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

February 2019

The Art of the Tradeshow Follow Up

As a marketer, it’s pretty common to come back to the office with a healthy list of names and contact information that you’re planning to follow up on. And don’t do it very well.

Follow up is necessary in any sales endeavor, but you’d be surprised (or maybe not) by how bad or ineffective some salespeople are.

Example: a couple of years ago I was pitched on LinkedIn (not my favorite way of being pitched, but that’s a story for another day), and thought the offer was something I was at least interested in checking out. I ended up spending $50 or so on an hour consultation, which was useful, but was set up as a prelude to a bigger prize: a longer-term commitment to bigger and better ongoing, personalized consultation.

When we wrapped up the initial hour – at which we both had some time and money invested – the implicit understanding was that I would be hearing from him about possibly engaging me on a larger purchase.

I never heard from him again. Had I, I would have seriously considered his pitch. I thought his initial information in the one-hour consultation was useful, and I saw some potential for doing future business.

But it never happened. Because he never followed up.

When I meet exhibitors at a tradeshow, I look to get a name and business card – and then leave them to their business. I’m not trying to sell anything there. That all comes later. Yes, sometimes we do get into those sales conversations – at their lead.

And in this industry – tradeshow exhibit sales – the sales cycle is long. Companies don’t make capital investments in tradeshow exhibits often – maybe every 5 – 7 years. Or MORE. So the key to making a sales is to be someone that is remembered when the time is right.

Which is why I follow up as many times as it takes when I have a lead I feel is worthwhile. Not every lead develops into a sale. But the leads I let drop and don’t follow up on NEVER lead to a sale.

Lead Follow Ups

What’s your lead follow up look like? Do you have a system?

There are no absolutely right or wrong ways. Any follow up system is better than no system at all. But to me it makes sense that your follow up system should include most, if not all of the following:

A way to track everything. I use Excel, creating a spreadsheet that tracks date, name, company, potential client, reminders, phone numbers and other pertinent notes. I tried Salesforce and used it for a couple of years, but the tools were way more than I ever needed, and the cost couldn’t be justified based on the usability. Tried Pipe Drive, too, but it wasn’t a good fit, either. To me the spreadsheet may be a bit clunky, but it’s easily searchable, and if set up right, can easily track all pertinent data.

Calendar to remind you of follow-ups. Google calendar works great for me. As soon as I get off the phone and enter a note in my spreadsheet, if there’s a follow-up call agreed on, I’ll add it to my Google calendar and put a reminder notification about ten minutes prior. Google calendar is also very useful because you can copy and paste phone numbers and other notes, which means you don’t have to go searching for the notes in a spreadsheet.

LinkedIn: not everyone I follow up with is on LinkedIn, but a good 90% are there. That way I can scan their profile to get a sense of the person, and if something pertinent comes up I can reference it (went to same school, worked in same city, root for the same team, or whatever).

Ways to Follow Up

About the follow up itself, here are the ways that I use:

Email: make the initial contact after the show via email within a few days. Short, to the point – “nice to meet you, just wanted to reach out and express my hope that you had a great show, etc.” if there is a specific follow up that you both talked about, bring that up.

Phone: I call people a lot. It’s hard to get in touch with people on the phone, but it’s much more personal than an email, and harder to ignore. Plus, my pleasant personality (of course!) shines through. It’s pretty easy to tell within a moment or two if there is a real lead there.

Snail Mail: If I have a pretty good lead, I’ll send one of my books. Hard to ignore, and easy to remember as time goes by. If you don’t have a book, send some swag. In speaking with a marketing pro in the last year or two, we came up with some things to send that can make an impression, including stress balls (including note that says “don’t stress over your next show!”), measuring tape (“measure your success with us!”), microfiber cleaning cloth (“clean up your booth and clean up on your competition!”), a custom-printed company calendar (in December of course), coffee gift cards (“let’s chat over coffee!”), sunglasses (“when you work with us, the future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades!”), and so on. Lots of ideas. Send one every few weeks for a year, combined with email outreach and it becomes harder for them to forget you.

