Want some great tradeshow lead generation ideas? Well, sure, don’t we all? A quick online search found quite a few ways to skin the cat, as it were.
First, let’s start with Skyline’s Mike Thimmesch, who posted an article called 100 Tradeshow Lead Generation Ideas. It’s a great post, one where he splits the batch of ideas into several sections, including the shows you go to, the type of booth you have, pre-show promotions, at-show giveaways and activities, and better booth staffing. Great list, Mike! (BTW, if you Google the title of the article, you’ll see that a lot of folks have referenced his article over the years since it was published!)
Our old pals over at Handshake have a post called 22 Guerrilla Marketing Ideas for Trade Shows. In it, Mandy Movahhed breaks it down into sections, including pre-show, at the show, outside conference / onsite promo. Lots of fun ones here, including having a street musician at the show singing your praises as attendees enter the show each day.
Julius Solaris is the editor at the Event Manager Blog, and he put together an article with a lot of great ideas on how to drive traffic to your booth using (mostly) social media. Some good do’s and don’t’s here, along with terrific in-booth ideas such as mini-live streaming, charity giving, and engaging attendees with offline tweets. Check out 20 Tactics to Drive More Attendees to Exhibition Booths.
Finally, I want to share an e-book/slide deck from Bartizan called “The Ultimate Guide to Tradeshow Lead Generation.” In 30+ pages, Bartizan paints a full picture of how you can position your tradeshow booth, staff and products or services to most effectively compete for leads at your next tradeshow.
Tradeshow record keeping. Yikes! Who wants to keep track of everything.
Record keeping is one of those things that most of us wish we didn’t have to do, – we know it’s tedious – but know we really should do. So how much should we keep, what should we keep, where is the best place to keep it, and WHY?
Tim Patterson discusses tradeshow record keeping in this brief but informative webinar:
As tradeshow veterans, you probably have your go-to list of ‘don’t forget’ items. So I thought it would be fun to check around and compile a thorough list of things you might at least consider taking in your kit. Whether they are in a travel bag, or (in some cases) in the exhibit crates, the list can get long. The key is to have an item when you need it. And being on the tradeshow floor trying to get a light to hang, or unscrew a tight screw or fix a banner stand, each situation requires a different fix.
So let’s jump in and see what people would put on their list.
Sometimes I get tradeshow exhibiting questions. Well, frankly, I get a lot of questions. Some of them are even about tradeshow marketing! It’s worth seeing what people are asking, as well as what they’re thinking but not asking (I think!).
Q. Are tradeshows really worth attending?
A. The answer is: it depends! It depends on a variety of factors. Where to start? Let’s say that on average, companies spend about a third of their yearly marketing budgets on tradeshows, so there is definitely a lot of money ending up promoting products and services via tradeshow marketing. To get the most bang for your buck, do your due diligence by making sure you’re at the right show(s), with a good-looking and effective booth and well-trained and prepared staff.
Beyond that there are so many variables you could write a book about it. Well, actually, I did.
Q: How do I know what kind of booth to get or what size?
A. While this is generally dictated by budget constraints, other factors come in to play, such as the size of the show (exhibitors and attendance figures are important to have), what competitors will be at the show and how important a particular show is to your overall tradeshow schedule. Sometimes a small 10×10 booth does a great job representing your company with only a few staffers. Other shows may dictate that you consider stepping up your presence. Lots of exhibitors that show up year after year at shows that are beneficial and help them build their businesses will continually invest in larger booths to make a bigger impression at the show. And when it comes to tradeshows, more than any other kind of marketing, perception is critical!
Q: Graphics are a big challenge for us. What’s the best way to approach this subject?
A. Graphics are critical to the success of your booth, so it makes sense to get the most effective design and use the highest quality. Design is critical in that your design should be striking, compelling and simple. Putting too much into a design means that people will not stop to digest it. Large images, bold text, compelling questions or bold statements are all ways to get effective graphics on to your booth. And be sure to work with someone who’s used to creating the large-format, high-resolution graphics that are necessary for effective tradeshow graphics. And work with a production facility that does high-quality production.
Q. Even with a big booth in a good location and a great product, we’re still coming up short of the amount of leads we feel we should be generating. What else should I consider?
A. A few areas to look at: booth staff competency. Are they properly trained on how to handle visitors in a tradeshow? Also, do you have any interactivity in your booth? That might be something that a visitor can put their hands on, which takes them a few moments during which you can then uncover information to qualify or disqualify them. Finally, you might consider hiring a professional presenter. A good one is worth their weight in gold in the amount of leads they can generate.
Q. I’ve never exhibited before. We know it’s important to make our presence known at some very targeted shows. What’s the best way to start?
A. Talk with a professional who can walk you through your various options. These depend on budget, of course, but you’ll want to compare renting vs. buying; custom vs. modular or system booth and go over which shows are really a good fit for you. From there you can talk about how best to show off your product or service, how many people to take to the show and what kind of lead generation tools you might want to consider using.
