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

June 2011

Social Media is Critical, Face to Face Still Rules

I suppose I could make the simple point of this whole article and squeeze it into the length of a tweet:

Wow, even shorter than 140 characters!

But of course there’s more to the idea than just a tweet. Tradeshows will continue to thrive. Yes, even in spite of budgetary pressures: increasing travel costs, space rental, booth costs, etc. Those will continue to climb, but companies will still find a way to get necessary people to critical shows.

In a recent blog post on Classic Exhibits’ ‘Trade Show Tales’ Mel White shared some points from a recent Event Design interview with Sue Hoff, director of Global Conventions for Medtronic. She emphasized how important ‘face-to-face’ is in the tradeshow world several times during the interview, and pointed out that while social media has value, it’s not going to replace live events.

In fact, in my view, social media is critical to keeping those live events, well, LIVE, dammit. People love connecting online and they love solidifying that connection with face-to-face gatherings….tweet-ups…meetups…whatever you call them, they’re critical. Social media’s role in live events, while evolving, is critical to making those live events work well. By integrating social media into the live events, organizers and exhibitors will enhance the value of their brand, lift loyalty, and solidify previously tenuous connections.

So keep tweeting. Keep posting on Facebook. Keep creating short videos for your YouTube channel. Keep participating in LinkedIn groups. Your market is there, and you’d better keep working to find and connect with them. Because you know your competitors certainly are!


Which is more important? Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn?

The stats are unreal and the numbers keep rising:

  • Facebook has over 688 million+ users
  • Twitter: 200 million+
  • LinkedIn: 100 million+
  • YouTube: 300 million+
  • WordPress: 130 million+ blogs

Covering all of those bases takes a lot of time and effort. So if you can’t currently cover all of those bases, what’s the most important place to start?

It depends on how you want to use the various outlets for your tradeshow marketing. If getting people to the show is your weakest area, perhaps shoring up that effort will result in more folks showing up at your booth, where your effort and follow-through are strong. Twitter and Facebook are particularly good at driving traffic by using pre-show promotions and in-show calls to action.

If your post-show follow-up is weak, it might mean that you put more effort into making your target market more aware of what you’re doing post-show. Even though lead follow-up doesn’t necessarily directly relate to social media post-show, making your audience more aware of what you DID at the show is an effective way of keeping your audience informed. Use Facebook and YouTube to keep those followers and searchers informed. Twitter can drive traffic to both outlets.

To boost your pre-show marketing, as mentioned, the best outlets are Facebook and YouTube. Twitter can be effective as well, but typically only a few days or weeks prior to the show, while Facebook and YouTube can be used to roll out more specific and detailed information. Twitter works well for driving traffic and for connecting with other people attending the show, and in my experience people only really start to connect and make plans to meet up a week or two ahead of the show.

LinkedIn can be used effectively to narrowly target attendees that you’d like to meet in person. Find them by joining tradeshow groups and striking up online conversations and connections. LinkedIn is more work, but the payoff in making personal connections can be worthwhile.

Social media is not a coookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all answer. Your situation will be different from other companies as you have different goals and a unique situation.

But by understanding the basic uses of the various outlets, and how you can best implement those tools for situation, you can increase the odds that your company will get the social media edge on your competitors.

Addendum: I put the question out on Twitter this morning: “Which is more important in #tradeshow marketing? Blogging, #FB, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn? #eventprofs” and got a few folks to chime in quickly:

From ActiveEventsGuy: “All are important if you have a clear and well defined strategy. What are the messages, Who is your audience… Where is your audience online, and How the members of your audience like to consume the content (video, blog, visual, etc).” (okay, it took him two tweets to get all that in!)

From TuvelComms: “All of the above, depending on where target audience is. PLUS don’t forget to integrate w/ email, print, other mktg channels.”

EDPA_LVC re-tweeted my request…but didn’t chime in. Drat! Hey, feel free to comment…!


Top Ten Benefits of Blogging

So you hear that blogging is a good idea, but you’re stuck on how to start the whole process. After all, there are a lot of questions you have around blogging.

F’rinstance: It’s time-consuming, so how do you justify the extra time to make it happen? If you’re just starting, you’re thinking it’s probably difficult with a steep learning curve. Not to mention – WHAT should you blog about? What topics are worthwhile? Where will ideas come from?

I understand – I’ve been there. In fact, when it comes to finding topics, I’m there every single day!

While there are hundreds of reasons to blog (and probably as many NOT to blog), I thought I’d share the top ten reasons why I like blogging.

