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

All posts by: Tim Patterson

Tradeshow Marketing Expert & Dynamic Public Speaker/Trainer

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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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, February 4, 2019: Data Backup

How often do you back up your data? Do you have digital versions of your analog items (photos, cassettes, albums, whatever)? Do your photos on your phone automatically back up to Google, Dropbox, Amazon or some other service? (I’m checking out Backblaze…)

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: Damian Lillard’s 4th NBA All-Star nod.

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Handling Client Relationships

Client relations is an important key to creating a successful project and a successful business.

Over the years in both radio, where I spent 25+ years dealing with radio advertisers, and in the tradeshow world, where I’ve spent 17 years working with companies that are looking to buy or upgrade exhibits, I have picked up a few useful things along the way. At least, one would hope!

Clients come in all shapes. Every client approaches a project, big or small, in their own unique way.

Some are extremely hands-on, asking tons of questions about detail after detail. Others are quite hands-off, not too concerned about the details but just looking for a good outcome.

During my years in radio, I would work with clients who either wanted to voice their own commercials or be involved in the minute details of the production of a radio commercial. As a (mostly) patient man, it was interesting to note how many details some clients wanted to control and obsess over. They’d criticize the speed of the speaker, or the level of the music. Most clients, though, just handed in an order and wait for the result. When they listened to the end result, they’d usually just sign off and let it go.

Focus on the clients and make them feel like they’re your ONLY client!

It’s not that different from the tradeshow world. Clients are clients, and some chime in on every detail they possibly can. Others just want to make sure that the broad strokes are handled from their perspective, and delegate others to take care of the details.

And bottom line, outcomes are important. The hands-off client knows that we’re all professionals, and we’re used to obsessing over the details ourselves. The hands-on client knows this as well, but for reasons of their own its important to be an integral part of the process.

Neither approach is wrong, and both can be effective. Most clients I’ve dealt with are somewhere in between: they want to get involved at some level of detail but would rather understand the big picture of how it is all going, and make sure things happen to meet deadlines.

One thing I’ve picked up is that the more questions a client asks, it’s usually a good thing. As a salesperson, knowing that a prospect (and perhaps eventual client) is asking a lot of questions means they’re interested. No questions, little to no interest; lots of questions, high interest.

Many clients want to add more to the scope of work as time goes on, and some of the more delicate conversations revolve around how much those extras will cost. Some companies are ready and willing to spend what it takes to get what they want, and others are doing their best to adhere to a strict budget – and still get as much as they can for the dollars. Flexibility on both sides during those discussions is critical to moving the project forward while deadlines loom.

Bottom line: clients are great to have, whether they’re extraordinarily detail-oriented or whether they’re looking at the bigger picture.

Another thing that I keep in mind: whether I have 2 projects or 5 big ones and 8 small ones going on, that doesn’t matter to the client you’re currently on the phone with. As far as they’re concerned, they’re the only one you should care about and focus on. Nobody exists except them. That’s not really the case, but if you can make them feel like they are, that feeling will go a long way!


Afterward: Just as I was editing this post, Seth Godin had an interesting take on a somewhat similar concept – the professional vs. the amateur in the sales cycle: Are you selling to an amateur or a professional?

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Add a Charging Table to Your Exhibit to Get Visitors to Stay

Need to keep visitors at your booth a little longer to go over some business with them? Adding a charging table gives them an opportunity to stay and gives you a chance to open up a longer dialogue with them.

Admittedly, you may not want every passerby to stop and plug in. But in my experience, most people won’t stop unless they have a valid reason. And stopping in a random booth to charge your phone is not a reason (again, for most people).

And if you have a table or counter that’s not currently equipped with a charging port, it’s easy enough to add when you get the charging port kit.

Charging tables come in all shapes, sizes and heights, so it should be a simple matter to find one that fits your needs and desire. Take a look at our complete charging table collection here, and browse a few images and photos here:

Nothing quite like it. I’ve seen many done for a number of clients, and all agree they come in very handy!

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