Huh? Don’t sell at the tradeshow? Isn’t that why you’re there – to take names kick ass? Sure, you won’t get an argument from me.
However, let’s take a look at the tradeshow situation. The event is designed to bring hundreds or thousands of people by your booth. If your intent is to sell – and just sell products at the event – then you’re going to spend more time with each person. It takes time to write up an order, and depending on your product or service, it probably takes time to determine exactly what that service or product is. How long is the service going to last? What version of your product is best for your client? When do they want it? What is their goal in using your product or service and can it really help them?
Sure, if you’re just selling single pack food items or something that can be sold in just a few seconds, they go ahead – sell, sell, sell!
Most products take longer. Even if you’re ultimately selling a single food product, you may be trying to get into more stores, or hook up with distributors. Which means you’re not actually selling at the show.
You’re just qualifying.
And once you qualify, you both then agree on the next step.
“Outside the box.” Should you be thinking about your tradeshow marketing using an outside-the-box approach?
Well, that depends. If you can come up with an unusual way to draw crowds, or do pre-show marketing that whets attendees’ appetites, I think you’ve got something going.
But if you’re looking for something outside the box when it comes to actual execution of all of the needed elements, you’re probably better off drawing inside the lines.
When it comes to greeting visitors with a smile, having a pertinent question for them, and responding to questions with accuracy and integrity, you’re on the right track.
When it comes to having a booth that meets all of your function needs, from attractive graphics and proper demo or sample areas to storage and meeting, you’re probably going to want to do it by-the-book.
When it comes to tracking lead generation, sales follow up and tracking ROI, keep it on the straight and narrow.
In other words, do all you need to do using tried-and-true activities designed to effectively execute the functions of exhibiting – stay inside the box – and you’ll be happier for it.
But when it comes to getting people’s attention through what might be considered outlandish or outside-the-box promotional methods, have at it.
Just make sure that once all of those people get to your booth, you have the systems and experience in place to benefit from them.
List-making! In this episode of the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I take a look at the top 7 things I like about being a tradeshow exhibit project manager and owner of TradeshowGuy Exhibits. And I explain why making a checklist for your exhibit project is a very good thing.
What are your tradeshow marketing goals? It may seem an obvious question. But it bears some attention before schlepping off to the show, setting up and accosting attendees.
Each show is different with a unique audience and a unique set of competitors. How you determine your goals depends on those combinations. Some shows may be better at connecting you with retailers, some better at interacting with buyers, others better at connecting with bigwigs who can make big things happen.
In general, the tradeshow marketing goals can fall under three main areas:
Brand Awareness and Perception
In this area, you can build on your company’s marketplace awareness with an effectively branded booth that shows off your credentials or capabilities. You can promote specific products, launch new products, position your company effectively against competitors, or even reach new markets.
Floor Activity Goals
This is where you can work to increase traffic, have one of your managers speak at a conference or panel, speak with industry media outlets, compile information about your competitors, interact with attendees, promote your message, give demos or hand out samples, work to build traffic through promotions and social media engagement and more.
Things to Measure
I’ve always advocated that exhibitors count visitors. It’s not always easy on the crazy chaos of a tradeshow floor, but if you can keep count you’ll know the number of visitors you had. Use that as a baseline and count the visitors at each show and compare year-to-year. You’ll also count leads and sales that result from those leads. Do a little market research by taking a survey or visitors and compile the results. Keep count of any new distributors, suppliers, retail buyers and more.
Knowing your tradeshow marketing goals gives you focus, especially since those goals change from show to show, from audience to audience.
Check out the Monday, February 13, 2017 edition of the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, where I go over organization, accountability and structure. And a short list from Richard Larsen of Brandwatch: Ten Top Tips for a Successful Tradeshow Booth.
The One Good Thing I referenced in the vlog was night skiing, in particular at Hoodoo Ski Bowl in the Central Oregon Cascades. Lovely!
There are hundreds of styles and types of exhibits at tradeshows, but in my estimation you can reduce them to just a handful of ‘kinds’ of exhibits. Do you recognize these?
Super-Duper Over-the-Top Big Tent Exhibit. You know these kind. This exhibit has a hanging sign, a dozen or more people working the booth who are wearing matching tees or tops, are handing out samples and generally trying to be the ‘big dog’ in their niche. And with this kind or exhibit, they usually succeed.
Large Format Well-Branded Exhibit. Most likely an island, but you can tell in an instant who the exhibitor is. Highly professional. The staff is smiling, greeting everyone appropriately. Kicking ass and taking names.
Something New. Often an inline exhibit from a company that changes it up frequently. Some companies take the same exhibit year after year after year. There are some exhibitors, however, that bring a brand new look almost every year. These are companies that are challenging their competitors and the status quo.
Same Old Exhibit. Just referenced in last paragraph. The company that doesn’t even bother to change their sign from year to year even though a casual observer can tell they should probably do some updating.
The Kluge Exhibit. Creativity run amok, where a (usually) small company has a couple of creative folks who take bicycle parts, discarded barn wood or whatever and somehow manage to come up with an exhibit that knocks your socks off. What are they selling again?
Basic. Lots of companies start here. There’s not a lot of creativity, but simplicity is important and the message is clear.
The WTF exhibit. Poorly executed graphics with unclear messaging, bored-looking staffers. It makes you wonder WTF are they doing at the show?!