  1. It gets me noticed. Three years ago, before I started Tradeshowguy Blog, it was hard to get anyone to notice anything I did in the tradeshow world. Now a lot of folks at least know who Tradeshow Guy is – it opens doors.
  2. Blogging helps me think. When I set out to write a post, I have to concentrate on the topic. I research, take notes and finesse the post until it’s presentable.
  3. It makes me a better writer. Not that I’m Hemingway, but I like writing, and the discipline of writing regularly helps make me better.
  4. Speaking of discipline…knowing that I’ve made the commitment to at least two or three posts a week keeps me always thinking and aware of possible topics, podcast interview subjects and more. Discipline is key to making that happen regularly. Being a blogger keeps me much more aware of the industry than I probably would be otherwise
  5. Networking. I’ve met a ton of people through the blog. Some have become good friends. Some I’ve steered business leads to. Others have sent me leads. Networking is a terrific reason to start a blog.
  6. More speaking gigs. I don’t do a ton of gigs, but the two biggest ones I’ve done in the past year (EDPA in Jacksonville last December and Event Marketing Summit last month in Chicago) came about as a direct result of the blog. And of course, I’m always looking for more!
  7. Uncovering a passion. It continually amazes me that I’ve found something I’m passionate enough to write about on a regular basis – social media and tradeshow marketing. If there is an aspect of your business that you’re passionate about, blogging is a great way to share that passion.
  8. More business. People ask ‘do you make money from your blog? What’s your ROI?’ I have made money from my blog, but not in the way I anticipated. I’ve sold info-products, text ads and banner ads. I’ve had business inquiries. I have made money consulting (not much!). I don’t dwell on it, but I do feel like there is a big upside ahead.
  9. It’s now part of my identity. I have two blogs that I maintain regularly, and both have become a part of who I am. What do you do? Among other things…I blog.
  10. It’s damn fun. Seriously, I like it when there’s a new post out and I can let people know via Twitter and Facebook. When I get comments, I’m always curious to see the reaction. New blog posts are cool/fun, and when the blog looks to be a little stale, like day-old bagels, it’s pretty easy to polish off a new post and start over again.

Blogging can be a great way to position your company (and yourself), tell people about your upcoming tradeshow appearances, discuss new ideas and products in your industry, build client relations and a whole lot more.

In short, in my opinion, blogging is well worth your time.


Podcast: Interview with Kate Slonaker of CVent

CVent bills itself as the ‘largest event management software company’ in the US. With 800+ worldwide employees, CVent obviously has its fingers in a lot of places. So to speak.

But what really caught my attention was the release a couple of weeks ago of their newest ebook ‘Event Marketing 2.0‘. Being the sort who is always interested in how social media works with event marketing, I downloaded it right away (it’s free!) and after a quick read, concluded it’s a very useful addition to any tradeshow marketer’s library.

So I sent an email asking if they could hook me up with someone to discuss the company and the book. That’s where Kate Slonaker comes in. She and I chatted a bit this week to explore just those topics. Here’s our conversation.

Be sure to check out CVent here, follow them on Twitter, and yes…download the book here.


One Tweet Away From Brand Destruction

The news headlines seem to have daily cautionary tales on what NOT to do with Twitter. From Anthony Weiner’s ‘accidental’ tweeting of photos of privates to VodaphoneUK’s employee’s accidental posting to the company’s account a tweet that got him fired (“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f—ing drive” ), it’s easy to find a Twitter tale of a tweet gone bad.

Brands cringe, PR guys lose jobs, companies backpedal from the wildfire of tweets, re-tweets and stories being picked up by bloggers and the press.

What’s a social media manager to do? Stay away from Facebook and Twitter? Hide? Or are we all one tweet away from brand doom?

Sounds like a good idea sometimes, doesn’t it? However, in spite of the danger, the social media universe can do a lot of positive things for a brand.

But one bad tweet can undo a lot of good. Not that a single tweet can kill a company, but a single misfire can certainly cause a lot of anguish and heartache.

So what’s a company to do to make sure it doesn’t happen? While nothing can completely guarantee that someone won’t mishandle the tools of social media, there are definitely things you can do as a social media manager or tradeshow marketing manager in charge of social media for events, tradeshows and conferences.

