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The Invisible Audience at The Trade Show

Oct 29, 2007
When preparing your booth for a Trade Show you might think the attendees should be your primary focus. After all, that's why you paid the big bucks, right?

In all actuality, this is only partially true. In fact, the full truth just may surprise you.

In most industries and organizations there are people that Malcolm Gladwell refers to as "connectors" in his book The Tipping Point.

These connectors seem to have a knack for knowing a lot of people. They trade a lot of information on a daily basis. It's just in their nature to be friendly and pass along useful information to others they connect with, even in casual conversation. It's not uncommon to find someone like this in almost every organization. This is the person who, at the end of the day, seems to know what everyone is up to.

These connectors are the people you want to get to know. Why? Because when they see something of value, they don't keep the information to themselves! They freely share it with everyone; especially people they think may benefit from it.

When you attract the attention of connectors, everyone soon knows something about you and your level of sophistication in the competitive arena. They pass along a wealth of information that most of the time is surprisingly accurate. You targeted the message of your Trade Show booth toward the usual attendees, but by also being aware of potential connectors in your industry and by seeking them out, you now have double the means to spread the word about your company.

People who act as connectors in the marketplace, connecting your company with people you need to reach, usually aren't going to be major competitors. He or she may be a person who represents an accessory product or service which is sold to everyone in your industry, but is not a direct competitor themselves.

This person is usually a great talker; and a great listener. He's a walking score card and billboard all packed into one.

At the end of the day, a connector can tell you a little something about everyone, but he can also give exacting perspectives on what the prospects are for a new company based on his wealth of information on all the competitors and observations that he's gathered over many years.

A connector will go out of his way to say nice things about you if he's been continually impressed with your innovative products, your success over a short period or even with you personally.

In fact, whenever the opportunity arises, he shares your success story with others. In the process of sharing your success with others, he plants a seed in the minds of countless people who tell others.

And what has it cost you? Perhaps as little as a couple of beers at the bar telling war stories at the end of a long hard day on the show floor.

Over the years, he identifies with you and your business in ways that you can't even imagine, all because he just seems to like you and the values that you and your company represent.

Because this person is a walking advertisement, people come to him for knowledge. They will ask his opinion on who's doing good work in the industry these days. What they're really saying when they ask that question is: I'm not satisfied with my present supplier and I might be ready for a move when the time is right. Because of his reputation as a knowledgeable source of information, they will trust his opinions.

In an imperfect world it may not always happen this way, but I've seen people like the one I just described help a manufacturer double their distribution without it costing them a penny.

Even at home, a connector I knew many years ago seemed to be able to help countless entrepreneurs build their business just by free word-of-mouth advertising. He never bought anything from any of them, but he somehow knew all of their potential customers. It's the old third-person testimonial that makes this avenue of approach so valuable.

So when you're preparing your booth for the next trade show, don't forget that the biggest catch may not be standing in your booth during the show at all. They may be exhibiting just like you are a few aisle away, but they have the ability to reach many times over the people that you can simply because of a natural tendency toward connecting.
About the Author
Lowell Nickens has been in the trade show arena for 27 years as decorating contractor, exhibit builder, and currently markets trade show exhibits and architectural signage via 3 different webs sites:
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