Treat every customer like they’re at a trade show

I’ve never been to a true ‘trade show’, but I realized when I went to the Grand Rapids Food and Wine Festival for the second time – that what it is. A college fair? Also a ‘trade show.’ Arts and crafts fair? ‘Trade show.’ Why? To me, a trade show is a gathering of different companies in a similar business, and allows the consumer (whether the consumer is another person or another business) to interact directly with that company – whether a college, a winery or a craft person. Marketing – at a trade show, online, in print – is about showing up, listening and answering questions. Give your customers value and they’ll always come back. Don’t believe me?

I went with my sister (strictly a sweet wine drinker – which means her options are limited) and my mom (she and I range the gamut – sweet to dry, white to red).  We went on Saturday, when most of the vineyards had representatives on hand, though the wine was poured by Ferris State students. So what made us stop? 1. A vineyard we had tried before. 2. Wine from a  region we knew we liked. But the biggest reason? If there was a rep in that booth. Here’s how much of a difference that makes.

A confession – we hate California wine. The racks and racks and racks of it that you see at the store? Breeze right past. Why? Because most California wine I see is Chardonnay, Cab Sav or Merlot – I dislike them all.  So when we went to the show, we breezed past at least two entire aisles – because they were full of California wines.

But my mom decided to take the plunge – she found a California vineyard with an actual rep in the booth, walked right up to him and said, “I hate California wine. What can you tell me?” The guy was not offended or really even ruffled. He asked what she didn’t like, she told him, and he listened – and found her a wine she actually enjoyed. She’s been converted – at least to this winery.

At another booth, my mom and I were trying dry wine. As my sister is SO not about that, she was just hanging back, listening. The rep at the booth next to ours noticed she wasn’t trying anything and struck up a conversation. Two free samples and five minutes later, my sister had at least three wines that she knew she loved from this vineyard. Since her wine taste is so narrow, she’ll buy a lot more from this vineyard then the average customer.

Now, most people aren’t as bold as my mother (or as cute as my sister). But it raises two points.

1. Are you putting your best person out there to interact with customers? Online, over the phone, in person – are they talking to someone who can really answer their questions? People will tell you what they don’t like – if they trust you can do something about it.

2. Take a second to think about why people would be pre-disposed to hate your brand? Can you address some of those issues? You might get a convert.

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