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An Interview with Susan Friedmann – The Tradeshow Coach

02/01/11 by Brandon

Our latest entry in our interview series ‘Trade Show Experts’ bring us Susan Friedmann, The Tradeshow Coach.  That name is probably very familiar to many of you, as Susan is one of the most sought after tradeshow consultants in the industry. In this post, Susan shares information on her company and focuses specifically on how to select the right trade show to exhibit your business or service.  For more information on Susan, and the services her company offers, visit her website here.

Susan Friedman, The Tradeshow Coach, Trade Show ConsultantCan you tell us a little bit about your background in trade shows?

I started doing tradeshows as a teenager, helping my father selling consumer products at a month long Home and Garden Show in London.  During the few breaks he gave me, I walked around the show floor and was disgusted at the way other exhibitors behaved.  As a complete novice, this made a striking impression, so much so that I vowed that one day, I would teach people how to do a better job of exhibiting.

Fast forward 10 years and I found myself working for a PR agency, and my major clients went to big industrial shows around the globe.  I was in charge of helping them get favorable publicity and do a great job at exhibiting.

Fast forward another 10 years, when after three layoffs, I decided to take charge of my own destiny and start a small tradeshow coaching, consulting and training business.

25 years ago, exhibitor education had minimal recognition as being a needed skill.  However, over the years, more and more savvy exhibitors realize that they need training.

Can you tell us about the type of clients that you work with? Sizes?  Product/Service offerings?

My clients comprise all different sizes, from Fortune 100 companies to small mom and pop operations.  The larger companies hire me to do face-to-face or webinar training primarily, whereas the small businesses use me to strategically plan their entire show operation.  These smaller exhibitors are often first-timers and need handholding most of the way. This is all done over the phone, and with few exceptions, I rarely get to meet my clients in person.

I’ve often thought about targeting specific industries, however, I do love the diversity of all different industries.  I enjoy seeing what differences and similarities exist.

What are the services that you offer to your clients?  What services do you offer related to trade shows?

My primary business services consist of exhibitor training and coaching, both live and virtually.  Currently because of budget constraints, virtual training sessions are becoming more popular.

Because of the success of my books, “Riches in Niches: How to Make it BIG in a small Marketing” and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Target Marketing,” I’m being asked to conduct more and more niche marketing programs.  I definitely include tradeshows as one of the most powerful niche marketing tools a business can use.

We talked previously about the importance of a business selecting the right industry shows when exhibiting – what advice would you give to an organization trying to decide on the right trade show to exhibit their product or service?

This question comes up many times during my trainings.  You must go where your target market goes.  The better you know and understand your target market, the better you’re able to pinpoint the right shows to attend.

I often suggest investigating shows that don’t attract your competition. When you think outside the box, you can frequently find niche market shows that attract your target audience, but that your competitors miss out on.  Look at quality rather than quantity. That means, going to shows that attract a high quality attendee, but it may well be a smaller show and a smaller exhibiting arena.

Are there specific tactics that should be taken depending on the size of the show?  For instance, do some strategies work better at large shows versus smaller shows?

Absolutely!  However, whether a large or small show, exhibitors need to know what it is they want to accomplish at the show. They need to define specific measureable goals and objectives.

A smaller more vertical show gives exhibitors greater opportunity to target their market more efficiently, direct them to their booth, and have a more in-depth conversation. There are far fewer distractions for the prospect.

To make sure your exhibiting pays off at a larger show, the exhibitor needs a solid plan of action that focuses on a specific target market. They need more guerrilla marketing tactics to help them stand out from the crowd, such as speaking, sponsorship, or exciting giveaway incentives.  They need to spend time many months before the show outlining their action plan. Buying space, turning up and expecting miracles to happen is a very dangerous and costly game to play.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen exhibitors make in selecting a show to exhibit?

The biggest mistake, and I witnessed it at a recent show I attended, is when an exhibitor does not know in advance who will be attending the show. Some simple research can save a whole lot of time and money. It’s totally beyond my understanding why an exhibitor would go to the expense of exhibiting, only to find out when they were at the show, that it wasn’t aimed at their target audience.

Another big mistake exhibitors make, which is very closely related to being at the wrong show, is not knowing the purpose of their exhibiting as it relates to their overall corporate marketing objectives. There’s a myth out there that just attending a show will yield umpteen leads and sales. That can only happen when there’s a plan in place with strategies and tactics to make that course of action a reality.

What do you advise small businesses do when they’re niche is very small and there are not any shows dedicated to their small niche?

If your niche doesn’t currently support a trade show, or conference, this is when you can use the Internet to your advantage. Virtual shows are springing up in niche areas, such as a Facebook, and social media conference. Investigate what opportunities there are for you to spearhead a conference in your niche area.  That will certainly help to establish you as an expert in the field.

If organizing your own event sounds like too much work, consider conducting webinars to help educate your target audience – another way to help define your expert identity within your niche market.

Are you noticing any trends in trade shows that our very smart readers could take advantage of by planning ahead?

A trend that relates to much of what I have shared concerns niche markets.  A current and future trend is for more and more companies to define a corner of the market place they can own. It’s so much easier, less competitive and more profitable to be a big fish in a small pond. To be a savvy marketer today, you need to look at being different, and not be afraid to go in a different direction to everyone else – “zig when everyone else is zagging.”

There are goldmines of underserved markets, which need to be discovered. Quick thinking, nimble, and resourceful companies will be the overall winners in the marketplace.

Final thoughts for our readers?

Focus on a target market and do whatever it takes to build your credibility as the “go-to” expert in your industry niche. Read my book, “Riches in Niches: How to Make it BIG in a small Market.” “Riches in Niches: How to Make it BIG in a small Market.”

Susan Friedmann, CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, internationally recognized exhibit marketing expert working with companies to increase their profitability at trade shows. Author: “Riches in Niches: How to Make it BIG in a small Market,” “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Target Marketing,” “Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies”and many other titles. For more great information on trade show marketing strategies that work, and for a complimentary copy of “Exhibiting Success,” visit http://www.thetradeshowcoach.com. Click to download the “Riches in Niches” app.