Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies.

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Are You Ready For A New Exhibit?

How do you know when it’s time for your company to invest in a new exhibit? While the answer will vary from company to company, there are a number of common factors that can help answer that question.

Is your current exhibit old? In the exhibit world, a tradeshow booth is old somewhere between 5-7 years. Now, that doesn’t mean you should automatically replace your booth as soon as it hits that age, or if it’s older. But an older exhibit is a sign that it might be time to consider upgrading. Of course, some companies use the same exhibit for decades. Yup, seen it happen.


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What do your main competitors’ booths look like? If your company has stayed put while most of your main competitors have invested in new booth properties, it can make you look a little old and out of touch. In some industries, that’s the touch of death. In others, not so much.

Has your company’s exhibit needs changed significantly? One client I worked with found that their target market had matured to the point they were no longer needing to display so many products, but instead needed to assist those distributors with other things. That meant downsizing the booth to accommodate those needs. If you have new products or services that are not getting the notice they deserve, that may mean an upgrade is needed.

Has your company grown significantly? Some companies need a booth to match their market presence, which means a larger booth. It also means keeping up with the Joneses.

Is your current exhibit stretching your shipping budget because it’s very heavy to ship? Shipping and drayage for wooden crates and booths can eat up a significant portion of your tradeshow marketing budget. Unless heavier materials such as wood and metal define your company’s looks, it’s worth considering a lighter approach. Fabric graphics, aluminum frames and structures and the like can significantly cut your shipping costs for years to come. With fabric graphics that are easily changed for different exhibiting needs, a new lightweight booth may be just what the doctor ordered.

Beyond these items, you may have another reason to put a new company tradeshow booth into place in the near future. I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment!

Mastering High Volume Traffic at the Trade Show Booth

This is a guest article by Todd Millet, known as Tradeshow Joe.

When was the last time you were managing a trade show booth with way more visitors than it would ever be possible to talk to at once? You probably already know how frustrating it can get. Even so, this is obviously a good situation for your business, and here is how to take full advantage.

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Acknowledge every visitor.

No matter how busy you are, it is essential to say hello to everyone who stops at your booth. A simple, “Hi, I’ll be right with you,” will keep your visitors from feeling ignored and lost in the crowd. The reassurance will help give them the patience to wait for you to help them out. This concept is even practiced inside many large corporate retail stores within specific niches, such as pet stores or sporting goods stores. Even on Black Friday, employees are commonly instructed to acknowledge every shopper, even if they have to wait a moment to be helped. This is shown to increase conversions in retail, and to the same effect, it can increase conversions at the trade show!

Provide self-help resources.

People are curious by nature. If you can provide ways to appeal to their curiosities, they will spend their waiting time learning about your company. They may even have a question in mind and begin observing your booth in more detail while attempting to find the answer. Even visitors that leave before a conversation begins will learn something new about your business.

Determine interest level of time consuming visitors.

We are all too familiar with those booth visitors that just won’t leave you alone! It’s like they have an endless grab bag full of questions, many of which are pointless. Yet, we don’t want to be impolite. After all, it might result in a sale! This is exactly why it is important to interpret the intentions of these visitors. Are they actually interested in buying from you or helping your company in some way? Asking questions about their company can help accelerate this process. Sometimes, it is worth your efforts, but when it is not you should have a plan to divert them away so you can get back to focusing on the rest of the crowd. Have a business card ready to hand them and kindly wrap up the conversation, directing them to another resource for more information. In cases where the visitor might be a promising lead but they are still taking up entirely too much time, ask if they would like to meet at a later time or schedule a phone meeting after the show.

Try to get visitors into group discussions or demonstrations.

This mostly applies to new visitors that are still in the question phase and not yet ready to convert into leads. When you are overcrowded, getting group discussions going can be a very effective way to handle the situation. Everyone can learn about your company or products collectively. You will find that this approach is not much different than greeting a single visitor. The initial routine will be the same. Just get a little more wind in your lungs and speak up!

Use your booth staff wisely.

If you have more than one employee at the booth, having a specific focus for each staff member can make things much more efficient. When one person is taking an order, the other should be available to help the rest of the visitors. If some of the staff members come and go at your booth, make sure you have a direct, and instant, line of communication. If your booth gets crowded in a hurry, you can call for backup.

So, are you ready to face the crowd? Take a long breath, put on your armor, and pack a sandwich. It’s going to be a long day and the outcome is in your hands.

 

Todd Millett is a web marketer and content developer at Trade Show Joe (TradeShowJoe.com). He graduated from University of Louisville in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Communications. His interests also include music production, video production, blogging, and web development.

