Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

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10 Great 60s Oldies to Help With Your Tradeshow Marketing

Yes, I love oldies. Spent a lot of time on the radio at an oldies station playing them and shouting over the top of the intro, which was basically required for Oldies radio. Which great oldies of the Sixties might we apply to tradeshow marketing here in the ‘teens of the new century? Let’s go year by year through the Sixties:

1960: Money (That’s What I Want) by Barrett Strong. Yes, it’s all about the money. How much you spend, how much you make from the leads you gather, and most of all about the Return On Investment.

1961: Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles. As tradeshow marketers, we spend a lot of time on the road. We become road warriors. Sing this little tune to stay in the road warrior groove.

1962: The Loco-Motion by Little Eva. Written by Carole King, this tune knows all about the movement. And tradeshows are all about the movement. How many shows a year? How many different cities? How many people do you talk to at each show? You’re always on the move, always in motion.

1963: Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs. Grabbing a snack on the road? Why does it always seem to be a donut, or maybe a piece of banana bread, or perhaps a Frappucino? Whatever it is, it’s probably loaded with sugar.

1964: People by Barbra Streisand. Yes, as a song it’s a little downtempo, but tradeshows are all about the people. By the thousands! Ya gotta be able to get along with people when you’re in the tradeshow world!

1965: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. As hard as we try at tradeshow marketing and as successful as we are, most people I speak with feel that they could have done better if only they did something a little different. We’re never satisfied, are we?

1966: Summer in the City by the Lovin’ Spoonful. It seems there’s always at least one tradeshow on the schedule that takes place in a hot city in the middle of summer. This one is a perfect soundtrack for that show.

1967: Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out) by the Hombres. A goofy sort of song, but important when it comes to interacting with visitors. Don’t hold back. Be open, be willing to give plenty of your time and energy. Let it all hang out.

1968: Tighten Up by Archie Bell and the Drells. On the showroom floor, there’s chaos and confusion. There’s pitching and sampling and demos. And it’s easy among all of the activity to just let things go. But pay attention and tighten up in your presentations, your conversations, your booth.

1969: I Can’t Get Next to You by the Temptations. In every show there’s that one client that you’d like to catch. But for some reason they remain elusive. Keep trying. The Temptations are doing their best to urge you on!

Now that the Sixties are over as far as the top ten oldies to help with your tradeshow marketing, are there any songs we missed? Or should we move on to the Seventies?

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What Story is Your Tradeshow Exhibit Telling Potential Partners?

Yes, we know that your tradeshow exhibit tells a story. Often, a great exhibit design will capture the brand so accurately that the design is often all that is needed. But frankly, that’s the exception more than the rule. But even without an iconic design that broadcasts what your company is about, your tradeshow exhibit tells a story anyway.

Here’s how:

Design: even an average design can be executed well and tell a big part of your story. But a compelling story can come to life. Tell the story of how you created the soft drink because your Grandma used to make something similar when you were a kid. Or how you invented something to help a friend. Doesn’t really matter, your product or service likely came from some inspiration. Can you tell the story of that inspiration in a concise way using graphics and 3D elements?

Graphics: here’s where most of the story is told, and the weight of this rests on your graphic designer and marketing team that is communicating the correct message to the designer. Get it right and you’ve done better than most of your competitors. Get it wrong…?

Craftsmanship: not all exhibits are built from scratch. Depending on where you purchase your exhibit, it may be something that’s designed and built from scratch in the USA. Or it may be from an overseas manufacturer and it came direct from a catalog showing thousands of similar designs. With an overseas manufacturer involved, you will be hard-pressed to know the quality of the materials used for the exhibit.

Cleanliness: at least this is something you have quite a bit of control over during the show. But a clean booth tells a story. So does a dirty booth.

People: the booth staffers are your front line. Are they well-trained in how to engage with visitors? How to ask the right questions? How to politely disengage? How to act in a booth (stay off their phone, don’t eat, etc.)? Whether you like it or not, visitors will forget a lot of things. But they’re very likely to remember an unpleasant or below-average encounter with a booth staffer. Just like they’d probably remember an encounter that impressed them.

Stories are told with every piece of your marketing and your prospect’s interaction with your company. What story are your prospects being told, and what are they remembering? And is that story in line with your goals?

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 15, 2019: Ken Newman

On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, a lively interview with Ken Newman of Magnet Productions, a professional tradeshow presentation company based in San Francisco. I’ve had Ken on the show before, although it’s been awhile, and I wanted to catch up and talk about three things: what’s up with Magnet Productions; his involvement in music and how that music involvement led to his involvement with Blanket the Homeless, a SF non-profit.

Find Ken’s Magnet Productions.

Blanket the Homeless in San Francisco.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: summer bicycling!

