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

January 2019

Tradeshow Marketing: Are You Motivated by Fear or Love?

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.

Do you fear cows? Or do you love them?

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.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, January 7, 2019: BJ Enright

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.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Old School!

10 Things I’ve Learned from 10 Years of Blogging

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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

8 Questions to Ask Before Committing to a Tradeshow Event

This is a guest post by Stacy Gavin.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Stacy Gavin is in charge of eCommerce Digital Marketing for HalfPriceBanners.

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