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

Branding

10 Reasons to Change Exhibit Houses

Most companies we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits work with one exhibit house for several years, and the urge to change doesn’t come around much. Maybe you’ve been comfortable or years, but something changes. Could be minor, could be major. But it does happen. People change, goals change, situations change. Changing vendors can be challenging and pose a set of challenges. Lots of people are uncomfortable with change and prefer to stick with something even though it’s a good idea to at least look around.

When doing your evaluation, look at all options. One option might mean staying with your current vendor. But when evaluating, make one list with those that are considered competent service providers and those that might be looked at as critical partners.

What reasons might you have – valid reasons – for shopping around for another exhibit house? Let’s take a look at some things that might come up.

Your needs and goals have changed. It may be that you’re working with an exhibit house that excels in smaller exhibits, such as inline modular booths, but you want something custom. Turns out that your current vendor may be able to do what you want, but it’s a stretch. Or perhaps you want more, such as a coordinated tradeshow marketing strategy with planning and execution, and all your current vendor does is design and fabricate exhibits.

Their designers aren’t thinking out of the box like you’d like. Exhibits can get really wild and weird, believe me. I’m sure you’ve seen them! But if the exhibit house you currently work with has a group of in-house designers that seem to stick with the tried-and-true, and never really show you something wacky, it might be time to find another designer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to move on from the same fabricator, it may just mean bringing in an outside designer.

Lack of Communication. Do you hear from your exhibit house only when you reach out to them for something? Or do they stay in communication frequently even though a show is not currently pending?

Problems with Delivery. In the tradeshow world, deadlines run the show. Does your exhibit house meet deadlines without breaking a sweat, or do you feel that they’re struggling – which means you’re anxious much of the time? The most reliable vendors can hit a bump in the road on occasion, but if that happens do they communicate that to you? Or is the failure to deliver consistently a trend in the wrong direction?

Change exhibit house

They take you for granted. Big exhibit houses are equipped to handle everything from small in-lines to gigantic island booths that spill out of a show’s floor, it seems. If you’re one of their small customers, it may be that they just assume you’re well-taken care of without really checking. Sometimes a lack of communication tells you that they have other priorities.

Poor Service. If a company really wants and values your business, you’ll see it in their service. There shouldn’t be invoice errors, lack of attention to detail, slow response time.

The person that’s handled your account has moved on. The new person doesn’t really “get” you. It may mean that you have to work to get to know them better. But as the account manager, that falls more heavily on them to retain the business than it does on you.

Personality clash. This could be anything (politics, religion, brusqueness, and so on). It may not mean it’s time to move on. It may just mean you need to deal with another person at the company.

Pricing. Not only what is the price, but what are you getting for the money? Some vendors are great at providing a basic service at a good price. Others may be more skilled with more resources who can creatively collaborate, but that may come at a cost you’re not quite ready for. An unexpected price increase may also spur a change. Price increase happen, everyone does it over time. But if a price increase is coming on things that you normally purchase from your exhibit house (graphics, labor for repairs and upgrades, etc.) and you aren’t informed ahead of time, that is not good business.

Culture. Maybe not as big a deal if you’re not actually working for a company, when it would be a really big deal. But sometimes that culture doesn’t transfer well and if it makes everyone uncomfortable and awkward, it might be time to move on.

There are a lot of reasons that companies are not a good fit. And there’s no wrong answers. There are a lot of exhibit houses out there vying for your business. We hate to turn business down, but it happens because for whatever reason, it’s not a good fit.

free tradeshow exhibit quotes

What do Visitors See in Your Booth That Makes Them Stop – or Keep Walking?

When people walk by your booth, they make a subconscious (or unconscious) choice on whether or not to stop and visit. In an instant, that choice is made. Much of what they base that choice in never really registers as a solid thought, but the choice is made regardless. They stop to visit and check out your booth. Or they keep on going.

What makes them stop? What makes them keep walking? Let’s take a look.

Brand: if they know the brand, they already have an impression. They have an emotion tied to the brand. It may be positive or negative. Or it may be neutral. In any case, the brand itself is part of that judgment.