Q. Tradeshows are expensive. What are some good ways to cut costs?
A. Yes, they can be expensive! But you can find ways to keep costs down. You can look at cutting exhibit costs by not using hanging signs (expensive to hang), using a modular booth vs. custom, using reusable packaging material, not having extra boxes shipped to the floor (drives up drayage cost) and much more. For a very thorough list, I’d recommend you take about 45 minutes and watch Mel White’s recent webinar with Handshake on 25 Ways to Cut Costs at Your Next Tradeshow. It’s well worth your time.
It used to be that I liked to buy the new things without a whole lot of thought. If I could afford it, I’d get it. New camera, bicycle, car, album, phone, appliance, whatever. But these days I tend to think a lot more about it, and end up asking myself why should I buy that thing? To what end? Why should I get it? What is the reason for acquiring something new? In most cases, I don’t have an answer. It’s why my great little Macbook Pro is 5 and a half years old now, and runs great. It does all I need. It’s why it took me a few years to finally get that new bicycle that I’ve been thinking about. Now that I have it, I ride every day for at least 20 or 30 minutes, rain or shine. I ask “to what end?” and if I don’t have a good enough answer, I just wait.
You can also ask the same question about tradeshow marketing: to what end? What do you get out of it? Even though I’m in the business of selling tradeshow exhibits and helping people with their tradeshow marketing, I will ask what their goals are. They should be well-defined. They should have a reason for spending money on something new, or going to shows over and over.
It may be that going to a show opens new markets, or helps you connect with old clients on a personal level, leading to more sales, or to show off new products and new services. It could be anything that makes sense and will help grow your business. But since tradeshow marketing is an expensive proposition when you add it all up, make sure you answer the question:
First things first: I’m not an expert on virtual reality at tradeshows, known as VR! But there’s a lot of information out there which I’ve absorbed along with some observations on using technology in a tradeshow, so I thought it would be fun to explore the topic from the perspective of using VR at tradeshows as an attractor.
In a recent conversation with Jennifer Liu with Hyland’s Homeopathic, a long time client and an attendee at Natural Products Expo East, she mentioned that there were a handful of exhibitors there using VR in their booth.
My first question when it comes to using VR, or any video in a tradeshow is this: what is your content? After all, content is everything. Without the right content, you might as well forget it.
Apparently the content at one of the booths involved spacious outdoors and action video: glaciers, mountains, beaches, and so forth. The idea was for the viewer to experience the full spectrum of virtual reality, regardless of the relationship that content had to the exhibitor’s product or service.
If you’re going to invite people into an engaging and intimate experience using VR in your booth, it would seem to me that you’d want to make some sort of connection between the experience and your product or service. If you’re a company that provides outdoor climbing or hiking gear, for instance, having 360 VR video of hiking or climbing would make sense. But if you produce chocolate bars or headphones, you’d have to ask yourself how that VR experience of hiking or climbing would relate. And while you might be able to find at least a tenuous connection, the stronger the connection, the better.
Starting Up with VR
In Foundry 45’s blog, there’s a discussion of the first step of creating content for VR. Record a bunch of video with the right cameras! This post discusses how to approach using VR for a tradeshow. Without spending a lot of time quoting the article, their advice is sound: do a dry run before the show, be prepared to help newbies, create a safe VR zone, use good sanitation techniques for the headsets, and so on.
When it comes to how people experience VR, the headset is one item you’ll need to decide on. Wareable has a recent rundown of several sets, including Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, HTC Vive, Gear VR and others. These range in price from about $100 to nearly a thousand bucks. And of course there’s Google Cardboard for just $16.99. And where do you have visitors sit? You might want to give them comfy auto-race car type seats which hold them comfortably and safely while they zoom around a virtual world. You might check out the Roto Interactive Virtual Reality Chair. No doubt it would give you a line of people waiting to get into your booth!
Whether you choose to incorporate VR into your exhibit now or not – or just wait and see, it’s safe to say more and more exhibitors will step into the VR world as time goes by. If you do consider it, make sure it’s a good fit for your product or service, and make sure you have content that is a good match to keep visitors engaged and learn about what your company can do for them.
Competition on the tradeshow floor is fierce, and it’s not going to get any easier. You might say it’s more competitive than ever! Your fellow exhibitors are bringing more people to their booth, giving away more samples, doing more in-booth and doing better in the things you don’t see at the booth, such as pre-show marketing, social media and follow-up.
What are you doing to step up your tradeshow game?
Here are 7 ways to step up your tradeshow game to at least keep pace with fellow exhibitors.
Bring Your “A” Game. You can characterize this a hundred ways, but it really means to step up your performance, do better than the last time, stay disciplined and focused so that almost nothing misses your gaze.
Have a better sample for giveaway. This could mean anything from working with your promotional products associate to brainstorm a different giveaway to having a premium gift for those that respond to a pre-show marketing mailer.
Catch eyeballs! Every booth is vying for eyeballs. What message is your exhibit saying? Whether it’s a 10×10 booth or a giant island, it still should communicate a clear and concise message and do it in a manner that catches eyeballs. Sometimes that’s graphics, sometimes it’s a compelling and bold statement or question.
