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

Branding

The Pros and Cons of Giving Out Free Gifts

This is a guest post by Rodney Laws, Editor at Ecommerce Platforms.

We’re all familiar with tradeshow swag. If you’ve been through a hectic stretch of tradeshow attendance, you’ve surely lurched back to your vehicle of choice with a heavy bag of assorted items — and if you’ve ever presented at such a show, you’ve most likely opted, or been told, to hand out some products (free of charge).

It’s a long-standing staple of the industry, so you might think it’s inevitable, but you have a choice in the matter. Don’t want to offer free gifts? You don’t have to. If you’re on the fence, though, you might be looking for a nudge in one direction or the other. So what should you do? Cover your stall in tempting swag, or leave it bare and focus on the reason why you’re there?

To borrow from ecommerce parlance (it is my industry, after all), it’s like the delicate matter of landing page development: you can have a generic landing page that doesn’t impress or offend, or you can build a custom landing page that differs from the competition in ways that may delight or frustrate. Neither option is perfect. Either can go wrong.

To help you decide what’s best for you, here are the pros and cons of giving out free gifts. Consider them my gifts for you (have I tipped my hand there?).

Why you should give out free gifts

All those tradeshow presenters can’t be totally misguided in breaking out the swag bags. Here are the main reasons why you should dish out the goods:

  • They can easily be branded. You don’t need to hand out generic items that will get thrown in bags and immediately lose any association with you. If you do it well, you can give out branded gifts that get across your brand identity and possibly your brand message too (it depends on how much space you have for text and visuals).
  • Tradeshows can be dry. As much as professionals will get hyped-up ahead of a tradeshow, the energy can run out quickly if exhibits are dull and they drank too much the previous evening. But free gifts will always get attention — and even if that attention is brief, it’s better than no attention at all.
  • You can get quite creative. Pens are always useful, but you don’t need to offer pens. If you can think of something portable and not overly expensive, you can make it a free gift, and that gives you a lot of creative scope. Look at what others are doing, and come up with something different.
  • People often expect them. Unfortunately, the precedent of free gifts at tradeshows can make life hard for those exhibitors who don’t have any. It might be viewed as indicative of a lack of effort, or even a cheapness that bodes poorly.

Why you shouldn’t give out free gifts

That something is popular doesn’t mean it’s sensible. Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t give out free gifts at tradeshows:

  • The ROI might not be there. While it’s great to get plaudits for the quality of your swag, you need meaningful ROI for the process to be worthwhile. If you keep handing out products and getting less value in return than you spend on them, then you’d be better served not giving out any gifts at all. Sometimes there isn’t much point.
  • You can make it a selling point. If you just have an empty stall, no one will care, but if you make a point of your lack of free gifts — you could make it a stand against plastic use, for instance, or simply explain that your brand is so good that you don’t need gimmicks (this is itself a gimmick, of course, but don’t mention that) — then you can get the same kind of attention at no cost.

Overall, then, should you bother giving out free gifts? Well, it depends on whether you think there’s ROI to be yielded. If you can choose the gifts well and make them actionable somehow, they can prove quite fruitful. Here’s my suggestion: try to come up with a smart free gift strategy. If you devise one, use it. If you don’t, forget the gifts. Simple!

Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.

Guest Appearance on Power Up For Profits Podcast

I’ve known Kathleen Gage of PowerUp for Profits for years and she recently asked me to be on her podcast. Like me, she posts both audio on her podcast page and video on her YouTube channel. Kathleen knows how to get to the center of what is helpful to listeners, and this time was no different:

If you’d like to click through to the post that is specific to this interview, click here. She has broken down the conversation into the topics we covered, including Foundation for Success, Follow Up, Make Your Booth Time Engaging, Pre-Show Marketing, Swag and more. We covered a lot of ground in a short conversation.

Visit Power Up For Profits here.