And if your personality allows you, have a lot of fun with it!

Don’t forget hand-written thank you notes when you acquire a new client, or even when you have a successful in-person meeting or phone conference. People love to get thank you notes.

If you have prospects that are not qualified for immediate business, but them in a long-term follow system. Do outreach (email, snail mail, phone call) every 4 – 6 months, just to remind them you’re still there. Things do change, nothing is ever static. People move, new people take over. I’ve made sales at companies where I thought I had no chance, but suddenly there’s a new person at the helm and they are looking for something new.

The Three Keys

The three keys to follow up success in sales, whether the lead came from a tradeshow or somewhere else:

Patience is a virtue. Play the long game, don’t give up. Persistence is the other side of the patience coin. Use both.

Be consistent. If you’re going to engage with prospects on a regular basis

Be yourself. Just because a system works for another sales organization or another person doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Keep tweaking, keep working, keep what works, don’t keep doing what doesn’t work.

It all sounds so simple, right? But sales, whether from tradeshow leads or direct or from other forms of lead generation, takes consistent planning and work.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, February 25, 2019: Ronnie Noize

There are a lot of basics to marketing, and we all often think we’re doing everything we should. Then we hear someone like Ronnie Noize spelling out some simple steps and we think “hmmm…might have missed something!”

Ronnie Noize of DIY Marketing Center in Vancouver, Washington, joins me for today’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, and shares not only her top five marketing tips, but her top five “prosperity” tips as well. Good stuff!

This week’s ONE GOOD THING is the documentary on Polish sculptor and artist Stanislav Szulkalski, called “Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szulkalski.”

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Why Rent Tradeshow Furniture?

Renting furnishings at a tradeshow may or may not be a good fit for you. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Rental Furniture is new, and in top-notch condition
  • Lots of choices – you’re not stuck with the same furniture show after show
  • Cost is less than purchasing it new
  • You don’t have to pay to ship it – cost is all-inclusive
  • It’s delivered right to your booth space – when the show is over, just leave it there
  • You don’t have to store the furniture
  • Furniture you own will degrade, become damaged or dinged over time, and go out of fashion
  • By owning furniture, you have to pay to ship and pay to store

Cons:

  • Renting furniture might seem expensive to you; owning cuts costs in the long run
  • If you rent furniture 2, 3, or 4 times, you will likely have paid the full cost and don’t have anything to show for it except old bills
  • You own it, you only pay for it once and can use it as many times as you like
  • Less hassle – you own it, you have one less subcontractor and bill to deal with

Depending on what appeals to you, or to your financial or storage situation, renting furniture may be the right thing. Or not!


Take a look at some of the possibilities of rental furniture here.

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There’s Always Another Tradeshow

When it comes to tradeshow exhibiting, is it wrong thing to think, “Well, there’s always next time!”?

Maybe your most recent tradeshow didn’t go as well as it could have. You didn’t meet all the people you had hoped to and didn’t bring home as many leads as you were thinking you should have. Your staff’s interactions with visitors weren’t as good as they could have been.

In other words, you’re thinking that it may have been a waste of time.

If you think that, spend some time to identify WHY it might have been a waste of time.

Was it the wrong show? Maybe your expectations of the show itself were unrealistic. The show organizers might not have been as clear as you’d have liked on the state of the show. They could have assumed more people would show up, but the audience just wasn’t there.

Was it the wrong audience? Each show has a specific audience. If the audience isn’t a good fit for your products or services, it could be that you didn’t assess the show well enough.

Do you have a great exhibit that invites people in?

Was your booth staff lacking in training? A well-trained booth staff can lift you above mediocre or average expectations. After all, they’re the front line in your interactions with the attendees. If the staff hasn’t been properly trained on that interaction, your results will reflect that.

