A recap of Natural Products Expo West from an official blogger’s point of view. Nicky Omohundro is a blogger and runs a website called Little Family Adventure, and we spoke about Expo West on this episode of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee.
I spent a lot of time as a youth on the baseball diamond and the basketball court. One coach always stressed the importance of GAME DAY. Put on your game face! Be ready for the big game! In other words, bring even more focus and attitude to the game. When you are done practicing, and you’re facing an opponent, it counts. It’s Game Day.
You could say the same thing about just about anything. But when it comes to tradeshows, bringing your Game Face and knowing that you’re competing with some very challenging companies means it’s you vs. the rest of the hall. Your competitors are (assumedly) going to bring their game faces. Simple: they want to talk to all the people they can. They want to talk to all the people you want to talk to.
So even though it’s a friendly event, the competition is toe-to-toe, and if you want to come out on top, that means bring your game face as soon as the clock starts.
Booth staffers should know their products and services. They should know how to engage an attendee in a meaningful fashion. If a visitor turns out to be a genuine lead, they should know how to capture all of the pertinent information that is required at that step, and how that information will be sent back to the sales team.
Your exhibit should be clean. Even if it means hiring the show services cleaners to vacuum the booth space every morning and take the trash away. Personal items should be out of site. If at all possible, don’t store things behind your exhibit. Some people will see the clutter and even though they understand the reason for it, it does reflect on their overall impression.
The first thing a visitor sees is your exhibit. The second thing they see is a person standing in the booth space. What they see from that person is critical to how they will respond. If the person is ready and wearing their tradeshow game face, the visitor will engage at a higher rate and be more responsive to the staffer. If the staffer is standing there looking bored, or staring at his phone, or worst of all, eating, the visitor will likely keep on moving. And there goes your lead. Simply because someone in your booth was not ready to be in the game. In a sports situation, if the coach puts someone into the game and they’re not ready, points will be scored against them. Or they’ll fail to respond when they should. It’s an easy way to let your competition beat you.
You don’t want to let the competition beat you because you’re not wearing your game face, do you? If they beat you, it should be fair and square: because they had a product or service that better suited the visitor. But if they beat you because you’re not mentally in the game, that’s an easy way to give up points. And the game.
So yeah, put on your game face at all times in the booth!
Fifteen years ago, my very first client, Kettle Foods, made an appearance at Natural Products Expo West with a custom 20×20 exhibit. Since then, I’ve been back every year, many times with new clients, and updated exhibits with current clients. Kettle Foods, by the way, has been sold at least three times since the old days and the brand is now owned and managed by Snyder’s-Lance.
A few years after that, I worked with Bob’s Red Mill to debut a new 20×20 island. Since then, we’ve created a new 30×30 exhibit, which has since increased to a 30×40. The Bob’s Red Mill marketing team is on top of updates every year with new graphics to promote new products.
This year we saw expanded and/or upgraded versions of current clients. Schmidt’s Naturals of Portland (recently acquired by Unilever), kept the same size, but added some custom product display units, and washed away the previous gray-ish look and brought forward their new array of stunning colors.
Dave’s Killer Bread/Alpine Valley increased the size of their exhibit from 10×30 to 10×40, adding new backlit graphics and a new custom greeting counter with LED-highlights.
Wedderspoon Manuka Honey increased the size of their exhibit from 10×20 to 10×30, adding in new fabric graphics to their wooden display shelving units. We also fabricated a new hexagon shaped, LED highlighted, charging table (reportedly it was loved by visitors as they sat and talked business). A new 60″ monitor capped it off.
Babies – lots of babies – along with young kids, the occasional dog, lots of mascots/costumes, and a few weirdly dressed people. Typical Expo West!
Saturday night – Day Three of Expo West – was spent hanging out with Oregon Business folks at their annual soiree at McCormick and Schmicks, and later, producing Monday Morning’s vlog/podcast. Now let me see if I can manage a recap of the final two days of Expo West.
Dozens of people I spoke with agreed that the show was somewhere between amazing and fantastic, or perhaps crazy-busy and overwhelming. Just saw the press release this morning from New Hope which showed that there were over 85,000 attendees, and 3,521 exhibiting companies, including more than 600 first-time exhibitors.
I mentioned in my vlog/podcast that I was impressed by the great detail that exhibit designers go to to capture a brand’s essence. I also got into a conversation with one booth staffer about the wild colors that are everywhere in the show. “Can you imagine what this show would be like without all of those colors?” he asked. Agreed. Bright and bold colors everywhere.
There were also a lot of BIG hanging signs, from 40’x40’ aluminum structures/fabric graphics to wooden panels and what looked like carved wooden signs. Does anybody look up these days at shows?
There were a lot of clever interactive things going on at booths, offering people an opportunity to walk into the booth space and do something. It’s always a great way to capture attention. I counted at least a dozen “selfie” stations, with some including a circular light where you can take a selfie where you’re fully and evenly lit, and some stations where they’ll take a photo and then email it to you. One of the most fascinating and eye-catching interactives was a Rube Goldberg contraption in the KIND Snacks booth, showing how KIND snacks are made from start to finish.