  • Get everyone on the same page. Go over your goals with social media. Ensure that every team member understands what can happen if they accidentally send out a tweet over company channels instead of personal accounts.
  • If you don’t have a social media company policy, create one. You can search online sources and adapt other policies to fit your needs, or you can work with a consultant. A social media policy will clearly define what’s appropriate and what’s not when it comes to using Facebook, Twitter and the other outlets.
  • Make it clear what the consequences will be for blatant mis-use of company social media outlets. Be clear with them on the process of what happens when a tweet or Facebook posting goes bad. Certainly every incident will be unique, but the process of review has to be consistent.
  • Awareness: all team members have to aware of how social media works. A tweet can be picked up and re-tweeted dozens of times in a few minutes. It can circle the world instantaneously. There’s no deleting once the tweet is out of the bag! Even if you do delete a hot tweet, chances are someone will have seen it and can easily share it.
  • Trust: once your policies are in place and everyone understands how it all works, you have to trust them to do the right thing. Is every employee trustworthy? Of course not. But in my experience almost all are – and want to be trusted. They don’t want to risk a job because of a bad tweet.
  • Forgiveness. Yeah, this is a tough one for some managers. People have been quickly fired after a bad tweet went viral. But as a social media manager, you’ll need to weigh the circumstances of an incident and decide what the consequence should be – if any. If someone’s immediately fired, there’s little chance for learning. In most cases a bad tweet isn’t worth dumping someone, but could better be used as a valuable teaching moment.

(photo by CTBTO)


Compelling Tradeshow Booth Sales Strategies

Moving tradeshow attendees from tire-kicking to closing a deal is the holy grail of tradeshow marketing. After all, nothing happens until a sale is made.

So what can you do to get people to actually close a deal?

First, you gotta HAVE a compelling deal. If all you’re offering is a warmed-over widget with a new color or a fancy flag, you’re not going to really inspire visitors to WANT to have it. No, you have to make them feel like they NEED it. NOW.

Cookie Salesman

Is your deal compelling? Are you making an offer that is irresistible? Is the product something they can’t get elsewhere or won’t be able to get in this form until a certain amount of time goes by? Is it NEW? Is it UNIQUE? All of these can go towards making an IRRESISTABLE OFFER.

Next, your sales staff at the booth needs to be good LISTENERS. Many visitors to a booth will say a lot, dropping several code words that indicate they’re ready to buy, but if the sales person isn’t trained to notice those words and follow up with appropriate questions, the visitor will most likely walk away – to another booth where the sales staff senses what’s going on and makes the sale.

Train your sales staff properly and you’ll reap the rewards.

Third, as visitors walk by your booth, have a compelling question ready. Catch their attention, ask the question, and if it’s the right question, it’ll immediately do two things. First, it’ll qualify or disqualify them. If it qualifies them, it’ll get them interested in finding out more. The question should relate to a solution that your product or service offers, and get them curious about how you might solve it.

Fourth, have a plan to handle hot prospects. If someone is obviously interested, have an action plan for the next steps that it takes to get them to the sale. Does it take a follow-up call from someone back at the office? Does it take filling out an order form? Whatever your process involves, make sure that the steps are easily understood, not just by your sales team, but also by the prospect.

Fifth, you should have a strategy in place to grade your leads. The ‘hot’ leads are handled first, the warm leads are handled next and the cool leads are put on a mailing list of sent a white paper or something. Whatever your system is, make sure it happens. More sales are lost due to lack of follow up than any other reason in tradeshow marketing. It’s been reported that approximately 4 of 5 leads are never followed up with. That’s money left on the table.

Finally, assume the attitude that you’re there to HELP someone solve a problem, not SELL him or her a pre-packaged solution. People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy a solution to their problem. Keep asking your questions, look to peel the onion down to uncover the visitor’s real issue, and then explain to them how your product or service will benefit them. Yes, it sounds great in theory, but in the real world it’s probably more clunky and funky to actually make happen. But it can. Eyes light up when your visitor sees a solution to their difficult problem. And more importantly, wallets open up. Willingly.

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photo credit: vigour

Exploding iPad Use at Tradeshows

A few months ago I took a look at ways you can use iPads at tradeshows. Several bloggers chimed in with apps and ideas that were are worth a look. Given the exploding popularity of iPads once the iPad 2 came out in March of this year, perhaps its time to take another look.

Classic Exhibits of Portland is stepping into the hardware side of the iPad tradeshow discussion by making various bits of hardware, including counter inserts, swivel stands and other frames. Get a look here (yes, we’re a dealer – if you want an iPad mounting unit from Classic, give me a call or drop a line!)…

Roger Lewis at Alliance Tech looks at many ways iPads can be used, including (but not limited to): product demos, lead retrieval,  surveys, electronic marketing and social media. Check his post here.

The National Conference Center Blog chimed in with a few ideas for iPad usage here, including building navigation and white-boarding.

And if you’re considering using iPads at tradeshows, make sure you don’t do a few things, like not confirming you have wi-fi access (and more). This list thanks to FatStax Apps.

Lou Bartizan of Bartizan Connects recently posted a slideshow at on ways to use the iPad at tradeshows. Check it out here:

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