I've got a couple things today. So let's get right to 'em.
First of all, I've been quiet for a while (our last post was in June; yikes!), so I wanted to touch base.
You might be a new subscriber, or you may have been here awhile. Either way, THANK YOU for tuning in to get tips on marketing to architects. I appreciate you being here. And the opportunity to help you get better at connecting with architects.
Next, I wanted to share a few sweet tips on trade shows from an architect's point-of-view. So buckle in and pay attention, because these seemingly simple tips could make the difference at your next trade show booth.
Stepping onto the trade show floor...
This past week was the AIA Iowa Fall Convention. It's a much smaller venue than the AIA National conference. But almost 60% of Iowa's architects were in attendance.
And with the fall convention comes the trade show floor.
So, I'm sharing some of the observations I made, or comments I heard from my fellow architects along the way.
Pay attention, and you'll pick up some interesting insights and nuggets to carry with you to your next trade show.
This year, we had 160 exhibitors at the conference. And I'll tell you what, a lot of the booths... felt the same as last year. And the year before that.
That's almost word-for-word what one architect told me. He was only walking the floor to say hi to friends and vendors he knew.
Another told me he usually avoids the booths. "They're not my thing..." But he'd joined a company that was just starting to offer architectural services. So he needed to build up their library.
He was on a mission to meet as many vendors as he could for the catalogs and connections.
One attendee - who was a year out of school - was wide-eyed at all the free swag she was picking up. It was her first conference, so it was all exciting and new.
She also mentioned she was one of only a few of her fellow recent-grads whose firm paid for them to attend. So she was grateful for the opportunity.
Look at that right there!
400 words into this email and you've already got a quick cross-section of three architect-attendee types you'll run into at a trade show.
Three different points-of-view and mindsets you'll meet. And should try to identify and address individually when you meet them.
Because that's really your important first step is to understand who you're talking to.
As I've quoted before, copywriter Robert Collier once said you need to "enter the conversation already going on in their head."
That should give you a little peek behind the curtain for starters. What a few types of architects might be thinking as they walk up to (or past) your booth. But, of course, it's barely scratching the surface.
Next, let's look at some other architect mindsets, and some vendors I saw doing things right.
Outside the "comfort zone"...
I'll let you in on a little secret... I'm not much of a social butterfly. I'm a full-on introvert. (Yes - Architects can be introverts, too.)
So, my inclination is to avoid the trade show floors. Feels like too much pressure to perform.
I have to consciously step up to a booth to invite someone to pitch me on their products. Or, if they're not a great conversationalist, I have to create a conversation.
And you can tell this is the case with a lot of other attendees. How? The organizers have to go to great lengths to get architects to visit the booths.
- The snacks and drinks are on the far side of the trade show floor. That means you HAVE to walk past at least one row of booths.
- The emcees constantly remind you to stop and thank the vendors at their booths. Because their contributions are what make the show possible in the first place.
- To have a chance to win a door prize, you have to collect at least ten vendor signatures. Or drop your business card in their fishbowl.
But for you, dear reader, I pushed my neurosis aside. For your education, edification, and enjoyment -- I stepped into the breach.
I visited as many booths as I could to see how they were doing and what I could learn.
Let's start with a softball subject... Treats.
This first observation will seem trite and not worth mentioning. But stick with me here...
Almost every booth had some kind of treats they were offering. Most were chocolate candy. (Who doesn't like chocolate?)
The main goal is to have something for attendees to step in a grab. Whether it's a free pen, water bottle or whatever. But candy seems to have become the common thread at these booths.
There were two standout treat offerings I noticed.
One booth broke out a couple tins of chocolate chip cookies after lunch. Those seemed to be a big hit. (They were gone by the end of the trade show.)
The other standout treats I noticed was the bowl of breath mints. I, for one, appreciated this lovely addition to the conference.
For myself AND for my fellow attendees.
With all the coffee and chocolate being thrown back during the day, there was some bad breath floating around.
In one seminar, I was sitting next to someone whose every exhale seemed to hit my nose. It was a mix of coffee, garlic, and something that should be buried in the backyard.