Were your products or services either “blah” or not properly represented in your market? Your competition may have similar products and services, but if you staff was not fully engaged and the presentation of your products was indistinct, or fuzzy, or unclear, you won’t catch attendees’ eyes. Was your exhibit not up to the task? An old or poorly designed exhibit might save you money to ship and set up, and put off another capital investment, but if it doesn’t look good, or have the functional elements that you need to properly execute your tradeshow, it’ll cost you money in the long run, not save you money.

On the other hand, if you’re saying “Well, there’s always another tradeshow” and you’re at least modestly pleased with the results, take a hard look at what worked and what didn’t. Maybe your booth staff was good but could be better. That’s a pretty easy fix.

Or maybe your exhibit is decent, and only needs a few minor upgrades to make it really good. Another easy fix.

Other things to look at: pre-show marketing, post-show follow-up, cutting costs for shipping or logistics, and so on. Individually, they may not have a big impact, but executing each element better than last time can have a cumulative impact that’s hard to ignore.

At the end of the show, when everybody has had a chance to review from their perspective what worked and what didn’t, and why, do a debrief. But don’t wait too long – do it the first or second day you’re back in the office. That will give a little time for reflection from all participants, but not so much time that they’ll forget important feedback.

Based on what comes out of that debrief, make decisions that will better prepare you for the next show. Because there’s always another tradeshow.


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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, February 18, 2019: Tesla Test Drive

What motivates you? Recognition? Money? Promotions? Sometimes a motivation is pretty straight forward. In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I test drive a Tesla and talk about motivation.

This week’s One Good Thing: Tesla!

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Tradeshow Competitor or Collaborator?

You may think the difference between a competitor and a collaborator is easy. Pretty cut and dried. But is it?

In tradeshows you can meet all sorts of other companies. As an exhibitor, you can probably identify the direct competitors pretty easily. They’re selling either the exact same thing you are with a different name, or something that’s so similar that most people couldn’t tell them apart.

Coke vs. Pepsi. Nike vs. Adidas. Ford vs. Chevy. Classic competitors all.

There are a number of ways to work with competitors, as there are many ways in which you can identify potential partners for tradeshow promotions.

Collaborate with a Competitor

As competitors, one easy way to team up is to both promote a non-profit that is important to your industry. For example, if two outdoor clothing makers partnered up to help raise awareness for a non-profit that was working for, say, public access to forest lands, that would be a good way to position both companies as aligned and working toward similar goals.

Similarly, competing companies could team up at a tradeshow to fight for attendees’ rights. Bigger voices can have a bigger impact, especially if those voices came from well-known companies.

Create a Partner

When it comes to collaboration, it’s a bit easier to dream up ways to work with other companies that will be exhibiting at the same show. You can come up with joint promotions (you sell coffee, they sell pastries; you sell cars, they sell high-end floor mats) that are a good natural fit.

Before the show, get together with the other exhibitor and brainstorm ways you can move traffic around, or benefit from each other’s booth visitors. For example, you may have a newsletter sign-up sheet: on the paper, give people the option to sign up for your collaborator’s newsletter, too. Spell out the benefits of doing so.

However you approach collaboration with a competitor or a partner that’s not a direct competitors, realize that it will take more time and energy to make it happen, and likely a sign-off from managers to move forward. But the right collaboration can help raise brand awareness for both companies.

Pool Your Resources

If both companies are small but want to make a bigger impression, consider pooling your resources to grab a bigger booth space. Instead of 20 10x20s, share a booth and make it a 20×20. Of course, in this instance you’d want to really be ready to show visitors that you’re working together in a very significant way. But by doing this, the booth can show off more of each company’s strengths, and since it’s probably going to be a one-time appearance, it would make sense to save even more and just rent a booth instead of having a new custom booth created.

Come up with contests, or ways to involve more than one exhibitor that moves attendees from one booth location to another. Invite visitors to pick up a Bingo-like sheet with a handful of companies on it. If they go to all booths mentioned and have the sheet stamped, they can have the completed sheet submitted for a chance to win a prize package from all the companies involved.

