Drserg | Dreamstime
Hall 2 at CeBIT information technology trade show in Hannover, Germany on March 15, 2016.

Clutter is the Enemy of a Clear Message

Sept. 1, 2023
How you do anything is how you do everything. Your tradeshow display is a visual representation of how you present your brand to the world across many other channels.

There is an Advanced Manufacturing trade show in Michigan every August. I like to go, because we move through a digital world – emails, social media, and websites – and it can be easy to forget that there are still tangible aspects to our brand presence. In-person “touches” include customer service experiences, customer visits, industry events, and trade shows. I like to attend industry trade shows and talk to makers. I like to see new technology. I like visual reminders of the ways I can improve my own performance as a marketer who works with makers.

Taking a spin around any trade show floor is a good visual cue for brands. Inevitably the trade show display serves as a visual representation of the brand’s presence in the world and resonates with the way that a company has digitally positioned itself.

Reminder: Your display is the first introduction prospects have to your business. Did you use the vertical space of the tabletop to create interest? Or did you just scatter parts across a tabletop? Did you visually highlight the products that are most requested? Or did you force people to sort through what you have – as they walk by and try to do a mental catalog – to determine what they might need?

The “display everything but the kitchen sink” approach shows those exhibitors believe that people have to see everything to be impressed, or to know the company is a knowledge leader. This is false. Prospects need to understand the solution you offer; they will not if they are confused because you overwhelmed them with irrelevant choices. The human brain taps out for decision making at between 8 and 13 choices; we simply cannot process choices past that number in an efficient manner. What that looks like at a trade show is people walking by your booth because they cannot make sense of that welter of tooling bits on your tabletop.

The digital translation of this is your website: Do you scatter all the brands you represent or products you manufacture across the site without defining the problem your product or service solves? Is it easy to navigate, using the criteria a customer would? (Not whatever your internal classification system is.) Do you clearly state for each service or product what it solves and for whom? (Making it easy for Google to rank your page for relevance.) Do you have a call to action that moves people to the next step? Lack of informational clarity results in a muddled message.

Did you think about providing space for people to sit a spell and have a conversation? Did you at least upgrade the carpet padding so people are comfortable when they speak with your team? Was your booth layout open, to invite conversation, or did you bar the front with a tabletop? Do your trade show visuals explain what you offer or is it just a backdrop with the company name?

Did you at least upgrade the carpet padding so people are comfortable when they speak with your team? Was your booth layout open, to invite conversation, or did you bar the front with a tabletop? Do your trade show visuals explain what you offer or is it just a backdrop with the company name?

The issue with this lack of customer focus is that it will show up in other ways where you do not make things easy on the customer, but rather on your company. The catalog of parts using your part number as primary reference rather than the OEM part number a purchaser would use. Assuming that everyone understands what the acronym of your offering means for industry businesses. The IVR (phone tree) starts with “our options have changed” and makes it impossible to reach a person when you have an issue. The ordering system that doesn’t sync with your outbound customer acknowledgements. What all this self-focus looks like at a tradeshow is a distinct lack of customers talking up your brand to prospects.

The digital translation of this is easily seen in social media, which highlights a company’s accomplishments rather than their clients’ successes. Or the ads announcing their acquisitions rather than highlighting products. Or the blast emails that are basically ads mailed to your inbox rather than useful information. Lack of focus on customer needs results in company-centered communication that excludes the customer.

A tradeshow is a capsule in time. An event – a few days at most, bare seconds as people walk by – to tell your story to people who (may) need your product or know someone who needs your product. That will never happen if the people walking by – all those potential customers – do not understand what you do or why it is different from what is being showcased in booth 502.

Excuse me. I need to go make sure I’m leveraging all my resources to tell the story of the solution our company offers in a way someone with a solvable business problem would easily resonate with – aka clear and consistent communication across every channel, digital and physical.

Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Director at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.

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