I couldn't even concentrate on the speaker. I was too busy trying to find the best position in my seat to avoid it.
Anyway! Yes. Breath Mints. Highly recommend those in your booth. If you're really clever, you might even find a way to offer one before they start talking to you.
But here's the main reason I even mention this. The booth I noticed these at had them right up front and let everyone know they could stop back whenever they needed some. They had a ready supply to keep their bowl topped up.
People were stopping back all the time for a friendly nod and to grab a mint.
And it usually led to the persuasive principle author Robert Cialdini calls "reciprocity" in his book, Influence. It basically says people feel a need to reciprocate when they're given something of value.
That means these repeat visitors would usually stop and talk a little with the vendor. And each chat and visit builds a little more familiarity and trust. And that's the point. That's how you get your prospects to trust you and get to know you. And eventually turn to you when they need help.
(I'm working on two different projects with that particular vendor right now...)
Breaking through the wall...
Something I find myself doing as I visit with different vendors is trying to break through their "wall."
You have some vendors who are naturally personable. And talk on that personal level. "Hi! How's it going? Learning anything good at the conference?"
But you have some folks who are in perpetual "sales" mode and talk in a certain way that makes you want to turn and run back to the free bagels and coffee.
So, when I run into that person, I look for a chink in their armor. Something I can use to get them off the company line they were spouting. Something to get them to relax a little and talk to ME. Not to another of the faceless mass of architects they've already talked to.
Me: "So, where you guys out of?"
Him: "We're in Fargo, North Dakota. But we serve all of the central states..."
Me: "You've got a great accent. Where are you originally from?"
Him: "New Zealand."
Me: "Really? I bet that's quite a change being in Fargo, North Dakota."
Him: "Yeah! It's a lot more flat. And a LOT colder..."
Me: "I'll bet! What brought you here..."
And so on.
(And, yes, I did still let him tell me about his products and places I could use them in my next projects.)
What this line of questioning does is create a better connection and build rapport with the vendor. And maybe even helps me find someone I want to connect with again in the future.
Plus it can be fun. I've found it to be a great way to spend my time between the different seminars. (I'll even forget to ask for their signature to win my door prizes...)
So look for those opportunities to reverse this idea.
Breakthrough the architect's wall - if you can. Ask them more questions about themselves and their work. Don't just have a one-sided conversation to spew at them during the brief time you have their attention. Save that for the follow-up meeting at their office. (We'll talk about that in a minute...)
You don't have to be shiny to be effective
Most marketing departments seem to think you need more flash and gimmicks to get visitors to your booth. And that might get more people to stop and notice you. And maybe try to "win a prize" or whatever you're doing.
I'd have to say the most effective marketer I saw this past week had none of that.
His booth was simple. He didn't have any banners or free coozies or pens. It was just the plain black backdrop and the little printed out sign the organizers provided. (We joked with him he wasn't going to win the booth of the year award...)
He had two director chairs, a small table with a bowl of candy, a fishbowl and a form to fill out.
The form was your ticket for a chance to win $100. But you had to write in one idea of something in his realm of expertise you'd like him to come into your office to teach you and your firm about.
That was it.
I got to know him and at the end of the two-day conference, he had a stack of about 50 specific topics and hot leads he would follow up with.
This means he would be visiting their offices and providing the valuable education they were asking for. And (here's the kicker) he will use the list of topics to create reports and white papers on each topic. And possibly combine them into a book.
And who knows where else he'll take it.
What about the majority of the other vendors? What are they walking away with?
A fishbowl full of business cards they may or may not follow up with. They don't have a clear picture of the needs or interests of the names on those cards. And they certainly don't have much fuel for their future content marketing or educational pieces.
Becoming the architect's choice
Those should give you some food for thought for your next trade show.
Can you see the value buried throughout this post? Are you imagining the benefits you could have with an architect in your corner to help you hone your marketing and sales strategies?
Then let's talk. We can set up a call to see if you and your company's products are a good fit for what I do.
Helping you become the architect's choice.
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Make it a great marketing day!
Marketing to architects should be simple. My mission is to help you get good at it.