Are you guilty of any of these? Don’t feel bad. We’re only human, but if we know ahead of time what things to know, what to avoid and how to prepare, we can have a much better and more successful tradeshow exhibiting experience.
The simple act of being aware of what’s going on can transform an average exhibiting experience into a successful one. Here’s a quick video on what you things you might want to be more aware of next time you’re exhibiting.
One of the first clients I managed to snare in my early days in the tradeshow world came when I cold-called a Portland-based company called gDiapers. It took awhile, maybe a few months, but we ended up designing and fabricating two tradeshow exhibits for them. At one point five or six years ago, they decided to stop exhibiting at tradeshows and focus on other marketing efforts.
I wanted to catch up with gDiapers CEO Jason Graham-Nye to see what he and the company have been up to lately. I know Jason moved his family back home to Australia five years ago from Portland, which meant changes for the company as well.
Little did I know what kind of adventures he and his team got up do, especially once the coronavirus hit. I hope you enjoy the conversation – I sure did:
Check out gDiapers.
This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The return of the NFL.
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Tradeshow Marketing here, where the vlog version of the podcast appears weekly.
You’re familiar with a SWOT Analysis, I presume?
Year ago, I wrote a brief article on doing a tradeshow marketing SWOT Analysis, which would be a bit different from a more general SWOT Analysis.
But now that we’re in a pandemic created by the COVID-19, how would you approach doing a SWOT Analysis and is it worth doing?
I would argue that while a formal SWOT is probably unnecessary, it’s not a bad idea to at least examine some of the changes the pandemic has wrought, to see what obvious and perhaps significant changes your company is facing.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
How are you positioned in the marketplace? Do you have new products about to launch? How are you perceived by your customers and clientele? Are you doing things to keep relationships going? Are sales strong or flat? Just knowing these and other related things will help you understand your position in the marketplace compared to your competition and compared to how you might have been with no pandemic.
With no tradeshow marketing coming for at least another quarter or two, can you put the budget towards something else? Is a virtual event worth the investment? Can you do another kind of outreach for a fraction of the cost of exhibiting at a big tradeshow? Take a look at your options and see if there are missed opportunities that you may have overlooked.
Are there marketplace threats you sense but perhaps haven’t put your finger on? Are your supplier lines still open and working well, or are there kinks that may signal something worse down the line? Do you have any competitors that are taking this time to move aggressively into an area that you thought you dominated? Threats are often overlooked because, unless you actively think about them and look for them, they can sneak up on you without you knowing until it’s too late.
All in all, doing a brief SWOT check-in may help you understand how the company is doing and give you insight and context in how you’ll handle the rest of the year and move into 2021.
When is a branded promotional product a good idea? You’ve seen them all, right? Pens, letter openers, tins of mints. But choosing the right promotional product for a company or product is as much an art as science. Rama Beerfas of Lev Promotions joins me to talk about the promotional products industry – and getting the right branded product for the right situation.
Find Lev Promotions here.
This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.
The social distancing guidelines put forth due to the COVID-19 pandemic has effectively shut off a majority of the economy, like turning off a spigot. It would be easier to line-item the businesses that are open than those that are closed: grocery stores, drive-through coffee shops and some business offices. Ten million in the US have filed for unemployment in the past two weeks.
The impact of this on the nation, on the world, is unfathomable.
I know many people who are sitting at home most of the day, binging TV shows or reading books or even playing board games or sharing music online. Others are making use of the time to learn a new skill, to tackle that novel, to write music, to create.
Others don’t know what to do.
If you’re still working, whether from home or in the office, and you have to sell to keep things going in the company, what do you do? What approach do you take?
I subscribe to several sales newsletters and thought I’d share a few thoughts. Some came from the newsletters, others from just my own experience. But here we are in a time where it’s difficult to even find someone to talk to.
First, when you call, it makes sense to ask your contact what approach their company is making. Are they putting everything on hold for the time being, awaiting the end of the social distancing and figuring they’ll kick back into action when the pandemic is over? Or are they moving forward with business as usual, as much as they can?