Size of booth/how many people are already there: if a couple of dozen people are crowded into an island booth and they are all engaged in comes activity, or they are all paying attention to a single activity such as a professional presenter, they may decide to join. Nothing draws a larger crowd like a small crowd.

attract or repel tradeshow visitors

Newness or uniqueness of exhibit: if they come around a corner and see something they’re not used to seeing, that may impact their decision on whether to stop. The exhibit itself can be a big part of that subconscious process. Newness counts to a degree. New graphics, clean look, something different than they’ve seen before.

What’s happening in the booth: something interactive, something hands-on can spur people to impulsively stop to find out more. VR headsets. Spinning wheel. Quiz. Anything that lets people get involved, even if only briefly.

Familiarity: of course, familiarity can count, too, especially if that familiarity is of a positive nature. If they’re familiar and fond of a brand, that can draw them in.

Cleanliness (or lack): clean floors, fresh and wrinkle-free graphics, garbage cans that aren’t overflowing all create a positive impression. Clutter, grimy, broken, old or frayed exhibit pieces can put people in the mind of being repelled. They may not even know why, but they’ll subconsciously steer clear of something that their mind recognizes as distasteful. Something that’s not clean can repel.

People: your booth staff is critical in getting tradeshow floorwalkers to stop or not. A well-trained staff knows how to ask a good opening question, and how to engage. A great staffer will override other flaws in your booth, such as an older exhibit, minor lack of cleanliness, unfamiliarity with your brand and so on.

With thousands of people walking the floor at a tradeshow, everything you do and everything that they can see in your booth space can influence their decision on whether or not they will stop. A small change can add up to a significant difference in your response rate. If you could increase your visitor rate by 20% just by having a clean booth, would that make a difference? If you could triple your leads by doubling the size of your booth space and installing a new exhibit, would that be worth it? I’ve seen it happen. Every little thing counts. So does every big thing. What is drawing visitors to your booth? And what is repelling them without you knowing? Take a closer look next time.


This blog post came thanks to an idea from Mel White at Classic Exhibits. Thanks!

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, November 26, 2018: Irina Leoni

What’s one of the best ways to represent yourself to someone who can’t see you in person? Show them a photograph! Not just any photograph, though. Make it professional photograph, taken by someone who know how to bring out the best “you” there is and capture it with a lens.

This week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee features an interview with professional photographer Irina Leoni, who discusses her methods of preparing a subject so they can collaborate on the best possible image:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Disconnecting from the world for just a few days.

The Well-Rounded Tradeshow Marketer

As in any discipline, we can all end up very focused on just a few aspects of the overall skills needed to be a well-rounded and talented worked. For instance, in baseball, a pinch-hitter is great at hitting a pitch but may not be that great at fielding or running.

In the digital world, someone may be very good at engaging on Twitter or Instagram, but just doesn’t get LinkedIn or spend any time on Facebook.

A photographer may be an expert at photographing weddings but would have a difficult time to find a great landscape photo or have the patience to take a good night photo.

You’ve probably heard that it’s better to be focused on just one skill and become really, really good at that skill instead of being a Jack or Jill-of-all-trades.

I don’t agree. The more skills you have the better off you’ll be, even if those skills are only average or slightly above.

Take a writer. Some writers can be a great author but suck at promotion, social media engagement, public speaking and at other skills that would help them be more successful. There are lot of “average” authors that are very successful because they have learned how to engage on social media, speak in public, put together a solid promotion.

When it comes to the well-rounded tradeshow marketer, what skills should you have? Not necessarily be the greatest at, or extremely skilled, but all of the various skills to make you rise above the pack? Let’s take a look:

well-rounded tradeshow marketer

Organization: there are a lot of bouncing balls in the tradeshow world. Your ability to keep track of the many parts of tradeshow marketing is probably one of the most important skills.

Communication: whether it’s having a conversation or communicating with people via email, being able to understand, and be understood, is critical.

Social Media: you don’t have to have the most followers or engage with everyone that “likes” one of your posts, but you do need to know the basics of creating, writing, posting and engaging with those followers.

