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

October 2019

The Art of Tradeshows is in Hiding the Art

One of the newsletters I read regularly is Electric Impulse, a monthly newsletter from Electric Impulse Communications. I interviewed Leslie Unger, President of Electric Impulse Communications, in March of 2018. In this week’s newsletter, a comment of hers jumped out at me that made me immediately think of the tradeshow world:

The art is in hiding the art and you as the audience don’t see the work behind the curtain.

Leslie Ungar, Electric Impulse Communications

Tradeshows are about presenting your company’s BEST. You leave almost nothing to chance. An exhibit is carefully planned down to the last detail. The newest and best products are launched at tradeshows. Booth staff are either put through formal training or are at least given guidelines on how to interact with visitors and gather contact information for follow up. Multiple meetings are held, phone conference calls are scheduled, all to make sure that the graphics have the right messaging, the right images; to make sure that the exhibit colors and materials are right for the brand; to ensure that flooring or hanging signs fit the overall branding scheme.

A lot of damn work goes on behind the curtains.

Behind the curtain…

But visitors don’t see behind the curtains. They don’t see the months of work that went into the exhibit design and fabrication. They don’t see the planning that went into handling logistics such as shipping and installation/dismantle of the exhibit. They don’t see the chaos of the tradeshow floor during setup and dismantle. They don’t see the challenges that a company went through to put on their best face, to put their best foot forward at each and every tradeshow.

Think of it. Each and every tradeshow is like the Land of Oz. Behind the curtain is the Wizard (or group of Wizards), pulling the levers, manipulating information and ideas, maneuvering pieces from one place to another. All done to give each and every visitor an experience or impression that leaves them with a positive feeling about the company. The best exhibitors are those that go beyond that, though, and leave their visitors feeling more than positive. They leave them with a memorable experience that relates directly to their product. For example, a software demonstration that gives visitors the empowerment and possibilities that they just didn’t see before, and now they are leaving feeling creative and inspired. Or a product that they know they can put to immediate use that will save money and time, freeing up both resources for other important tasks.

Storytelling in a tradeshow exhibit is an art, a highly developed one. The challenge for each tradeshow exhibitor is to tell their best story with the people and skills on hand. And then to improve on it the next time around.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 14, 2019: Small Business Sales

What’s it like to compete with bigger companies in the tradeshow marketing world? It might not be exactly what you think. In this week’s podcast-slash-vlog, I take a look at what has worked and what hasn’t for this small company over the past few years:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Prime Video’s Goliath, starring Billy Bob Thornton.

A Clean Booth is a Mean Booth

Wait a minute, how do you mean “mean”? As in average? As in angry?

Nope, as in “very skillful or effective” in a more informal sense: “she’s a mean bowler!”

But when it comes to having a clean and mean booth at a tradeshow, how might that work? Let’s explore.

Skillful and effective can certainly come in to play with your tradeshow presence. Your booth staff should be well-trained and know how to ask the right questions and collect valid and helpful answers.

Your exhibit itself should be clean. Having a small carpet sweeper or dust buster can help keep the floors clean. Garbage cans should be emptied regularly, especially if you’re at a show where a lot of samples are handed out, leaving behind a trail of debris.

Hiding things: most exhibits have counters or closets where personal items and extraneous items are kept. Often brochures or other needed items can be stored under a skirted table. In any event, keeping those extras out of sight helps to keep your booth mean and clean.

No food or beverages in the booth space. Yes, if you’re sampling foods, then it’s okay. But your staff shouldn’t be eating or drinking in the booth space. Psychology shows that often visitors will turn and go the other way if they encounter a staffer eating in the booth. It’s not inviting at all.

Have enough staff for the show. It’s a fine line: having too few or having too many staffers. Knowing the right amount and being able to effectively schedule the staff so that there’s always the right amount of staff comes from experience.

Knowing who the staff are: does this mean they all have readily identifiable badges or color-coded clothing? I’ve been in booths where it was impossible to know who part of the team was. In other booths, all of the staffers were wearing the same color shirt or wearing a shirt that was plainly branded with the company name.

Keep your exhibit and booth presence clean and mean for an edge over your competitors.


Nine Soft Rock Songs to Guide Your Tradeshow Success

Okay, we can look at a lot of different things to help us along the way to a successful tradeshow appearance. I’ve posted on this blog about 6 classic rock songs to help you become a better tradeshow marketer, or the music inspired blog posts post here.

Let’s try something a little softer and head for the soft rock or pop rock side of things from the 70s.

Gotta greet your visitors! Say hello to those passing by to start a fruitful engagement with them Follow it up with a pertinent question and you’re off to determining if they’re a potential customer or not.

Friendliness goes hand in hand with engagement. Andrew Gold’s classic echoes the idea of being friends, or at least extending a friendly face to those in your booth.

