E•Connections

For exhibit and event professionals  

The Customer Journey – Trade Show Style

August 7, 2017 By Caroline Meyers, Editor eConnections

Sooner or later marketers come up against this mantra describing the customer journey:

Unawareness — Awareness – Knowledge – Consideration – Decision

The customer journey traces the decision-making process from finding information and resources to comparing products or services to committing to a supplier or purchase. Satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy have been added to the journey to track customer engagement after purchase.

These familiar steps have informed marketing strategies for decades, with predictable results.

That’s why I believe that the customer journey is one that makes sense to apply to the experience of a trade show. How can your exhibit deliver a customer journey?

Applied to a trade show experience the customer journey from unawareness to awareness, knowledge, consideration, and decision can deliver ROI for the exhibiting company and an overall “experience story” for the attendee.

The major stages of the trade show customer journey

1. Pre-show activations (Unawareness)
2. On-site brand reinforcement (Awareness)
3. The lure of your marketing message (Knowledge)
4. Stepping over the “carpet line” (Consideration/Decision)

By using these stages as a guide, you can determine what, how, where and when you need to communicate to get the best results. Here’s how they all relate.

1. Unawareness: Pre-Show Activations and Touch Points (to name a few…)

• Advertising in a trade journal
• Email campaign
• Social media campaign

In one or more of these ways, attendees will be touched by your company, but in a casual fashion, their awareness of how you can help them is still low on their personal radar.

Think about these initial impressions as the beginning of a story you are telling. It’s the opening line that captures the listener and draws them in. All good stories have memorable opening lines—make yours unique to “cause a pause.” Memorable opening lines and visual themes create awareness — your first stop on the trade show customer journey.

It’s important that any of these activation suggestions begin to create a consistent impression. It’s the repetition or advancement of the impression will make it memorable.

2. Awareness: On-site Brand Reinforcement

• VIP reach-out by sales for a show floor meeting or breakfast/lunch/dinner invitations
• Airport/City/Venue/transportation branding opportunities
• Room drop items
• Party Invitations

Come show day they discover that you placed an activation at the airport, or on busses, or in cabs, or placed some banners on the convention center, or dropped a bag of stuff in their room. These touch points are getting closer to their awareness because they are now in the same city as you, the same hotel as you, attending the same show as you. One could say that the relationship is getting warmer.

Because an attendee is in the same city/hotel, your messages might touch a nerve, or enter their psyche in some subliminal manner—or they could get lost in the noise of everything else surrounding them.

This is why it is important to have your communication touch points relate to each other so that they continue to tell your story—your special, unique and interesting story.

So, create a memorable story! Link the images, story lines in a linear fashion so that people become intrigued and may even start to think, “What’s next!?”

3. Knowledge: The lure of your marketing story

This is where the rubber meets the road. All the planning, the teasing, the subtle overtures that have led an attendee to this moment of truth are on the line. Here is where they need to do the one thing you most want to have happen—enter your exhibit!

If they don’t enter, there is no opportunity for a conversation, unless there is a chance meeting at the coffee line, but that is just that—a chance. The marketing approach, the deployment of touch point messages, and finally the “reward” at the exhibit space all leads up to one thing—a REAL one-on-one conversation!

What makes this happen? The sight of something unexpected and interesting. Something inviting. Some answer to the visual treasure hunt that you have been providing in all the touch points leading up to this moment. Something that continues your story and gives them some sense of reward or payoff.

They are also looking for anything that enables them to see themselves, a reflection of themselves. And, being human, they are also on the look-out for something that prompts the emotional response of “How did they do that?” “I want that!” “That’s amazing!”

We coined a phrase that sums up this moment: “You had to be there!™”

4. Consideration/Decision: Stepping over the “carpet line”

All the planning, the teasing, the overtures and now the reward—your wonderful exhibit experience—is what allows an attendee to drop some of their apprehension or doubt or plain old shyness and take a step closer. Yup, just one little step over the great wall we all try so hard to crash down: The Carpet Line.

You know what we mean, every exhibit booth has it by default, it’s that magic line where the aisle carpet meets yours. So many times, it might as well be a brick wall without windows. But, if we work hard at our goal of creating an intriguing and compelling story, drop some gum drops in just the right spots, then reward the journey with something fascinating, people will be entering your space to take a closer look.

If the reward for their journey is something fascinating, people will step over the carpet line into your exhibit.Click To Tweet

Once they are that close, conversation is a natural. A conversation occurs when an idea is discussed between two people. And isn’t that the goal of face-to-face events? To create a relationship between one person and another? With the right brand ambassadors and sales folks, conversations foster a better understanding of the attendee's needs.

In essence, an effective campaign and trade show experience needs to change an attendee’s feelings from “Who are these guys?” “What can they do for me?” “Are they worth my time?”  “Where do I fit into their message?” to one that is all about “Wow, I didn’t know that!” “My team needs to hear this.” “I think I would like to work with these folks.”


Chris Virtuoso is MC²’s National Design Director. With 30-plus years and hundreds of event activations under his belt, he strives for the absolutely most engaging stories and interactions to get that “You had to be there” experiences.








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