Should Marketers Use Trade Shows for Testing?
Marketers use various means to test their campaigns. If they’re using email, they may A/B test. If they judge websites, they may pick multivariate testing. If they’re putting out new products, they may convene focus groups. But for the latter, one vendor is saying they should use trade show attendees instead.
Wait, what? Aren’t trade shows where exhibitors have the rubber hit the road? Isn’t that atmosphere “sell, sell, sell”? Aren’t attendees the end-point for ROI, rather than test subjects? Maybe all of that’s the accepted wisdom, but that’s not the reality, says Peter LoCascio, founder of Trade Show Consultants.
He’s not seeing selling at shows, because many of the brands there think of their real marketing efforts as being digital, anyway. So testing campaigns there and asking for the conversion is what marketers should be doing, he says.
“It seems as though today's businesspeople are timid when it comes to face-to-face encounters on the trade show exhibit hall floor,” LoCascio told Target Marketing on Monday. “Most have grown up with emails, Facebook, Twitter, websites, etc. and are off-balance dealing with real people. So to answer your question, ‘NO!’ Today's booth-duty person, unless seriously trained to effectively utilize the trade show environment as a sales promoting function, does not ask for much of anything, missing out on tremendous opportunities to advance the selling process. This, I believe, has much to do with the trade show function now being managed by meeting planners not reporting directly to sales. An unfortunate trend.”
LoCascio doesn’t get into the deal-making that happens at trade shows in the meeting rooms and hallways.
But in his Jan. 5 thoughts recorded in his LinkedIn Pulse post, “What Trump’s Campaign Taught Trade Show Exhibitors about Primary Research,” LoCascio says:
“Focus group members are often simply sharing their general opinions about something without making a commitment to their true beliefs until asked to take personal action, like purchasing something or, in this case, casting their vote.”
Focus Group vs. the Trade Show Floor
Brands that aren’t already pushing for sales in exhibit halls may find these differences between focus groups and conferees, LoCascio writes in his post:
Attendees will give positive and negative opinions. But focus group members will be polite and tell marketers what they want to hear, LoCascio says. Honest answers, “in turn, can lead to more solid marketing and sales strategies and tactics.”
President-elect Donald Trump’s victory illustrates this, he writes.
“Donald Trump’s campaign was created and built on thousands of people’s personal feelings,” LoCascio says, “while the [Hillary] Clinton campaign was created on a relatively small number of paid, uninvolved people’s opinions in focus groups.”
Other perspectives on the shortcomings of focus groups come from universities and other vendors, who say focus groups can go wrong if the moderators ask leading questions, if there’s groupthink and if participants are paid. (Other options, such as online and unpaid focus groups, create different lists of pros and cons.) Proponents of the groups, though, say these are quick, inexpensive ways to get objective opinions about brands and products.
“Hearing and seeing customers or prospects is powerful way for managers to connect to the marketplace,” writes FocusGroupTips.com.
What do you think, marketers? Do you agree with LoCascio?
Please respond in the comments section below.