7 Ways to Mentally Prepare for Attending a Tradeshow

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Put the pedal to the metal! Time to gear up for fall! Summer is winding down and we get to return to normal soon!

Whatever normal is.

And whatever it is, the chaos, hustle and bustle of a big tradeshow isn’t anything near normal for most of us. Depending on the show, there could be a few thousand attendees to tens of thousands. Not only that, but you’re onsite for several days. And chances are you traveled hundreds or maybe thousands of miles to get there.

So how do you prepare for such an event? I would wager there are two main areas to address: physically and mentally. If you want to go further, you can prepare emotionally or spiritually but I’ll leave that to you.

  1. Prepare for long days. Even if you’re out late at corporate meetings, dinners or parties, do your best to get a good night’s sleep. And those late nights come after a long day of mostly standing on your feet talking to booth visitors.
  2. Eat well. It’s so easy to fall prey to eating junk on the road. You grab a burger here, a soda there and before you know it you are running on inferior food. Eat the good stuff: salads, veggies, high protein meat, low carb foods. You know it’s good for you and it’ll keep your spirits up.
  3. Keep to your routine as much as possible. I typically drink decaf coffee, but for a long time when heading out on the road, I would grab the ‘real’ deal – fully caffeinated – thinking I needed the extra boost. I soon found myself jittery from the extra boost, and threw me off, especially when giving a presentation later in the trip. Now I stick to the script: “Decaf!”
  4. Realize that it’s a marathon. But a short one. Yeah, kind of counter-intuitive. But if you understand that you’ll be doing this all day long, for three or four days and then you can really crash, it’s easier to keep the event in perspective.
  5. Be open to good things happening. Every time I attend a show, something good happens. I think deep down I’m a skeptical optimist: I hope for good things, but prepare mentally for the worst. So when good stuff happens, like making a good connection, getting a good lead, killing it in a presentation, be grateful.
  6. Understand that not-so-good things will also likely happen. Could be that a long-time client is going elsewhere for business, or part of your booth didn’t show up, or somebody on your booth staff gets sick and you’re undermanned. It all comes down to the old Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.
  7. And of course, remember to wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be oh-so-glad you did.
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Tradeshow Marketing Book Update

I’ve posted on Facebook and Twitter in the last several months about my book-in-progress, including at one point running a Survey Monkey poll asking people to chime in on possible titles. Thought it might be fun to post an update on where the book is and when it might be released.

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After working steadily since Fall 2014, the manuscript is virtually done. It’s been edited, cleaned up, spiffed up and it feels like it’s well-organized and flows pretty damn well! I’ve been working with, among others, editors at CreateSpace who, once they see the most recent version, will move into formatting the book. Then we’ll insert the title pages, index (with accurate page reference notes – one of the last things to be completed), upload the cover and send it to press (update 7.28.15: manuscript is now in the formatting stage).

This is without a doubt the biggest writing project I’ve done. Or at least seen this far through. There was that movie script ten years ago. And at least three unfinished books that are still sitting around. But this is important to me. Not only to finish it and get it out there, but to spread it around. I think it’s good. I’m involved in every aspect, from sourcing the illustrator for the inside drawings, to mocking up the cover (although the final cover will be done by someone who knows what they’re really doing), to putting marketing material together (again, getting some help here!).

So what will it be called? We (my helpers and I) have gone through at least a dozen or more potential titles, trying to land on the one short and sweet and ultimately pointedly descriptive title that tells potential viewers at a glance exactly what it’s about.

It’ll be called “Deconstructing Tradeshows: 14 Steps to Tradeshow Mastery.” It’ll show the 14 steps, from organization, budgeting, booth design, booth staff training, in-booth professional presenters and more, that I feel an exhibitor needs in this day and age to succeed – really succeed at tradeshow marketing.

The book grew out of my frustration at seeing exhibitor after exhibitor spend thousands of dollars on really nice exhibits but come away from the show wondering why they didn’t bring home more leads or connect with more people. Turns out that they really were missing many of the critical steps that successful exhibitors don’t miss.

Even though it would be fun, I can’t consult with everyone. So writing the book was my way of sharing all of this important stuff I’ve learned in nearly 15 years in the industry.

When? How about September? If not September, perhaps October. In any event, it’s getting closer. Want to be notified when it comes out so you can latch on to your own copy? Just subscribe to my newsletter by filling in the form here.

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Why Get a Charging Station for Your Booth?

Mel and Kevin of Classic Exhibits take some time to answer questions about the very popular charging stations. There are a lot of reasons to consider adding a charging station – and maybe you’ve thought of a few. But what about customization, set-up, packing and shipping and more? Check out this interview and then take a look at our online catalog selection of charging stations here.

