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

Branding

Can Limitations Help Your Creativity?

Unlimited choices. Seems like having the pick of anything we want would make things easier, right? For example, I have a subscription to Apple Music. Yeah, it could be Pandora or Spotify or any of the music streaming services. But with a streaming subscription, you have instant access to millions – literally millions – of choices when it comes to what songs or artists or albums to listen to.

Yet often I find myself stumped, not knowing what I should listen to. So I go back to my own library, which has only 50,000 or so tracks. Much easier to find something.

But too many choices? Yeah, doesn’t always work. Yeah, when I hear about the new album from Coldplay or Jackson Browne, I can easily jump over and listen.

The less choice you have, the more you must use those constraints to your benefit. I think the same thing applies to the scope of your tradeshow exhibit project.

Sure, you may love to have a large island, 20 x 30 or even larger. Just think of the things you can do with such a large space! But if you have only half or less of that space, it forces you to consider every square foot. And as a result, you can still come up with some very creative tradeshow exhibits.

Want eco-friendly? Use cardboard tubing, bamboo wood, or actual live plant enhancements as part of your design.

Need a table but want it to still be an eye-catcher? Try a custom branded, LED-highlighted odd-shaped table.

A custom LED-highlighted table takes up little space but catches eyes.

Need to save on cost and still have a nice-looking booth? I’ve seen several booths that use the shipping cases as building blocks for counters and back walls.

Looking for a way to draw attention to your small booth presentations? Hire a dynamic and charismatic presenter that’s experienced in drawing small but enthusiastic crowds.

Creativity isn’t limited to large canvases. You can get creative in countless ways. Just pull out your thinking cap and collaborate with others.

Tradeshows Aren’t Magic

When was the last time you saw a card trick? I mean, a good card trick where you were left scratching your head about how the heck the magician did that? You immediately want to know how it was done, right? But no, you never see that. Not really. A good magician works his magic and all you see is the result: the reveal.

If someone showed you how it was done, the magic of it sort of vanishes – poof! – right?
One of the emails I get is from a site called Penguin Magic. It seems like nearly every day they send out a video of a trick of some sort, and they’re offering to sell you the trick so that you can practice it and show it off to your friends and family.

I don’t have a big desire to be a magician and learn card tricks well enough to show them off (maybe I’m too busy writing novels and songs and other stuff in my limited spare time), but the concept of lifting the curtain to see how a trick is done is intriguing. But not enough to spend the time to practice card tricks.

When it comes to tradeshow marketing, there’s no magic involved, except to the visitor, and perhaps to only a few of them. First-time tradeshow visitors (and every tradeshow has its share of first-timers) might not fully understand what’s going on. They don’t know exactly how the exhibits get set up, although they can surmise that if they want. They don’t see all of the planning and organization and rushing and graphic layout and production and teeth-gnashing when deadlines get pushed and rush fees are instituted.

All they see is your booth, in all its glory (or not). They only see your staff. They don’t see what training, if any, that staff did prior to the show to know how to greet visitors, how to ask the right questions, how to discern between the prospects and the tire-kickers.

All they see is the result. They see the reveal.

The Perfect Tradeshow Experience

Yes, we’ve heard it a hundred time: perfect is the enemy of good. But what would a perfect tradeshow experience really look like – if you could make it happen?

From your perspective – the exhibit tradeshow manager or staff member – it might look like something like this:

  • Fair prices for booth space rental, material handling, shipping and other show services such as installation/dismantle, cleaning, etc.
  • Getting a nearby hotel, within walking distance, at a good price.
  • Twice as many leads as you had planned for and/or more sales than you anticipated.
  • Tradeshow exhibit getting plenty of compliments from visitors, maybe even recognition from the show itself with some sort of award. Graphics looked terrific, booth was always clean and presentable.

All of that would be great, right? Maybe not perfect, but as close as you can get.

But let’s flip the script and ask the question: what would be a perfect tradeshow experience for your visitors? Yeah, the people that come to the show – and to your booth – to learn about new products and services and hopefully find the right one that suits them to a T.

  • Immediate recognition by a booth staffer when you walk into the booth: a smile and a good opening question that engages them on a topic that is relatable to their specific situation regarding your product or service.
  • The visitor would feel like a welcome guest in your booth. After all, you’ve hired the best people and trained them well, so they know how to properly welcome visitors.
  • Good follow-up questions from the staffer. Perhaps even a product sample if appropriate.
  • Collection of contact information: no more and no less than what is needed for a timely follow-up.
  • Their visit to your booth was useful to them but didn’t end up being cut off or taking too long. After all, they have other booths they want to visit.
  • The follow-up was exactly as promised: on the day and time it was planned, and it happened like it was intended, whether an in-person visit, a phone call, an email, or a follow-up piece of mail with a sample or brochure or another promised piece.
  • Based on their visit, the prospect decided that your company was indeed exactly what they were looking for and feel that the business relationship is just starting and, assuming all continues to go well, will continue for years.

Now that you know what a perfect tradeshow experience might feel like from the attendees walking into your booth, what will it take to pull that off, again and again?

Stranger in a Strange Land: the New World of Tradeshows

If you’re a fan of Robert Heinlein’s classic science fiction book “Stranger in a Strange Land,” you know the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who was born on Mars, raised by Martians, and comes to Earth in early adulthood. He ends up in a political power struggle and as the title suggests, he’s a little lost in the whole thing.

I sense that many people are feeling a similar way when it comes to returning to the tradeshow floor. Exhibit designers, builders and exhibitors are looking to the future when things will return to normal and they can get back to the action of exhibiting and all that entails.

