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

August 2018

Top 5 Challenges Facing Tradeshow Managers

Not every tradeshow manager faces the same challenges. Some are overwhelmed by being understaffed. Others have a boatload of shows to deal with and it seems as if there is never a breather.

But in the work I’ve done over the years with tradeshow managers, the same handful of issues keep coming up as being significant challenges:

tradeshow manager challenges

Logistics: there are a lot of moving parts in tradeshow marketing. Shipping and I&D (installation and dismantle) make up a big part of those logistics. Add to that shipping product samples, getting everyone scheduled for the show and the booking a convenient hotel and many other bits and pieces and handling the logistics of tradeshow marketing is often outsourced. That’s one reason why at TradeshowGuy Exhibits we are taking on more and more logistic coordination for clients.

Exhibit Brand Management: keeping the booth updated from show to show. New product launches, new services and more means that the exhibit needs to be updated for upcoming shows to reflect that. It’s common, but the timeline sneaks up on people. In a sense, the challenge here is coordination between graphic designers, production facilities and making sure all items get done prior to the booth crates being shipped out.

Company Growth: Many companies we work with are doing very well. But that means moving from small pop-up type exhibits to more complicated exhibits with light boxes, custom counters and more – all of which ship in larger crates and would be set up by hired EAC’s (Exhibitor Approved Contractors). All of this change means that the person handling the shift is moving out of their comfort zone. They face a lot of choices around whether to hire installers, how to package the exhibit for shipping (crates vs. a handful of plastic molded cases, for example), and more.

Getting Good Results: Exhibitors who don’t get good results complain that tradeshows are a waste of time and money. Yet other exhibitors at the same show rave about how great the show was, how many new leads they made and new contacts they came away with, and how many sales were closed. So what’s the difference? Frankly, many exhibitors don’t prepare or execute well. Tradeshow marketing is not rocket science, but with all of the moving parts it’s easy to let a few items slip through the cracks. And those missing items can make all the difference between success and failure.

Budget: It costs a lot of money to exhibit at tradeshows. For companies that do tradeshows, the amount invested in tradeshow marketing is about a third of their overall marketing budget. Making all of their tradeshow dollars stretch as far as possible is an ongoing challenge faced by all companies. For a long list of ways to cut costs at tradeshows, check out this webinar.

Other challenges include booth staff training, record-keeping, keeping track of your competition and other items, but if you can keep these few items under control, you’re doing better than a lot of your fellow exhibitors!

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, August 13, 2018: Bill Lampton

On this week’s podcast/vlog, I catch up with Bill Lampton, Ph. D. I’ve been reading his great newsletter, Winning Words and Ways, for years. So when I asked him to join me for TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I was honored that he accepted. We had a great conversation on the importance of good communication skills in the business and personal world:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Bon: The Last Highway by Jesse Fink.

Delegate for Tradeshow Project Success

It’s a good question to ask: how much do you delegate for tradeshow success? Most clients I deal with have someone in charge of the overall tradeshow project. Maybe they’re a Marketing Manager or Tradeshow Manager, or some other title such as Business Development Director. Most of them work with a small team.

delegation for tradeshow project success

Which means there is a certain amount of delegation and collaboration going on. Multi-tasking may be something that people try, but research tends to show that too much multi-tasking leads to less success. How do you walk that fine line between doing too much yourself as someone in charge of the project and just telling everyone else what to do, in essence leaving little for you except overseeing the project? Maybe if you’re a control freak you find it extremely difficult to give control over an aspect of the project to someone else – but you gotta learn how to do it! One of the challenges of doing it all yourself is that while you may have control over everything, there’s a chance that the standard of work will slip.

The good thing, I suppose, is that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer. Teams are different sizes, members have different skill sets and experience.

When it comes down to it, there are a handful of items to consider when managing a team for a tradeshow project.

Know Your Team

Many marketing teams we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits have an assortment of methods of getting the job done. For example, some teams outsource graphic design. Others outsource shipping and logistics. Some keep all of those things in-house. Most will hire an exhibit house for the final exhibit design and fabrication if it’s a new project, but the remainder of the tasks will often lie elsewhere. If it’s another show with your current exhibit, but a certain amount of updating needs to take place, it may not be as time-consuming and involved, but it still has to be done right.

Communicate Clearly and Often

The lack of communication is one of the biggest downfalls of collaboration and delegation. When a task is delegated, make sure that both parties are in full understanding of, and in agreement of, the specific tasks assigned and the deadline under which they must be completed. Even though you may have an in-person conversation or a phone call, I always recommend that a short email be created that details the tasks – if nothing else, in bullet points. There should also be an expectation that if problems, issues or challenges come up, that those will be brought to your attention as soon as possible. Like one of my old bosses once told me: “Bring me good news as soon as possible. Bring me the bad news even quicker.”