There were many opportunities to tweet a hashtag with a photo for a chance to win something, so it was good to see the social media tie-in as well. Although, frankly, it almost seems run-of-the-mill, when six or seven years ago social media was all so new!
Another thing I noticed in booth fabrication was the use of see-through printed fabric. Everywhere I turned there was another example. See-through fabric is very useful in creating a barrier, but the see-through aspect gives you a view of what’s beyond it, without intruding on people that might be in a meeting room for example.
This was my sixteenth consecutive time I’ve attended Expo West in support of clients, for years, the halls have been set up in a specific configuration: foods, manufacturing, supplements, new products and more all have had their own areas. That didn’t change this year, but the layout changed – drastically – and it was interesting to see how the whole layout was essentially flopped from one end to the other. Lots of comments from people who weren’t sure how it worked, but from my view it worked just fine. Took a little getting used to.
Sunday – Day Four – started off much slower, in terms of visitors roaming the aisles. I was there at opening of ten o’clock, and the back reaches of the halls were lightly travelled. it didn’t take long for that to pick up. By late morning, it seemed almost as busy as previous days. It did give me a chance to speak to more people without feeling rushed. By 2:30 to 3 o’clock, exhibitors were offering all of their samples to attendees so they wouldn’t have to transport them back to HQ. And of course, some folks were pulling down banner stands and packing up suitcases by 3 o’clock. Ya ain’t s’posed to do that, but it happens anyway. Planes to catch.
And finally, I know of no other show where, frankly, you never need to eat a meal offsite for ate least three days. Virtually every company is sampling the goods, from sausage, bagels, bread, toast and eggs to energy bars, drinks, coffee, teas, juices and other goodies. It’s easy to consume a couple of thousand calories without even batting an eye. Even if you try to avoid eating much, you’ll end up taking bite-sized samples here and there.
And don’t get me started on the varieties of chocolates.
Random thoughts, observations and photos from walking the floor, test-tasting the products, and chatting with people on day two of the Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim:
It’s a mental thing. But as much as I feel I should restrain myself from eating too many samples, you seriously can’t hold back. There are so damn many good foods on display for test-tasting that you just can’t not try them. I’m a sucker for great chocolates, sweets, and similar concoctions. Frankly, it’s overwhelming. Having said that, I’m getting tired of energy bars. I stopped eating them on a regular basis a couple of years ago (too many calories for my diet!), and it’s hard to find ones that I really want. There are also a lot of prepared foods that I bypass. We don’t eat microwave foods at my house, and none of those types of foods really appeal to me after so much good home-cooking.
Non-food items – skin care, hair care, supplements and the like – all are very popular, and many caught my eye. One of our clients, Wedderspoon, added to their line of New Zealand Manuka Honey tasty treats by introducing cleansers, hand creams, body lotion and more – all very good stuff.
This is also the first year that I paid much attention to pet products. It’s because, for the first time in decades, I’m able to live with a pet (say Hi, Scruffy!). So yes, I grabbed a couple of samples for the four-legged member of our household. We’ll see how he likes them!
Speaking of our clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we love supporting them and showing them off. Bob’s Red Mill, Schmidt’s Naturals, Wedderspoon Manuka Honey, Dave’s Killer Bread/Alpine Valley, and Hyland’s are all off to a great show. So many of the companies we’ve worked with are at an interesting spot in their growth: new products, growing bottom line, expanding exhibits means an expanding and more mature presence at Expo West. It also means, in a sense, moving out of their comfort zone. It means hiring installation/dismantle crews now to set up the exhibit when a previous smaller exhibit was set up by company employees. More complexity also means a more powerful presence and impact. But the end result in all cases has been a client that’s pleased with how the exhibit looks to their customers – which is the most important things to us.
Also got a chance to meet and chat with Nicky Omoundro of Little Family Adventure who is one of the official Expo West bloggers – and who will be on the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee vlog/podcast in the not too distant future to talk about her experiences here!
Ready for Day Three! Thanks, but I’ll bypass the yoga in the plaza this morning (I already did my ten minutes upon arising) and head straight for the coffee.
More or less a quick diary of Natural Products Expo West 2018 Day One:
After some twists and turns, we finished setting up the final client booth – Dave’s Killer Bread/Alpine Valley Bread – late morning. Thanks to Stacy and her crew at Eagle Management. Another job well done. They also set up Wedderspoon Manuka Honey. Photos of the booths to come once the main halls open on Friday.
Then it was off to the new North Halls until about five o’clock. A cacophony of noise, mascots, exhibits, and thousands of people. I recall last year that I saw a lot of new bone broth products. Not so much this year. But my eyes did light on a lot of flavored butters: walnut, almonds, peanuts, etc., mixed with fruit berry flavors, making your mouth go OMG that’s good! over and over again.