If it’s the former, tell them, that, ‘yeah, it’s a crazy time, I get it,’ and ask if you can send a quick email with your contact information so that when we do get back to normal they can reach back out to you. If it’s the latter, move into your typical sales questions to uncover any needs they may currently have for what you’re offering.
Another part of the equation is what you’re selling. If you’re in the restaurant supply business, chances are that your potential buyers are not even open, unless they’re doing take-out or drive-thru only. If you’re selling Personal Protective Equipment for health workers, you probably can’t keep up with the demand. It all depends on the specific products or services you’re selling.
Most people probably fall somewhere in between those two extremes. Which means you’re going to have to find a strategy that keeps at least some business coming in.
With millions stuck at home, that means people are going online to shop, they’re connecting via video meetings (Zoom is being mentioned dozens of times a day in the mainstream press!), telephone and email.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What shape is the company website it? Does it need upgrading? Can you add new products, new services and new ways for people to connect?
- Are your social media platforms being updated frequently? With so much time on their hands, everybody is on social media.
- Can you offer a digital version of your services? Lots of people are taking this time to create online learning classes or other ways of sharing their information.
- Can you connect with others regularly? Sure! Some people are starting up regular Zoom meetings just to have a face-to-face connection with others outside of their home.
Bottom line: be there for clients and prospects. Don’t stop doing outreach, however that looks for you. Don’t be pushy but if you continue to think you can offer something of value, something that your clients and prospects can really use, keep doing it.
Share Experience is a new company formed late last year by Marcus Vahle and John Pugh, both with long experience in the event and tradeshow world. Given what looks to be a unique approach to carving out their niche in the event world, I thought it might be fun to catch up with them for a conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:
Check out Marcus and John’s new company Share Experience.
This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Dean Koontz’s “The Forbidden Door.”
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. That’s true. But you can make a first impression in any number of ways. Let’s go over seven ways that might work for you.
- Show your visitors an impressive tradeshow exhibit. Certainly, having a 3D visual representation of your brand is going to make an impression. The challenge is to make sure it’s not a negative impression. A new exhibit will go a long way, but you don’t have to buy something new to make a positive impression. You can dress it up with new graphics, has all of the functional needs required, and make sure it’s spotless. And keep it as clean as possible throughout the day.
- Greet people with a smile. Smiles translate good will in every culture and language.
- Ask a good question as you’re using that smile. Knowing what to ask and how to ask it will go a long way to demonstrate the seriousness of your marketing attempt.
- Don’t be distracted. You know the usual distractions: phones, food and lack of energy. The phones thing is easy: don’t pull it out of your pocket unless you have a specific work-related reason to use it at that moment. No Facebook, Twitter or Instagram unless you’re doing work. Food is easy, too: don’t eat in the booth. Gotta eat? Go elsewhere. Lack of energy is also very distracting. That is more challenging: get better sleep (not always possible), don’t eat food that puts you on a sugar or caffeine high, which leads to an energy crash. Which leads to distraction from having a lack of energy.
- Have something engaging for your visitors to do. A challenging proposition, but if done correctly, your visitors will be impressed when they can DO something in your booth that is: 1) fun, 2) engaging/interesting and 3) allows them to learn something about your product or service.
- Don’t be negative. While a first impression can be formed in an instant, don’t forget that you’re also forming that first impression while you’re in that first conversation. You may be talking about products and services and the topic of a competitor’s products and services come up. You may be tempted to diss the competitor’s stuff, but I think the better move is to take the high road: “yeah, they do good work, but it depends on what you’re looking for.” And then ask questions that uncover the prospect’s needs, giving you a chance to play up the elements of your products or services that can address that need better than your competitor can.
First impressions count for a lot. What other ways can you think of to make a great first impression at your next tradeshow?
Yes, we know that your tradeshow exhibit tells a story. Often, a great exhibit design will capture the brand so accurately that the design is often all that is needed. But frankly, that’s the exception more than the rule. But even without an iconic design that broadcasts what your company is about, your tradeshow exhibit tells a story anyway.
