Top 10 Blunders Exhibitors Make in Expos and Tradeshows

Triple your response from expos by avoiding the top ten blunders at expos.
Turn disappointment into sales success!

If you are like most exhibitors, you were disappointed from the results at your last expo.
There is only one reason for dismal results from an expo and that is not knowing how to maximize the opportunities from an expo/tradeshow.

Here are some amazing facts from expos/tradeshows

1. Most attendees come to an expo because they are seriously researching the vendors and their products and services

2. A majority of the attendees at an expo are either decision makers or have significant influence in buying decisions

If that is the case how come most exhibitors feel that their time and money was not well spent at an expo? In fact, if you were an exhibitor recently, you might be questioning your decision and may shy away from exhibiting at the next expo.

Ask yourself, were you committing any of these Top Ten Blunders?

  1. You are not aware of your target market
  2. Your target market was not at the expo
  3. You did not have an attention-grabbing headline
  4. You did not have a compelling call to action
  5. You believed that expo is a place to sell, sell, and sell
  6. You were focused on getting everybody to buy what you were selling without qualifying
  7. You stayed at your booth expecting people to come to your booth
  8. Your booth showed lack of preparation and professionalism
  9. You were giving away junk at your booth
  10. There was no plan to follow up

Let me explain each of these blunders and give you suggestions on how to avoid them in the future.

1. Not aware of your target market

Who is your target market? If your answer is everybody then you will have a tough time deciding which expo to go to. Even if everybody can benefit from your product or service, you must start with one specific target market.

Who do you think gets paid more, a general physician or a plastic surgeon?

Obviously a plastic surgeon. Aren’t both doctors? One is considered a specialist and that is why, the plastic surgeon charges more money.

So if you do not have a niche, you are likely to never get the most from an expo.

So define your market. For example, my friend Jason Ryan of Midstates Alliance, can promote his services to anyone but he chooses to focus on Insurance agents as his firm specializes in restoration. Isn’t it more cost-effective to focus on one market and master it than trying to be everything to everybody?

2. Your target market is not at the expo:

Recently, I was talking to one of my clients and she was tired of networking and felt inundated with business cards from these networking events. She felt compelled to follow up and was asking for advice on how to get organized. I asked her, who is her best source of business. She said realtors. I asked her then, what was she doing at general-purpose mixers and expos?

All she needs to do is focus on the realtor expos and mixers and sponsor some of their events. She could not believe that what she thought was an organizing problem was really a problem of narrowly focusing on her target market.

She can afford to throw away other business cards and doesn’t need to show up at every networking event. She freed up her time tremendously.

3. Your booth does not have an attention-grabbing headline

Does ABC Company really mean anything to your buyers or referral partners?

If not, why make that your headline. Advertisement and marketing experts will tell you that you have only 5 to 6 seconds to get anybody’s attention. If that is the case, shouldn’t your headline grab their attention? So how do you do that?

Make your headline something related to solving the problem or pain of your prospect. What does that look like?

One of my businesses is to assist business owners and employers in screening candidates in the hiring process by providing tools to assess candidates.

So my headline can be” Stop hiring misfits, weirdoes and losers who leave you tired and broke’ (see

A web developer can say ” Getting no leads from your website?’

The purpose of the headline is to make your prospect stop and try to get more information from your booth.

Make your headline attractive enough so your prospects don’t miss it in their hurry to get to as many booths as possible.

4. You do not have a compelling call to action

Once your prospect stops in front of your booth and engages you in a conversation, what is next?
You must have a call to action. What it simply means is that the prospect must do something to distinguish themselves from tire-kickers and you have a reason to follow-up with them the next day.

Registering for a door prize is one of them. Filling out a survey is another.

You must ask why will the prospect be willing to give me that information?

No wonder, companies give door prizes, pens etc to entice people in giving permission to follow up with them.

Make your offer creative and compelling.

5. You believe that expo is a place to sell, sell, and sell

How much time do you have at an expo to talk to a person?

