When you think about it, walking a trade show floor is quite a bit like window shopping. Or, perhaps more accurately, like strolling through the bazaar in Istanbul (but, hey, how often do we stroll through a bazaar?). Now, those “exhibitors” at the bazaar in Istanbul could teach us a thing or two. You get within 10 feet of one and he has you pegged. Ten to one he has figured out your nationality from the clothes you wear. “Mister, I've got sweaters at a fraction of the cost you would pay in the States. Where are you from? New York! My best friend lives in New York.”
You might not buy, but chances are you will give him the opportunity.
We don’t have bazaars in the U.S. (We do have a “bizarre”. It’s called “Congress”). But you will find merchants that possess skills that we might well emulate. Let me tell you about Len, the owner of a shop in Riverdale. Riverdale is a upscale section of the Bronx. People who live there never say they are from the Bronx. “I’m from Riverdale”, they will announce.
Riverdale is a stone’s throw from our offices. One day not long ago I jumped in my car and headed to a hardware store in Riverdale. I absentmindedly walked through the adjacent doorway into Vacuum World. To my surprise, I found myself surrounded by vacuum cleaners. The smiling gent behind the counter asked if he could help. “Yes, I need some keys made”, I replied. “Oh, you need the hardware store right next door.”
I thanked him. “Next time I needed vacuum bags, I’ll stop back”, I said as I turned to leave. “Thanks”, he replied. “If you need lamps repaired or carpets cleaned, we do that, too.”
So, the next week I brought a lamp to Vacuum World that my wife has been asking me to fix for months. The bill came to all of $3.35. A week later, I brought in another lamp. The tab came to $27 and change.
My wife had been after me to get someone to come in to clean several of our Oriental carpets, so soon thereafter I was back at Vacuum World with a small carpet that needed cleaning. The cost was a reasonable $75.00. By now, that smiling gent, Len, and I had established an acquaintanceship of sorts, with dogs a shared interest.
Now my wife was on a roll. She liked the work Len had done on the first carpet so well that she asked (ordered?) me to bring a larger Oriental carpet for cleaning. That one will surely cost more than $75. And I know what’s in store. When I bring that second carpet home, my wife has a third, much larger Oriental carpet she will want cleaned.
The upshot is that Len turned this accidental visitor to his shop into a customer that will have spent a few hundred dollars within a matter of weeks. But for his friendly manner and his alerting me that in addition to selling vacuum cleaners, he fixes lamps and cleans carpets, I would have been out the door to get my keys made.
Is there a lesson here for trade show exhibitors? I think there is. A welcoming greeting and a smile never hurts…and often helps. Maybe your primary product (In the case of Len’s Vacuum World, vacuum cleaners) is not of interest to a visitor. Mentioning an ancillary product may get you in the door. It worked for Len. It could work for you.