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Could Tradeshows Be ‘Googley’?

Could Tradeshows Be ‘Googley’?


Journalist Jeff Jarvis talks about how car companies can become more ‘Googley’, which is short hand for listening to your customers’ needs leads to success in the 21st century. The important question that he brings up is: “What business are we really in?” For car companies, for years, it was making cars that Americans wanted to buy at a cheap price. Car companies may actually be a bad example of this because a bad economy means that people are simply buying fewer cars. The question may actually be better for those of us in the tradeshow business. What business are we really in?

If we’re in the business of setting up booths in a physical space at a set time, then our days are numbered. There are simply more ways of connecting in business than there used to be and business-as-usual means that those other ways will slowly but surely eat away at tradeshows and their share of marketing dollars.

So what can tradeshows learn from Google? Building on Jarvis’s points here are a few:

1.) More Beta
Google tries new things all the time and lets their users try things as well. What works is kept and what doesn’t is thrown away. Tradeshow organizers need to try news things pure and simple. Attendees and exhibitors are eager to see new things that will help them grow their business and or provide feedback to help make a good idea great.

2.) More Transparency
Its pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get at Google. They turned advertising on its head by linking it to searches. They moved the cost model to paying for clicks and placing a higher value on search terms that are more desirable. There are more ways to spend money with Google today than ever. But here’s the thing: it’s all transparent. Advertisers know exactly what they are paying for and exactly what they are getting for their money. Google even helps open up more transparency with handy tools that let you see keyword search trends and traffic on your site.

3.) More Tools to Succeed
Google recognized that people search in order to find things. While the competition thought they were in the search engine business, Google realized that they were in the “finding things” business. Now you have Google Maps, Google Books, even Google Health. Putting tools in people’s hands to succeed helps Google succeed. Tradeshows could do the same by offering free services that leverage (exploit) the need for information flow. For example, in addition to tradeshow guides or show dailies, why not have search kiosks with sponsored searches and pay-per visit options? Why not an iPhone app that would do the same thing? Heck, while we’re at it, why not a pay-per-lead model? It may sound dangerous but so is not considering these ideas.

4.) Flexibility
Tradeshows offer the ability to essentially rent a set space for a set period of time. The bigger the space, the more flexibility you have. Some companies have the budget to build an entire environment in a huge space while some are stuck with 10x10s. Why not break up that model? Could companies be more creative with their space choices? Could they team up with other companies to create environments that ‘cross the aisle’? What about multiple spaces each devoted to different challenges in the marketplace? Granted, these are all ideas that may need to come from exhibitors themselves, but tradeshows should push innovation along and not hinder it.

5.) Get In the Information Business
For decades, tradeshows provided the space, exhibitors brought the products, and journalists covered the show. If tradeshows are in the information business, they need to team with journalists and companies to communicate with attendees. This may be in the form of podcasts, blogs, or social media — but the point is that information needs to flow more freely and on a more timely basis so exhibitors are able to make better, more informed choices while attendees receive relevant information that will enhance their experience at the show. And, by the way, attendees need to have a voice as well. Information is no longer a one way street. And, guess what? That’s a good thing.

Let’s face it, Google isn’t perfect. And it’s not the perfect model for the Tradeshow Industry. But it does reveal some of the changing trends in information exchange that have already impacted our business. People gathering in one place to do business has strong roots dating back to ancient marketplaces. There has always been value in being able to freely roam through a maze of merchants combining savvy information gathering with random encounters. But Google has taught us that calculated searching combined with chance encounters now has expanded possibilities. Not taking advantage of those possibilities is, at best, a missed opportunity, and, at worst, a death knell to the industry.

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