Trade Show Lessons – The Hard Way

I spent most of last week at the National Beer Wholesalers Association Convention.  We’re in the process of launching a new to world company and brand, so we participated in the trade show with the hopes of connecting with interested distributors from around the country.

Overall, the trade show didn’t meet my expectations because we didn’t have as many meaningful conversations as we hoped for.  We learned some lessons  – the hard way.

First off, we broke Andy Sernovitz’s golden rule: we didn’t give away anything worth talking about.  We didn’t have that magical little trinket to pass out and stimulate buzz so that more people would come by and talk to us.  But with that said, creating that item is not the easiest thing in the world to do considering our audience is a fairly cynical group.  Nonetheless, we didn’t do it.

Second, we didn’t conduct any pre-event marketing to tell people who we are, where we’re going to be and what we can offer.  We ended up just being another brand that no one knew about and didn’t want to risk any of their valuable time learning about.

On the positive side, we didn’t make any expensive mistakes on meaningless crap:

  • extravagant displays
  • travel expenses for people who just stood there
  • a miniature boxing ring for Wii boxing – that no one played

Truth be told – I am left wondering whether the trade show would have been successful, even if we had improved on these things.  The whole trade show concept may be a thing of the past and we might have been better off trying to reach this audience a different way.

What do you think?