We are awash in data, no matter what business we’re in. TradeshowGuy Tim Patterson talks with Oz du Soleil of ExcelOnFire (YouTube channel) about how to handle all of that data: how to make sure it’s clean, how to analyze it and much more.
ONE GOOD THING: For Oz, it’s cigars. For me, it’s the beginning of football season – college and pro!
As a company owner, salesman and project manager for TradeshowGuy Exhibits, I get tradeshow marketing questions. Hoobooy, I get a lot of questions. I thought it might be fun to answer a handful of the most common questions I get.
Our shipping costs are sky-high. How can we bring these costs down?Many questions are about costs, so it’s a good place to start. Certainly, if something is heavy it’s going to cost a lot to ship. Wood panels are heavy, and many older exhibits have a lot of wood pieces. It also adds up in drayage costs at the show. Some clients like the image that wood gives them, so they bite the bullet and build the cost of shipping into their exhibiting program. Others that want to bring the shipping costs down look at lighter materials, such as silicon-edge fabric graphic panels (SEG) that give a great look but don’t have the weight and heft of wooden or other types of panels.
How can we increase our ROI?It seems that tradeshow marketing is hit and miss. Yes, investing in tradeshow marketing can be expensive, but done right, it can be a boon and open doors to markets that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise reach. Sometimes it comes down to exhibiting at the right shows. It often means putting more time, energy and resources into pre-show marketing, booth staff training and a booth that accurately represents your brand (among others). There are a lot of moving parts and if you let a few of those parts go unattended to, it can contribute to your failure. I spoke with a former exhibitor recently who said the last time they exhibited was years ago and it was a bust. When we spent a few minute dissecting it, we come to the conclusion that as a small local business, one of their biggest challenges was finding a local show that could provide a large enough audience of potential customers. Without deeper digging, it was impossible to know in that brief call, but we both felt that we identified one of their most important challenges: getting in from of the right audience.
How do we work with a designer? We’ve never done that before. Often I end up working with exhibitors who are in a sense moving out of their comfort zone. Before now, they have purchased exhibits from a source that just shows them a catalog of pre-made items. Nothing wrong with that, there are hundreds and hundreds of modular exhibits and accessories that are more or less ‘off-the-shelf’ that will do a great job for you. But exhibitors will often reach the point where they have the budget and desire to move into something custom. Working with a designer is straightforward – but you have to choose a designer that knows how to design in 3D. Graphic designers typically won’t have the skill to do so. However, trained 3D exhibit designers know how to design exhibits that take into account all of your functional needs: storage space, display space, foot traffic flow, graphic layout and so much more. A typically-trained graphic designer won’t have the skill that a 3D designer does. As for working with a designer, it’s typical to have a long conversation, either in person, or on a conference call, with the company stakeholders so that all needs are discussed. At that point the designer will create a mockup or two for review and once comments are in, changes are made until the final design is agreed upon.
I need a new exhibit. Should I prepare and issue an RFP (Request for Proposal)? It depends. There’s no definitive answer on this one. An RFP does a couple of things: it helps clarify your exhibit needs by forcing you to articulate all of your needs, budget, timeline and so on. Putting it all in black and white is a great exercise whether you’re putting out an RFP or not. If you don’t have an exhibit house in mind, issuing an RFP allows you to vet a handful (probably 4 – 6) companies, and make them jump through some hoops to make their case, and perhaps even do mock designs for you. On the other hand, if you have been working with an exhibit house that has done you well – has created great exhibits for you in the past, has been an effective partner for years – then no doubt you’re in good shape staying with them.
How much does it cost?It’s a question people don’t really like to ask, but usually end up blurting it out. Some items come with a set price, like the off-the-shelf catalog items, but if they’re shopping for a custom exhibit, there is no obvious answer. In my younger salesperson days, I’d answer the question with “well, what’s your budget?” but that’s not really a good answer. The better response I believe, is to ask them how they come up with a budget from their end. What is their process for determining how much they are willing to invest? There are industry standards – which are pretty accurate, and a good starting place – but the client has to work through a number of internal issues unique to come up with a realistic budget for their project. A final thought on this: if their internal discussion gives them a number that isn’t realistic for their expectations, a reputable exhibit house will tell them so.
How quick can you get it done? Or: how long will this take? This question often comes from an exhibitor who hasn’t paid close enough attention to the calendar and are now scrambling to get something in place. A recent exhibitor asked me – months (almost a year) ahead of their need and asked “how long does the process usually take?” The question was about designing and fabricating an island booth from scratch. I silently gave him kudos for asking the question up front (and not waiting until a month or two before the show), then told him my answer: for an island exhibit, we’d love to have 3-4 months at minimum. Six months is better. But we’ve turned around island exhibits in 5 or 6 weeks IF the client has a really strong idea of what they want and all that’s need for design is for the designer to create the rendering and confirm that the look and feel and dimensions are accurate – and then we’re off to the races.
