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

April 2019

What’s Holding You Back from a New Tradeshow Exhibit?

Last time when you set up your tradeshow exhibit and lived in it for a few days, did it feel cramped? Were you wishing you had another table to sit down at with potential clients? Trying to cram too many products on too few shelves?

Maybe it’s time for a new exhibit. So what’s holding you back?

It might be finances. Certainly that’s one of the biggest things that holds any company back. But beyond money, are you moving out of your comfort zone? It happens frequently. Many clients we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits have been using banner stands and pop-ups, which transport easily and take just a few moments to set up. Nothing wrong with that, but these companies have grown enough that they can afford a larger exhibit, one that not only looks good to give their brand a brand new look, but because it’s more complicated it needs to ship in a wooden crate using semi-trucks, it will likely need to be set up by an I&D (installation/dismantle) management crew.

What will your visitors think when you show off a new exhibit?

And yes, that moves many companies beyond their comfort zone. Having been down that road with a lot of companies, we often help navigate that path.

But if it’s money, there are ways to convince the purse holders that it’s time to invest in a new booth.

First, consider what would happen if you did nothing for the next 2-3 years. Your exhibit would be a few years older. Many of your competitors might already have upgraded to a new exhibit which will look a lot sharper than yours. How will your visitors then perceive your company compared to those competitors? Remember that perception counts a lot, and almost nowhere does it count as much as it does at tradeshows. Visitors there see you at your finest. And if your finest comes up short from what you want and what your visitors think you should be, that could be a problem.

Then again, maybe a new exhibit isn’t the answer. You might be better off investing in booth staff training. Or pre-show marketing. By doing this, you can still crank up the ROI on your tradeshow marketing investment and put off the exhibit investment for a couple more years.

But if you are seriously considering a new exhibit, think about who it will impact and how. Where will you store it? How much will it cost to ship or setup and dismantle?

Understand how much time you’ll need to design and fabricate the exhibit by talking to experience exhibit builders. Your new exhibit will last you several years, maybe 5 to 7 or more depending on the type of exhibit and how you use it.

Once you’ve decided that it’s a good move to pitch the powers-that-be, be prepared. Contact a few exhibit houses to understand their processes and timelines required, along with budget ranges for the size and type of exhibit you’re considering.

Make a written description of the exhibit requirements. When pitching the boss, offer a reasonable price range for the project, how long it’ll take to amortize the cost (3, 5, 7+ years), do your best to explain how the next exhibit will increase your lead generation (three clients in the past three years have told us that the increased size of the exhibit and the newness of it tripled their leads at the first show!).

Show the “soft” return on the exhibit, such as the impact the new look will have on your current customers who see the positive direction your company is taking. Or on the employees, who see the same thing. There are a lot of things that might be holding you back from investing in a new exhibit. But with careful planning and working with the right partners, you can create an environment and a situation where the new exhibit can become a reality.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, April 29, 2019: Hesitation

During a recent Tip Club networking group gathering, the topic turned to “hesitation” and how we often hesitate instead of moving forward. It got me to thinking about how we approach moments in life where we choose to hesitate. Why?

Also, a tradeshow tip of the week and this week’s ONE GOOD THING:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The Prime Video TV series Bosch, now in its fifth season.

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100+ Digital Marketing Stats Reveals What Really Works

Good infographics communicate information in a way that no article alone can and these 100+ digital marketing stats are no exception. This new post from VisualCapitalist.com draws research from Hubspot, BrightEdge, Statista, FoundationInc, OptinMonster and many others to illustrate results that marketers get from email, social media, mobile, paid advertising, lead generation, content marketing and others. Yes, this is digital only, but so many tradeshow marketers are combining digital marketing with their face-to-face marketing, that it made sense to not only show a bit of the infographic, but link to it. Here’s a link to the blog post; here’s a link to the infographic itself. Or click the graphic below and go direct to the graphic which we’ve put on this blog.

100 digital marketing stats that work in 2019

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Why Tradeshow Marketing Spreads Ideas

We all wish we had that idea that spread like wildfire. Hotmail, or Napster, for instance. But with so many millions of ideas floating to the surface of people’s minds on a daily basis, how do you get something to spread?

Tradeshows, surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly), are naturally built to spread ideas. There are lots of mediums that can spread ideas: books, podcasts, radio shows, TV shows, online video, email, and so on. But tradeshow marketing has a few advantages (and a few disadvantages, which we’ll look at shortly).

