The answer to the question, “Who is your customer?” isn’t as simple as it may seem. When planning a trade show program—or any marketing program, for that matter–if you give a one or two-word answer, you run the risk of over-simplifying strategy development and missing out on nuanced perceptions of your customer base. Gathering as much information as possible about your customer is critical in an increasingly personalized marketing environment.
Here are some questions that will help you create customer profiles or develop a persona for each category of customer within your target audience. Once you do this, you can create appropriate initiatives that engage customers in a relevant brand experience.
What “job titles” do your customers have?
You may be targeting multiple functions within a company: marketing manager, procurement director, VP of sales, CEO. What are their specific responsibilities? What are their pain points? What are their respective income levels? What characteristics differentiate each category? Remember, any or all of these people could show up in your exhibit.
What is the predominant gender of your customer base?
As politically incorrect as this question may sound, as a marketer you already know that there are different ways to craft your message or develop engagement tactics. A simple example: if you are giving away t-shirts in your booth, you want to have the right range of sizes for your audience. There are obviously more complex issues, including avoiding stereotypes in your graphics and digital assets. And whatever you do, don’t assume that women attendees are less powerful than their male counterparts.
Into which generation do your customers fall?
Much has been written about the fact that four or five generations are now together in the workplace. Which of those generations will be attending your show? How do you prepare to engage each? For example, a Gen X audience will probably appreciate your having a product expert on hand who can answer hard questions, while Millennials might gravitate toward a self-guided interactive experience. Beware of making too many age-related assumptions. Today’s CEO can range from 25 to 65 and can wear Armani or American Eagle. Some of the 55-year-olds may be new hires if they recently found new positions after downsizing.
From which geographical area does the show draw?
Don’t limit your thinking to the U.S. Many of your customers’ concerns will be influenced by location. Location can also alter communication styles. Are they urban dwellers? Suburbanites? Small town residents? Learn as much as you can. Request last year’s show audit to help you determine the answers. Will you need a translator or at least a staff member who can speak a second language (other than English)?
What miscellaneous facts do you know about your customers?
What types of schools did they attend? What degrees did they earn? What are their goals—both personal and professional? What is the predominant political affiliation, if there is one? What topics should you avoid? If your company has recently experienced a glitch that created problems for your customers—for example, a manufacturing defect or a shipping issue—are you prepared to diffuse their anger?
These questions will get you started, and in the process of answering them, additional thoughts will occur to you. All business transactions and interactions are ultimately personal, so knowing as much as possible about your customer is an important step toward optimal engagement and building brand preference and loyalty.