Certainly there are other questions I hear, but in reflecting the past year or two, these seem to be what come up the most-asked tradeshow marketing questions. What questions do YOU have about exhibit creation or tradeshow marketing?
Many companies I work with are in the process of increasing the size of their booth, is that the right move for you? Perhaps downsizing is a better choice. So what comes into play when you consider the decision?
Often the choice is strategic. You may know that some of your major competitors are either not going to be exhibiting at a specific show where you want a presence, yet you don’t want to do the full exhibit that you’ve done in the past. Or it’s a show where the attendance is down, so having a smaller presence doesn’t hurt you.
Your brand is morphing into something different, and investing in a new exhibit doesn’t make sense. In this case, you can go for a smaller presence for less money. You might also consider renting an exhibit, which can give you significant savings in the short term.
You need to show a better ROI to the powers-that-be. Investing less in an exhibit is one way to cut up-front expenses and increase the overall ROI.
You’re planning to invest more heavily in pre-show marketing. This is a simple re-focusing of your marketing tactics. Putting more emphasis on reaching visitors prior to the show with direct mail, for instance, can bring people directly to your booth with an appointment and plan in hand that is congruent with your goals.
The bigger shows get even more expensive, and yet you still need a presence there. One way to keep your presence at the show is to have a smaller exhibit. Smaller booth space may also mean you don’t have to send as many people to staff the booth, saving yet more money.
You’re reassessing your overall tradeshow marketing plan. I’ve seen some companies simply pull out of a show for a year or two. They’ve had a major presence for years, yet taking stock of the value of the show was important enough to them to not exhibit and to rather just send several members of management to meet with other exhibitors and partners offsite.
Having decided to downsize your exhibit, make sure that the smaller version of your brand is still impactful. This means that graphics have to be well-designed and of high quality, your exhibit structure should be of high quality, the booth space needs to be kept clean, your staff should be well-trained and well-prepared and your products and service offerings should be your latest and greatest.
The natural inclination for most exhibitors is to get the most money out of their booth, so it’s important to consider ways to update that tradeshow exhibit. What options do you have?
The first and most obvious is to change the graphics. Products and services change, and you can show that change with new graphics, and still keep the old frame of the booth.
Add to your exhibit by including things such as iPad kiosks, banner stands or interactive elements that previously were not there. The challenge, especially in smaller booths, is to keep from adding items that clutter up the booth but don’t really add to your overall effectiveness.
Rent something, such as a charging table and furniture. Your original exhibit may not have come with a budget big enough to do all that you wanted, so after using it a few times, instead of purchasing new items, you can rent them.
Add space. If you’ve been exhibiting with a 10×20, you could upgrade to a 10×30, which would give you 50% more booth space. Then, add something like a meeting area, a theater viewing space or something similar.
Hang a sign. If you’re in an island booth, or some other space that allows you to hang a sign from the ceiling, but you’ve never done it, this is one way to draw more eyeballs from a longer distance. And with the idea that perception is important, having a hanging sign gives you a big upgrade in people’s minds.
Custom flooring. One way to set your exhibit apart from neighbors is to add custom flooring. We recently did a custom booth for Schmidt’s Naturals of Portland, and as part of their exhibit, the flooring was custom. Several people in the company, as well as visitors, commented that the flooring really went a long way to set them apart from other exhibitors.
Hire a pro. Even in a 10×10, the presence of a professional presenter can draw a crowd, and really set you apart from competitors. In a larger space, having regular professional presentations is often a good investment that more than pays for the investment – without a single change to your booth other than making sure you have the space for the crowd.
Yes, it’s upon us – 2017 – have you planned your new year tradeshow schedule? Chances are you’re at least planning a few months into the new year, but have you detailed out the entire year?
Tradeshow planning, as any tradeshow coordinator will tell you, is the key to success. And since there’s a lot to planning, it makes sense to spend a lot of your time making plans, checking plans and then double-checking.
Start with your tradeshow schedule. What shows are you going to? Make a master list of the dates of the shows.
Size of exhibit. Note the size of booth space your company has committed to rent at the various shows.
Break it down. Now start breaking out the various products and services that you’re promoting at each show. Chances are those items will change depending on the audience that’s expected at each show.
From there, you can start breaking out the graphics messaging, sampling needs if any, demos desired at each show and so forth. Break out the details as far as you can at this point; you’ll need to break them down further at some point anyway.