After hours often means dinners with clients, parties and other gatherings. England Dan and John Ford Coley make the perfect expression of the invitation.

Whether the show is in Las Vegas, Anaheim or Boston, part of the process of getting potential clients to the show is to invite them. You can insert the city name in the title of this song to match the destination you’re headed for, but the sentiment is the same, thanks to Dave Loggins.

Selling is all about having a product or service that people actually want! Yes, in this song Lobo is looking for love, but the idea is similar: I have a desire to have you want what I’m offering!

Similar to Logo, Badfinger takes this Paul McCartney-penned ditty and invites all visitors to just come on down and get it! Samples, demos, in-booth activities – come and get it!

After all is said and done for the day, for some people it’s a relaxing and restful night in the hotel room. For others it’s a quiet chill down at the local watering hole before calling it a night. Maria Muldaur makes that invitation.

Walking the show floor means walking line after line of exhibits. Gerry Rafferty takes it one at a time, right down the line.

You tried hard to make that sale. But you came up short. And now she’s gone. Hall and Oates know that even though she is gone, the sun still rises and another prospect is just around the corner.

There you have it – nine songs that look to capture the sentiment of tradeshows inside the bars of a song and the rhythms and rhymes of a lyric. Maybe you can come up with your own playlist and share. Or at least do a little slow dancing along the way!


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 7, 2019: Francis Friedman

The digital world has enveloped tradeshows as much as it has any other part of the marketing world. And who better to discuss that than author and marketing expert Francis Friedman, who gets into his recent book, The Modern Digital Tradeshow. Check out the show here:

Download a free copy of the Modern Digital Tradeshow here.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: Soundcloud.

Choosing the Best Furniture For Your Exhibit

This is a guest article by Emily Porter of Expocart.

Planning an exhibition involves analyzing many factors at play which is challenging for exhibitors. Choosing the best furniture for your exhibition becomes stressful when you have to consider the theme of your stand, how to express your brand and your staff’s needs. Fortunately, at Expocart, we assist exhibitors in choosing the best furniture for their exhibitions without any struggle. Based on our many years of experience in the exhibition sector and outdoor exhibits, we have developed modern furniture designs for outdoor displays that increase your brand exposure and market your stand. Below are the top tips that you should consider when choosing furniture for your outdoor displays.

Consider Sensible Seating

Whether you will be using exhibit booths, pop out banners, or outdoor banner stands, exhibition is a hard work for your staff and team members coordinating the exhibition. Ensuring that your outdoor display includes ample seating for your team becomes essential. Seating spaces in outdoor displays can be used for tea breaks or turn-taking during the day. We recommend selecting couches that strike a balance between beauty and comfort. Do not prioritize function over form. Select couches that can be reconfigured after tea break for potential customers to lounge on while chatting to your team.

Stand Out of the Crowd Impeccably

The furniture you choose should reflect your brand perfectly from competitor displays. Select the best furniture that creates a strong impression to attract potential buyers in your stand. The furniture should be modern, trendy, and unique. All other accessories should be inviting, practical, easily accessible, and in pristine condition. The quality of the furniture you choose goes a long way to tell your potential customers and passers-by about your brand. Having furniture that will make your display look like it was set up on a shoestring budget is an early fail for your exhibition. In this case, there are cost-effective furniture that reflect your brands and can be customized to command attention even from your competitors. Budget for a few high-cost items to compliment your look and add glamour to your display stand.

Let Your Display Communicate a Theme

You should have a different theme for every exhibition event you attend. Displaying a specific theme makes your stand memorable even after the show is over. Whether your theme is classic, antique, natural, retro, or futuristic theme, choose furniture that compliments it perfectly. Select the furniture with the perfect color, finishing, branding, and decor that cohesively connects your theme to the potential buyers. Consider a uniform theme throughout the display stand to command attention.

Choose Furniture with Storage Spaces

Expocart understands that many exhibition venues lack practical storage spaces or units. Through our experience, it makes sense to seek furniture that has reasonable storage spaces. That not only facilitates smooth exhibitions activities, but also provide an ingeniously designed workable storage solutions. Items like brochures, stationery, gift bags, and extra stock should be stored discreetly and easily accessible when needed. Furniture should have storage spaces to ensure the exhibitor is not liable for any injuries and damages that could occur. Also, good quality furniture also protect your brand image by ensuring potential buyers are not agitated by any unsightly clutter in your stand. Lastly, the furniture should provide security for your valuables, like mobile phones and electronics.

Choose the Right Type of Displays

Choosing the right type of display depends on two factors; method of display desired, and whether you want visitors inside or outside your stand. Choose furniture that allows or blocks easy access to your tent. If you are selling from your exhibit booth, block passer-by’s access to your products by arranging your display tables around the outer edge. This allows you to move freely within your stand as you showcase your products. The furniture you choose should facilitate the desired display methods; light or intensive.

