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Customer Advocates – It All Starts At Face To Face

Remember the party days of your youth? You came in with your friends, made a beeline for a place in all the craziness, and somehow through the mass of people, loud music, and roar of conversations you saw a face across the room. It was someone that made you stop!

It was that face-to-face interaction that created an opportunity, the conversations, a bond, and the deep understanding of that person that made it all work. This story relates very well in the realm of trade show and event marketing and why we do what we do.

With every relationship, work or personal, there are four basic phases that we go through in order to move along a path, whether linear or non-linear.  The one thing that many businesses ignore is the single most powerful tool in their tool chest which is the customer advocacy of the current and happy customers.

Back to the party – Assuming you two met on the dance floor in spectacular form, dated for a few years and ended up married. Is that the end of the story? Or, is there still work to be done? How do you turn that initial meeting into rabid advocacy for you (or your brand or company)?

1. Courting – Open, Honest, Transparent.
Very few people or customers actually fall in love at first sight (or on a website). There is a courting period where you learn about products and services. Face to face marketing gives you a truer ability to find out the history of the company and the nuances of the people to see why it’s a good match for you and your company. The worst thing you can do is to make promises that can’t be kept which can lead to time, effort and investment spent in the wrong place. Cut the strings now if it’s not the correct fit – they will never become an advocate.

2. Dating – Begin With The Goal in Mind
If all you are looking for is a sale and your business model does not benefit from long term advocacy and repeated sales, then this is not for you. If your goal is to convert the time, energy, and investment spent in this dating period into a long term customer who can sing your praises then there are a few things to think about.

  • Listen more and talk less.
  • Give rather than take.
  • Partnership allowances and special access can provide the needed fodder to move to the next phase.

3. Engaged – Don’t Make Any Assumptions

This is not the sale nor is this advocacy stage. Brand advocates want their voice to be heard, their expertise to be valued, and their requests to be addressed.  Some of the best and simplest product innovations I have seen have come from conversations at this phase. Whether the questions are around the product or service or even the process involved, make them known to eliminate surprises and a breakdown in trust.

4. Married – Tending To The Relationship

In the end, all of the time, effort, and energy spent through the process, asking the right questions and having the right answers has led to that long term relationship. Now that the sale has been made and the product or service is delivered, how can you promote that advocacy?  Remind them to share, so they can be heard, through a drip program. Provide tangible perks to empower them, and provide them a channel to help share. 



  1. Content is King in this social media world. But creating content is sometimes assigned to only one person within a company.  Allow and empower your advocates to share content on your social channels as updates from a show, product launch facts, testimonials, case studies, or even just a quick comment.
  2. Provide a Social media tool-set. Shares, likes and comments related to your customers are a great way to stay connected, stay top of mind, and show that you are truly interested in their business.
  3. Provide advocates with a referral bonus. Share in the perks and rewards of the ease of gaining a new client through one of your brand advocates.
  4. Integrate Social Media.  Yes, you may have 1 in 100 comments be negative but with the proper brand advocates the village may address the comment before you can.  These self-sustained social media channels are where true advocacy excel.
  5. Move Christmas to July (or whenever).  Assign the Christmas gift or other funds to a tiered thank you in the middle of the year when a gift will stand out rather than be one of many.
  6. Face to face is where this process flourishes.  Create opportunities for real engagement whether it be at an event or in the office.  Drive towards meaningful conversations.


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About the Author

Jason Kelly is a Trade Show Marketing Consultant with Skyline Exhibits and Design based in South Carolina. With fifteen years of experience building strategy and event tactics for some of the biggest brands in the industry, he is most pleased when he sees his clients succeed.

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