5 Must-Do’s for Successful Tradeshow Marketing

I sat down with a long-time colleague to be interviewed this week and to prepare I put a list together of the 5 must-do’s for successful tradeshow marketing. We didn’t go over the whole list because the conversation took its own path. But I thought – hey, it’s a good list! Here it is:

  1. Have an exhibit that draws people in.
    1. We could go into this in detail, but your graphics and messaging should clearly tell people at a glance:
      1. Who you are
      1. What you do
      1. What problem you solve for them
  2. Have a goal. Share that goal with your staff.
    1. Brand awareness
    1. Sales
    1. Generate leads
    1. Add distributors
    1. Reach new markets
    1. Launch new products or services
    1. Find new hires
    1. Meet current customers, partners and distributors
  3. Have a well-trained staff
    1. Your staff should know how to greet people
    1. Your staff should know the products or services
    1. Know how to gather the proper information for a good lead…which leads to…
  4. Know what a lead is…
    1. A lead is NOT a card in a fishbowl
    1. A lead is someone who qualifies
      1. They’re looking to buy what you’re selling
      1. They have a budget
      1. They know when they’re going to buy
      1. They have the power to make a decision
    1. Once a lead is qualified, the follow up is critical
  5. Follow-up:
    1. Gather the right information
      1. Name and contact
      1. When is the follow up
      1. Where is the follow up
      1. Who is doing the follow up
      1. What is the follow up: sending a brochure, sample, in-person meeting?

We did get to a few of these, and they were good talking points throughout the conversation. One she produces the interview and gives me a link, I’ll make sure to include it in a blog post soon!


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House (Free Report)

Shake it Up

Seth Godin’s go-to phrase is “Go make a ruckus.”

Webster’s defines “ruckus” as “a disturbance or a commotion.”

A disturbance can be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint and the circumstances. The word “disturbance” is non-judgmental. “Commotion” is the same. It’s not necessarily inherently good or bad; positive or negative.

But you can insert your judgment into your ruckus, into the disturbance or commotion you make.

Nick Woodman at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009

At tradeshows, GoPro’s Nick Woodman used to famously create a commotion by standing on a table, hooting and hollering, gathering people around, showing off the GoPro camera and give away prizes. The company’s market cap zoomed to almost ten billion dollars before coming down to earth. Along the way GoPro created a new category in the digital camera world. Now that’s a ruckus. That’s one way to shake it up.

Meduri Farms decided to invest in a new island exhibit and double the size of their footprint at the International Food Technicians Show. Their first time with the new exhibit they tripled their leads. That’s another way to shake it up.

Meduri Farms at IFT 2017

Dave’s Killer Bread dedicated much of their branding space at 2019’s Natural Products Expo West exhibit to the idea of giving felons a second chance. That’s yet another way to shake it up.

Dave’s Killer Bread at Natural Products Expo West 2019

There are plenty of ways to use your tradeshow space to shake it up, to make a ruckus, to cause a disturbance or commotion for a good cause. Or to double your leads. Or to grow a company.

What can you do?


Tradeshows Are a Mix of Precision and Experimentation

When it comes to tradeshow marketing, anything goes. Right? Well, maybe not everything, but certainly it’s a time to try things. Do things differently. Experiment.

Or. Maybe not. Tradeshows are fraught with risk. You’re putting a lot of money on the line. Generally speaking, the cost of tradeshow marketing is about a third of a company’s overall marketing budget. Which means that it’s a lot of money in play, making it hard for a company to risk much.

In a sense, tradeshows can be an interesting mix of the precise and the experimental.

The precision is important, to be sure. Your tradeshow staff is your front line. The most important piece of the puzzle. They need to know what they’re doing and why. If mistakes are made, or if your staff isn’t as well-trained as they could be, your company might miss out on a good amount of potential business.

Your exhibit is important. It’s the 3D representation of your brand, and if it’s not spot-on, it’ll send mixed messages to your audience.

Your products, demos and sampling have to be well-thought out and well-executed. Make some mistakes in these areas, and again, you’re leaving potential money on the table.

