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:
What is the state of the TradeshowGuy Blog in 2017?
This blog started in December of 2008 with a podcast interview with Magic Seth. Since then, there have been 600+ posts that discuss and explore the tradeshow world and what it takes to succeed as a tradeshow marketer. The aim has always been to give useful information to small and medium-sized business tradeshow managers. In many ways, it’s succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. In some ways, I feel there’s much more work to do.
I started the blog when I was VP of Sales and Marketing for Interpretive Exhibits in Salem, Oregon. I picked the name TradeshowGuy mostly at random, but it wasn’t without some spurring by an old radio colleague who, when asking about my new job, I said I was no longer a radio guy, I was a tradeshow guy.
“Tradeshow Guy!” he exclaimed. So for lack of anything better, I named the blog TradeshowGuy Blog and it’s stuck. Hell, it’s copyrighted now and my company is named TradeshowGuy Exhibits, so it must have been a good pick.
Over the years I’ve followed some of the metrics associated with the blog, but I can’t say I obsess on them. In about the fourth or fifth year of the blog, shortly after I started tracking traffic using Google Analytics, I discovered there were about 3000 visitors a month. Not a ton, but certainly nothing to sneeze at. That was when I was posting as often as I could manage something substantial. Two or three years later I was too busy to post much and I noticed that traffic had dropped to about a tenth of than, around 300 a month.
Since then I’ve endeavored to post 2 – 3 times a week. Something. Anything: photo albums, tips, lists, videos, you name it. Traffic is now at its highest. According to Sitelock, human visitors add up to over 6000 visitors a month – about 210 a day over the past three months.
Buuuuut, when you look at Google Analytics, it shows 938 page views in 716 sessions with 632 users in the past month.
So who to believe?
Sitelock tracks both human and bot traffic and separates them out. Bot traffic is usually 10 – 15 times more than human traffic.
Any way you look at it, traffic is there and it’s consistent.
According to Google, 63% of visitors are there from organic search, and 26% comes from direct links (such as a newsletter). 8% comes from social media links.
I could ramble on and on about what it takes to come up with content for the blog for hours. In fact, I have taught courses about blogging, and done webinars about blogging and creating content. But that doesn’t make it easier. In fact, I don’t even know if I have a process. But I do have a goal: create at least 2 – 3 posts per week. If I do that, I know that traffic comes and people find me more often.
Content can come in many forms. Articles, video posts, podcasts, photographs, lists, guest articles, web travels and so much more. I still get a kick out of creating a great posts and clicking ‘publish.’
And I know it works. Our company TradeshowGuy Exhibits, see business as a direct result of people finding the blog and reaching out to make contact because they have questions about tradeshow marketing. Last year, in fact, over half of the business we did in dollars came as a direct result of people finding us online and either sending an email or filling out a quote request form. The year before, I know we acquired at least three clients as a direct result of the blog – so I know it gets attention in the tradeshow marketing industry space. But there’s no direct push-button response. There’s no way to predict these things! I can’t write eighteen blog posts and put up three videos to get a client. It just doesn’t work that way – if only it did! But when I started the blog eight years ago, I figured it couldn’t hurt. But as I said, it’s not predictable, so I don’t count on it – it’s just an additional benefit. I still do sales calls, attend tradeshows, network and prospect as any good sales person should.
Blogs are not the platform that they were six or eight years ago. Popular blogs back then got a lot of comments. Now most comments end up on Facebook and comments on blogs, even really popular ones, tend to be much less than just a few years ago. Facebook is the giant gorilla in the online space, and yes, you can find our TradeshowGuy Blog page here on Facebook, where all of the posts show up.
And finally, it’s worth mentioning that I’m ramping up my online visibility with the TradeshowGuy Webinars training portion. For all of 2016 I did a webinar a month, usually with a guest but sometimes not (you can find them here), and as the year wound down I decided to change it up a bit. I still use the WebinarJam/Google Hangout platform which seems to work relatively bugfree, but instead of monthly webinars, I’m doing live weekly Monday Morning Coffee gatherings and posting the video shortly thereafter on the blog. I’ve thought that I should probably podcast the audio as well, but as of today that hasn’t happened yet. I’m still trying to convince myself that the extra step is worthwhile!
More than two-thirds of exhibitors do not have a solid plan in place and end up making mistakes at the tradeshow as they exhibit.