Except…

This morning I see a post in a tradeshow group on Facebook that a client has canceled an appearance in an upcoming show in early August. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the resurgence of the delta variant of the virus and the continued resistance by a significant portion of the population to getting vaccinated.

Another commented that they also had a cancellation at the same show, and a second cancellation by another client at another show in October. Also due to uncertainty of the virus numbers.

But for some exhibitors who are looking at shows in late October, the assumption is that everything will be fine and they’re proceeding with plans for new exhibits. So they’re forging ahead on designs and are getting ready to put significant money down on new exhibits.

I get the sense that with all the players involved – organizers, exhibitors, attendees, designers, fabricators, labor and support services – no one is sure of which way to jump, and unfortunately we’ll all have to jump several times before we learn where we’re going to land.

In the TV show “Billions,” one of the questions that come up now and then is: “Are you certain?” And the response is meant to be “I am not uncertain.”

But I don’t think anyone has much certainty right now about the tradeshow world and when it might return to normal. Or even settle into a “new normal,” which will be different but at least predictable.


Eco-Smart Sustainable Tradeshow Exhibits via TradeshowGuy Exhibits

Not only do exhibitors care about the environment, but they also want to have exhibits fabricated in an eco-friendly way – AND let their clientele know about their commitment to the environment.

That’s why here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve partnered with Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits for years. Many of our clients have requested eco-friendly exhibits, and we thought we should share this friendly and informative video to show you exactly what an ex-friendly exhibit is all about:


Find our selection of Eco-Systems exhibits here at TradeshowBuy.com.

And check the latest sell sheets (click to enlarge; then right-click to save):

Promotional Products Supply Lines Pinched: Order Soon

Heading to a tradeshow later this summer or fall? Maybe early in 2022? Probably the last thing you tend to think about is swag. Promotional products. Giveaways. Whether small imprinted items such as pens, letter openers, flash drives, lip stuff (what’s that stuff called, anyway??), or whatever, you probably used to wait until the last moment to order. And the promotional products company would jump into action and before you know it, boxes arrive full of customized and imprinted stuff.

Hold up. That may not be that easy this time around.

What’s going on? Supply lines are bottlenecked, shipping is difficult and expensive, and it’s harder for production companies to keep supplies in stock. What’s on warehouse shelves one day may be gone next week, leaving companies scrambling to identify second and third choices for tradeshow giveaways.

Rama Beerfas of Lev Promotions, in a recent podcast interview, discussed some of the issues regarding challenges in the industry torn by the pandemic. In a recent newsletter, she outlined a few challenges still preventing the smooth acquisition and production of customized giveaways.

Inventories are low, products are selling out.

Production times are longer (this isn’t limited to the promotional products industry; many vendors in the event/conference/tradeshow world are seeing similar situations). This is often due to staffing shortages.

Shipping costs, particularly overseas, have increased. As Rama put it in her newsletter, “A contracted rate of $$3,000 per container rental has skyrocketed to $10,000 or more and bidding wars are happening.”

All I can say is “YIKES!” Well, that and be prepared for increased costs and production time if you’re planning on acquiring branded promotional items to spread around at your next event.

Preparing for the Return of Tradeshows: What it Means to Your Wallet and Schedule

Inflation is kicking in, have you noticed? Have you recently tried to price a piece of plywood, for example? And no doubt you’re feeling it at the pump, too.

It’s affecting the cost of tradeshow exhibits and tradeshow marketing, too. In a recent Classic Conversation – where Classic Exhibits distributors gather monthly to share info and chat – much of the conversation was about rising prices. And it’s apparently affecting a lot of the marketplace. Prices are moving up, and time frames are also changing.

The Supply Line Blues

For example, when the pandemic hit, companies had to shed employees. Many were furloughed indefinitely, many were simply let go. Now that things are moving in the other direction, albeit slowly in many instances, companies are having to staff up again. And many are finding it challenging to get dependable people back into the workforce.

Also, supply lines are either clogged or pinched, or negatively affected, meaning that it takes longer to get the materials that you need. There’s a high demand where there was recently very little demand, which means that the ramping up of production is happening, and it doesn’t happen overnight. And shipping is taking longer than it used to. Much longer, depending on where things are coming from. If materials are coming from Asia, for instance, the broad stroke take is that shipping containers cost more and are harder to find, making shipping not only more expensive, but things are taking longer.

In the states, shipping times are expanding by a few days in some instances. Again, these are general observations, but people who handle shipping logistics agree that it’s taking longer to get things from Point A to Point B.

Other things to watch for

It’s been noted that in some locales, show services are being impacted. In a quick addendum to our regular monthly chat, someone observed that GES was allowing only their rental exhibits to be set up, and not allowing any EACs (Exhibitor Approved Contractors) onto the floor. Again, this seemed to be only in a few places, but it raises flags about how you should approach planning for your next show.

What to do:

Talk to your exhibit house: find out prices ahead of time; find out how long the quote will be good for (expect that 30 days is a likely limit).

Talk to your labor and show services contractors well ahead of the show so you are prepared for any changes that you may have to deal with for the upcoming show.

Download and read the show manuals from top to bottom and if you notice changes or have questions, take the time to reach out and get clarity on anything you’re uncertain about.

Finally, don’t wait until the last minute for any booth changes. Plan on adding an extra week or two or three to your design and production schedule. Show dates won’t move, and if you want any significant changes to your tradeshow booth, make sure your planning includes the extra time needed.


© Copyright 2016 | Oregon Blue Rock, LLC
Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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