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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What Politicians Can Tell Us About Trade Show Marketing

The United States is in the midst of grueling political season with wall-to-wall primaries since early January. The willowing out process for selecting the candidates for the two major parties has more than a few parallels to the decision making process for advanced technology. One similarity that comes to mind is the concept of authenticity.

Authenticity has become of one the most discussed and powerful factors in the presidential race. With conservatives trying to be seen as moderate, moderates as conservatives and liberals as moderates, it’s no wonder that voters might get confused over who stands for what. As politicians struggle articulating positions that seem contrary to what they said in the past, people are paying more attention to style, execution and presentation. They’re looking for clues into a candidate’s honesty and genuineness.

According to one commentator, “The key factor in this race so far: authenticity. On Super Tuesday, voters once again rewarded those candidates who seemed most comfortable playing themselves, and harshly punished the one who came across as a plastic phony.”

Sales people, like politicians, have a habit of telling customers what they want to hear, whether it is thoroughly accurate or not. They can sell price, they can sell performance. They can sell features, they can sell service. Sophisticated customers know how sales people operate. They understand what is happening when they get a barrage of questions from a sales person. They know it’s intended to reveal what is important to the prospect, to uncover hidden objections or opportunities. Sophisticated customers know that sales people are rarely authentic. When evaluating complex purchases, they also look for clues into the authenticity of a position. Is this supplier really focused about lowering total cost of ownership, pushing innovation, providing service? Can they really deliver competitive advantage in yield, productivity, time to market?

For many exhibitors, trade shows enhance authenticity. While customers expect good sales people to compensate for differing customer needs, trade show displays shout out a tangible position, feature or benefit that underscores a choice made by the manufacturer: We believe this is important! This is who we are!

If what you have to sell is really differentiated, there is nothing like a physical, tangible, dimensional, creative expression of that position to achieve valuable authenticity.

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