Are you struggling getting everyone on the same page? Do your sales and marketing department’s battle with the angst and frustration that is familiar to so many companies?

We recently had a big commercial client who wanted to really make a splash at their exhibition. Together we devised a strategy that was bold, communicated their key message, elevated themselves as the experts and would help them achieve their objectives. Basically, they had the right idea and plan, but fell short with the execution. Correction. It didn’t even get off the ground due to lack of buy in. The sales team wouldn’t back the new concept and dug their heels in.

In case you hadn’t spotted the major problem here, let me point it out – A sales team dictating to marketing, how to do marketing. This isn’t cricket. They might be in the trenches speaking to the market but sometimes you need an outsider, an expert in their field, to help navigate the best path. (Enter marketing/comms manager and your trusty stand builder). These are the people who see the whole picture. They connect the dots in your marketing strategy, bringing out the bits that are most important at that point in time to get the best result.

Marketing and sales want the same thing. Results.

Rather than telling marketing to just muster some courage and take a stand, the smart solution might not be what you think! By including sales earlier on in the development of the plan they might have had more buy in.

Marketing already have a lot on their plate, but to deliver a customer-centric plan that actually works it still needs to be backed up by data. This means gathering information from the cold face. Sales are making calls and meeting with customers on a daily basis. They have valuable intel that needs to be worked into any exhibition plan. Developing one without this data is like baking a cake without a recipe. Your skills as a baker might let you produce a cake, but it will never be as good as one made with the precise amounts of each ingredient.

In the end this company had to do what they always did. After marketing got steamrolled, it was a rush job and they threw all their products on the stand to keep everyone happy. They had a structure that was aesthetically pleasing, but lacked any real gusto (technical term for “strategy to take it from pretty, to effective”).

From the outside looking in, they did fine. It looked on brand. The design was clean and polished and people behaved, as you’d expect on an exhibition stand. But, A BIG BUT, from someone who knew what it could have been, if fell short of expectations.

As no exhibition campaign can ever be a controlled experiment, it’s hard to say what results this company would have experienced had they executed the original plan, but I can guarantee what they had didn’t tick any of the boxes when it came to brand narrative or connecting with their audience at a deeper level.  Their team would have had to work that much harder to get the results they did and there’s no way of telling what others who didn’t stop to learn more might have thought.

The sad part is this happens all the time. If something is commercially passable, people don’t seem to kick up a stink. It’s why some people hide behind the hype and excitement of pointless giveaways that create a superficial instant crowd that doesn’t want to go deep. If sales were included there might be a better chance of selling them on things like attracting fewer, more meaningful crowds of people to your stand to increase the effectiveness of your reach.

The brave souls that try to colour outside the lines face such a big battle winning allegiance that they often cave because they feel like it’s them against the world. I totally see why… This is a major part of why we started doing more consulting with our clients. It’s a win win!

It’s just an education thing… And a little bit to do with having the guts to try something new

If you’re a conservative business owner, manager or C-Level executive who needs to see results to make decisions, you can still do this, but set yourself a challenge at one show. Set real KPI’s, roll up your sleeves and really give it a good crack before you make a call on those results.

Back to my case history – It’s only us, the tradeshow maniacs (and the marketing manager) who felt they missed some great opportunities. I’m sharing this tale with you because it’s really common. I see it way more than I would like to. I want more people to get the courage to try something new with their exhibit programs and I understand that one of the biggest hurdles is buy in.

There are a lot of moving parts and boxes you need to check before getting a new strategy across the line. Without aligning bosses, sales and marketing you don’t stand a chance. We have our own process to get the key players in line, but the team needs to be primed. They need to understand what’s at stake and what can be gained from these kind of events, which unfortunately doesn’t usually take sink in until some kind of results start coming in. (Classic case of chicken before the egg).

Don’t wait for results to make a change – What are you really doing to earn the results? If you don’t really manage the stand or have a clear message or do much in the way of promotions that were designed to drive change, you will fall back into your normal exhibition routine (And get your normal exhibition results). I’m not saying you’re doing poorly, but you definitely won’t be getting the most out of your attendance.

One day, I’ll win the battle and they will wish they had done it earlier. What could you be doing differently? Let me know what your biggest hurdle is?