Attract, Engage, Excite: How Steelwrist Approaches the Trade Show Attendee Experience

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1/20/2022

SteelwristBy Mike Schmidt, AEM Director of Industry Communications

If every trade show exhibitor is trying to make the most of its efforts to engage customers and secure the greatest possible return on its investment in exhibiting, then why are some organizations just so much better at it than others?

Good customer engagement in and around a trade show booth doesn’t happen by accident. It requires the development of a sound attendee engagement strategy, a commitment to execute that strategy and follow-through on the part of every individual representing the exhibiting company at the show. At least that’s the opinion of Christian Yanes, vice president, Region Americas, at AEM member company and 2021 Utility Expo exhibitor Steelwrist, Inc.

“It’s something we actively work on,” said Yanes. “It’s not a coincidence, and there’s a lot of thought and strategy behind both how we as a organization build our booth and act toward customers coming in.”

Emphasizing Customer Engagement

It seems safe to say customer engagement at trade shows is more important than it’s ever been, after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the postponement or outright cancellation of many in-person events. The impact of the pandemic on equipment manufacturers like Steelwrist – who see tremendous value in participating in face-to-face gatherings as a means of showcasing products, learning more about their customers needs, wants and expectations, and facilitating a greater connection with the industry – can’t be overstated.

“I can’t tell you how hungry we were to participate in a show, and it’s why we really looked forward to exhibiting at The Utility Expo last fall, and it seems like the customers at the show felt the same way,” said Yanes.

So, according to Yanes, Steelwrist officials went about making sure the company – along with current and prospective customers in attendance at The Utility Expo – got the most out of their experience when the utility industry came back together in Louisville this past September.

“Even as the world is becoming more and more virtual, and more businesses are starting to sell online, old-school sales will never die,” said Yanes. “When you’re talking about an investment of thousands of dollars, you need to have contact with the product – see it, touch it, feel it. The best way for a customer to do that is by engaging a manufacturer and establishing a relationship.”

Steelwrist staff made a concerted effort to strongly consider the layout of its show booth in an effort to keep things exciting and active, with much success. Specific tactics included having machinery occupy a prominent presence within the booth, as well as providing ample opportunities for show attendees to demo equipment and learn more information about new and innovative products hitting the market.

 

Yanes

 

“At the end of the day, you want your customers to find your booth and say, ‘There must be something happening here, because this is where everyone is.’” -- Christian Yanes, vice president, Region Americas at Steelwrist, Inc.

 

Building Trust and Rapport

Sales – whether it occurs over the phone, digitally, or in person on the trade show floor – is all about trust. And, according to Yanes, that trust is extremely difficult to gain if prospective customers aren’t at ease. So, for Steelwrist at Utility Expo, an outdoor show, extra effort was made to make attendees at comfortable by fostering a welcoming environment in a number of ways, including not allowing staff to wear sunglasses in the booth and making sure they were standing up, moving around and actively aware of who was entering or exiting the booth.

“If you are a customer at a trade show, and you don’t get someone to actively indicate to you that they’ve seen you, then you’re going to have a bad customer experience. And for us at Steelwrist, that’s unacceptable,” he said.

“What we, as company representatives, try to figure out before talking to the customer is who they are and what they do,” Yanes continued. “Because we adjust our approach based on what they tell us, and that keeps more potential customers in the booth longer, and that’s a good thing. Because, if you think of it like a restaurant, do you want to go to the one that’s empty, or do you want to go to the one that’s full?”

Establishing and Renewing Industry Relationships

While the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 severely limited face-to-face meeting opportunities for people like Yanes, shows like The Utility Expo that took place this past year provided much-needed forums to gather together and establish new relationships, as well as renew old ones. Perhaps more importantly, at least for Yanes, it reignited his passion for providing a valuable show experience for any and all attendees who made their way into Steelwrist’s booth at various events.

So, with that in mind, Yanes encouraged fellow exhibiting companies looking to do the same to keep a few things front-of-mind in order to successfully connect their brands with customers.

“A trade show only takes two or three days, and it’s a limited number of hours. But during those hours, you need to make sure you’re focused on being at the show, engaged and dynamic,” said Yanes.

He also emphasized the need for companies – no matter who they are and how successful they have in the past –to strongly examine the show experience they provide and determine realistic and actionable strategies and tactics to make it more appealing to customers.

“You want to make it welcoming. You want to make the experience easy and positive for them, so it’s important to have a strong understanding of how they feel when they walk in,” said Yanes. “Because, at the end of the day, you want your customers to find your booth and say, ‘There must be something happening here, because this is where everyone is.’”

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