Usually you should give only a few minutes to a prospect. If you are trying to close a deal, then you are missing the point.

Expos are not the place where people usually make buying decisions. Most attendees look at expos as a place to gather information and research different competing vendors and their products/services.

So don’t try to convince them and sell them at that time. You will only leave a bad taste in their mouth and lose chances to get them as a client later during follow up.

More than once, I have been chased and pressured by over-zealous sales people at expos to buy their services and sign on the dotted line.

I usually run in the other direction whenever I see them coming the next time.

6. You are focused on getting everybody to buy what you are selling without qualifying

Expos are a place to generate qualified leads not just collect business cards of everybody who walks in.

We talked about focusing on a target market as well. This is an extension of that idea.

Let me give you a couple of examples. If you offered a color TV or a vacation to Bahamas, how many people will give you their information?

Everybody at the expo will put in his or her business card or register to get a shot at the grand prize.

Is that really what you want?

You will have a business card from every visitor but do you know if they are qualified leads? Are they really interested in your products or service? You don’t know.

So why not be selective as to who you give the prize to by qualifying the prospect in advance?

If you are interested in talking to people who are going to invest $250,000 or more with you in your financial planning business in the next 3 months, then your offer or prize should be directed to that group.

How about people who are looking to roll-over their 401Ks? Make your booth oriented towards those people. Your headline, offer, materials should be directed to them. Do you really want everybody else to stop at your booth and waste your time? Not at all.

Getting 10 qualified leads is much better than getting 100 unqualified names and numbers.

7. You stay at your booth expecting people to come to your booth

Most people do not have good networking skills. Also most vendors feel that they should stay at their booth and that is the only way to talk to people.

Ideally you should have more than one person at your booth. Why? One can walk around and collect information about your competitors and see what they are doing and also see other booths and introduce your business to other exhibitors.

What if every vendor stayed at his/her booth? Other vendors could be prospects and very likely referral partners for you. Why miss that opportunity?

Mingle, have business cards, flyers and offers for people you meet.

Again don’t be in selling mode. Show interest in others.

If you are looking for ideas on how to effectively network, I have a free audio recording with Bob Burg, the author of Endless referrals, at in Free Resource section.

8. Your booth shows lack of preparation and professionalism

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to make your booth look magnificent and attractive, yet you must prepare to give it a professional look.

Your booth can reflect credibility and position you as a desirable vendor.

There are numerous sign and expo display companies who can help you in doing just that. Be aware of what other booths will be like. You must be competitive without being flashy and gaudy.

A little creativity can go a long way!

9. You are giving away junk at your booth

Do you clutter up your booth with junk give-aways?

Did you know that most people will throw away the stuff you give to them at the expo?
In fact, usually the garbage can at the exit of the expo is full of flyers and junk give-away from the expo!

Is your hard-earned money and effort in there as well? I hope not.

Giving a grand prize or giving educational information to your prospects is much better than giving everybody a trinket. Also if there is something important that you will be giving them, don’t give that at the expo. Send it to them later or use that as an opportunity to meet with them. If you give them valuable information to take home that day, most likely they will throw it away or never open their expo goodies bag.

That is a terrible waste.

10. There is no plan to follow up

OK so now you have collected qualified leads, did you have a plan to follow up with them?

I remember distinctly an expo where I was the featured speaker. I collected everybody’s information and shared my card freely with everybody who asked for it. Out of 150 vendors and visitors not one followed up with me. I had specifically asked two people to contact me because I was interested in their product or service.

Another person I told that I had a lead for them.

That is amazing but sad. After taking time out of their busy schedule and spending hundreds of dollars to be there, they lost the opportunity to get more business.

So set aside the next day or two to set up appointments with people who have expressed interest in your service/product. This is the time when they are most receptive!

Take advantage of it. The longer you wait to follow up, less likely are they to buy from you for two reasons. One they lost interest and excitement for the service or product and another, is that your competitor got to them.

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