Beyond the Show Floor

Off the show floor, you could throw a dinner or party and invite both (or more) company’s customers. By doing so, the underlying and unstated message is “We’re proud to be associated with this company and stand by their services and products.” It shows visitors something new about one company that that they may not have known before and raises the level of trust and integrity for all.

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More Statistics About Tradeshows and Visitors

Some people digest statistics like they’re eating chocolate cake. Others would rather eat a bug. But you have to admit, knowing the numbers can help you in your preparation and execution of your tradeshow marketing program. So let’s look at a few statistics and see which way they’ll lead you.

First, Spingo.com offers a collection of 20 Powerful Stats, including these:

  • 88% of companies participating in tradeshows to raise awareness of their brand .
  • The cost of a face-to-face meeting with a prospect at a tradeshow is, on average, $142. The cost of a face-to-face meeting at a prospect’s office is $259.
  • 92% of tradeshow attendees come to see and learn about what’s new in products and services.

Display Wizard from the UK has a list of 20 Tradeshow Stats that will Blow Your Mind! Some of these are:

  • Just 22% of tradeshow exhibitors start planning their tradeshow marketing 1-2 months ahead of the show. 22% start planning 2-4 months prior to the show, and 18% are getting ready 4-6 months ahead.
  • It takes an average of 4.5 sales calls to close a sale without an exhibition lead, but just 3.5 calls to close a lead from an exhibition.
  • 81% of exhibitors use email to follow up on their tradeshow leads.

If you really love numbers, you’ll love digging into the data on one of the country’s largest shows, the Consumer Electronics Show. While 2019 numbers are coming soon, the 2018 numbers are impressive enough:

  • Total attendance: 182,198. That includes exhibit personnel, media and industry attendees, domestic and international.
  • Social media mentions of the show reaches 1 million.
  • Views of the CES Snapchat Live Story reached 49 million.
  • CES received a total of 107,120 media mentions and more than 71 billion potential media impressions in January 2018 alone.

Watch that page for the 2019 numbers this spring.

Finally, the Event Manager Blog offers 100 Event Statistics (2019 Edition), which includes these:

  • B2B events revenue worldwide amounted to $30.3 billion in 2016, up from $29.3 billion a year earlier.
  • The average ROI for events is in the 25-34% range. But almost one in five companies don’t know their ROI.
  • 93% use social media in their B2B marketing strategy, and 58% of marketers use social media before, during and after their events.

Dig into the numbers at your leisure – there’s a lot there to unpack and digest. And don’t forget the chocolate cake!

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, February 11, 2019: Lindsay Anvik

When tradeshow, conference and event organizers hire speakers, they should make sure they get speakers that aren’t stuck in the same old speaking rut. That’s according to this week’s guest, Lindsay Anvik of SeeEndless.com. We also got to talking about public speaking itself, and the idea of using speakers from your company to raise your profile at a tradeshow:

Check out Lindsay Anvik’s company, SeeEndless.com.

You’ll also find this week’s tradeshow tip and this week’s ONE GOOD THING: Daily Yoga.

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A Word or Two on Tradeshow Crate Shipping

I’ve been chatting and emailing with clients and shipping companies this week to schedule pickups and deliveries of crates for tradeshows. Perhaps it’s time to share some notes and thoughts that have come up in those conversations.

Some of our newer clients have previously worked with shipping cases with wheels that are much smaller and can be maneuvered by a single individual, and shipped via UPS or FedEx, and can often be checked on an airplane. Moving to large, forklift-required crates is a step out of their comfort zone and working with a good shipping company or an experienced tradeshow exhibit house is a must to get questions answered and reduce mystification about the whole process.

One critical piece of information that shipping companies want to know to provide an accurate estimate is the weight and size of the shipping crates. While shipping crates vary in weight and size, most of the crates we work with are approximately 8’ H x 4’ D x 4’ W and weigh between 800 and 1200 pounds. Which means they are expensive to ship and need a forklift to move them around. But if your crate is similar and you don’t know the exact size and weight, if you give them that information you can at least get an estimate that will be in the ballpark.

