I’m among more than 30,000 people attending this week’s Dreamforce conference, and it’s nuts as you would imagine.  I had some time last night to check out many of the vendors, new technology and emerging SaaS businesses on the trade show floor. 

Learned a lot, both based on what they’re doing as well as how they handled prospective customers walking by.  A booth space at Dreamforce costs a LOT of money, so I was interested in seeing how some companies capitalized on the opportunity, and how others let subtle things impact their ability to capture & engage prospects.

Below are some of my observations – good and bad alike.

The Good

Making Eye Contact & Saying Hello.  The best booth staffers were engaged, scanning the crowd, and being proactive at making direct eye contact and greeting visitors.  This was a great way to get myself and others to break their stride, pause for a moment, return the salutation, and start to engage on what they do.  Many booths failed to do this.  Eyes down, watching your Blackberry, is not a good way to get prospects.

Script the First Five Seconds.  It was very clear which booths had thought beforehand about their value proposition, and what specific handful of words would get the most visitors to say “wow, tell me more.”  Your first few words, those first five seconds of your introduction, will help me decide if I’m going to learn more or move on.

State Your Benefits in Bold Letters.  If I’m walking by, deciding which booth to visit, I need a reason to stop.  If I’m scanning the booth, I want to see words that imply what I’ll achieve by working with you.  I don’t want you to tell me you’re a cloud-based application.  I don’t need a list of features.  What will it do for me?  Why should I take the time to learn more?  It’s part of the hook, part of getting prospects to stop and engage. 

Move Longer Conversations Out Of Traffic Flow.  Especially in a crowded exhibit hall, once you’ve identified someone who wants to learn more or see a demo, get them out of the aisle and into your booth.  Move there somewhere you can have a more direct, less-distracted conversation.  This will add more value to that deeper conversation, plus allow more prospects in the flow of traffic to walk by and engage with others working your booth.

Value-Added Takeaways.  The best booths at Dreamforce offered a book, a how-to guide, a sales automation or nurture marketing cheat-sheet, something of independent but related value that will make me smarter.  I don’t want to take home a bunch of brochures, that’s what Web sites are for when I’m back at the office.  Give me something I want to read on the plane home, something that will teach me and demonstrate how much more you can teach me if we keep working together.

The Bad

Scanning Badges Without Context.  Unfortunately, “can I scan your badge?” isn’t a good example of the scripted five seconds referenced above.  Offer me some value in exchange for the scan.  Even if it’s just to enter a drawing for an iPad, at least I understand the value being exchanged.  If you want to add me to your mailing list, promise me something valuable in return.  Email tips on sales automation, for example. 

Failing to Qualify.  If you don’t know who I am, what I do, what I need, how do you know it’s worth giving me a 5-10 minute deep-dive on your product?  Not every booth visitor is a good lead, not every booth visitor should be pitched the same way.  Know my role & my objective first.

Scanning for Someone Better.  If I’m talking to you, at least pretend that you’re interested in our conversation.  It’s obvious when you’re scanning the crowd to see if someone better walks by. 

Ignoring Loiterers.  If I pause on my own, stop and stare at your booth on my own, I’m interested.  I don’t understand why I’m not immediately engaged with a handshake and welcome, especially when booth staffers are looking at and around me anyway.  If you’re already busy giving a demo to someone else, take a quick moment to welcome me into the conversation.  Make me feel welcome, otherwise I’m likely to move on.

Check Your Email.  We’ve all done this at trade show booths.  It’s bad.  If you really must check your email, make sure you booth is staffed by someone else and walk a few feet away to do your business.

Brag About Your Hangover.  It’s not a badge of honor.  Yes, we may all have had too much fun last night.  But you’re here this morning to work.  

 

  • David Raab

    Good points, Matt. My pet peeve matches your point about stating the benefit clearly on the signage. There’s often nothing more than the company name, which is itself utterly generic. If that’s a clever tactic to force you to ask, it sure is foolish.

    Maybe next year I’ll take pictures of all the inscrutable booths and post them on a wall of shame.

    • http://www.heinzmarketing.com Matt Heinz

      What’s funny is that this post was written in 2010, but as I re-read it, it clearly could have been written yesterday about this year’s show too.

  • http://grantgrigorian.com Grant

    It’s fun to see that you thought 30,000 was “nuts” – how was 130,000?

    • http://www.heinzmarketing.com Matt Heinz

      Crushing! Honestly though, it really wasn’t that bad as long as you had a plan and knew where you were going (and why).

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