Now you can start determining how many people will be required at each show based on booth size and expected visitors. From this you can figure out what staff members will likely be tasked with working the show.
Beyond this, you can compile website URLs and contact information for all of the shows. Pull up previous year’s paperwork to compare to pricing and floor plan and booth location to what is happening this year.
From this you can compare costs and leads generated, perhaps going so far as to compile the number of new clients or sales generated from 2016 show appearances.
Once you’ve put down most of the broad strokes and details of your shows and booth rental spaces and so on, you can start the task of determining what, if anything, might be changed or added to your current booth properties. Is your exhibit in good shape, or does it need an upgrade of some sort? Or is this the year you’ve decided to invest in a brand new exhibit? That’s another task entirely, but it would be part of your yearly tradeshow schedule planning.
While this is really just a 30,000 foot view of the process, once you put this all together, the real fun begins of breaking out each element of each show and making them work successfully.
There are many ways to measure tradeshow ROI (Return on Investment) and ROO (Return on Objectives). Let’s count a few of the important ones.
Web traffic. You might not think web traffic relates to tradeshow success, but trust me, it does. Knowing how your traffic ebbs and flows before and after tradeshows is one indicator that is worth noting in your overall information gathering.
Social Media Reach. Compare before and after numbers of social media likes and followers. Your level of engagement, or reach, during a show, can show a spike in engagement on your most-used social media platforms.
Booth Visitors. Count the attendees in your booth. Yeah, it’s a pain to do, but if you can manage to at least get a rough count of visitors to your booth each show, you can compare from year to year and show to show.
Show Buzz. Do you have visitors that showed up at your booth because there was some show talk that drew them there? If you have an indication of that, try to find out if they were interested in your booth or products or both.
Networking. How many industry colleagues did you and your team connect with during the show? How were those conversations? Could you consider many of them fruitful, leading to future steps?
New product launch or demo. Count the number of people that attendee presentations or demos, or the number of product samples that were given away. Count the number of leads at those demos, which leads to…
Lead Generation – new leads in particular. Lead generation is THE key metric you need to track from show to show and year to year. That and…
Sales. How many dollars were generated as a direct result of leads generated at the show.
To determine your ROI, take the total revenue generated, subtract the investment in the show and you have your raw number. To get the percentage, divide your original investment into the net income.
To figure out your Return on Objective, identify your objectives prior to the show. You may have non-financial event goals such as customer meetings, samples given away, press coverage, branding, name recognition improvement, collecting emails, enhancing client relations and so on. Then make notes by observing and documenting as much related information as you can. ROO looks at items that do not directly translate to immediate sales or sales opportunities.
You can evaluate such things as:
What was the best part of the show?
What was the least valuable?
Did the booth size work, or was it too small or too large for your purposes?
Did your signage convey the right messages?
Was your pre-show promotion effective?
Were there enough visitors throughout the show to keep your staff busy? Were they overwhelmed?
No matter your overall approach to tradeshow marketing, the more information you are able to gather relating to your ROI and your ROO will make you a better marketer.
I’ve attended so many webinars over the years that it’s easy to come away with both feelings: love and hate. Hate when you spend an hour only to have the presenter take the first 20 minutes giving you his poor sob story, 14 minutes of actual information that you can use, and 26 minutes trying to sell you on his $2,000 product.
But then there are those that cut to the chase, make it worth your while by delivering the goods. So I thought it might be fun to cruise YouTube and try to track down a handful of tradeshow webinars that are actually worth your time.
To begin, Ruth Stevens teams up with Lands’ End in 2013 for a tradeshow webinar called “Get More Out of Your Tradeshow Marketing,” which last about a half hour and is packed full of great information presented professionally.
Udi Ledorgor, author of the Amazon #1 Bestseller “The 50 Secrets of Tradeshow Success,” joined Pepperi for a fun-and-info-filled webinar. It clocks in at just under 40 minutes, so if you’re keeping score and home you now have almost 70 minutes of education to soak up by staying on this page. And if you do, of course, Google will love you, I’ll love you, and more people will find me. So you’re watching these now for TWO reasons: you’re going to learn something that will make you better at tradeshow execution and for the good of all mankind.
But wait, there’s more!
I ran across a rather long, but worthwhile webinar called “5 Tips to Maximize Your Tradeshow Experience” put on in advance of a show in 2016 called QuickBooks Connect by Kelly Bistriceanu of TSheets and Yoseph West of Hubdoc. While there are a number of QBConnect-only mentions for meetups and so forth, these two speak very knowledgeably and discuss some good ideas on planning and execution of tradeshows during this hour-plus webinar:
Okay, if you managed to make it through these webinars, I’ve taken up a couple of hours of your time by now. But y’know what? You’re smarter! And you’ve earned a break and probably a cup of coffee.