The big advantage of using the medium of tradeshows to spread an idea, whether it’s a product or service that you’re marketing, is that you have a gathering of people that are specifically interested in your products. Or at least they’re specifically interested in the market in which your product sits. Another advantage is that the attendees usually have a lot of influence in the company they work for and the market that they work in. Which means if they see an idea they like a lot, one that resonates with them or helps them out, they’ll talk about it. They’ll spread the idea to others that can also spread it, or act on the product or service represented by the idea.

What about the disadvantages? Even though the attendees at the show have a lot of influence, it’s somewhat of a closed system. If you want the idea to spread outside of the market that the tradeshow addresses, you’ll need to go beyond. Having said that, perhaps that’s not even important.

Another disadvantage that tradeshow have as far as spreading ideas is that it’s largely a marketing effort, not an effort to spread an idea. But it can be done. I think back to 2009 when I attended Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City. In promoting his new cameras, several times a day GoPro CEO Nick Woodman would stand on a table in the company booth, and shout and scream and give away t-shirts and other swag, and finally give away a few new cameras. His enthusiasm, hype and excitement simply could not be ignored if you were within hearing distance. To win, you had to sign up on one of their kiosks and opt in to an email list – and you had to be there to win when they gave away the goodies. They stilluse thesame approach (without Nick, though); I saw them do the same thing at NAB Show earlier this month.

GoPro’s Nick Woodman spreading an idea at Outdoor Retailer in 2009

At the time, the idea of a standalone “action camera” was new. By using tradeshows as a marketing platform, or marketing medium, GoPro was able to spread the idea of the standalone cameras right when the competition was the new smartphone, and older digital cameras. But the GoPro could be attached to your helmet, your torso or even to a skateboard or surfboard or whatever – and with the wide-angle lens, it captured exciting and dynamic footage. The idea was so new and unusual, it created a new genre of cameras, which have been replicated by other companies in an effort to compete.

If the product or service brings with it such a forceful idea, it can definitely spread like a virus. And tradeshows can be used effectively to help launch the idea into the wider world.

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Preparing for Next Year’s Tradeshow. Already.

Less than three weeks after a just-completed tradeshow, I heard from an exhibitor I’d met at the show. He was interested in looking at doing something new for next year’s show, which was still more than eleven months away.

I commended him for being on top of it! His response was that they waited too long last time around and they didn’t want to let it happen again next year.

So what can you do now that this year’s big expo show is over to prepare for next year’s show, even though it’s almost a year away? Let’s count a few:

Plan ahead. Seems simple. But so many companies I talk to end up waiting until the last moment. There is no urgency to act until the dates in the calendar are nearer than you thought possible! Reach out to the various entities you may end up working with, whether it’s a current exhibit house, design house, graphic designer or whomever, and discuss your plans. You’ll get a sense of how much time things take which will give you much-needed information to put together a workable plan.

Find out what things will cost. In the case of a new exhibit, not just updating graphics on a current exhibit, you’ll need to determine how much the investment might be. There are industry averages, there’s your budget, and there’s your wish list. At some point these will all have to meet in the middle. If you’re unsure of how much your budget is, and how much things might cost, the sooner you gather that information the better prepared you’ll be as you move forward. Learning the cost of a potential new booth helps craft and shape the budget. Knowing your budget helps craft the final design.

Determine to the best of your ability what products and services you’ll be promoting. In most cases, clients we work with put this off until much closer to the show mainly because they want to have a handle on what will be available for sampling, when products or services launch and so on. At this point in your design discussions, you will likely leave placeholder graphics in place. But knowing if you have eight new products, or three, or fifteen, will help the direction of the design.

If you are not sure if you’ll continue to work with your current exhibit house, talk to several vendors. Each one will offer strengths and advantages; some will have obvious weaknesses for your specific goals. Learn as much as possible about them, speak to their current clients, learn about how the process went. Some companies will be a good fit and others won’t – there’s no real right and wrong. Often, it’s just a feeling, but feelings are important. All things being equal, people like doing business with people they like and get along with.

Take your time. If you’re more than half a year out, you have lots of time to ponder things. Run ideas by other people. Brainstorm some in-booth activities. Research what’s worked for others. The more time you are able to take, the more comfortable you’ll be with the decisions you finally reach. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll take a lot of time making decisions. Some people make snap decisions that are absolutely right. Maybe that’s you.

