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Tend To Your Flock At Trade Shows

Tend to your flock at trade showsThe shepherd understands his role implicitly:  watch the sheep, keep them from wondering off, provide food so they will grow, and promote propagation.

With respect to client management and retention, business is a lot like that.  We try and keep a watchful eye on our customers so we can anticipate their needs and service them.  We continue to nurture them so they won’t wonder off due to complacency.  And we attempt to stimulate propagation by gently requesting referrals.

Our customers become familiar with your ways and as long as we do a reasonably good job of tending, they will stick around.

The trade show is a unique place when it comes to shepherding.  On the show floor, our flock has a chance to walk by all different kinds of shepherds.  Some of them offer different opportunities than we do.  Some appear to be more excited to see them than we have been.  A few have created beautiful temporary environments (exhibits) to demonstrate what life with them would look and feel like.  And still others try to garner the attention of our flock by offering fancy food, drink and treasure.

What’s a shepherd to do?

You can’t keep your customers from attending the trade show.  You can’t keep the competition from calling.  You can’t block certain web sites from their view.  And, you can’t keep another shepherd from sponsoring the biggest watering hole.

But you do have an advantage:  You are the current shepherd.

You know what they’ve been eating.  You know the results of your care for them.  Based on what you know about what the other shepherds offer, you can anticipate change and move to position yourselves accordingly.  You can reinvest in your infrastructure so your flock sees less reason to stray and you and show your appreciation regularly.

On the show floor everything happens in real time.  All the other shepherds are reaching out to pet your sheep as they walk by.

Make sure you don’t take them for granted.  Don’t assume that they’ve been getting all the attention from you that they need or require.

Shepherds Rule #6 – Don’t spend more time trying to pet the other guys sheep than you do petting our own.

whats-working-in-exhibitingWant to find out more smart moves exhibitors are doing today to succeed at trade shows?  Click here to get What’s Working In Exhibiting, your free 32-page White Paper research report that will help you boost your results and stretch your budget.

About the Author

Mike Mraz, Senior Exhibit Strategist for Skyline Exhibits, brings his 30+ years of sales and marketing experience to his clients and the speaker’s platform. Mike is dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of face-2-face marketing in all capacities. Over the past 15 years Mike has presented Trade Show seminars to over 80,000 marketers across North America. He is on the teaching faculty of both The Exhibitor Show and TS2, and is a member of the EDPA, IAEE, and CEIR. Mike also produces Today’s Trade Show Minute, a bi-monthly trade show and event marketing video e-tip.

6 responses to “Tend To Your Flock At Trade Shows

  1. Its also equally important not to over-feed your flock — annoying newsletters and emails can easily drive a customer or potential customer away.

  2. I think it is important to begin recognizing that customers are not the human equivalent of ‘sheep’. We need to watch the language we use. To my mind, visualizing people as ‘sheep’ that need ‘shepherding’ is an affront to your customers. In today’s world, it is the customer who gets to decide what product or service she wants. Let us be respectful of her power to choose.

  3. Customers are not sheep. To seriously consider them as sheep isn’t appropriate for sure. We must give every customer the respect she deserves and understand that she is in complete control. Customers have many options today and those options become very obvious when they visit a trade show.

    It’s the shepherd in this old-school analogy that was intended to get the attention. Good shepherds are thoughtful caregivers who are concerned about every sheep under their care. Shepherds understand that if they expect their flock to blindly follow them, the flock will scatter.

    But things have changed and the words we use ARE important.

    When I was in grade school, the Apollo astronauts read the Genesis account of the creation story and it was broadcast to an awe struck world as we watched them orbit the moon. That wouldn’t fly today. I stand corrected as a wordsmith and I stand a convicted as a shepherd.

  4. Hi Mike

    Sorry, I didn’t mean that comment to sound like a sermon – just a word of caution (sheepish grin).

    Your point about ‘watching’ the flock is certainly worth keeping in mind.

  5. Actually as a past real-life shepherd of sheep and a current “herdsman” of llamas in my other life, I find your shepherd analogy quite appropriate. I’m in the process of re-evaluating a trade show (fiber festival) we participate in since our herd’s harvest (fine quality fiber) has changed as the individual critters have aged. Do we change focus to products made OF the fiber (which tends to minimize the softness factor), which means we target a different customer, or do we continue with the same emphasis on the ready-to-spin fiber our returning customers have purchased knowing that the quality is declining and are sales are likely to drop off? Is the change worth the effort?

    I see it also in my “day job” – marketing for a company that provides services rather than gizmos. Go to one of these trade shows and it’s a sea of navy and black suits. Most of our business is repeat business so I think we’re keeping our flock healthy but I’m not sure we’re doing everything we can to bring in “new stock.” I’m up against “professional” equates to “conservative.” So how do we attract that new stock if everyone appears to have exactly the same food, shelter, and safety from predators?

  6. Hey V – The key word you use is “appears”. Most marketplaces are awash with sameness. Everybody “appears” to be the same.

    The key is separation. Focusing on your uniqueness from a benefits perspective is where you win. That’s easier said than done on the show floor where the attendees seem to get drunk on design after an aisle of two.

    As with most objectives, I think focus is so important! What you do before the show to connect with and set appointments with just the right people is mission critical.

    Most exhibitors will agree that having a handful of VERY powerful meetings at a show will trump a thumb drive full of badge scans any day.

    Targeted pre-show promotion is essential in setting up post show activity. And it’s the desire for post show activity that brings us to the show in the first place.

    After all, isn’t it what’s inside your blue & black suits that matters most?

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