Scheduling: tradeshow dates on the calendar don’t move. Which means you’ll have to coordinate things such as logistics (shipping, travel, installation/dismantle), booth staff scheduling, updates to your exhibit (modifications, graphic printing, etc.) and more.

Photographer: maybe not the most important skill, but since you carry a camera around in your pocket, you’ll need to learn to take good photographs of the exhibit, and visitors in your booth. Learn how to frame people, get the lighting right, try not to let unwanted guests photobomb your photo, and more.

Labor: you may hire show labor to set up and dismantle your exhibit, or you may have to set it up with fellow staff members. Either way, knowing how everything goes together is a useful skill.

Networking: back to the communication and interpersonal skills. But networking on it’s own is critical to building a network of people you can call on when needed.

Finally, how to MacGyver things: you may not have to actually make your own parachute using a canvas and tie-downs, but being naturally resourceful is a gift. Don’t let it go to waste.

Any other critical skills come to mind?

Being Proactive in Your Tradeshow Booth

It almost seems dumb to suggest that you should be proactive in your tradeshow booth, but with the number of relaxed and frankly lazy exhibitors I’ve seen over the years, it’s not so dumb.

proactive

I’ve seen exhibitors standing behind a table in their booth on the phone, eating lunch, talking with co-workers and more. They’re doing anything but paying attention to attendees.

And that’s just dumb. Keep in mind that tradeshows are a focused marketing opportunity where hundreds or thousands of potential clients or customers are going by your booth space. Also keep in mind these attendees are qualified: they’re in the upper-reaches of the decision-making echelon of the companies that decide to attend the show. You know, the show where your company has spent thousands of dollars to connect with those very decision-makers.

So when I see booth staff ignoring passers-by, I think “they’re letting money just walk on by. Don’t they get it?”

On the other hand, being proactive in your tradeshow booth isn’t hard. It might be slightly harder than standing there gazing idly as potential clients walk but, but not by much.

Instead, your booth staff should have a plan. They should be trained. They should understand the reason they’re there. They should know how to engage attendees in an upbeat positive way.

As our old pal Andy Saks says, you must find a good way to break the ice. Once you do that, you have control over a brief conversation. During that conversation, you’re proactively working to qualify or disqualify the attendee. Once you do that, you dig a little deeper to find out a handful of items. Start with a collection question such as “how did you get started in this industry?” It’s an innocuous question, but it gets people talking. They you proactively peel the onion by uncovering what problems they may have with their current product or service-provider.

Finally, once you’ve gathered sufficient information, close with a confirmation question to verify that you indeed understand the visitor’s situation and move on to setting up the next step before disengaging them.

Or take our old friend Richard Erschik’s approach. There are five questions you should get answered to know if the visitor is qualified:

  1. Do you currently use our product?
  2. Are you considering the purchase of a product such as ours?
  3. If so, when?
  4. Do you make the buying decision?
  5. Do you have the money to spend?

In both cases, the goal is to proactively find out if the person standing in your booth can be turned into a customer.

If you’re proactive about how to engage with tradeshow visitors, this approach can be extremely effective in uncovering leads, identifying their problems, moving them from a prospect to a customer.

Sitting on a chair eating a sandwich just won’t cut it!


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House

Influencers That Influence ME

What is an INFLUENCER? To me it’s someone that gets your attention in any number of ways. It could be a video I saw. Could be a book or article or blog post. Or podcast. Or someone I know in my actual, real life as opposed to online.

These are the people whose tweets I read, whose podcasts I listen to, whose blog posts I read, whose newsletters I make sure not to miss. They write and say things that make me sit up and pay attention.

These are listed in no particular order. Some I’ve been aware of for years, others not so long. Some that were influencers ten or fifteen years ago may have popped back into my consciousness to make the list. And in a sense, it’s incomplete because it will always be incomplete. Influencers come and go. The ideas, writings and videos that catch anyone’s attention also wax and wane like the moon. But to me, these are all worth checking out:

Seth Godin: Daily blogger, host of the Akimbo podcast, speaker, author.