Know What to Delegate

Some items on the project to-do list will need approval from management for them to be completed. Other items will be less demanding. Since you’re in charge, it would make sense to keep the highest-skilled tasks to yourself, and the ones that till need buy-in and approval from management. Many tasks that go to other team members will also need instructions, especially if they’re new to your team. It may seem obvious to you how something is done, but if you’re assigning a task to someone, make sure they understand how it’s done – and how to know it’s done correctly.

Feedback is a Two-Way street

Once the project is complete, give feedback. If your team has done well, publicly thank them for the work and hand out genuine praise. But if some of them have come up short, let them know that as well. I’ve heard it said that you should “praise in public, criticize in private.” It’s a good approach. And make sure that all of your team members are free to offer their thoughts on how you’re delegating: did you give instructions that were clear? Did you make sure the right people got the right tasks, etc.?

Small Event Collaboration to Generate Sales Leads

During a two-hour workshop with trainer, author and content marketer Kathleen Gage this week, I took more notes and learned more about small event collaboration for lead generation than I think I’ve taken in for years.

While it’s true I collaborate with other people, I certainly don’t do it at the level that I could. That was clear in this workshop. Frankly, the ideas Kathleen presented gave me a lot to chew over.

small event collaboration

Think of a small event as one where you and some partners team up to bring a very focused target market together. This would generally a small group of anywhere from a few dozen to maybe a couple of hundred depending on your goals and scope of the event. The attraction to having people come to the event would be to have a few experts in the field share their knowledge. Show the value you offer, and if appropriate, make an offer during the event. It may or may not be appropriate.

Without giving away Kathleen’s secret sauce, the model for creating a winning event is to have a specific objective, determine what type of event will work, come up with a budget and assess your resources, find potential collaborative partners, and promote through media releases, email, phone calls, direct mail and more.

To me one of the key takeaways was to make sure that everyone at the event fills out an evaluation, where you ask the attendees if they are interested in a free consultation. During that follow up consultation, the conversation wouldn’t be focused on sales, but on determining if the potential client has a pain or a problem that you can fix. Only then would the actual sales conversation take place.

A few of the notes I jotted down during the event:

  • Create value before creating the offer.
  • Ask the right questions and get a better answer.
  • Disqualify people first – are they really qualified to do business with you?
  • What is your story? (Kathleen shared her story about her love of rescued animals – hence the pug photo!)
  • There is a difference between a “customer” and a “client.”
  • Until we create value, no matter what we sell, we are a commodity.
  • Get really clear on the type of client we really want.

As you search for your ideal client, look at your current clients: what are your common denominators? Kids? Pets? Sports?

Collaboration with partners using small (or maybe not so small) events can be a great avenue to growing your business, if done smartly and if the risk is minimized and spread around. Make it so that all partners have a lot to gain. It may not be like putting on a regular tradeshow, but a small private event can have a big impact, and I’m looking forward to exploring this whole concept with Kathleen further. Because, you know, in her evaluation she asked if I wanted a free, no-strings-attached consultation. I said yes.

Check out the podcast interview I did with Kathleen Gage here, and browse her website Power Up For Profits.

After All is Said and Done at the Tradeshow: The Follow Up

After the tradeshow, you get back home, unpack the bags, get a good night’s sleep (hopefully), show up at the office and are faced with the next step: the follow up.

For some, it’s drudgery. For others, it’s bittersweet: the show was fun, now the work begins.

Depending on how well you executed at the tradeshow, the follow up will either be fairly simple and straightforward, or a hot mess.

Let’s try to avoid the hot mess, okay?

tradeshow follow up

During the tradeshow, when you’re talking to visitors, identifying them as prospects or not, and collecting vital information, you’re really preparing for the follow up. Whether it’s something you’re doing yourself or handing off to a sales team, that information should be clean and precise. Which means that you’ve created a unique set of data for each prospect: name, company and contact info, and any particulars about the follow up. It might mean that all you’ve got is a date of a phone call, an in-person meeting or sending them an email with additional information. It might mean that they’ve committed to a purchase and you’re following up to seal the deal and deliver the goods.

Whatever your methods at the tradeshow, the follow up will be much easier, no matter who is doing it, as long as all the pertinent information is there. If it’s a potential customer, grade the lead: cool, warm, hot, so the sales team will know who to follow up with first.

It’s not rocket science, but so many companies fail on this step. Deals are left unsigned. Phone calls are not returned. Emails end up in the dormant file.

Figure out how to execute on the tradeshow follow up and you’ll be banking more business.

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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