In fact, not having an organized, comprehensive plan is one of the most common mistakes that exhibitors make.
And it’s safe to say that nearly all exhibitors don’t have a solid grasp of the metrics of their success or failure that comes from that tradeshow appearance. Why? Because companies tend to put all of their energy, time and money into putting on a good show, and very little into counting the results after the end of the show. Measuring your results – leads, sales closed – is one of the most critical measurements you can make.
Let’s look at some of the common mistakes you might make as you exhibit at the tradeshow.
First, you don’t have a comprehensive plan. This means going from A-Z and planning to cover all your bases, from pre-show marketing and show execution to having an exhibit that accurately represents your brand and communicates your message to counting leads and sales after the show is done. Know what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, how you’re planning to get back your return on the investment and where your tradeshow appearance fits in your overall marketing strategy.
Secondly, you may have the wrong people in the booth. Tradeshow floors are a chaotic busy mess where hundreds or thousands of people come and go all day long. Without proper preparation, which usually means staff training and picking the right people, you’ll end up with sales people or other staffers that can’t interact with precision, veracity and alacrity with those visitors. They’re not asking proper questions, they’re letting big fish get away and they’re spending too much time on little fish or people that won’t ever buy.
Third: you’re repeating yourself. Do you ever see the same company at the same show with the same exhibit year after year, showing off the same products? On close examination it seems nothing really changes from year to year. A company that’s on top of their game will upgrade the booth regularly or replace it when necessary; they’ll have new products to show off and new ways of interacting with visitors.
Fourth: you’re cheapening your brand by having inappropriate brand ambassadors in your booth. Pretty models in skimpy outfits may attract a crowd, but they do nothing to improve or define your company’s brand unless, of course, your brand is built on pretty models in skimpy outfits. Otherwise, in today’s climate, exhibiting in the US using those types of representatives will likely get you negative feedback.
Fifth: the biggest tradeshow marketing sin of all – you’re not following up on all of those leads in a timely manner. The fact that tradeshow leads are cheaper by the dozen and more targeted than any other kind of lead, coupled with the fact that your competitors have many of the same leads in their bucket, means that you must strike while the iron is hot. Letting a lead sit more than a few weeks means it grows colder and colder until you might as well toss it out with the other dead fish.
We all make mistakes – it’s part of life – but the more you can minimize mistakes with oodles of tradeshow marketing dollars on the table, the better off you’ll be.
We all have stories – narratives that we can use to let people know who we are and what we stand for.
In the recent US presidential election, it was truly a battle of narratives. One side was viewed as a stable, dependable candidate albeit having been painted as crooked for decades by the other side. The other candidate was viewed as an outsider looking to ‘drain the swamp,’ but was painted by the other side as vulgar, unpredictable and unstable.
We all know how the election turned out. But what’s interesting is that no matter how much fact-checking came into play by countless individuals and entities, that the narrative of each side was what mattered most. We tend to believe what we want to, and if the story that’s depicted resonates with us, we’ll be moved by it.
It’s the same with tradeshow marketing. I have a number of clients in the natural products industry, and each company endeavors to tell a specific story using images, colors, graphics and messaging as part of an exhibit. Each company backs that up with products that continue that story and personnel that believe in the narrative. If there is a weak link in the chain, the dissonance will be felt, even if it isn’t clearly seen or understood.
That’s why, when crafting your tradeshow marketing narrative, all elements are important. Think of it: you’re under the microscope in a location where dozens if not hundreds of direct competitors are being examined as well. Every little thing contributes to the overall perception of your product and company: your employees, the clothes they wear, how they present themselves; the graphics, messaging, images, colors, booth construction materials, the flooring – are all communicating a distinct message. And if your story or narrative is not fully understood by the people designing the booth and creating the graphics, there is a good chance that the message will be garbled.
From the whole grains company to the bread company to the natural deodorant company to the men’s hygiene products company, they are all working to tell their story so that it’s easily understood, that it’s intuitively inferred by visitors.
Smarter people that me have the knowledge to craft those stories based on their knowledge of images, colors, messaging and so on and how people absorb those messages. The top companies in any industry are the ones that do the best job of depicting a narrative that fully and simply tells the story that they intend to tell.
Yes, it’s upon us – 2017 – have you planned your new year tradeshow schedule? Chances are you’re at least planning a few months into the new year, but have you detailed out the entire year?
