The combined IBS/KBIS trade show – the center of the home & building products industry calendar – has just ended. Followed shortly by a glut of articles, blog posts and reviews highlighting the coolest, most innovative and most unusual products unveiled at the show.

In the past, we’ve used this space for articles just like that. But not this year.

Because new products are not the entire point of trade shows. At least not for companies with smart marketing departments.

Instead, a trade show should be an opportunity for a gut check on how well you know your customers. And how well aligned your sales and marketing departments really are.


Jeff Long – Streamlabs

The missed opportunity

For a few years now, the best brands across many categories have known that the way to connect with the customer is not by touting the latest products, features and benefits. Instead, they listen to their customers. They answer their questions. They tell stories. Solve problems.

We think it’s high time for companies to treat trade shows the same way.

Does that mean they shouldn’t display new products? Of course not. But they should also be sure not to miss the unmatched opportunity trade shows offer.

This is really the only time and place where marketers, sales people, and customers gather by the dozens in one big room.

How can you make the most of this opportunity? There are really two ways:

Listen to your customers

When you have a steady stream of customers wandering through your booth, cramming all the free stuff they can into logo-emblazoned tote bags, the temptation is to tell them about your latest products.

And that’s fine. But in addition to that, marketers who get the chance to speak to customers should also ask them some questions. Just like in the ride-alongs, the primary goal every marketer should have is to listen.

Mark Abbas – Hyundai

What problems do customers have? What gaps in communication are they experiencing? What might cause them to make a change to or from your product or brand?

Of course, good sales people know the importance of listening. But in the overwhelming, exhausting setting of a trade show, even the best resort to parroting out the product features.

At your next trade show, take the opportunity to engage a few customers in the right conversation. You never know what you might uncover.


Test your sales & marketing alignment

Outside of the structured environment of a sales meeting, trade shows are typically the only time when the entire sales and marketing teams are together. This gives marketers a chance to see how well they’re helping the sales process, and to see the opportunities for improvement. 

Lissette Robledo – Tile Redi

The first thing you as marketers should do is try to observe how well sales people are telling the story you’ve worked so hard to create. Do they understand the customer journey? Do they discuss the products you offer within the framework of solving customer problems?

If there is a disconnect in those areas, you know you have some work to do in getting sales and marketing aligned.

You can also talk to your sales department — and listen — much like you would do with your customers. Find out if the brochures, ads, and even the trade show booth is helpful to them? Are they using your messaging heirarchy the way you intended?

Most importantly, what can you learn from the sales people that might help you improve your marketing and gain better alignment?


Don’t relax now

IBS/KBIS just ended. Most marketers want to go home, rest their aching feet, and decompress from the show, knowing you don’t have to worry about it for another six or nine months.

But the time to start preparing for next year’s show is now. If there are gaps in your sales and marketing alignment that will prevent you from having a great show next year, you need to identify and address them.

To learn how we approach this process, we invite you to contact us to learn more. We can examine your sales and marketing alignment and your trade show strategy, and help you make IBS/KBIS 2020 the best yet.