If you want to attract potential buyers inside your exhibit booth, consider using movable furniture or one that minimizes on space to host as many visitors as you can. Use furniture that makes visitors comfortable in your booth and creates a quick rapport for them to engage with your team and products. Ensure the height of the furniture keeps your products within the visitor’s reach without forcing them to crouch or stretch.

Lastly, choose the correct number of furniture for your outdoor display. Less is more! That’s our slogan. Having too much furniture will make your stand look cramped and uninviting, relaying a feeling of sensory overload.

Emily Porter is the Content Outreach Manager at Expocart, the UK’s largest provider of products for exhibitions and events. Expocart works to make exhibiting easier, more affordable, and hassle-free.

I Was a Tradeshow Marketing Skeptic

I first got into the tradeshow industry as a fluke. I’d spent over 25 years behind a radio microphone, barely aware that such a thing as tradeshows existed. Sure, I went to local home and garden shows now and then, or the state fair where vendors put up cluttered 10’ booths to hawk their goods. But the idea of a large tradeshow industry with thousands of regional and national shows drawing tens of thousands of visitors was foreign to me.

I was between jobs, as they say, when I got hired as VP of Sales and Marketing. “You have good people skills; we can teach you the rest.” It was a small company. When it came to the idea of spending a large amount of money to set up a custom tradeshow exhibit to promote your business, well, I didn’t get it. Could it work? Sure. Would it? I was doubtful.

First Client: Kettle Foods

The original Kettle Foods 20×20

But I forged ahead. My first client happened to be a local company where I had a connection: Kettle Foods. We designed and built a 20×20 custom exhibit that they used for several years at Natural Products Expo West. They gave away a ton of potato chip samples, got great responses and told me that the new exhibit went over extremely well.

Kettle Foods lead to a referral to Nancy’s Yogurt, which lead to several other clients over the next few years. But I was still unsure of how effective the whole idea was. And while I was getting good responses from clients, to me it appeared only anecdotal. When I looked closer, I was seeing exhibitors meeting partners and clients, giving away samples, launching new products and feeling pretty good about it. But were they really getting good results?

Bob’s Red Mill

The original Bob’s Red Mill 20×20

Then came Bob’s Red Mill. When I first met their marketing team, they had a smaller in-line exhibit that was mainly an off-the-shelf modular exhibit with fabric walls. Typical of the time, around 2005. We designed a custom 20×20 exhibit that they liked, and they were off and running. Shortly after that, I saw Bob Moore, the iconic Bob of Bob’s Red Mill, quoted in a Business Journal article saying that without tradeshow marketing they could not reach certain markets. By regularly exhibiting at tradeshows and meeting new distributors and partners, they were able to expand their markets, which helped grow their company beyond just the northwest part of the country.

When My Eyes Opened

That’s when I finally got it. Tradeshow marketing was helping our clients reach markets they could not otherwise reach. By investing in tradeshow marketing and setting up a nice functional and attractive exhibit that fit their brand at a national show, companies were expanding their markets and selling well beyond their original footprint. Which is why the conversation with clients and potential clients often looks at that angle.

Several clients have also told me that the very fact of having a larger and more effective custom exhibit that fits their brand is bringing them a two-to-four-times increase in their leads at each show. Two to four times! They’re telling me it’s just because of the new exhibit, but I suspect that the act of getting a new exhibit tends to focus the rest of the effort and the marketing team. They instinctively know that investing in a new exhibit property means putting a lot on the line, and the additional effort and focus on making that investment worthwhile adds to the overall success. The new exhibit is key, but the sense of urgency and commitment pushes the team to greater heights.

Why Companies Fail, and Why They Succeed

There are so many moving parts in tradeshow marketing, it’s easy to let a few of the critical pieces fall from your clutch. That’s one of the reasons I wrote two books about tradeshow marketing: to help exhibitors better understand the tasks at hand. I’ve spoken with many exhibitors who have essentially given up. They’ve spent a ton of money and have nothing to show for it. I can see why they’re skeptical of the process and the outcome.

Tradeshow marketing should be a part of an overall integrated marketing plan. They need good products or services, good branding, good customer service and everything else that communicates a positive message to their market. But I’ve seen evidence that many more exhibitors are doing the right things (or enough of the right things while still making mistakes) to make it worthwhile. Done right, a tradeshow is still the best place to reach a focused group of decision makers and influencers from companies that are in a position to make a buying decision. And done right, using digital assets such as videos and photographs after the show can “keep the show alive” long after the hall has closed.

My skepticism is gone because my understanding of the process has increased, and my experience at working with exhibitors has changed me enough to believe that tradeshow marketing can be an extremely effective way to reach markets that you would not otherwise be able to reach.


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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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