Finalize the plan. Get the various entities (vendors, designers, booth staff) lined up and make sure they’re all on board with the plan. Confirm the timeline, and add in a little buffer time for unexpected circumstances.

Once the show is underway next year with few to no glitches, congratulate yourself for getting so far ahead of the project!

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, April 22, 2019: The Marketing Seminar

I’ve alluded to Seth Godin’s The Marketing Seminar a few times in recent blog posts and podcasts/vlogs. In this episode I discuss the online seminar in more detail – without giving away much at all. It’s a great course, and I highly recommend it. Check the below for some bonus Seth Godin material.

Seth Godin bonus Material:

Rare Q&A Video, a New Workshop and a path forward for entrepreneurs (blog post and a nearly two-hour video).

Brian Koppleman’s The Moment podcast: January 2019 interview with Seth Godin.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The NBA Playoffs.

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NF Reads Interviews Author Tim Patterson

Recently I was asked by NF Reads to respond to several questions regarding my two books. So I did. Fun little interview:


Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

My name is Tim Patterson, aka TradeshowGuy. I have two books, both of them self-published and available on Amazon as paperbacks or Kindle downloads:

Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level (2015)

Tradeshow Superheroes and Exhibiting Zombies: 66 Lists Making the Most of Your Tradeshow Marketing (2018)

I spent 25+ years in radio, switched careers in 2002 to the exhibit industry and used my writing and broadcasting skills to learn more about the industry, and created a blog in 2008 called TradeshowGuyBlog.

What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?

Knowing that having a book is a great way to differentiate yourself from other exhibit sales and marketing people, I finally made myself do it in 2014/2015. I did it again in 2018 by compiling dozens of list posts from my blog. I sell some copies, but generally I use them as giveaways to potential clients.

See the rest here..

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Asking the Right Questions

On the tradeshow floor, everything is important, but one of the most important is asking the right questions of your visitors.

I’ve been at three tradeshows in the past 5 weeks: two large expos (Expo West and NAB Show) and a smaller regional foodservice show.

In every show, I’m curious to see what questions are thrown out by booth staffers.

Frankly, I’m not impressed.

Yes, some good queries are pitched. But most initial questions or statements aren’t of much use to the exhibiting company.

“How are you today?”

“Would you like a free pen?”

“Still raining outside?”

(Looking at my badge) “What’s a TradeshowGuy?” (at least it got my attention)

“Have you been to this show before?”

None of those have much zing. Or pertinence to the situation.

How do you come up with good questions?

Let’s harken back to previous posts on this blog. To pose a good question, first understand what it is you’re trying to find out.

You’re there to sell a product or service, or to connect with distributors who will sell your products or services. Which means you want to know if the visitor even uses the product. Thanks to an interview we did with Richard Erschik, we know that the first question is often:

Do you currently use our product or a similar product?

After that, you’re trying to determine if the visitor is interested in purchasing that product in the near future:

Are you considering making a purchase soon? When?

Next, you’d like to know if the person you’re speaking to has decision-making power:

Who makes the decision? You? Or is there someone else that is involved?

Asking the right questions at the tradeshow.

And of course, you want to know if they have the capability to spend the money you charge for your service:

Do you have the money you’d need to invest in this product or service?

Many shows really aren’t trying to make sales on the spot. For example, the bigger expos are more about branding, launching new products and making connections with current clients, partners or distributors. In this case, what’s important is to get visitors to either sample your products (such as food), know about the new products, or in the case of other products such as electronic gear, cameras, software and more like we saw at NAB Show, to make sure that visitors were able to learn as much as they needed.

The company is paying good money – usually a lot of money – to exhibit at the show, which means that every visitor is critical. Ask good questions. Stay off the phone. Don’t eat in the booth. And don’t ask about the weather!

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Big Video Tech on Display at NAB Show 2019

Big video is, well, BIG. It seems like ‘the bigger, the better.’ Admittedly, the quality of big video walls has improved noticeably the past few years. I can’t speak to the price – if the increased competition and quality has driven costs down, like it has for other products such as LED lighting. But it’s impressive. Let’s take a look:


Free tradeshow exhibit quotes
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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, April 15, 2019: NAB Show Recap

From extremely large video to big training sessions from Adobe and others, to keynotes and journalist panels, it was all there. And I soaked it up for a couple of days last week. Here’s my take on the first couple of days of the 2019 NAB Show:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Never a Dull Moment: the Year That Rock Exploded, by David Hepsworth.

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