Peter Shankman: Founder of HARO (Help Out a Reporter). Speaks and writes frequently. Author of a new book about ADHD, working on a documentary about ADHD. See his TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee interview here.

Scott Monty: Ford Motor Company’s first Social Media Director. Fortune 500 Advisor. Speaker, Pragmatic Futurist.

Jeff Barjorek: Parabola Consulting. Sales trainer, writer, speaker.

Jeffrey Gitomer: Sales trainer, author, speaker, podcaster.

Steve Miller: Author of Uncopyable (terrific book), speaker, blogger. Marketing gunslinger.

Pamela Slim: Author, business consultant, speaker, coach.

Bill Stainton: Emmy-winning producer, speaker, author. Also appeared on my podcast. Really fun newsletter. See his TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee interview here.

Roy Williams: Former radio salesman who teaches sales, marketing and advertising. His Monday Morning Memo is not to be missed.

Shep Hyken: Hall of Famer in the National Speaker Association. Forward-thinking and best-selling author, blogger, writer and expert on customer service. Here’s his appearance on the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. See his TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee interview here.

Mel White: VP of Business Development at Classic Exhibits. Mel and I have known each other for close to a decade and a half. His insight and knowledge of the tradeshow world, and in particular the latest in tradeshow exhibit materials and trends has always been helpful. Not to mention his crucial help in making both of my books a reality. Here’s his TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee interview.

Terry Brock: Relationship marketing speaker. Another Hall of Famer in the National Speaker Association. Holds forth all the time on the use of technology in communication and presentation. See his TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee interview here.

Denise Wakeman: Blogger, author, writer, digital media marketing expert.

Casey Neistat: NYC-based videographer and story-teller. Ten million YouTube channel followers tells you something. Here’s one of his most-viewed and fun videos:

Gary Vaynerchuk: Social media expert at the highest level. Has parleyed his success with his family’s win business into a multi-million-dollar company, and he’s become an angel investor.

David Newman: Founder of Do It! Marketing. Marketing for Speakers, Authors, Consultants and Experts

Brene Brown: Best-selling author, research professor at University of Houston. Studies, speaks on courage, vulnerability, shape and empathy.

Candy Adams:. Long-time consultant in the tradeshow and event industry, known as The Booth Mom. See her TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee interview here.

Unfinished – more to add later!


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House

Pebble Beach concours d’elegance: Event Marketing Recap

I spent about a week in Monterey with an old friend recently to attend a couple of events: The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at the WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway and the Pebble Beach concours d’elegance. In a sense, both events are about as far away from tradeshows that you can get. But as event marketing goes, they’re at the top of their games.

Consider this: according to the website, “the competition attracts 15,000 affluent aficionados who pay a minimum of $325 for general admission.” And this: “Entrants often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire a car, hundreds of thousands to restore it, and tens of thousands more to transport it to Pebble Beach to compete for our top award. Come day of show, the cars pulling onto the eighteenth fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links often have a total estimated value of half a billion dollars.”

So, yeah, the one-percenters, basically. And of course, there are a lot of other vintage car enthusiasts who like the show and the spectacle who are not in that top echelon (that would include me, just to be clear!).

Just driving around the area over the week gives you an opportunity to see hundreds of exotic and high-end cars that are just out cruising: Porches, McLarens, Teslas, Ferraris, Maseratis, Rolls-Royces, and a few that are simply unrecognizable or unique one-of-a-kinds.

This is a prime market ripe for pitching high-end products. There are numerous car auctions, one of which set a record over the weekend for selling a car at auction for a record $48.4 million. In case you’re wondering, it was a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO.

Car manufacturers spend a ton to show off their newest models. Infiniti, for instance, sets up a large temporary building just above the festivities on the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach. During the runup to the event, they offer visitors a chance to drive new models for a couple of miles. Other car makers over the year have included Jeep, Cadillac, Chrysler, Tesla and many others. In fact, the first I ever heard of a Tesla was in 2008 when they introduced their roadster at the event. In 2016, Tesla was offering a chance to drive their new Model X (which I did).