Capture someone’s attention!

Precision is important in these areas.

But tradeshows are also ripe for experimentation. You have opportunities to do surveys, market research, unusual activities, oddball booth items and much more that will grab eyeballs and attention without impacting the precision needed in other areas. VR, smoothie bikes, live music, projection mapping, unusual use of video….the list is endless as to how creative you can get at tradeshows and still do all of the precise things that you need to do to engage with attendees, capture leads, have an exhibit that captures your brand precisely.

Tradeshows are a balancing act no matter what you’re trying to balance. Adding some experimentation along with the precision gives you flexibility, a little tension (which makes people stop and look), and keeps you, your visitors and your competitors on your toes.


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House (Free Report)

What’s New in the New Year?

It’s 2020. Seems like everyone wants something new. After all, this century is no longer a teenager! Hey, if the century were a human, it could almost drink!

So…what’s new in the tradeshow industry?

At TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we work with a handful of vendors: designers, manufacturers and other suppliers in the tradeshow industry.

Classic Exhibits

Our main partner since we started this business has been Classic Exhibits. If not for them, we wouldn’t be in business. Classic Exhibits is a ‘white label’ manufacturer that designs and sells products through a network of distributors. They’ve gone from kind of a kit designer and manufacturer to doing a lot of custom work. It’s where the industry is going, and Classic Exhibits is among the companies leading the way.

And when they introduce something new, it’s good. More than good. It’s groundbreaking. In the last couple of years, they introduced Gravitee, a tool-less exhibit system that sets up easily, breaks down quickly and ships flat. It’s made a difference to clients of ours at Classic Exhibits. In fact, the first time we set up a Gravitee wall with an installation and dismantle crew, they were impressed with how easy and quickly it went up.

Now Classic is introducing Tool-Less SuperNova Lightboxes. Check out their blog post here, and then look through the selection on Exhibit Design Search. Let me quote:

Our new Tool-less SuperNova Lightboxes achieves all of those goals. While there may be more “complicated” solutions, there are none stronger or easier. We estimate the new tool-less connectors reduce assembly by 70-80%. Plus, the splines and the corner connectors can stay on the extrusion reducing the possibility of lost parts. Even the translucent knobs are innovative since they eliminate shadows and reflections.

Can’t wait to see these in action.


Orbus

We also work with Orbus, which provides numerous – maybe countless – options for popups, banner stands, table throws and more. They have high quality combined with budget pricing – a good combination.

And they’re kicking off 2020 by introducing a variety of new products, including digital banners, outdoor tents, shaped signs, smaller (and larger) HopUp fabric stands, and more. Many of these are lightweight, easy to set up by just a person or two, and priced right. See the selection of new designs and products here.

We’ve enjoyed working with other manufacturers and vendors through the years, but when it comes to something new, both Classic Exhibits and Orbus have taken the initiative to keep bringing the “NEW” to the New Year.

Should Your Company Really Exhibit at That Show?

If you’ve attended the same tradeshows over the years, no doubt you’ve seen an interesting phenomenon: some companies attend for years and then just stop.

Why? What caused them to disappear?

Certainly, there are a thousand answers to that question, and much of those answers likely have a lot to do with internal dynamics as much as the show itself.

But I’ve seen it happen frequently.

I’ve worked with some companies that have exhibited at the same show for years, only to decide after seven or eight appearances that they weren’t going to get anything useful out of another appearance.

Why’d you stop going? I’ve asked that question and received a variety of answers:

“We’ve pretty much maxed out our ability to get new distributors, which is why we exhibited at that show. Our focus is on working with those retailers one on one to get more focused on giving them better products based on what their customers want.”

“The show moved a couple of weeks. Meaning it fell into a different fiscal year. And once the new company owners saw how much their tradeshow budget would be increasing for the fiscal year, they got to looking closer at all the marketing. We’ve decided to pull back and re-examine our entire marketing strategy.” This company did return to the show a couple of years later.

