The North American Petroleum Expo (NAPE Expo) is a “must attend” event in the oil and gas industry. It’s the place to be if you want to attract a serious crowd to your brand.
There was quite a crowd this year. Over 17,000 people came to the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas to do deals, network with clients and prospects, and party – oh, the glorious NAPE parties!
If you’ve never been, it’s hard to describe the sheer magnitude of this event. The George R. Brown is 1,800,000 square feet – that’s bigger than 31 football fields!
Companies from across the country and around the globe spare no expense at the NAPE Expo. The booths are outstanding, and so is the SWAG.
But as I walked around being generally outrageous (as I am wont to do at shows like this), I noticed one glaring shortcoming across the Expo floor – helpfulness.
Helping > Selling
The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. – Jay Baer (tweet this)
When I arrived at NAPE, I came prepared. I had 1,000 postcard-sized flyers with instructions on how to get a free copy of our eBook, The Top 5 Marketing Mistakes Oil & Gas Operators Make – And How to Avoid Them.
The box for the cards was longer than my arm and I was faced with a dilemma. How do you hand out 1,000 flyers about your business? If you’re seriously grinding, you can have maybe 100 conversations at a show like this.
So how can you make an impact and ensure people read your stuff, instead of kindly placing it in the next trashcan they find? – Be helpful!
At the NAPE Expo, Wednesday is when people start showing up in droves to register, get their bags, etc. About mid-afternoon, I sat down at a skirted table near the registration entrance on the third floor. People started asking me for directions. Since I had already been there for a couple days and knew the lay of the land, I was happy to help.
After about 10 minutes of this, I noticed almost everyone coming off the escalator looked lost. Their heads swiveled about as they looked for the registration area. That’s when…
I grabbed a huge stack of flyers and posted up near the escalator. Every time I saw people with that, “Where the heck do we go?!” look in their eyes I stepped forward:
Me: Are you looking for registration?
Lost Person: Yes!
Me: It’s over there, right down that hallway. (Handing them a flyer) Here you go.
Lost Person: Thank you!
I stood in that spot for 4 hours. Once registration died down, party packs started showing up looking for the opening night icebreaker. Guess who was the most popular guy in the building – the person who knew where the booze was, that’s who!
I lost my voice a bit that day (as you might have been able to hear on the first episode of The Oil & Gas Digital Marketing Podcast), but it was well worth it. I gave away about 800 flyers!
If You Want to be Memorable, be Helpful
Everyone in business wants more revenue – that’s why we’re in business. And we all know one of the keys to being successful is to be memorable. But just telling people “be memorable” isn’t enough.
That is a surface-level issue. You need to go deeper. In the business-to-business (B2B) world that means asking, “What is the most helpful thing I can do for my potential clients?”
The first day at NAPE, that meant helping as many people as I possibly could figure out where they were going. As I worked the floor the second day, that meant helping people get ready to party!
When everyone rushed back to their hotels Thursday evening, something told me to stick around. About an hour and a half later, a man frantically approached with a security guard.
Since I was the first person in NAPE history to attend in a t-shirt and jeans (a tactic I employed to stand out in the sea of suits), he looked at me and asked:
Panicked Dude: Do you work here?!
Me: No. Why, what’s up?
Panicked Dude: I left my laptop in my booth and they won’t let me in to go and get it.
Security guard: I have access, but I’m under strict orders to not let anyone through the doors.
Me: Let me see what I can do.
Michelle and Megan (a.k.a. Mego Leggo, but I ain’t one to gossip so you ain’t heard that from me) are two critical (and awesome) people who make NAPE happen. I’ve been down with them since my days at Drillinginfo, so I emailed Michelle and got Megan on the phone. We got him clearance, he breathed a sigh of relief and handed me his business card:
Relived Dude: I don’t know how much help I can be for your business, but here’s my card.
Me (after noticing his title): Well, you’re the Chief Financial Officer so you can at least approve the outrageous budget for my project!
He laughed and happily walked away to get his laptop. I followed up yesterday with an email titled “Extortion.” We’ve got a meeting to talk shop next week. Helping works!
Get Noticed at Your Next NAPE Expo
On top of giving people directions and stainless steel beer bottle openers, I helped liven up the show floor by playing my George Strait, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash playlists the whole time. And I took advantage of every opportunity to make people laugh, because:
Next to helpfulness, laughter is the best business medicine. – @JamesHahnII (tweet this)
So, whether you’re headed to one of NAPE’s new regional shows, the Unconventional Resources Conference (URTeC), one of the DUG Conferences, or AAPG’s Annual Convention (just 51 days away!), I beg you – STOP selling and start helping!
If you do, I promise you will have your best show ever – especially if you throw in a whole lot humor with a touch of outrageous!
What about you? What is the most helpful thing you can do for your prospects today? And what is the most memorable trade show tactic you’ve ever seen? Share your ideas and stories in the comments!