Ferrari brought several dozen vintage autos and displayed them on the fairway of hole number one.

There were nine Tucker automobiles at the show, along with a handful of Chinese cars and a collection from the Raj of India.

Concept cars encircle the main putting green in front of the pro shop, where we’ve seen everything over the years from an electric VW bus, to McLarens, Rolls-Royces, Porches, Lincolns, Maseratis, Hennesseys, Genesis’ and many more – too many to count. Just a bunch of glorious eye candy for car fans.

Every year there is a raffle during the event, where up to four brand new model cars are given away. Former Tonight Show host Jay Leno has done the honors for years, telling the same jokes year after year.

Some 1200 media members cover the event, with about a quarter of them from outside the United States.

But at the bottom line, the event is a fundraiser for several dozen charities in the area. Over the years the they event has generated millions of dollars that goes to help area children. This year the event raised $1.8 million which will be distributed by the Pebble Beach Company Foundation to 85 local charities.

Check out the gallery below. I’m sure I’ll be back next year. It’s already on my calendar.

Determination

Determination. Perseverance. Dedication. Focus.

Planning. Strategy. Tactics. Action.

Articulate. Explain. Observe.

Reframe. Review. Rest.

Creation. Discussion. Examination. Collaboration.

Research. Plan. Test. Compete. Dissect.

Uncertainty. Resoluteness. Conviction. Courage.

determination

Decision. Self-confidence. Energy. Willpower. Fortitude.

Principle. Purpose. Composure. Direction.

Measure. Aspire. Brainstorm. Dream.

Ambition. Desire. Probity. Teamwork.

Finesse. Coax. Emphasize. Differentiate.

Credentials. Communication. Specialization. Exceptional.

Context. Simplify. Spirit. Emulation.

Modify. Professionalism. Friendliness. Sincerity.

Values. Meaning. Abilities. Creativity.

Positioning. Marketing. Advertising. Branding.

Memorable. Unforgettable. Separate. Unique.

Quality. Knowable. Meaningful. Service.

Learn. Study. Digest. Regurgitate.

Laugh. Breathe. Relax. Sleep.

One. Two. Three. Four.

Let’s. Do. It. Again!

Top 5 Challenges Facing Tradeshow Managers

Not every tradeshow manager faces the same challenges. Some are overwhelmed by being understaffed. Others have a boatload of shows to deal with and it seems as if there is never a breather.

But in the work I’ve done over the years with tradeshow managers, the same handful of issues keep coming up as being significant challenges:

tradeshow manager challenges

Logistics: there are a lot of moving parts in tradeshow marketing. Shipping and I&D (installation and dismantle) make up a big part of those logistics. Add to that shipping product samples, getting everyone scheduled for the show and the booking a convenient hotel and many other bits and pieces and handling the logistics of tradeshow marketing is often outsourced. That’s one reason why at TradeshowGuy Exhibits we are taking on more and more logistic coordination for clients.

Exhibit Brand Management: keeping the booth updated from show to show. New product launches, new services and more means that the exhibit needs to be updated for upcoming shows to reflect that. It’s common, but the timeline sneaks up on people. In a sense, the challenge here is coordination between graphic designers, production facilities and making sure all items get done prior to the booth crates being shipped out.

Company Growth: Many companies we work with are doing very well. But that means moving from small pop-up type exhibits to more complicated exhibits with light boxes, custom counters and more – all of which ship in larger crates and would be set up by hired EAC’s (Exhibitor Approved Contractors). All of this change means that the person handling the shift is moving out of their comfort zone. They face a lot of choices around whether to hire installers, how to package the exhibit for shipping (crates vs. a handful of plastic molded cases, for example), and more.

Getting Good Results: Exhibitors who don’t get good results complain that tradeshows are a waste of time and money. Yet other exhibitors at the same show rave about how great the show was, how many new leads they made and new contacts they came away with, and how many sales were closed. So what’s the difference? Frankly, many exhibitors don’t prepare or execute well. Tradeshow marketing is not rocket science, but with all of the moving parts it’s easy to let a few items slip through the cracks. And those missing items can make all the difference between success and failure.