“We kept getting lousy locations which we couldn’t overcome. We put our marketing dollars elsewhere.” In this case, we wondered if they couldn’t have done better to market their appearance in spite of the bad location. It’s been done.”

“Our company has matured to the point that this particular show no longer works for us.”

And so on. There are a thousand reasons to continue exhibiting at a show. And as many to decide not to exhibit again, or at least for a couple of years.

Tradeshow marketing is expensive. For companies that are investing in this marketing channel, it behooves them to make sure the dollars are well-spent. And one of the questions that should be asked is: should we really be at that show this year?

It’s worth talking about.


7 Best Tradeshow Marketing Actionable Podcasts of 2019

Looking back at 2019 as we tumble freely into 2020, I got to thinking about the many people I’ve talked to over the past three years on my weekly TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. In fact, you might have seen my blog post recently, 10 Podcasts From 2019 Worth Another Listen.

And they were all good, fun and worth your time to listen.

But I got to thinking about podcasts that actually gave you solid actionable tips to make things happen. And there were several. Let’s recap and give you a chance to dig in again.

Seth Kramer: Seth is a longtime professional presenter and, in this conversation, shares great tips on how to use a presenter, and how to prepare your staff for the influx of people and leads that will result. Other tips include how to gauge the interest of potential clients as they watch the presentation.

Sam Smith of Social Point: Sam talks about the many ways that games can be used to bring people to your booth and keep them there. Tips on creating an engaging activity, how to strategize to accomplish your objectives, and using new technology in tradeshow booths.

Francis Friedman: What’s happening with the Modern Digital Tradeshow? A lot! And Francis digs into how our industry is the foundation of the 1X per year event and the world is a 24/7/365 digital world.

Laura Allen is known as The Pitch Girl, and frankly, her method of distilling the essence of your pitch to a short soundbite is one of the handiest things you can have at a tradeshow when someone asks you what you do.

David Newman is a marketer’s marketer. His ideas work on so many levels, with tradeshows being just one. He discusses how to start a marketing plan, offers tips on marketing videos, how to use speaking (yes, at tradeshows) as a way to market your business and more.

Joan Stewart, the Publicity Hound. Yes, this appeared in late 2018. But hey, this half-hour podcast is probably the best 30 minutes you’ll spend if you’re trying to get a handle on your tradeshow marketing with specific actionable tips. Tips on preparation (get the show manual, try to find a speaking or panel slot), what to do at the show (make sure you have enough handouts such as FAQs, cheat sheets, quizzes, flash drives, etc.), why you should hang out a few times near the media room (get a blogger to write something about your company, let media folks know you’re an expert in two or three areas of your industry and many more), how to visit competitors booths, how to follow up and so much more. Seriously, a goldmine of actionable information related specifically to tradeshow marketing.

Hope you enjoy these seven podcast/vlog replays and find some great tips to put to use as you head into your 2020 tradeshow marketing schedule!


5 Things to Do in January Before Your Tradeshow Schedule Really Takes Off

Let’s assume that your company does a fair amount of tradeshow marketing. Maybe a dozen shows, including two or three large national shows and smaller, regional or more-focused shows where your product fits in.

Your first show of the new year is still a couple of months away, so you’re probably thinking you have time to make sure all is right.

And you’re probably on the right track.

But it might be worthwhile to go over your checklist for the new year one last time.

Let’s assume that you had decent results last year but would like to improve on those results in 2020.

Here are a number of areas to look at and things to consider as you plan your show schedule.

Know Your ROI

Return on Investment is critical for tradeshow success. Just because you’re getting sales doesn’t mean you’re making money. Calculating your ROI is, in theory, straightforward enough. You’ll need to know a few things, such as how much it cost you to exhibit at a specific show. Add those numbers up, including travel, booth space, any capital investments such as a new exhibit, any samples you handed out, drayage, shipping – all of it – until you get a final number.

