Less than a week from the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland at the Expo Center. It’s next Wednesday and Thursday the 23rd and 24th of January. I’ve attended the show three times, and this is the first time as an exhibitor. I’m looking forward to it, but I don’t have a good sense of how well we’ll do at the show. I would bet a lot of exhibitors feel the same going into shows. There’s a significant amount of money on the line, and hopefully the ROI is positive, right?
I wanted to do some modest pre-show marketing, aimed at exhibitors, specifically at the show’s exhibitors. I made up a postcard, had a bunch printed up and sent about five dozen to exhibitors, those that I could track down mailing addresses. As an aside, do you notice that it’s hard to find some businesses online? Many don’t have websites, and many that have websites are coy about their locations. The only way to get in touch with many small businesses is to fill out an online form, click “submit” and hope someone actually reads it. Some time. And don’t get me started about making calls.
However, the five dozen postcards went out and only two came back as non-deliverable, so I took that as a good sign. The card invited exhibitors to drop by our booth to pick up a free copy of one of my books while supplies last. The goal? To find out if any exhibitors are planning to make changes in the next year, and to capture contact information and follow up in a timely manner. Sounds like a straightforward plan, right? I’ll let you know.
If you’re heading to the show, come see us in booth #420 at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland at the Expo Center!
From celebrity promoters to next-level artificial reality adventures, trade shows are becoming less about selling and more about experiencing. And that’s by design, as trade show trends shift with culture at large. Today, there are two big trends influencing the marketplace: 1. Consumers, especially millennials, are becoming more minimalist. 2. Simultaneously, consumers are shifting their spending away from goods and more towards experience-related services, says management consulting firm McKinsey.
Because trade show trends mirror what’s going on in the rest of the marketplace, the best event marketers are those who are totally tuned in to the buyer’s needs right now. To create effective trade show displays in 2019, you have to very closely understand what buyers want, what they expect and what will entice them to stop and take notice of your booth in a sea of competitors. Here are some of the ones we’ll be able to bank on this year.
It’s All About Immersion: Trade Show Experiences
The basic booth and table will no longer do. In today’s sales landscape, marketers need to stand out by creating displays that quite literally draw visitors in. The goal is to achieve effective narrative marketing by removing the consumer (not literally, of course) from the convention center and taking him or her on an exciting journey that elicits emotion. This can be done in many distinct ways, but some of the best are the ones listed below.
Artificial Reality—Companies in the tech space have been incorporating augmented and virtual reality components into their event displays for a couple of years now, but things are starting to really ramp up in this space. Experts are already predicting that AR will overtake booths at the world’s biggest tech trade show, CES 2019, with displays highlighting new AR products (especially non-wearable AR, like smart mirrors) and also helping to sell non-AR products using interactive, immersive demos and presentations. Experiential Design—Experiential design, though broad, vaguely refers to the art of creating spaces that provide some sort of experience. Often, this means taking a small corner of a convention center and transforming it into a totally different place entirely, like a store, a playground, an art gallery or a hotel room. For example, logistics giant FedEx recently showed up at the China International Import Expo with a giant airplane mock-up at the center of their display, while other big-name brands have developed full-blown store experiences at this year’s retail conventions. Multi-Sensory Experiences—In addition to the brightly colored backgrounds and banners that please the eyes, the coolest new displays have begun to incorporate elements that appeal to all other senses as well. Visitors will be able to jump into full-blown tactile, auditory and gastronomic experiences at this year’s trade shows, with big sounds, sights, smells and flavors to experience. Designers are also beginning to invite show-goers into exhibitor’s spaces to play and explore, with instruments, toys, seating areas and gadgets to try. Everything Brand-New—The 2019 Global Consumer Trends report published by the market research company Mintel gives us some fascinating new info on the latest consumer behaviors. The report showed that consumers are more adventurous than ever—they love to travel alone, experience new places and order foods they haven’t tried before. At trade shows and in other marketing sectors, we can expect to see an uptick in the new, fascinating, unusual and intriguing.