Design: even an average design can be executed well and tell a big part of your story. But a compelling story can come to life. Tell the story of how you created the soft drink because your Grandma used to make something similar when you were a kid. Or how you invented something to help a friend. Doesn’t really matter, your product or service likely came from some inspiration. Can you tell the story of that inspiration in a concise way using graphics and 3D elements?
Graphics: here’s where most of the story is told, and the weight of this rests on your graphic designer and marketing team that is communicating the correct message to the designer. Get it right and you’ve done better than most of your competitors. Get it wrong…?
Craftsmanship: not all exhibits are built from scratch. Depending on where you purchase your exhibit, it may be something that’s designed and built from scratch in the USA. Or it may be from an overseas manufacturer and it came direct from a catalog showing thousands of similar designs. With an overseas manufacturer involved, you will be hard-pressed to know the quality of the materials used for the exhibit.
Cleanliness: at least this is something you have quite a bit of control over during the show. But a clean booth tells a story. So does a dirty booth.
People: the booth staffers are your front line. Are they well-trained in how to engage with visitors? How to ask the right questions? How to politely disengage? How to act in a booth (stay off their phone, don’t eat, etc.)? Whether you like it or not, visitors will forget a lot of things. But they’re very likely to remember an unpleasant or below-average encounter with a booth staffer. Just like they’d probably remember an encounter that impressed them.
Stories are told with every piece of your marketing and your prospect’s interaction with your company. What story are your prospects being told, and what are they remembering? And is that story in line with your goals?
You may think the difference between a competitor and a collaborator is easy. Pretty cut and dried. But is it?
In tradeshows you can meet all sorts of other companies. As an exhibitor, you can probably identify the direct competitors pretty easily. They’re selling either the exact same thing you are with a different name, or something that’s so similar that most people couldn’t tell them apart.
Coke vs. Pepsi. Nike vs. Adidas. Ford vs. Chevy. Classic competitors all.
There are a number of ways to work with competitors, as there are many ways in which you can identify potential partners for tradeshow promotions.
Collaborate with a Competitor
As competitors, one easy way to team up is to both promote a non-profit that is important to your industry. For example, if two outdoor clothing makers partnered up to help raise awareness for a non-profit that was working for, say, public access to forest lands, that would be a good way to position both companies as aligned and working toward similar goals.
Similarly, competing companies could team up at a tradeshow to fight for attendees’ rights. Bigger voices can have a bigger impact, especially if those voices came from well-known companies.
Create a Partner
When it comes to collaboration, it’s a bit easier to dream up ways to work with other companies that will be exhibiting at the same show. You can come up with joint promotions (you sell coffee, they sell pastries; you sell cars, they sell high-end floor mats) that are a good natural fit.
Before the show, get together with the other exhibitor and brainstorm ways you can move traffic around, or benefit from each other’s booth visitors. For example, you may have a newsletter sign-up sheet: on the paper, give people the option to sign up for your collaborator’s newsletter, too. Spell out the benefits of doing so.
However you approach collaboration with a competitor or a partner that’s not a direct competitors, realize that it will take more time and energy to make it happen, and likely a sign-off from managers to move forward. But the right collaboration can help raise brand awareness for both companies.
Pool Your Resources
If both companies are small but want to make a bigger impression, consider pooling your resources to grab a bigger booth space. Instead of 20 10x20s, share a booth and make it a 20×20. Of course, in this instance you’d want to really be ready to show visitors that you’re working together in a very significant way. But by doing this, the booth can show off more of each company’s strengths, and since it’s probably going to be a one-time appearance, it would make sense to save even more and just rent a booth instead of having a new custom booth created.
Come up with contests, or ways to involve more than one exhibitor that moves attendees from one booth location to another. Invite visitors to pick up a Bingo-like sheet with a handful of companies on it. If they go to all booths mentioned and have the sheet stamped, they can have the completed sheet submitted for a chance to win a prize package from all the companies involved.
Beyond the Show Floor
Off the show floor, you could throw a dinner or party and invite both (or more) company’s customers. By doing so, the underlying and unstated message is “We’re proud to be associated with this company and stand by their services and products.” It shows visitors something new about one company that that they may not have known before and raises the level of trust and integrity for all.