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

March 2012

9 things I Learned from #Exhibitor and #ExpoWest

Reflecting on the week I spent in Las Vegas and Anaheim in early March…

  1. People are learning how to use QR Codes. Finally.
  2. Video gets people’s attention. The various videos I posted on the YouTube Tradeshowmarketing channel got me recognized time and time again.

    Wait a minute...are you sure we're in Las Vegas??
  3. NetworKing is king. By hanging out with people I knew, I kept meeting more people that I may work with in the future.
  4. I’m not, nor have I ever been, crazy about Vegas. Smoking in casinos (ugh), expensive everything (yeesh).
  5. People remember you if you show up year after year…and that’s a currency that’s hard to beat. It was my tenth year at Expo West.
  6. Referrals come from building a history. During Expo West I got a handful of leads, thanks to referrals. And showing up year after year.
  7. There’s a ton of material to be had for a blog at every show. Just look. Lift the rock and pick a topic.
  8. First time at Exhibitor, can’t wait for the next time. Feels good to rub elbows with long-time industry peeps.
  9. By early February, I assumed I would not make it to Expo West, but ended up going thanks to some generous clients.  Treat your clients well and they’ll treat you well.
  10. Bonus: Twitter is a great tool to meet people. I spent two days at Expo West connecting with tweeps I met online. “Hi, I’m @tradeshowguy – saw your tweet!” is a great opening line. Once people know who you are – even if it’s only a recognizable Twitter handle – they’re happy to talk to you.

David Meerman Scott’s NAMM Keynote

I’ve been a follower of David Meerman Scott for many years, and his find blog, and have interviewed him a couple of time for podcasts. His material is fresh, cutting-edge, and if you’re interested in learning about how social media works in real-time, he’s the guy to follow and learn from. Yes, it’s long – you’ll need an hour – but find time to watch this terrific keynote presented at this year’s NAMM January 20th in Anaheim.


David Meerman Scott keynotes the 2012 NAMM show from David Meerman Scott on Vimeo.

QR Codes Improve at Expo West

A year ago at Expo West I scanned about 20 QR Codes to see how they worked and to see how companies were using the technology.

Ciao Bella's smartphone-optimized WR Code landing page

The results were disappointing. Not a single QR Code hit on all aspects of user-friendly usability. They fell into one of the follow categories: didn’t work at all (1); didn’t scan at all because they were too small, too far away (too high) or looked weird because they were on an uneven surface (temporary tattoos) (about 15 of them); or the URL landing page wasn’t optimized for a smart phone (the remainder).

This year at Expo West I wasn’t as scan-happy, but I did find that many more QR Codes did work, and did exactly what they intended. Not all, but many. Out of about a dozen

Burt's Bee's 'Gud' smartphone-optimized WR Code landing page

codes I scanned, all of them worked (they took me to a landing page), and about half of the landing pages were optimized for viewing in a smart phone.

Some notable examples: Gud, from Burt’s Bees and Ciao Bello (see screen shots). Both had nice looking landing pages, which were easy to navigate, and very inviting. Both accomplished their purposes of providing a good answer to the question: why should I scan this QR Code.

Check out the Kindle version of my QR Code Tradeshow Marketing Guide here (cheap!) if you want to know how to make these puppies work right.

Facebook Business Pages Change for Good March 31

Your business page will move to the new ‘timeline’ appearance on March 31st, whether you’re ready or not.

The biggest change is that if you have a default landing page, it will no

longer steer new visitors to the default page. Instead, all new visitors will see the same timeline. However, you can create separate tabs (landing pages) and use that link to drive traffic. It makes sense to Facebook, because now if you want to have people land on a specific page, you might buy Facebook advertising to do so.

Of course, you can also create the tab/landing page, and send the link

out in emails, or via your social media platforms.

Social Media Examiner outlines the 7 ways that the timeline will impact businesses.

The list covers the main photo and profile image, highlighted and pinned posts, setting company milestones, apps, Facebook offers, insights/admin panel and advertising. If you’re involved in your company’s Facebook page, this short tutorial is worth your time. From my initial reading, the apps and offers (which roll out shortly) would be a great place to create something special to urge people to your tradeshow appearances and events. It’ll probably take a little creativity, but there are plenty of opportunities in the new Facebook look to tie in with your event and tradeshow appearances.

GoodBelly Looks at Expo West Social Media Marketing

I spent a few moments with Ariel Scott, the Marketing Manager  with NextFoods at the GoodBelly booth in Anaheim this past weekend during Expo West 2012. Since I dig their products so much (tasty and good for ya), I gave her a chance to expound on the products. Then I asked her about how GoodBelly uses social media marketing…take a look:


Why Don’t Exhibitors Return?

After walking the floor at the Natural Products Expo West for a full day, it occurred to me that a number of exhibitors I had met and talked to the past couple of years were not here. Even though it’s huge show with thousands of exhibitors, and it might be easy to overlook them, that’s not the case: I looked them up on the show app and couldn’t find them.

They had vanished. Why? I wondered.

Of course, there are myriad reasons why a company wouldn’t return to a show for a third of fourth year, or even a second year.

It could be that the marketing goals have changed; they don’t have enough money; the company went out of business, there isn’t a market for their product, they can’t establish themselves against their competitors…any number of things would affect the ability of a company to show up at a huge industry tradeshow year after year.

Then I thought of the many companies I’ve seen and met that DO come year after year. When we discuss the show, and the success they’ve had, one common theme threads through the discussion: they all build their company’s success using the tradeshow as a springboard.


Many of those exhibitors that failed had solid social media marketing efforts. They were active in luring visitors to their booth. But even a good social media effort won’t cure the overall problem. What if you get people to your booth and you still fail in execution once they arrive?

If those exhibitors that fail to return to the show are doing things right away from the show, other factors notwithstanding, it really comes down to execution at the tradeshow itself.

There is a continuous chain of preparation and execution that has to happen to ensure the success of the tradeshow marketing effort, and if any one of those links are broken, the whole effort will fail.

Starting with the actual tradeshow booth, on to the pre-show marketing efforts, the show execution, and the follow-up with leads, all cylinders need to be hitting for the full effect: tradeshow marketing success.

While walking the show, I notice things, and one of the most glaring examples I see is staff failure. Many booths seem to have it all going: it’s great looking, the graphics are top-notch, the booth is functional and accommodating…yet the staff appears to be oblivious to visitors. They’re eating, talking on the phone, standing with their backs to the entrance, ignoring visitors…it’s truly astonishing to me that a company will spend tens of thousands of dollars on a booth, travel, booth space rental, advertising, marketing – and yet the whole effort flops because their staff is ill-trained.

There are other, less obvious, failures. For instance, graphics are ill-designed, packed with too much text or not distinguishing themselves from the competition. The photographs and graphics are not catchy enough compared to their neighbor. Or they have a giveaway that’s not capturing a specific, focused group of people (anyone want a new iPad? Yes, everyone does, and that’s the problem: not everyone is a prospect). When you’re competing against thousands of exhibitors trying to catch the eye of someone walking by your booth, you have literally about three seconds to visually grab them. If the graphics are lame or the display is packed with too much verbiage, the visitor won’t respond – they’ll keep on walking. And chances are they won’t be back.

Bottom line: tradeshow marketing can be extremely successful. I see multiple examples and talk to dozens of people that claim tradeshow marketing is their best platform for company growth and expansion. Yet…if a link in the chain is missing, the marketing manager will see the effort crumble, and struggle to identify the problem.

On your next tradeshow marketing effort, do your best to ensure the chain is strong from start to finish.

THEN you can tweet about it!

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