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Learning to Ride a Bicycle

I recall the moment I learned how a bicycle works, and how I learned to ride a bicycle. I must have been 6 or 7 when I first tried. It was about the same time I first got on skis, but that’s a different story. I was reminded of that feeling when I saw a young bicycler with her mother this morning. The youngster was dressed in a unicorn mohawk bicycle helmet, colorful clothes and a unicorn back pack. I complimented her on the outfit – it really was stunning. Her mom said, “Say thank you!” which the young girl did.

Now there’s a bike helmet!

Her bicycle had training wheels, which made me think of when I was about that age and learning. I didn’t have the luxury of training wheels (an aside: maybe kids really shouldn’t have training wheels, after all).

In any event, that feeling of accomplishment, of empowerment, is overwhelming. I remember that feeling after riding 50 feet on a bicycle without crashing or falling.

YOU DID IT! I told myself.

And while that feeling was powerful, it comes around again and again in life when you learn more skills. I felt the same thing at times when learning to ski. Or learning to play the drums. Or the guitar. Or give a speech. Or publish a book. And so on.

Feeling that powerful emotion that’s tied into grasping and then learning a new skill is valuable. It reaffirms your sense of belonging. This works for me. I can do this.

It tells you that you’re on the right track. And it can apply to learning interpersonal communication skills, business skills, physical skills.

It reminds you that being human is a good thing. A great thing.

And ultimately, it tells you let’s learn something more. Now.

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Applying the Modern Business Plan to Tradeshow Marketing

The ‘modern business plan’ was hatched on a blog post by Seth Godin. I was a recent enrollee in Godin’s The Marketing Seminar, where at one point we were referred to the post which breaks down the five elements of what he feels are the important parts of a modern business plan: truth, assertions, alternatives, people and money.

It’s also possible to apply that thinking to how you approach tradeshow marketing.

The truth of tradeshow marketing would be the facts and figures of the specific show(s) that you plan to participate in. How many people attend? What percentage of decision-makers and influencers are among the attendees? Who are the competitors/exhibitors?

Assertions might include your thoughts on what you believe you know that is not necessarily supported by data. What new products are you launching that might be similar to new products from competitors? What types of marketing tactics and strategies are those competitors using? This is where you state what you believe to be true, although you might not be able to prove it.

Alternatives: ­This is where you play the “what if” game. What if things go wrong? What is your plan B? What if you get lucky by meeting the exact prospect that you didn’t anticipate? What if your top salesperson is poached by a competitor? Hey, anything can happen. At least opening your mind to some of those possibilities gives you a chance to chew them over.

People: who are your best people and how can you best use them? Where are your weak spots and how can you improve with them? Do you need to acquire people to get your tradeshow department to run like a clock and not like a Rube Goldberg machine?

Finally, money: Budgeting, logistical costs, personnel costs. Return on investment, cost of samples. You know the drill. But are your numbers accurate? And did you run the calculations a year later after the show so that you actually know what your return on investment really is?

What is your Return on Objective? Thanks to the Exhibition Guy Stephan Murtagh!

There are any number of ways of looking at your business or marketing plan, but taking this approach helps to clarify several issues at once. Give it a try!

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 8, 2019: Experience

Do you have ten years of experience? Or do you have one year of experience ten times? Or does it even matter, because you’re learning and growing regardless?

This week on TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee I take a look at experience from a number of angles.

Here’s the review of the Rolling Stones July 3rd concert I reference in the podcast (it’s a great one!).

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: outdoor hiking in the summer.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 1, 2019: Friendship

There are as many different kinds of friendships as there are friends. Some are business-related, some are school or college-related, others are just friendships you struck up from people you met randomly. This episode of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee peeks at friendships.

Here’s a link to 50 Inspiring Quotes About Friendship from Inc.com.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING is the Mueller Report.

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Tradeshow Marketing: What is it for?

Borrowing a riff from Seth Godin – “What is it for?” – is a good place to start when considering tradeshow marketing.

Not only “what is it for?” but the alternative approach of “why are YOU doing it?”

There are many ways to look at tradeshow marketing and using the “what is it for?” approach can be very helpful.

Is it for selling? Is it for launching new products? Is it for maintaining brand awareness in a crowded marketplace? Could it be for maintaining relationships with clients? What about showing off the speaking and knowledge abilities of your top managers by having them appear on a panel or give a keynote or breakout session?

There are no wrong answers, as long as it’s something that is valid and true. One that makes sense to you and your company. If you don’t know what it’s for, maybe you should start from scratch and figure that out.

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Notes from Working with Potential Tradeshow Exhibit Clients

Not every company where there’s a sales conversation turns into a tradeshow exhibit client. In fact, it’s probably a fairly low percentage. However, each encounter has its own distinct flavor and outcome. And of course, learning experience.