Budget: It costs a lot of money to exhibit at tradeshows. For companies that do tradeshows, the amount invested in tradeshow marketing is about a third of their overall marketing budget. Making all of their tradeshow dollars stretch as far as possible is an ongoing challenge faced by all companies. For a long list of ways to cut costs at tradeshows, check out this webinar.

Other challenges include booth staff training, record-keeping, keeping track of your competition and other items, but if you can keep these few items under control, you’re doing better than a lot of your fellow exhibitors!

TradeshowGuy Exhibits: Planning Notes for Cannabis Collaborative Conference

cannabis collaborative conference

Since we made the decision to exhibit at a regional cannabis show in January, the Portland Cannabis Collaborative Conference at the Portland Expo Center, we’ve been tossing around a lot of ideas on how to approach it. Thought it might be fun to share some notes about what is crossing our minds regarding the show.

First, the Cannabis Collaborative Conference is a relatively small gathering. Around 125 – 130 exhibitors will set up shop for a few days, January 22 – 24, 2019. There will be two days of conferences, breakfasts, lunches and networking. And of course, exhibiting! In discussions with Mary Lou Burton, the organizer, it was apparent that a number of companies that are not directly involved in the cannabis industry exhibit at the show. There are companies involved in banking, insurance, legal, energy reduction, marketing and more. Given that the show is pretty popular, and the industry is growing, we felt it was a good fit to invest in exhibiting at the show as a potential supporting marketing partner of companies in the cannabis industry that do tradeshows.

Now that the decision has been made, what to do?

As any tradeshow planner knows, it all revolves around budget. From booth space, to travel, from the exhibit itself to giveaways and more, budgets must be decided upon and hopefully adhered to.

At first blush, our budget for the show will be modest. Here are some thoughts on what we might do for our 10×10 space – #420. Yes, we’re in #420.

Exhibit: Lots of things to consider. After all, we have access to a lot of styles of exhibits, from pop-up graphic back walls that set up in seconds, to aluminum extrusion framed light boxes, to typical  10×10 exhibits (rental and purchase) to banner stands and more. The first thing that comes to mind is to do a big back drop (maybe even a light box with fabric graphic) with a large striking image, company name, maybe a few bullet points. I’ll work with a professional designer for this – I ain’t a designer.

Giveaways: of course, I have a couple of books that I’ll either giveaway or sell on the cheap. The organizers have said I can sell the books at my booth (some shows direct sales are not allowed, so I checked). We might also come up with some branded swag. If we can find an item that really makes sense for the show that is a good giveaway, we may do that.

cannabis collaborative conference

PreShow Marketing: the organizers gave me a list of some 2500 people that attended the last show. While it might be helpful to reach out to them via email, our interest is more in the exhibitors – they’re our target market. We might do a couple of email blasts to the group to let them know we’re there and what we do. Email is cheap. Direct mail is probably not a great option, mainly due to the cost. But, even if the attendees aren’t exhibitors, many of them are retail shop owners and are potential customers for other items we can supply. Since I’m active on social media – and especially with the booth number 420 – you can expect that we’ll have a lot of fun both before and during the show promoting both the show and our booth space.

During the show: one thought is to make the rounds at the other exhibits at the very outset of the show opening and invite them to come to booth 420 to pick up a free copy of my book while they last. Once they’re there, we’d be ready to capture their information for follow up. And I think it’s always a good idea to have some sort of thing to do – some interactive element – which bears more thought.

At this writing the show is still 182 days away – half a year. And most of these thoughts and notes on what we’ll do is just that – incomplete ideas. Still, I always tell clients that when a show is a half a year away, THAT is the time to be slowly creating the ideas, talking with team members and getting the juices flowing so that as time goes by they will coalesce and become more concrete until they become a plan that can be executed.

Stay tuned! And if you’re planning to be in Portland in mid-January of next year, put this show on your calendar and come see us!

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