Now, gather all the leads from that show, check with sales to learn how much profit the company actually netted from those leads. Then do the math.

Here’s a link to a blog post on calculating ROI and ROO. And if you’d like to download an ROI calculation spreadsheet courtesy of Handshake, click here.

Expand Your Goals Beyond ROI to Other Things

Beyond your goals of making money, see what else you can do to make your tradeshow investment worthwhile. Drive traffic to your website or social media platforms, track the number of booth visitors, networking with industry colleagues, launching new products and more – these are all valid and valuable things to track.

Plan Some Surveys

A tradeshow is a great place to do a little casual market research. Set up a survey on a tablet, offer a prize to people that answer questions, and see what useful information you get.

Train Your Staff

Really, when was the last time you paid a professional to come in and train your booth staff? The proof is in the pudding. A well-trained booth staff is one of the most important things you can do to increase your level of success.

Hire a Professional Presenter

Perhaps not every tradeshow booth needs a presenter, but if you’re going to get serious about showing off a complicated product, having a professional presenter that knows how to draw a crowd and distill the critical bits and pieces of your product or service in invaluable. And worth every penny.

Beyond these ideas, it always helps to keep your staff informed on plans as appropriate. If your staff knows what you’re planning and what the company’s goals are, and why, they will be much more likely to have buy-in to the company’s success.

Make it a great 2020!

How do You Stand Out in a Crowd?

Back from Thanksgiving week, a nice few days away from work. Sit down at the computer Monday morning.

Hundreds of emails piled up in my in-box. 785 to be precise. Lots of them with pitches on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I mean, a ton of pitches.

Delete them all: delete, delete, delete. Don’t bother to read them. They do nothing for me.

On a few, I decide to unsubscribe. But that takes longer. And with most of the newsletters I unsubscribe from, I feel like they keep sending me stuff. So what’s a guy to do?

It’s obvious that none of those emails stood out. They did nothing for me (I think I said that already). I’m not looking for any Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, I have work to do. I’m not looking for Christmas presents for anyone, or to save money on things that I probably would not buy at any point. I’m busy and want to get these off of my to-do list as soon as possible, which means I’m scanning quickly and deleting almost everything once I determine it’s not a client, or a potential client.

I’m not their target market.

Email is one thing. Let’s move from email to other venues, such as retail, or online ads, or, hey, tradeshows!

When people walk by your retail store in a shopping mall, are you doing anything to stand out?

When you advertise online, what makes your ad stand out?

When people walk by your tradeshow booth, are you doing anything to stand out in a crowd?

It’s easy to ignore and delete an email. It’s easy to walk by a retail store without stopping. It’s a piece of cake to ignore ads on your screen.

It’s pretty easy to walk by a tradeshow booth, too, unless something really outstanding is going on at the booth. Maybe it’s a unique booth. Maybe it’s a presentation that draws you in, entertains you and informs you of the company’s products and services. Maybe it’s a unique food sample. Could be anything.

Tradeshows have a distinct advantage over emails, and here’s why: emails go out to people who have (supposedly) opted-in to a company’s pitches. But over time, it’s not uncommon for that company – which is often owned by another entity – to share that email address with another company, and soon you’re getting pitches from (somewhat) related companies or products or services. Has that happened to you? Happens all the time to me.

The difference that tradeshows have is that you have spent handsomely to be at the show. But the show is targeted, the audience is specialized. The people walking the show floor have also paid to be there, and they are usually there for specific reasons, the main one being that they are SHOPPING for something, and since you’re exhibiting there, chances are they’re SHOPPING FOR SOMETHING YOU ARE SELLING.

Still, you have to stand out in a crowd. Tradeshows have a lot of competition. Your biggest and best competitors are doing all they can to make their best pitch to the same people you’re pitching. That’s the name of the game.

Which means that whatever you do, it had better be good. It had better be worth your time and money.

It had better be something that stands out in a crowd.

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