Next time you walk the show floor, see how many of each kind of exhibits you can identify! And if you can add to our list, feel free to drop a comment!
Why should you read this before you attend a tradeshow?
First, let’s assume you’ve never been to a quality industry show that’s packed full of exhibitors and attendees. Oh, sure, you’ve been to a few regional home shows at the fairgrounds, or attended a chamber of commerce show with fifty or so small exhibitors. But that big show in Las Vegas, NYC, Anaheim or Chicago?
If that’s new to you as an attendee – there’s a first time for everything – let’s go over a handful of things to help prepare you.
Get your travel plans in order. Flight, hotel, ground transportation. Know the location of your hotel or Airbnb in relation to the show site and the airport. In some cities, renting a car makes sense (Anaheim, maybe Vegas), in others you’re betting off taking ground transportation (SF, Chicago, Boston). If you’re planning to take mass transit, know where to get on and how to get to where you’re going. Mapping tools on smartphones are very good at giving these directions – so make sure your phone is charged, and even bring a small charger with you in case you can’t find an outlet on the fly. Travel as light as possible, but take all you need to function on the road – which is of course different (to a degree) than at home!
Double-check all show documents. Make sure you have the various bits of paper, emails, or whatever to get into the show. Bring contact numbers, not only of your home office (duh), but include a handful of contact numbers of show organizers.
Assemble a show plan. Most big shows have apps or online tools to allow you to create a plan. This allows you to add exhibitors and booth numbers to put together a list which makes it easier to find them all. Do this a week or so before the show. If there are educational sessions, create a plan for those you’ll be attending. When at these events, you’ll often have time to meet other attendees and do a little networking.
Depending on your show goals, make sure you have prepped your interaction with the various exhibitors. As an attendee, you’re likely going to be looking for products that you’re either going to sell or use, and perhaps recommend. Know what questions you’re going to ask, and be prepared to absorb information in whatever form is offered. Chances are exhibitors will have both electronic and paper sell sheets, for example, so you should be prepared to know how you’ll compile them. If an exhibitor wants to give you a paper sell sheet and you prefer digital, use an app such as Scanner Pro or Microsoft’s One Drive, which allows you to create PDFs of the sheets in an instant and upload them to your cloud account. Beyond that, as your company representative, you should be prepared to have the kinds of appropriate conversations to advance your agenda.
Plan some networking meetings, but be open to opportunities that will undoubtedly arise. Which means, don’t under-schedule but don’t over-schedule yourself!
Pace yourself. If you’re in an unfamiliar city, find a few moments if you can to look around. Try not to stay up too late to party with show-goers. Keep to familiar exercise routines as best you can. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
Finally, if it really is your first time to attend a large show in a far-away city as a company representative, follow the lead of your fellow employees who have been to the show before, and learn what you can.
And dammit, have some fun along the way! Not everybody is able to attend big shows on their company’s behalf, so consider yourself lucky!
On this morning’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee – the Bob Marley Birthday Show – we discuss lead generation as it pertains to TradeshowGuy Exhibits (and maybe your company!), and communication as it relates to managing projects. Of course, we end up discussing more.
And for some inexplicable reason, I managed to forget the ONE GOOD THING that I was hoping to include. And that is the digital version of the New York Times, of which I’m a subscriber. But more pointedly, I’d like to mention the daily mini-crossword puzzle, which takes a minute or two and is a good little kick-starter first thing in the morning.
Time for another list – this one is called 7 tradeshow exhibit “must-haves” and it’s pretty simple. What 7 things (items, people, plans) are essential to making your next tradeshow appearance a whopping success? Let’s count them:
Branding that is clear as an angel’s giggle. A visitor should know at a glance what you sell and what kind of a company you are. She should be able to intuit so much with that glance: how you approach the marketplace, how the company culture works, how you view the environment, wha
t kind of company you are. A good 3D exhibit designer working with a knowledgeable and responsive marketing team can work magic with the right design.
Professionalism that is as obvious as, well, Captain Obvious. Your fully-trained staff will know how to approach visitors in a friendly and engaging way, and how to either answer their questions or get them to the right person. Staff training goes a long way and is worth more than you’ll ever spend on it.
Lead capture system as effective and smooth as a glass of fifty-dollar bourbon. Once you have a prospect in your sights, make the transition from visitor to prospect so easy when gathering contact and follow-up information that they’ll barely know it’s happening.
Interactivity that engages and draws a crowd. Okay, not every activity can draw a crowd at all times. But what if you had something in your booth that was interesting and engaging enough that once a few people got going, it attracted other people? And if that activity was directly related to your product or service, wouldn’t that be about the best you could do? Well, you could top that by making sure you were gathering contact and follow-up information from as many of those people as you could, once you qualified them.
A comprehensive tradeshow marketing plan that covers months leading up to the show, through the show, and through the follow-up period. This would mean pre-show marketing, show execution and immediate follow-up with the hottest prospects.
Enough STUFF: business cards, lead sheets, sell sheets, samples, demos – all of the stuff you need to hand out to visitors, show they what you do and so on. Take more than you think you’ll need. Unless its dated, you can always repack it and use it next time.
Comfortable shoes. Ha! You saw this one coming, didn’t you?
On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I ramble on for awhile about business, podcasting, new projects, the makeover of TradeshowGuyExhibits.com tradeshow logistics and of course that One Good Thing we all should have. Take a look: