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

October 2020

Marketing Without Tradeshows

If you’re used to going to a handful of tradeshows each year, meeting potential buyers, distributors, partners and colleagues, now that shows are off the table for the time being, what other options do you have to get the word out about your products and services?

Sales can be made in many ways. Let’s make a list.

In-Person meetings. Obviously, the best, but if your products are sold regionally or nationally, this is the hardest. Travel is expensive and meeting one-on-one, going from office to office or city to city is also a poor use of time. Compare that to a typical tradeshow where you can stack meetings with people who are already on location.

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Phone calls. Typical and easy but not that exciting. Some salespeople excel at talking on the phone, others not so much. But with the phone you can reach several people in a single day without leaving the office, whether your office is at work or home. Getting someone by the phone is often hit-or-miss, but it’s easy to leave a message or try again later.

Zoom or video calls. Now you’re raising the bar a bit. Zoom calls are more personal than phone calls, but you’ve got to go through a bit of a process to schedule and confirm to make the connection. Then it helps if you have good tech skills and know how to bring good audio and video (lighting, backgrounds, minimal off-camera noises, etc.) to the call. Some people are more receptive to Zoom calls than others.

E-mail. Sending an e-mail is easy. They’re also easy to ignore. But a personal e-mail at least shows that you spent some time crafting a personal message.

Social Media. Pushing out messages to people by the hundreds or thousands is easy; engaging with people one-on-one who respond takes time and effort. But it can pay off by getting people to help you toot your horn.

Advertising. We could spend a few hundred thousand words on the usefulness of radio, TV, print, search advertising and more. Books have been written! In the right place with the right message, though, it can be an effective way to reach people who are ready to buy your products or services.

Without tradeshows, you still have to keep sales coming in and products still being introduced to your market. Tradeshows are often the best place to do that, and offer the lowest cost-per-sales-meeting, but without shows, finding the sweet spot to keep sales going may take a little creativity.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 19, 2020: Anders Boulanger

There are hundreds of thousands of event, tradeshow, and conference-related jobs that have gone by the wayside, at least temporarily, while the pandemic sidelines all of those shows. But of all of those jobs, it would seem that if any type of job could find a way forward, it would be the creative types. The writers, speakers, performers. After all, even though they’d love to have an in-person audience, it’s not that hard to translate what they do to a screen. Whether it’s a Zoom show, a webinar, or a pre-recorded bit, performers and entertainers, such as the Infotainers supplied by Anders Boulanger’s Engagify company are doing their best to stay busy. I spoke with Anders for this week’s interview:

Find Engagify and the Infotainers here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: John Lennon’s Gimme Some Truth collection, released October 9, 2020, which would have been Lennon’s 80th birthday.


Subscribe to TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee on Apple Podcasts here.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Tradeshow Marketing here, where the vlog version of the podcast appears weekly.

Tradeshows and Events Will Return, But When?

In March and April of this year, when tradeshow organizers realized the gravity of the pandemic and how it would be affecting upcoming shows, many of them “postponed” the shows. I say “postponed” in quotes because many believed that whatever issues the COVID-19 pandemic caused; things would be back to normal in a few months.

For example, I happened to be on an airplane waiting to take off from Portland on the morning of March 2, when the email came in: Natural Products Expo West was off, postponed TFN. In the next few weeks, an effort was made to reschedule the show for early summer. Then the pandemic got worse. The show was canceled for good.

The organizers tried to focus on Natural Products Expo East in September. Nope, that fell by the wayside as well. As did CES, NAB, and many other shows. Some shows went virtual, others hoped for the best for a live show sometime next year.

Now Natural Products Expo West has moved the 2021 show from early March to late May of next year. Anyone willing to lay money on the show actually taking place?

In random conversations and email exchanges, and in seeing some survey results, the tradeshow and event industry has a wide range of opinions on when things might get back to “normal,” yes, in quotes, because we don’t know what normal will look like again, or when. Some companies are working remotely, hoping to get back to the office by the beginning of 2021. Others are putting it off until the third or fourth quarter of 2021.

In early September, Exhibitor Magazine revealed some data based on surveys of tradeshow world suppliers and exhibitors. For example, 2/3 of those surveyed said it was unlikely, probably wouldn’t, or definitely wouldn’t return to shows rescheduled for 2020.

Company travel restrictions will still be in place at most companies into 2021. Lots of data there, and I’ll give you one more interesting tidbit: the later in the year the question was asked, the further companies pushed their plans back. In early September, most companies were looking at the second or third quarter of 2021 before they thought they’d be back on the tradeshow floor. View the full presentation here; it’s worth a look.

I mentioned on my podcast this week that the live music and entertainment industry is also severely impacted. Musicians, tech workers, roadies, support staff and more have been mostly idled. Think of entertainers on cruise ships, or in Cirque du Soleil (which has filed for bankruptcy), along with concert tours, jazz festivals, country fairs, art fairs, and more.

I believe we all know how bad it is and have a feeling it’ll continue for much longer than we ever thought it would, when the pandemic first came around.

Over the past few months, I have been thinking that once we get back to, let’s say 75 or 85% or “normal,” companies would start busting loose with big budgets and there would be lots of new projects and work for exhibit companies and related logistical support companies.

Now I’m not so sure. My gut feeling is that because this is going to keep going until deep into 2021, companies will be very hesitant to spend money and will be more than willing to just do modest changes on their current exhibit properties instead of investing in something new. I have nothing to base that on and hope I’m wrong.

And finally, when it comes to Virtual shows or tradeshow exhibits, my sense is that it has to really make sense for the company for them to invest in something like that: they need it only if they can use it a dozen or more times in the next year or so, and they strongly believe it will get them more good leads at a better cost-per-lead than traditional exhibiting. The jury is still out on that.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 12, 2020: Natasha Miller

What happens when your business needs a quick pivot to survive? Not all companies have been able to do that successfully. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning, I chat with Entire Productions’ CEO Natasha Miller about how they made the switch to virtual events in a big way.

Find Entire Productions here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Season Six of the Emmy-winning Schitt’s Creek finds its way to Netflix. Finally!


Subscribe to TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee on Apple Podcasts here.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Tradeshow Marketing here, where the vlog version of the podcast appears weekly.

10 Reasons to Change Tradeshow Exhibit Houses: Video:

Hiring an exhibit house is a big task. It’s a commitment to a business relationship that, ideally, you’d like to keep in place for years. But everything must come to an end, and there may come a time when it makes sense to consider changing exhibit houses. Here’s my quick video that looks at ten situations that may warrant that consideration:


16 Things You Can Do in a Virtual Tradeshow Exhibit

The use of virtual tradeshow exhibits may not be exploding, although my sense is that it is increasing. Some big tradeshows have gone completely virtual for the next year or so, maybe longer, depending on the depth and breadth of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Which leaves exhibitors in a bit of a quandary: what to do about virtual exhibits. Should you invest in one? Should you just wait out the pandemic and hope you can get back to live tradeshows in the next six to twelve months?

And if you are seriously considering a virtual exhibit, it’s important to consider all of the various things you can do in the exhibit. I’ve seen a few virtual exhibits lately, and there is a wide variety in the approach. Some exhibitors have chosen the simple, let’s-keep-the-cost-down approach. Others have tried to throw everything in but the kitchen sink.

As an aside, one exhibit maker I spoke with recently said that a recent client of theirs did a virtual exhibit and found that at the virtual tradeshow, they experienced a 700% increase in leads for a fraction of the cost of appearing at a live show. My eyes opened at that stat, and while it’s impressive, it’s likely not going to be a common experience for every virtual exhibitor. But it does demonstrate that there is a lot of potential in virtual tradeshows if you plan ane execute well.

Having said that, there are a number of ways to get engagement at virtual tradeshows. The first is crucial: make sure that potential visitors know about your virtual tradeshow exhibit so that they are prepared, put it on their calendar, and have expectations.

The second is to build the expectations and prepare for them by putting specific things in your virtual tradeshow booth that visitors want. Things they’ll respond to, interact with, and share with others.

From that starting point, the question remains: what should be in your virtual exhibit? There are many answers, and your company’s specific needs should help frame the answer. Here are a lot of the things, perhaps not all, that could go into your exhibit. Keep in mind that each piece will add to your overall cost, much like a 3D real world exhibit, and that each piece of content, such as videos or white papers or PDF reports, all will take time and money to create. Before finalizing your plan, create a budget based on all of the pieces you think are necessary to make your virtual tradeshow booth a success.

Here are a number of things you can and should consider:

  1. Product Demos
  2. A place to collect visitor’s contact information
  3. Download Center (PDFs, coupons, sales sheets, special reports, etc.)
  4. Archived video
  5. Live stream video
  6. Live chat
  7. Booth tour
  8. Schedule a meeting
  9. Learn about your company
  10. Learn about new products
  11. Give people the ability to share things on social media
  12. Steer people to your social media outlets
  13. Leave an audio or video message

No doubt if you put your mind to it, you can come up with more. What am I missing?


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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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