“When I attend a trade show, I only stop at booths that have candy dishes. Because, if you have candy, you must be a terrific company. And the greater the variety of candy you have, the more likely I am to buy your product or service.”
This sentiment has never been expressed by anyone, ever. But you’d think it was the proven mindset of every prospect out there, based on the prevalence of candy dishes at trade shows.
What else could account for the ubiquity of sugary treats at shows large and small? Is there a clause in every trade show contract that mandates every exhibitor provide sweets? Did some company put out a candy dish at the very first trade show thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia and everyone has blindly copied the practice ever since?
Whatever the reason—Cut it out!!
Unless you actually sell candy, having a candy dish at your booth is pointless. In fact, it’s worse than pointless—it’s detrimental.
Here are five reasons why candy dishes are bad for your trade show sales:
1. They cause non-prospects to approach your exhibit, taking your attention away from real prospects.
Every person who approaches your booth commands your attention, even if only momentarily. The more people there are jockeying for your attention, the harder it is to focus and be effective. Worse, many attendees feel slightly guilty helping themselves to candy, so they alleviate that guilt by feigning interest in your company. That occupies even more of your time, leaving less for actual prospects.
2. They cause you to be lazy in your planning.
An effective trade show effort requires a lot of planning: pre-show promotion, staffing, signage, show message, giveaways, post-show follow-up and more. But a candy dish can lull you into the mistaken belief that you don’t need to do all of that: “We’ll put out a candy dish and people will stop and talk with us and we can make our pitch and that’ll work.”
3. They take up valuable real estate in your exhibit.
Space is at a premium at a trade show. You’re paying a lot of money for every square foot. Why waste some of it on something that has nothing to do with your company?
4. You have to take time to refill the stupid dish.
The other element at a premium during a show is your time. Do you really want to spend it refilling a candy dish every 20 minutes? And heaven forbid you run out—now it looks like your company isn’t even competent enough to keep a candy dish filled!
5. They make you look like everyone else.
One of the biggest challenges at trade shows is differentiating your company from all the other exhibitors. In order for you to stand out, you need to be as different as possible. A candy dish does just the opposite, making you more forgettable.
Here’s a heretical idea: Rather than giving away candy, how about giving away something that actually relates to your product or service? Something your prospects can use? (And people who aren’t your prospects wouldn’t bother with?) Something exceptionally cool or fun that will cause people to talk, tweet and post about you? Something unique that positions your company as innovative and exceptional?
Give the issue some thought. Sure, a candy dish is the easy way out, which is why it’s used by so many of your competitors. But if you come up with a better tactic, you’ll outsell them all show long.