Appealing to the Consumer: Getting Crafty
To understand trade show trends, you have to understand what your audience wants. Most buyers at industry events are professionals with purchasing power (in fact, 81 percent of those who attend have some kind of buying authority), but they are also consumers who get giddy at the thought of fun, new experiences. You can bet that you’ll forge a positive brand image when you go for some of the ideas below. Shareable Elements—It doesn’t matter where they go, consumers look for “shareable” spaces and experiences that would contribute to nicely encapsulated social media posts. In 2019, we can expect to see many more booths creating special “photo ops” for show-goers to share to social media. This is great news for the marketer, as it offers more opportunity for building brand recognition and creating a positive presence across social. Special Guests and Performances—Take a look at some of the biggest conventions and trade shows for 2019 and you’ll see a lineup peppered with celebs. Last year, we saw big-name celebs like Tina Fey, Jamie Foxx and Spike Lee gracing the stages of big industry events, and this year’s no different. Look out for actors, musicians, change-makers and entrepreneurs beefing up the speaking agendas of the biggest conferences in tech, music and marketing. Everything Ethical—Again, trade show trends tend to mirror what’s going on in the greater consumer economy. Now more than ever, buyers care about patronizing eco-friendly, responsible and ethical businesses and will quickly alienate the ones who are less focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). We’ll certainly see more brands in 2019 highlighting their CSR efforts in the trade show market, including through more eco-friendly displays and demos. All Things Personal—The personalization train hasn’t slowed yet. In fact, it’s primed to pick up some speed this year. As you probably know, buyers are gravitating to more personalized products and experiences across all industries, and this should be applied to trade show marketing, too. We can expect to see the most success coming from booths that create a personal experience by offering one-on-one staffing and personal engagements.
Paying Attention to the Consumer Market
As you can see, the most important thing about trend-spotting in the trade show world is trend-spotting in the world. If you can identify some of the key drivers of the greater market, and you can implement them into your trade show display strategy, you’ll be well on your way to a hefty return on investment from your event marketing efforts.
Why do so many companies come up short with their tradeshow marketing plans? Often it’s in the execution. They have good plans, good people and a solid product or service to market. But their overall idea of how tradeshow marketing should be approached and executed isn’t strong enough.
With that, I sat down with Dianna Geairn and Alice Heiman of Tradeshow Makeover, a recently-formed company, to dig deep into how companies might want to consider approaching their overall tradeshow marketing program:
Dianna and Alice have graciously offered to share a couple of items that you, as a tradeshow marketing manager or small exhibiting company, may find helpful:
To most people I work with in the tradeshow industry, teamwork is the key to success. But many tradeshow marketing managers are saddled with the idea that if it’s going to get done, there’s only one person that can do it. The tradeshow manager.
Therefore, it becomes hard to delegate. Hard to give up control. They may not be a control freak, but they’re close enough to where it prevents the work of a good team from being as good as it could be.
You see this on sports teams. My sport, from when I was a kid, was basketball. When you are in control of the ball, a tendency for young players is to hold on to it until they good a good shot. Not all people, of course. There are always members on the team who don’t want the responsibility, so they pass the ball at the first opportunity. Often, the pass is the wrong move. It’s to the wrong person. It’s for the wrong reason. They might have even had an open shot but didn’t take it because they didn’t have confidence that they’d make it.
Great teamwork doesn’t happen overnight. But the longer you work with a team, the more you understand each team member’s strengths and weaknesses.
One person may be great at record-keeping. Another may be great at outreach to clients and customers. Another may have an easy time reaching members of the media to persuade them to feature the company in their publication. Yet another may have an intuitive sense of how to design graphics so that they attract the right people.
Every team is different. And teams are fluid. Even a team that’s been together for years can find things changing over time. And when new members arrive or when members leave, things get even more fluid.
But a good manager of the team recognizes how to best delegate tasks to different people for maximum results. A good manager of a team knows their own limitations and realizes that, no, they can’t really do it all.
They need a good team to do it all. And teams can always improve.
Is that a crazy question – are you motivated by fear or love when it comes to tradeshow marketing? After all, it’s just business, right? And setting up an exhibit at a tradeshow is just a basic business decision.
But no matter if it’s a personal or a business situation, both fear and love can come into play. Among both clients and among people I meet at tradeshows, love plays a part because, let’s face it, lots of people love tradeshows! They love the noise, chaos, meeting loads of people, selling, setting up a sharp-looking exhibit and so on. But they also fear things. Like not meeting deadlines, spending too much money, not getting a good ROI, being in a poor location, having lack of control over the outcome.
I got to thinking about all of this because TradeshowGuy Exhibits will be exhibiting at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference later this month in Portland with about another 100 exhibitors. It’s a modest regional show that draws mostly Oregon-based companies, but it does attract some out-of-state exhibitors. As most exhibitors, we’re putting money, time and energy on the line. And we don’t know if we’ll get out of it what we really want. Which is to generate more business and leads, and to get a good return on investment.