I get this question frequently in its many forms: how much should a tradeshow exhibit cost? How much can I expect to pay for a new tradeshow exhibit? What is the price range for a new tradeshow exhibit?
While there is no set answer, as the price range can be YUUUge for similar exhibits, there are industry averages. Those industry averages adjust slightly from year to year, but to me a good rule of thumb is to assign about $1,000 to $1,500 a linear foot for inline booths and in the case of custom islands, figure the average square foot cost to be in the neighborhood of $135 – $160. In most cases these will be true, but certainly those numbers can be affected by adding a lot of electronics or custom items.
But you can also approach it from other directions. Such as: how much can you realistically spend? What are your expectations for your booth? How do you want your exhibit to compare to your fellow exhibitors, and especially, how do you want to be judged against your direct competitors? Knowing your budget and the limitations from that budget are important. However, I’ve seen creative marketing people manage to figure out how to squeeze every last drop out of a marketing dollar to make it go further than what you might do at your average tradeshow exhibit house. Backwalls made of old barn wood, pallets or bicycle frames, anyone? I’ve seen ‘em, and they can look good and function well.
Some of the tradeoffs involved with spending those marketing dollars on tradeshow exhibits mean that while you might come up with a very economical homestyle booth, it might take you a lot longer to set up and dismantle, and it might have to be trashed after a time or three at the show. And it might ship in odd shaped containers or on pallets. Creativity comes in all forms, but in the end it still has to conform to the realities of the world of shipping, and the ease of setting up and dismantling, and the size of your assigned booth space.
Often a company will be faced with competitors that are dominating the show in terms of size of booth and in-booth activity, which leads to more show floor sizzle and buzz. So the question becomes one of whether you have the financial ability to compete at that level.
Another way to look at the puzzle is to know that you don’t have the budget to scale the mountain like those other competitors, but you do have something else: a creative marketing group that knows how to stand out in a crowd.
It’s another way of saying that yes, industry averages are a good starting point to know what things cost that end up on the tradeshow floor, and yes, you can hack your way into a cheaper booth, but what is your net result? Regardless of what the booth costs or looks like or how much or little you spent, you still have to live in it for days at a time, and you still have to invite attendees in and pitch them on your products or services. And the more conducive your exhibit is to those parallel goals, the higher your chances of success.
While having a great exhibit is certainly important, it’s not everything.
Knowing how to attract a crowd is important, but it’s not the everything, either.
Knowing what to DO with the crowd once they arrive – now that’s your meal ticket!
Tradeshow record keeping. Yikes! Who wants to keep track of everything.
Record keeping is one of those things that most of us wish we didn’t have to do, – we know it’s tedious – but know we really should do. So how much should we keep, what should we keep, where is the best place to keep it, and WHY?
Tim Patterson discusses tradeshow record keeping in this brief but informative webinar:
How to determine if your tradeshow exhibit investment is worth it.
Tradeshow exhibits can be expensive. So how do you know if it’s a good investment? Here are seven ways that will help you determine if the money invested in the design and fabrication of a new tradeshow exhibit is well spent.
If it allows your booth staff to function better. A new tradeshow exhibit will look great, but if it helps your team function better at a tradeshow, it’s worth the money.
If it increases your brand awareness at the show. One of the most important reasons to be at a tradeshow is because it can help reach new markets. If your tradeshow booth (bigger, prettier, more eye-catching) is better at attracting attention than your previous booth, it’s worth it.
If you find it easier to generate more leads. A recent client that upgraded their tradeshow booth to a 20×20 island exhibit saw leads increase three-fold as a result. Definitely worth it.
If it gives you more space for presentations. Even if your hired professional presenter says she can do a great presentation in a 10×10 (and they probably can), if you can give them more space, it’ll allow more people to see those presentations and be engaged with your products or services.
If it shows your market that you’re the dominate company in the niche. One client of ours likes their big booth because they feel it gives them bragging rights as the ‘big dog’ in their market. Psychological warfare, indeed!
If it leads to increased profitability. Does it positively impact the bottom line? Then it’s a good investment.
If the new exhibit boosts your staff’s morale. Perhaps this isn’t a cut-and-dried way to determine if the investment is worth it, but I’ve seen first hand many times the impact a new tradeshow exhibit has on a staff’s attitude. It shows them that management believes in the company’s tradeshow efforts.
Can you come up with any other reasons why a brand new tradeshow exhibit is worth the investment? I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below.