingly outside their wheelhouse. Your company needs to make the same leaps if you want to stay competitive in a changing marketplace.

When a trade show trend demonstrates that it has staying power, there is a tendency for all exhibitors to want to hop on the bandwagon. But what we often overlook is how these booth activities or trade show technologies are right for other businesses, but not necessarily our own. Consider the times that Amazon.com tried to emulate other businesses by adding auction models (like eBay), restaurant delivery (like DoorDash and BiteSquad) and event ticketing (like TicketMaster or LiveNation). All ended up being notable failures. Sometimes we’re better off allowing competitors and allied businesses to do what they do best, as we instead find exhibition tools that showcase our own companies’ strengths.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said “I would define Amazon by our big ideas, which are customer centricity, putting the customer at the center of everything we do.” From One-Click Ordering to Prime Delivery, Amazon’s business has been built on fast, easy ordering of a wide variety of products at the lowest prices: all, customer-driven needs.

Look at your own marketing initiatives and ask yourself if they were implemented for your own ease-of-use, or if they were designed with your customers’ needs in mind. Are you fully taking advantage of personalized marketing? Are there ways to cut out unnecessary steps in your ordering process? Anything that makes the process easier for your client will pay long-term dividends in customer loyalty.

Technology is always changing, and thus there’s always a tendency to try to predict what the “next big thing” will be in five to ten years. But Amazon has succeeded by focusing on the things that will never change: customer demand for choice, low prices, and fast turnaround.

So as you invest in capital equipment, new booth designs, or the latest CRM software, make sure the underlying focus of these investments is to bolster the things that will never change among your audience. Perhaps it’s their insistence on quality goods or services. Or the comfort in knowing they’ll always get reliable service and support when buying from you. These are the real areas in which you’ll want to invest and improve, because when you fail to excel in these areas, you lose your perceived value with your audience. No technological gimmick or clever trade show spectacle can turn things around once that happens.

Goliaths like Amazon can seem to be operating in an entirely different universe than many of today’s trade show centric businesses. But at their core, all successful businesses have the same things in common: an eye for innovation and an unwavering dedication to their customers.