Which means I’m motivated by both love and fear. Love of this business and getting out and mixing it up with people face-to-face. Fear of having our expectations come up short due to things beyond our control.
What IS within our control are the many steps that we can take prior to the show to generate some traffic at our booth; the actual exhibit; and of course, how we interact with people. Just this week I sent out dozens of post cards to exhibitors inviting them to come by the booth to pick up a copy of one of my books. And once they do, we’ll engage them in a conversation to determine if they’re a potential client by going through the various questions a good exhibitor should do.
Regardless of your motivation – love or fear – the one thing you can control is your activity. Know what your plan is, know how to execute it, and most of all, if the plan isn’t working, be prepared to make adjustments.
NAB Show Cares is seen in the tradeshow industry as a groundbreaking program designed to assist exhibitors to have a better sense of exhibiting costs, and to keep those costs down. BJ Enright of Tradeshow Logic discusses the program, how it came about, its current status and what the future might hold.
When I started this blog in November 2008, it was a different world. I was employed as VP of Sales and Marketing by Interpretive Exhibits, where I started in April 2002. In 2008 Barack Obama was elected president, gas prices spiked at one point, averaging over $4.10 per gallon. First class postage stamps were 42 cents. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was officially inaugurated in October of that year. And there was a global recession triggered by (among other things) a real estate bubble, Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, and a stock market crash. And remember credit default swaps? Ooooh, booy.
By 2008 I had spent six+ years in the tradeshow world and was still making my way around it. When an old radio friend kidded me by calling me “Tradeshowguy” I didn’t think much of it. But then blogging was becoming a thing, and as someone who liked to write, I wanted an outlet that had to do with my daily routine. And since it was easy to register a website domain, I did so with TradeshowGuyBlog.com. Just because. Even though I was employed by Interpretive Exhibits, I made sure that when I started this blog, it was not too closely aligned with them. I felt since it was my content, it should be separate. At the time, there were a lot of mentions and links on the blog of IE, but when the owner retired in 2011 and closed the company, I kept the blog going, started TradeshowGuy Exhibits and kept moving forward.
Being an old radio guy who had a home studio, I started calling consultants and industry experts and interviewing them and posting the interviews on the blog. Actually, I had been doing that prior to starting the blog and posting the interviews on the Interpretive Exhibits website, which I was also in charge of. It was my way of learning more about the industry and working to differentiate myself from other people in the industry.
Ten years down the line, what have I learned and gained from blogging? Here’s a quick list:
Blogging is a commitment. Ya gotta show up, all the time. No blogging for a week or two or three and then waiting another month or four. You have to be there, all the time. Each blog is different, and it doesn’t matter a whole lot the frequency of posting, but it has to have a regularity about it. Whether it’s once a week, three times a week, twice a month. Readers should expect you to have something new on a regular basis.
You don’t just have to write. You can also post video, audio and photographs. Even the occasional slide deck! Lots of options, so you’re not stuck with just writing.
It doesn’t have to be long.Seth Godin blogs every day. Every. Single. Day. Most are short. But he’s always there, he’s always showing up.
You learn a ton. By writing about anything, you end up learning more about what you write about. Sometimes it means you’re researching or talking to people. But often the simply act of putting words together helps you understand what it is you’re trying to communicate.
Blogging isn’t a quick way to make more money. But it does bring in clients, if only haphazardly and almost accidentally. I’ve had companies find me because of my blog and they’ve become customers. One year, 2016, two-thirds of my company’s business came about because I was found online. Next year, that was down to less than ten percent. There’s no direct line between one and other but there is a line! But people do find me through this blog, and now and then someone buys something.
By posting video, you learn a lot about video production. By posting audio, you can learn more about audio production. Even though I did audio production for years as a radio guy, it’s always fun to see what else you can do with digital audio production.
Blogs are the perfect platform for podcasting and vlogging (video-blogging). I started TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee so I could have a regular outlet to get in front of a microphone and camera and share more of what I’m doing. Having a weekly deadline where I KNOW I have to produce is a good motivator.
You have to be transparent. Yes, you can hide some things, but a blog generally lets people see the real you. Especially if you add in a regular podcast where you talk about yourself and your business. And in this day and age, that is an advantage because it helps make connections that you might not otherwise make so easily.
Blogging allows me to meet a lot of people. This is mainly the result of asking people to sit for a short interview for my podcast, but however we connect, they know who I m, and I learn who they are.