No matter what company you’re trying to sell to, it’s impossible to be a fit for everyone. In fact, that’s what I tell prospects: “Let’s talk about what you are hoping to do to see if we’re a fit.” That way, the pressure is taken off. So many buyers are uncomfortable with reaching out to tradeshow companies or any company where the purchase is fairly large and time-consuming because of the pressure they think will come to them.

Let’s examine some of the interactions more closely and find some takeaways:

Example One:

I reconnected with a company that was familiar with while attending a tradeshow and started chatting. We knew each other from a previous design request in past years, and although we didn’t get the business then, they were ready to upgrade. This time it was for a larger exhibit, and even though they were comfortable working with their current provider they felt it was worth talking to a few others. Since we had a connection and had previously shown them our design work, we were asked to respond.

Respond we did. A budget range was set, an exhibit was designed based on their stated functional objectives and submitted prior to their deadline. The final pricing was presented in a range depending on options (type of graphics, backlit panels, custom vs. catalog counters, etc.). And while the overall price range started in their proposed budget range, it did run above that figure once all the options were chosen.

Towards the end of their decision date, we were politely told that their current vendor had won the business. Why? They had essentially the same design, but a significantly lower price.

Takeaway: Price speaks loudly. It’s easy to look at this from a number of angles. Price speaks loudly, often more loudly than the overall design and, the quality of workmanship and materials. Without knowing exactly what the current vendor is proposing, it’s impossible to know what materials would be used, what the design is, or how it’s built. But it’s not hard to take a look the next time it’s set up at a show.

Example Two:

This company was also a company I met at a tradeshow, and once they found out what I did, they expressed interest in upgrading to a new exhibit (this business usually has a long sales cycle, especially for new custom builds!). The conversation, which picked up and died down off and on for nearly eight months, finally led to a decision to proceed with us. That’s when the fun started!

I like it when clients ask question. The more the merrier. That wasn’t always the way, though. I had to learn that questions from clients (and prospects) are good. This client asked more questions than any other I’ve had before or since. Details, details, details! More questions about details than any other I’ve had. And frankly, they were asking questions about elements of products that I was unfamiliar with, so that lead to a lot of back and forth with producers, subcontractors and other vendors. At one point, they apologized for asking so many questions, but frankly, I didn’t mind. Not only did they get the exhibit they really wanted, they learned a lot along the way. As did I! You can’t ask too many questions about something you’re buying, especially when tens of thousands of dollars are involved.

Takeaway: Questions are good. You can never ask too many questions. It demonstrates interest and engagement.

Example Three:

Hands-Off Client. Some clients see the big picture and don’t get bogged down in details, except the ones that are important to them. Here’s an example of a company that we met with a few years ago, pitched them on a project that included a design for a 10×20 that met their budget. We were told they were also reviewing at least one other exhibit house, but the design struck gold and we ended up with the business. Since then, they’ve been very active in upgrading and expanding, but when it comes to the back and forth in creating new designs, there are very few questions, unlike our previous example. Typically, they’ll have their ducks lined up with 2D design concepts and proposed changes and are ready to move forward. As long as they have graphic dimensions, design details are left up to us. They chime in with comments suggesting modest changes, but otherwise it’s more of a “30,000-foot level” approach. Nothing wrong with this approach, just as there is nothing wrong with asking countless questions. As long as it works for the client, it works for us.

Takeaway: Trust. When a client that knows your work is at that level of engagement and stays mostly hands-off, it shows there is a great deal of trust involved.

Example Four:

We were contacted by a company that ran across our company website and asked if we were interested in responding to an RFP for a 30×30 custom booth at a tech show the following year. While there are pros and cons to responding to RFPs, we decided to proceed. The communication with this potential client was almost clinical, and I felt as if we were a million miles away. It was hard to get specific answers to questions. Everything was going to a committee at the end anyway. But we submitted a design and price that fit their price range to a T. As indicated in their decision process, the top three qualifiers would be required to present either at the company’s HQ in the Bay Area or via the web. Given the contact’s lack of genuine engagement during our design process and creating the RFP where we peppered them with questions regarding various aspects of the RFP, it was no surprise that we didn’t make the final cut. I still wonder why they were so interested in having us submit.

Takeaway: Trust your gut. From the beginning, this felt like we were a third wheel. The company probably needed to have a certain amount of RFP responses, most likely arbitrary, which lead to at least one or more exhibit providers submitting responses without a ghost’s chance of actually getting the work. But that’s the way the business world often works.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, June 24, 2019: Mentorship

Mentorship is often informal, yet can still have a big impact. When its formalized, it can become even more impactful. IF…it’s done right.

This episode of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee looks at mentorship.

Link to the mentorship article on Forbes.com mentioned in the video and podcast.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Showtime’s Billions.

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