Tradeshow planning, as any tradeshow coordinator will tell you, is the key to success. And since there’s a lot to planning, it makes sense to spend a lot of your time making plans, checking plans and then double-checking.
Start with your tradeshow schedule. What shows are you going to? Make a master list of the dates of the shows.
Size of exhibit. Note the size of booth space your company has committed to rent at the various shows.
Break it down. Now start breaking out the various products and services that you’re promoting at each show. Chances are those items will change depending on the audience that’s expected at each show.
From there, you can start breaking out the graphics messaging, sampling needs if any, demos desired at each show and so forth. Break out the details as far as you can at this point; you’ll need to break them down further at some point anyway.
Now you can start determining how many people will be required at each show based on booth size and expected visitors. From this you can figure out what staff members will likely be tasked with working the show.
Beyond this, you can compile website URLs and contact information for all of the shows. Pull up previous year’s paperwork to compare to pricing and floor plan and booth location to what is happening this year.
From this you can compare costs and leads generated, perhaps going so far as to compile the number of new clients or sales generated from 2016 show appearances.
Once you’ve put down most of the broad strokes and details of your shows and booth rental spaces and so on, you can start the task of determining what, if anything, might be changed or added to your current booth properties. Is your exhibit in good shape, or does it need an upgrade of some sort? Or is this the year you’ve decided to invest in a brand new exhibit? That’s another task entirely, but it would be part of your yearly tradeshow schedule planning.
While this is really just a 30,000 foot view of the process, once you put this all together, the real fun begins of breaking out each element of each show and making them work successfully.
Tradeshow numbers rattle around my brain. It’s just part of the scene, man.
For instance, when someone asks how much exhibits costs, I whip out this factoid: industry averages for a custom designed and fabricated island booth ranges between $135 and $165 per square foot. Your mileage may vary.
If they ask about inline booths: Industry averages for inline booths is around $1,000 per linear foot. Again, your mileage may vary.
But there are other numbers, too. If you toodle on over to Statista and check out their facts on tradeshow marketing in the US, you uncover some more interesting numbers:
Average number of tradeshow visitors per 100 square feet of exhibit space in the US: 2.2
Average time tradeshow visitors spent viewing exhibits: 9.5 hours
Share of tradeshow visitors attending that tradeshow for the first time: 38%
Let’s stop a moment. Think about that last one. Over 1/3 of all tradeshow visitors to that show you’re exhibiting at are NEW to the show. Never been there before! You’re exposed to a whole lot of new people. And think about the number of people – 62% – that may already be familiar with your brand. Put those together and 100% of the people at the show you’re exhibiting at next are susceptible to your brand message.
Now a few more:
Share of tradeshow visitors planning to buy exhibited products or services: 48%
Share of potential audience who remembered visiting a company’s tradeshow exhibit: 81%
Worldwide the tradeshow industry is worth about $14 billion, which is about 2.7% in 5 years.
Even though tradeshow attendees average 2.3 days and 9.5 hours on the tradeshow floor each year, 46% of those attendees only go to one show a year – make that visit count!
82% of attendees had buying power, according to Exhibit Surveys. Sell something!
From big shows to regional and local shows, putting up a booth with an accompanying tradeshow marketing program is an effective way to reach new markets and create new business.
Let me close with some tradeshow numbers on one of the world’s largest shows. Last year’s Consumer Electronics Show drew more and 170,000 people for tech’s biggest show. In 2017, a show which closed down less than a week ago from this writing, the show celebrated its 50th anniversary with more than 3,800 exhibiting companies and more than 2.6 million net square feet of exhibiting space. More than 175,000 industry professionals, including 55,000 from outside the US for the Las Vegas event.
As much as I love Jeffrey Gitomer’s sales training (along with books, speeches, podcasts and more), I wasn’t sure where he’d come down on the idea of using tradeshows as a way to generate leads and sales. But when I saw the new Sell Or Die Podcast with Jeffrey Gitomer and Jennifer Gluckow, I had to share. This is just a brief snippet they posted on YouTube talking about tradeshows, and it’s a great start to the discussion:
Hmmm…maybe I should tell them about the TradeshowGuy Blog? As an old radio guy, I could probably figure out what to say as a guest on their podcast! Check out the Sell or Die podcast here.