By blogging, I feel I’m always moving forward. The blog is a great space to share what the company is doing, to highlight new products, shows I attend or exhibit at, people I meet and much more.
Now that I’ve (surprisingly) gotten ten years of blogging under my belt, I think I have a good idea of what this is all about. Almost. Stick with me and let’s see where it goes!
If you’re prepping for your trade show debut, you probably already know a little something about how industry events can transform your business for the better. There’s a reason why the vast majority (87 percent) of C-suite executives believe in this tactic as a high-value marketing strategy and are investing more and more in this niche. It all has to do with the fact that attending the right trade shows can seriously bolster your biz and, in some scenarios, it can do it without a huge spend. But the keyword here is right.
How Many Attendees Can I Expect?—You’ll spend lots of time and money orchestrating your debut—from coordinating a pro-level trade show setup to booking flights and accommodations for your team—and it will all be for naught if no one shows up at the event. Make sure that the show’s organizing body can present you with measurable, historical data illustrating how many people have showed up in previous years. Note that trade shows come in all shapes in sizes, from massive 100,000-plus attendee events to smaller conventions that cater to just a few thousand people.
What Percentage of Attendees Has Buying Power?—Numbers are important, but don’t make your decision about whether to exhibit solely based on how many people will attend. The fact is that some attendees are more valuable than others, and you’d be better off exhibiting to a thousand decision-makers in your niche than a million entry-level employees in the industry at large. While some 84 percent of trade show attendees have the power to make or recommend final purchasing decisions, you should always ask the show at hand if they have event-specific data. This is important if your main objective is to close deals.
What Is the ‘NSF’ of the Event?—In the trade show world, “NSF” refers to “net square feet.” This number equals the total square footage of all the rooms, areas and floor space in the given event venue. For reference, the country’s largest convention center, McCormick Place in Chicago, offers 2.6 million square feet of prime exhibit space. This, along with the number of attendees and the number of exhibitors, is often used as an indicator of the size of the event. The NSF will help you get a better visual of the breadth of the venue to help you determine whether or not this type of event truly aligns with your brand image and overall business goals.
How Many Exhibitors Will Attend?—This is a good metric to know if you’re concerned with the presence of competitors. The last thing you want to do is be one of dozens of exhibitors in the exact same space vying for the attention of a small number of attendees. Note: You shouldn’t automatically be turned off by events with a high number of competitors, especially if you have the ability to stand out by creating an eye-catching trade show display or by leveraging the uniqueness of your product or service.
How Many Years Have You Been in Existence?—We’re not saying you should automatically write-off first-time events. In fact, new conventions often offer discounts to exhibitors and may present you with the opportunity to grab better display real estate for a lower price. With that said, we don’t recommend that your very first exhibition be at a fresh, new event. You went to get your feet wet in the trade show world by experiencing one that’s well-attended and well-run. You can then use these events as benchmarks with which to measure the newer ones you attend later down the road.
Is the Event Open to the Public?—Surprisingly, the way an event is labeled actually does matter. Trade shows are typically organized to cater to those within the trade and may be closed off to the public, whereas other exhibitor-focused events—often labeled as “shows,” “festivals” or “cons”—can usually be attended by those in the community or members of the general public. If your goal is to exhibit primarily to other businesses, it’s probably best to stick to events labeled as trade shows.
Will There Be Additional Events?—Trade shows and conventions don’t simply exist to help you interface with potential clients and customers. They can also help you with other business objectives, like forging valuable partnerships, finding business suppliers, getting new ideas and even finding potential employees (some execs use these events as a method of “poaching” top talent). Much of this goes on at extraneous events, such as roundtables, networking events, speaking engagements and off-sites. Make sure to get a list of all the offshoot events before committing to a show.
Will I Be Able to Get Premium Real Estate?—Finally, try to gauge what kind of booth real estate you can get with your budget at this particular show. This is one of the best reasons why talking with a representative from the hosting body is a good idea when you’re planning. You can ask questions like “How much booth space can I get for my budget?” and you might find that the reps will help stretch your space and find you the best location for your buck. Often, the most successful exhibitors are those who have good spots on the floor.
Talk to Others Who Have Attended
While it is important that you get the facts and figures from the
trade show organizer, it can also help if you present some questions to others
who have attended the same event in the past. Pose the question among your networking
circle, on industry forums or on social media to get real, unbiased opinions on
the show. Once you find the perfect event for your specific niche, budget and
business objectives, you can be confident that exhibiting will bring a
measurable return on investment.