Give visitors something to do. There are discussions to be had regarding the differences between flashy colorful booths or having something interactive. Both have their valid points. But if you can create an interactive booth and give a visitor something to do that’s engaging, creative and keeps them around for at least five minutes, you’ll definitely be stepping up your tradeshow game beyond many of your competitors.
Pay attention to visitors. It’s too easy to slip into ‘silent’ mode by pulling out your phone to check email, ready Facebook or text someone when crowds are light. But it’s at that moment when someone may come by, see that you’re engaged and keep walking.
Put on a smile. The only thing more welcoming to someone than a smile is to greet them with their name. If you don’t know their name, at the very least give them a smile!
The trick these days is to find a shortcut. You know, the kind of shortcut that allows you to find success without really working on it. One of the most popular sites is LifeHacker which shows many ways to exploit rules to your advantage, survive a wasp attack, build a GoPro mount from a plastic pop bottle and more.
Oddly enough, if you search Lifehacker for “tradeshow” you don’t get any life hacks for tradeshow success.
That’s because almost everyone will tell you that if you want to be successful in tradeshow exhibiting, you have to put in the work.
Oh, sure, there will be people who will cobble together a creative booth for a few bucks out of bicycle frames or old barn wood or whatever, but it doesn’t really get you to a successful tradeshow experience.
It takes work, planning, execution, review, re-focusing and continual incremental improvement to keep building your track record.
You may find hacks for lots of other parts of your life, but when it comes to business, more so-called hacks aren’t worth the digital ink spilled. Put in the work.
When you do become successful, it’ll be worth much more anyway.
Once the tradeshow is over, it’s easy to let a few things slide because, after all, you’ve been working your fanny off for 12 or 14 hours a day for several days straight! But if your tradeshow followup can manage to do just a few things prior to taking that five minute well-deserved rest, here’s where to start:
Make sure the leads are delivered to the sales crew. Depending on the size of your operation this may be hundreds of leads and 10 or more sales people, but it might be a lot less. Make sure the leads have good contact info, and correct follow up info (who gets what and when), and make sure they’re graded in terms of importance and urgency.
Check the booth crate(s). It’s easy to let this step slide, because the crate may not get back for days, or even weeks. But take a half a day or whatever time you need, make sure the crates were packed properly, make sure all items are there and in good shape. Make a list of what’s missing and what needs repair before the next show.
Compile and file all of your reports: travel expenses, products sold, samples given away, booth personnel, comments from the staff, costs of the show, and so on.
Gather photos and videos. These could be useful for social media, your company blog, and checking to make sure that the booth is in good repair, or to document damage.
Gather any social media, media or PR stats. How many tweets and Facebook posts went up during the show? How many retweets or interaction? How many videos were posted on YouTube and how many views did they gather?
Give a report to the boss. Not only will this show them the overall results, it’ll help justify your position (if it needs to be justified). Added benefits include having that information spread throughout the marketing team and management, show trends from show to show, and give you a go-to place for questions about the booth, shows or anything related.
With a multitude of moving parts in tradeshow exhibits, where does furniture play a part in your booth? Do you purchase chairs and tables and ship them with your booth? Or do you simply rent furniture each time you exhibit?
There’s no single right ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer. Life isn’t that way, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately)! Nope, in fact it might be that your exhibiting needs change drastically from show to show, and you have to rent sometimes and other times it makes sense to ship furniture.
So how often to exhibitors actually rent furniture? Surprisingly, it’s over half, according to several I&D companies that were queried at an April event. In fact, it was close to 75% to 90%! So if you’re currently NOT renting furniture, you’re likely one of the few that are either shipping it in your booth crates, or having your clients and staffers stand the entire show. Whew!
The cost of renting furniture can add up, we know. In fact, if you’re new to furniture rental, you might be shocked to see that it will often cost more to rent a nice chair or table than it is to buy. And if it doesn’t cost more, it will likely cost close to the purchase amount. But if you calculate the cost of shipping, drayage, return shipping and storage of the furniture, the cost continues to increase. And even if you own the furniture, you’ll have to replace it at some point due to damage and wear and tear. So how much does it really cost? Unfortunately, tradeshow exhibits – including furniture – take a beating and often have to replaced or repaired frequently. So your cost of owning keeps going up.
With furniture rental, you are paying not only for the cost of the furniture, which rental companies go to great lengths to make sure are in excellent shape (otherwise they’ll lose customers), your cost typically includes shipping and drayage. So that $300 for a chair is a one-time cost that means it’ll show up at your booth and will vanish once the show is over – all coordinated by show services or your tradeshow coordination company.
TradeshowGuy Exhibits Exhibit Design Search recently added a new strategic partner: Cort Furniture. Here is where you’ll find virtually any furniture item that you’d ever need in a tradeshow booth, from plants to stanchions, from small refrigerators to tablet stands, from bar tables and stools to luxury office chairs and ottomans and much more. And the prices are very competitive, so if you’re looking to rent a furniture item for your next show, just review the selection here and see what works for you.