Posted several photos on Instagram and Twitter of mascots and exhibitors, including a shot of a creative cardboard back wall place-holder which made their case while the real backdrop arrived. Do what ya gotta do!
From early-morning yoga (I did my own yoga in the Airbnb I’m staying) to later afternoon and evening live music and drinks, everyone here seems to be having a great time. All the exhibitors are under pressure to make their exhibits look good, and attendees are chomping at the bit to get in and mingle, sample and converse. I’ll put together another exhibit awards post next week once everyone is back home and getting foot rubs to help alleviate the soreness from the miles and miles of walking!
On today’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, we latch on to an interview with Electric Impluse‘s President, Leslie Ungar. What’s important about communication? How do we get our message through clearly in a very busy world?
Also, on the Tradeshow Tip of the Week: 8 Ways to Upgrade Your Exhibit for Under $500!
You’ve probably run into a tradeshow super connector and didn’t even realize it at the time. Not until later, when you got to thinking about that person you talked to. The one that knows everyone, and everyone knows him or her.
Billionaire Mark Cuban is known as a super connector. Peter Shankman is often thought of as a super connector. In his first book, Can We Do That, he describes how people would call him to recommend or connect them to someone specific. Peter knew everybody. It’s how he ended up starting HARO, Help A Reporter Out, and eventually sold the company.
What would make a tradeshow super connector? I think I have met a few along the way, although – not being one – I’m not sure I can easily spot them.
Here are what I see as seven traits of a super connector:
Outgoing; willing to talk to anyone, willing to introduce people.
They see connections where us normal humans don’t: Jill, meet Sam. He’s a money management book editor. She’s an author working on a new money management book. You can make some money and change people’s lives together. No need to cc me – just check each other out.
They’re willing to create gatherings at events that bring even more people together.
They follow up. Following up is quick and easy; even if they think someone is trying to sell them something. I can tell you from experience, lots of people never bother to follow up with something they aren’t personally familiar with. But a super connector doesn’t mind. She sees connections everywhere and is willing to connect.
They reach back to people they’ve become disconnected from in their past.
Super connectors are giving. They give their time, they give value, they create content that other people find useful.
Super connectors are helpful. Often, even during a first meeting where they have little to gain from knowing you, they’ll say “How can I help?”
And finally, in my view, super connectors usually don’t have a big ego. Sure, they’re confident in themselves, but there is a bit of humbleness – they’re always willing to learn something and don’t have the arrogance to think they know everything.
Keep a look out for the super connectors at your next tradeshow.
Seriously, you could compile a list of 50 tradeshow best practices and still add to the list. For the sake of brevity, let’s whittle it down to a reasonable number and see what we get.
Create your marketing plan based on the specific event where you’re going to set up your exhibit. Different audiences, different competitors, different goals will all help steer you to a marketing plan that fits the situation. One size does not fit all.
Your promotion item should be a natural fit with your product or service. Give away an embossed flash drive if you’re in the tech industry and want people to remember what you do. Give away a letter opener if you pitch direct marketing via mail. Things like that.
Try to have some activity in your booth space. People are drawn to movement, or things they can get personally involved with. And when you have lots of people playing with something in your booth that relates to your product, that crowd draws a crowd.
Prior to show floors opening, have a brief meeting with your staff. Remind them of the show goals, hand out kudos for work well done, and gently remind those who are perhaps coming up a bit short what they should work on.
Graphic messaging on your exhibit should be clear as a bell. The fewer the words, the more distinct your message. The message should be enhanced with an appropriate image that supports the message.
Follow up on leads in a timely manner. Your lead generation and follow up system should be something that you continually work to improve. Warm leads that are followed up on right after the show will produce more results than those that are weeks old.
Qualify and disqualify your visitors quickly. Unqualified visitors should be invited to refer a colleague and be politely disengaged. Qualified visitors earn more time to dig deeper into their needs, including the time frame they need the solution your product can solve, their contact information and an agreed-upon follow up schedule.
The power of a professional presenter cannot be understated. Some products and shows lend themselves more to presenters than others, but a good presenter will make it work in any situation and will bring in more leads than not using them. Caveat: if you hire a presenter, you must have a staff that understands and is prepared to deal with the additional leads generated. If not, most of the leads the presenter generates will slip away.
Tradeshows are a marathon. Be alert, but pace yourself so you can make it to the end of the last day still upright and able to fully engage with visitors.
Spring for carpet padding / wear comfortable shoes. You can never say this enough!
And a bonus number 11:
Spend more time on pre-show marketing that you think you should, or more than you’ve done in the past. It costs less and is easier to sell to current customers than it is to sell to new customers. Create a list of current customers, or those who have raised a hand by downloading a white paper, subscribing to a newsletter, or inquired about your services or products over the past year or so. Finally, check with show organizers to see if they can rent the attendee list to you prior to the show.