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Essentials of Tradeshow Booth Design: Slide Deck

If you got a chance to see the webinar I did recently with Handshake, thanks! I hope you got something useful out of it. I’ve had a handful of requests for the slide deck so people can review it closer. Here’s the deck:

If you’d like to see the replay, click here.

How Cloud-Based POS Software Can Benefit Tradeshow Exhibitors

The following is a guest post by Jodie Pride:

Cloud-based point of sale systems are becoming increasingly popular, especially among smaller retailers. They are usually less expensive than traditional POS systems and can be more convenient for retailers because they can access their customers’ data from anywhere, providing they can connect to the internet.

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And it’s not just offline transactions that cloud based POS benefits: if the retailer has an ecommerce site, they can also solve a number of problems when it comes to transactions.

Traditional cash registers – you know, those big clunky tills that a lot of shops still use – and even some modern POS softwares tend to be awkward and clumsy to set up and use, which can slow down transactions (which you definitely don’t want) and devour your time. It also takes time to train new employees to use this outdated equipment. That’s where cloud-based POS comes in…

Tills are practically rooted to the floor – there’s no way you’re going to be able to pick it up and move it around should you need to, as you would need to for a trade show. Having a cloud based POS system can be a lot more convenient than old-fashioned tills because merchants can access customer data from anywhere as long as they are connected to the internet. This feature is very handy for small business who sell in trade shows and farmers markets, brick and mortar stores and on their ecommerce site – you now have a portable POS system which you can use just about anywhere.

With a cloud based POS, you now have a portable till which you can take with you to trade shows, making life much easier – you can now make sales without being tethered to a cumbersome till, or collecting cash in hand for products sold.

This is a guest post by Jodie Pride who writes for Veeqo who provide inventory management software and cloud based POS software.

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Create a Memorable Trade Show Experience

This is a guest post by Madison Resare:

Whether you are new to the trade show biz or you have been around the proverbial trade show block a few times; new ideas for capturing and keeping the attention of passersby are always welcome and sought after. So whether you have heard it all, seen it all, or it is all brand new; you can always learn something new and if you truly have the entrepreneur spirit you will always be on the lookout for new and catchy hook ideas.

So, what’s the new, fun, exciting idea? Simple – create an experience. I don’t mean create something that your audience can look at or takeaway. I mean create an actual experience, something they can see, touch, taste, smell, hear, and takeaway. That is the simple answer, here are some ways you can carry that answer out into realty:

Create an Emotional Connection

According to Maya Angelou, American author and poet, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What does this mean for trade show marketers? Seth Braverman, marketing manager at Xylem Design, said, “The experience for the trade show attendee must be understood chiefly as an emotional experience. The aesthetics and ethos of a brand and a booth all play into this. What the attendee really takes home with them isn’t the knickknacks or the schwag. It’s the emotional connection they make with a brand and a product.”

Help trade show attendees make emotional connections with some of the following ideas:

  • Hand/Scalp/Back Massages

A company that sells lotions, oils, and other personal care items can create an emotional – and physical – connection with trade show attendees by offering free 3-5 minute hand/scalp/back massages. Getting attendees to sit for a few minutes gives you the perfect opportunity to talk about the products you are using and why they are so amazing.

  • Tell a Story

Most people are affected and remember things more clearly when a moment is associated with an emotion. Tell a personal story, talk about how your business got started, and discuss how you moved up in the world. Whatever story you tell, make sure it invokes some kind of emotion for your listeners.

  • Create an Atmosphere

What kind of atmosphere does your business exude? Enhance the experience for trade show attendees by adding things like smells, sounds, and sights that match the overall feeling of your business. – Have a more relaxed business? Use candles, soft music, and calming scents like lavender. – have a more upbeat and modern business? Use sleek and clean displays and include new technology in your booth.

Utilize Media

You should be prepared – before the trade show – by signing up for social media platforms and putting together a marketing plan. You can utilize trade show attendees by inviting them to your booth and offering special giveaways and incentives through social networks. This is a great way for you to get more followers, make connections, and add value to a potential customer. Here are some other ways you can utilize media in your trade show exhibit:

  • Video

Does your company have a ‘welcome to our business’ video? Get a laptop or a T.V. to play this video in your exhibit. Sometimes people prefer to watch the videos and ask questions after it is over instead of walking up and talking to a complete stranger.

  • QR Codes

Use QR codes in the business cards or flyers that you hand out at the trade show and make sure they lead to something of value to a potential customer.