And what about branding your truck trailer?

When delivering to the advance warehouse, the advantage is that you know your crates have arrived safe and sound and in plenty of time. If you’re shipping direct to show site, many shows have targeted freight move-in which means that the truck must arrive on the right day at the right time to make the delivery. Bigger shows often have a separate marshalling yard where the trucks must first check-in prior to making the delivery to the show site. And when shipping to a show site, your driver may have to sit and wait for several hours while on the clock prior to delivering. Typically that doesn’t happen when shipping to the advance warehouse as they are receiving freight spread out over several weeks.

When delivering to the advance warehouse, you’ll incur material handling (drayage) charges based on the actual weight of the shipment. For example, in Anaheim at the Natural Products Expo West, material handling for booth materials runs to $112.50 per CWT (per hundred pounds) (carpeting is charged at $180 CWT), and if the crates arrive after the deadline, a surcharge of 30% is levied when all is said and done.

Some shipments may incur special handling charges, which include ground loading, side door loading, constricted space loading, designated piece loading, stacked, cubed-out or loose shipments, multiple shipments, mixed shipments, improper delivery receipts, and uncrated shipments.  Having a shipper walk you how to prepare your shipment properly can help avoid additional costs.

Over the last few years I’ve had numerous shipping companies reach out to me to pitch their services. Yes, there are a lot of shippers, and they’re all looking for more business! I’ve gotten quotes at times, and rates vary but not a lot. Some companies ship tradeshow-only goods and tout their higher levels of service. Shipping your tradeshow exhibit crates can run up the bill, but combine materials (send products in a crate with your booth instead of sending a separate crate, for example), make sure it’s all clearly marked, and work with an exhibit house or shipping company that can assist you if need be.

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When Exhibiting, Talk to Other Exhibitors

As an exhibitor, try to schedule some time to talk to other exhibitors. Depending on how many other people you have on the booth staff, that may be easy or difficult. But give it a try. And I mean more than just the pleasantries with your neighbors that you’ll exchange when setting up and exhibiting. It’s easy enough to just show up, do your thing, and leave. But you’ll learn a lot when gathering information about other exhibitors’ experiences.

What to talk about and what information to look for?

At a recent show, I was curious to speak to exhibitors to get their sense of the show itself, and how they have fared. As a result, I spoke with quite a few exhibitors and got a broad look at the show. One exhibitor said she had exhibited at the show two years previously, and had written over $200,000 of business as a direct result of the show.

“Quite a Return on Investment!” I said.

“Yes, indeed. Last year, we wrote about $50,000 worth of business from the show. A big drop, but considering our minimal investment, still a great return.”

Another exhibitor told me that he thought that the show had shrunk each year for the last couple of years, and there was even a chance it might have been cancelled.

“Why do you think it’s shrunk?” I asked (I was not sure it had shrunk or expanded; I was just playing along to see where he was going with this).

“There are a lot of shows in the industry,” he said, as if that explained things.

I also asked exhibitors if they went to any of the various breakout sessions. Most said no, but one or two said yes. Those seemed to be aimed mainly at attendees.

Talk to other exhibitors at the show you're exhibiting at!

I asked several exhibitors if this was the only show they went to. Many said they do other shows, but not necessarily in this industry. Their company’s products and services can be pitched to other industries as well.

And finally, I asked if they were planning to come back to the same show next year as an exhibitor. A mixed bag: some said yes, others were noncommittal. But no one gave me a definitive NO.

Other things you can ask: how is job hiring going in your industry or your company? How well is your company doing against your direct competitors? Are there any companies here you would consider partnering with on any project or task? Are you looking to hire any positions soon? How many other shows do you plan on exhibiting at in the next year? Is this the only exhibit property you own, or do you have other elements you can set up to exhibit in a smaller or larger space?

When you find time to talk to other exhibitors, you’ll take away a larger sense of the show overall and how your fellow exhibitors feel about their place in the show and in the industry.

And you may make some good connections along the way!

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