We’ve talked before about qualifying your trade show prospects – knowing your market niche is essential to success at trade shows and in the general market place. So, how do you qualify your company’s prospects so that you don’t waste your time or theirs?

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What exactly is niche marketing, anyway? Well, here’s an example:

  • Your home phone rings, and you answer.
  • “Hello, Mrs. Smith?”
  • “Yes,” you reply.
  • “Mrs. Smith, I understand you own your home there on Laurel Avenue.”
  • “I do,” you respond, with a mix of curiosity and nervousness.
  • “OK, I’m Allen from Wonder World Windows, and we’re having a special on double-pane vinyl windows this month. Are you considering remodeling in the near future?”

You’ve just been on the receiving end of niche marketing. Had you answered “no” to the caller’s first question, you would have received a polite “thank you” and the call would have ended there.

However, since you are a homeowner, you got Allen’s full sales pitch about replacing your old windows. The same thing happens on the trade show floor. Instead of phoning people from a computer-generated list of prospects, you have to find the people who may be interested in your product. They’re out there among all those people walking the aisles in front of your trade show exhibit.

No matter how vertical the show is, a study from Exhibit Surveys found that only 16% of trade show attendees are interested in one specific product or service. So you’ve got a lot of culling to do.

How do you find the real prospects from your target market in amongst all those people on the show floor? First, you need to know what your niche is, before you’re ready to start prospecting. Here are the keys to clarifying your niche:

1) Create a customer profile:

Imagine you could create the perfect client for what you sell. Allen at Wonder World Windows (the caller in the scenario above) did just that. He decided he wanted to do business with:

  • affluent homeowners
  • in a certain geographic area
  • who were considering remodeling or renovations.

You need to do the same homework. Who is your ideal customer? Where does he or she work? What’s his or her job title? What kind of company does he or she work for? What do they produce? How big is that company? What’s their annual revenue? Where are they located?

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You can’t sell to everybody. So you need to focus on prospects who are most likely to need your product or service. With questions like the ones above, you can narrow your niche. This helps to identify the type of person you’re likely to find on the trade show floor.

These days, the trend is toward smaller and smaller niches. That’s why trade shows have become so vertical: to help companies reach their ideal customers.

Remember, your niche is not the same as the field in which you work. Software isn’t a niche; it’s a field. Sales software for small, independent clothing retailers is a niche.

2) Look at the world through their eyes:

So many companies focus on features and benefits, without thinking about the customer. The customer doesn’t actually want a product or service in the first place. What they want is a solution to a problem that plagues their business.

By looking at your marketing approach differently (through the eyes of your prospects), you can identify what that problem is. Then, you can craft your trade show marketing approach to meet that need, instead of just talking about how good your product is.

3) Sift through the masses in search of your prospects:

Just like Allen at Wonder World Windows, you need to do some pre-show work. You can find likely prospects for your product or service with some relatively simple computer searching. Then, once you’ve found prospects, increase the odds of getting them into your trade show exhibit by inviting them to see you at the show.

Better yet, have your salespeople schedule meetings with their top prospects. That way, they’re already obliged to take the time to visit your trade show booth. This is the best way to reach prospects in your niche. But how do you find prospects once you’re at the show, when there’s a river of potential customers flowing past your exhibit?

Two things will help increase your chances of finding the right people—the needles in that haystack. First, your exhibit needs to do its job. Focus on what sets you apart from your competitors in providing the product or service you sell (faster service? better pricing? more options?).

Make that statement the centerpiece of your exhibit’s graphics.

That’s what makes you unique, and it should be prominent in your trade show booth design. Create your signage in such a way that attendees can read it from at least twenty feet away.

Next, it’s up to your booth staff to do the next part of the process. An attendee has responded in some way to your graphics (which explain how you can meet that need they have).

Now your sales force needs to capitalize on that moment of interest and ask the right questions. Remember how Allen (the window salesman) confirmed you were a homeowner before he launched into his sales pitch? You need to take the same approach, identifying and qualifying those attendees in front of your trade show exhibit.

3) Reel them in:

With the right questions, you’ve identified their pain point (the problem they’re trying to solve). Now you can ask them about that problem, from a knowing perspective.

For example, if their pain point is that their current supplier may not be serving their needs fast enough, you can ask: “Do you need faster parts service to make your operation run smoother?”

Whatever scratches their itch is exactly what your sales force should be focused on. You may not strike gold with everyone you talk to. But with those prospects who fit in your niche, you’ll be hitting them where they live.

This gets the people in your niche into your exhibit, ready to see a product demo or the next step in your sales process.


Your trade show exhibit has a difficult job to do. If yours isn’t making you stand out and reach that niche you’ve identified, let us help you fine-tune or start over. From booth graphics to the entire booth, we can help you every step of the way. For more information, contact American Image Displays at (888) 977-8076 or email [email protected]

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