Trade Show Survey Tips

So, I came across an interesting Harvard Business Review discussion about trade show survey tips a while back.  The thesis simply is, you can get more useful information from a short survey than with a long one.  Having spent some time dealing with consumer surveys, I’ve long been an advocate of using shorter ones. segue hybrid display with silicone edge graphics-resized-600

(Plus, like most people, I’m immediately intrigued by articles that support my biases.)

I won’t recap Mr. Schrage’s arguments, but he presents some good hard experimental numbers showing that the response rates you get from a short survey vastly outnumber those from a long survey, yielding better overall data.

So, here’s the question: How can this trade show survey tip help you create better trade show or marketing surveys? These post event surveys are a great way to get feedback on the effectiveness of your trade show booths, but audience engagement is the problem.  You need to have enough people who saw your exhibition display AND who are willing to answer questions for you.

Four Questions To Success

Here’s my suggestion:  Initially, all you need are four questions – if these questions are open-ended.  Open ended questions make coding responses more difficult for you, but yield a lot more data.

The exact wording is up to you, but consider a survey which asks:meeting area counters with backlighting and silicone edge graphics-resized-600

•  What made them stop by your trade show booth(pre-show advertising, one of your trade show graphics or product displays that caught their eye at the show, etc.)?

•  What they liked most about your display or products?

•  What they don’t like?

•  What one change would make your product or trade show displays perfect for them?

That’s it.  Don’t ask for any more information than you absolutely need, especially since if they’re already in your sales database you probably already have some basic demographic information on them (scan their badges). The HBR trade show survey tips says we should focus solely on asking your expo display visitors a few important questions, not wasting their time.

Dealing With the Data

Doing your survey in this way moves quite a bit of the work into your lap, but don’t worry.  It will pay off.  You (or, more likely, interns and assistants) need to start looking for trends.  Just go through the stack of responses creating headers like “Thought staff was rude” or “Wants the product in white” coding common responses.

At the end of the process, however, you should have a decent tally of major trends, with cross-references so you know who said what.

Then you send out the second survey about your exhibition display.

Just One More Trade Show Survey Tip, Lieutenant…

So, let’s say a clear trend emerged: 2/3 of your trade show display visitors said they wanted your product in white.  You place a couple calls and discover this is totally doable.  Now it’s time for the follow-up.

Take all the people who mentioned wanting a white product, and send them a $25 gift card or nice piece of swag, thanking them for participating in the survey. Include another short survey. Tell them clearly and up-front that you’re sorry to disturb them, but you’d like to ask them a few more questions specifically about their suggestion that you make your product in white.

At this point, you’re giving them real incentive to respond.  You’re saying, “Hey, we listened to your advice and we want to give you want you want.  We just need to clear a couple details up.”

You now have a miniature market survey group who should be happy to tell you about why they want a white product, what they’d do with it, and how much they’d pay for it.

Knowledge is Power

Your trade show booths can be powerful information-gathering tools.  If you construct surveys of your visitors which are focused on being short, non-intrusive, and focused on giving them good reasons to respond, you’ll get much more useful data in the long run.

For more, check out our other article on trade show surveys or effective communication at trade shows.

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