  • Music

Make your exhibit more atmospheric by using background music.

Display Your Products

So how do you create a more interactive experience at a trade show? Braverman answered, “Display your actual products/services as much as possible. People are there in-person to meet the brand and the product in-person. Allowing as fluid an introduction to your product as possible is paramount. For the small role we, as display designers and makers, play in the trade show booth, the focus is on creating a display that gets out of the way of the products. The goal is to quietly communicate the excellence of the product, and this is achieved through proper design, lighting, and high quality construction.” In other words, when a trade show attendee stands in front of your booth and is unable to tell what your products are, or what your company does – you have failed.

Snacks, Drinks, and Contests

You can’t create a true trade show experience without providing something the client can participate in or walk away with. Include things like snacks, drinks, flyers, and contests in order to draw in attendees and to keep them happy.

Madison Resare is a content creator at Xylem Design (xylemdesign.com) who enjoys writing about trade shows, marketing, and social media.

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Top 8 Ways to Justify The Cost of a New Exhibit

What are the indicators that tell you when it’s time to invest in a new tradeshow exhibit? What does it take to justify the expense, which can often be very large?

Naturally, there’s no single answer that applies across the board. However, if you, as a tradeshow marketing manager, feel it’s time to make a major upgrade, you’re put in a position of having to sell the investment to management. Here are a few things that you might consider in the process.

1. Can you point to tradeshow marketing as a consistent method of bringing in leads? And are you turning those leads into clients? If that’s true, the question may be: why do you need to fix it? Isn’t it already working?

It may indeed be working. But if you’re consistently running into issues such as growth, lack of space, too many visitors in such a small space, it may be that you are in need of a bigger space and hence, a bigger booth. One way to determine this is to track visitors by counting, or by anecdotal evidence from your booth staff.

If tradeshow marketing is a solid and consistent business driver, it’s likely that the people with the purse strings may be sympathetic to the request.

2. Consider the prospect of NOT doing anything. What would happen if you did NOT invest in a new booth? Are you satisfied with holding firm with the current booth property? The questions that come up around this question include how old the current assets are, and how is being perceived by your staff and clients at the show.

Another part of this conundrum is this: what are your most direct competitors doing? If the top three competitors in your market have upgraded and upsized their booth properties in the last two or three years, the perception will be that you’re losing ground to them. And in a competitive market, perception is critical.

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3. Do your research. What are your competitors doing? What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats from within and without? A simple SWOT analysis can tell you a lot about where you are and where you might go from here.

4. Ask yourself if a new booth is really the answer. What about investing in your booth staff instead or in pre-show marketing and post-show follow up? Support your staff with training and education that allows them to more properly interact on the show floor with attendees by asking the right questions. Maybe a booth isn’t really right yet, but a smaller investment in the staff may yield good results without the larger booth investment, which can then be put off a year or two or three.

5. If a new booth is the answer, spend some time assessing how to understand the investment of capital, what’s involved and when it will be delivered and how it will happen. This will likely mean talking with booth designers and fabricators to get an idea of how much time and money it would cost to develop a design and construct the booth.

6. Once these items are assembled, they should be presented in the context of the life of the booth. Do you plan to use the booth for three, five, or seven years before considering major upgrades? In the case of one client who had committed to a 30×30 island booth in 2012, they had an opportunity to upgrade the space and the booth in 2015 to a 30×40, and decided the investment was worth it.

7. Determine how the new booth will change those who are tasked with the logistics of setting up and dismantling the booth, staffing it for the shows and inviting more clients for one-on-one meetings. In my experience, upgrading to a larger booth will modestly impact the marketing staff, giving them more opportunities to meet more clients and spread the word about the booth. Costs for set-up and dismantle will rise. Shipping costs will rise. Stepping up to a new booth is a major commitment, but it can often be well worth it in the return on that investment.

8. Now it’s time to present the final proposed cost. You’ve assembled a design and fabrication team that is capable. You have a reasonable price range for the project. While the bean-counters will want to justify the case in a hard dollars won vs. dollars spent, in addition to showing how the cost will be justified by the return with new business, detail the ‘soft’ return. These soft reasons to spend the money may include increased business opportunities due to a larger booth, more visibility at the shows, easier and quicker set-up times, perception of being bigger and better than your competitors, better branding opportunities in your booth, and so on. Be as specific as possible. For instance: “our new booth will give us a 300% increase in visible graphic display area to show off our brand and products compared with our current display.”

Use whatever combination of these methods you deem appropriate for your situation. Need help? Give me a call or drop a note and I’ll be glad to chat!

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