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

Client Relations

Actual Conversations with Clients

Yes, these are actual conversations with clients. No, they are not from surreptitious recordings, but rather, from memory, which is probably not as accurate as I’d like. But nonetheless, these are the types of things our exhibiting clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits are asking about.

Client A:

“We need a 10×10 pop-up. Do you have a few options that you can show us with pricing?”

actual conversations with clients

This is an easy one. I popped over to our Exhibit Design Search and assembled a gallery of about 15 10×20 exhibits, with a price range of about $1,500 to about $6,000.

A week goes by.

“Here’s one we want. We need it in three weeks. Can you send art specs?”

Can do in both cases. Let her know. She placed the order and it was delivered a week ahead of schedule.

Client B:

“We’re going to expand our exhibit for the upcoming Natural Products Expo. Where do we start?”

“Best thing is to schedule a conference call with our designer, so we can get your input and ask questions.” We did. The call was fruitful and resulted in a handful of revised renderings of their booth, which was being expanded from a 10×20 to a 10×30.

“One more thing. We don’t want to have to set up the booth this time, since we’re expanding. We’re kind of at our limit for doing that with the 10×20. Can you help?”

“Of course, let me get you some options and pricing for review.”

They settled on the redesign and makeover of the exhibit, signed on board to have an I&D company take care of the setup and dismantle, which we coordinated. The show went off without a hitch, the owners and investors were pleased; they came home with more leads than they had expected.

Client C:

“Our carpet didn’t show up,” I was told by the I&D leader from the show floor. Exactly. Why not. I was in another hall on the show floor, so I hustled over to see first hand what was happening. This started a long and twisting tale of a missing carpet that had actually been delivered to the advance warehouse but failed to make it to the booth space.

“I’ll speak with show services,” I said.

I let the client know. “We have an issue. The carpet didn’t show up and we’re working to find a solution.”

“Well, crap.” It was probably not the exact word. “What now?”

“We’re working on it. We’ll figure something out!”

With a little help from our I&D rep, we were able to make the show come off with very little problem, although the carpet in question still has not turned up months later, and a claim is pending. Things do go wrong sometimes, and it’s really nobody’s fault. Stuff happens. What’s important is how you deal with it. In my experience it is always a team effort to track down replacement items, make do with what you have or any number of other things to pull off a good experience at the show. You gotta have a good team, and you gotta work with pros.

One more. Client D.

“We would like pricing on changing out graphics for our booth for an upcoming show,” said the client. “I’ll send the specs,” he said, which arrived shortly in an email. The show was less than two months away, so while there was indeed time to make the changes, but with that timeline it meant that no time could be wasted.

Got the pricing, sent it over. “Looks good! I’ll get artwork soon!” Knowing that I’m working with a good client that has consistently worked to upgrade their exhibit, I start the process to create a new job number and add in the potential project to the job tally. A few days go by.

“Looks like this project is on hold for the time being,” he writes. “We’ll get to it for another show soon. Keep you posted.”

Ooops! Make the changes, remove the new job number, took a breath. Don’t count your chickens, etc. Hate to get ahead of yourself. Just want to make sure the client is happy.


This is all very typical, I’m sure, to anyone who works in the industry. Upgrades, expansions, challenges, decisions made and then changed. Part of the great game we call tradeshows.

What conversations have you had with your exhibit house lately?

Empathy as a Marketing Tool

Selling anything, whether in a clothing store, a car dealer showroom, or a tradeshow, means in some sense you have to understand your buyer. You must have empathy for what they’re going through or the sale will be much more difficult.

Empathy Marketing

When you put yourself in the shoes of your potential buyer, you feel what they feel. You understand what they understand. You know what problems they are facing. You know what it would feel like to have a solution to the problem that your product or service would provide. You must know what makes them feel good, what makes them feel hurt.

Your marketing strategy should include efforts to understand those potential clients or customers. Ask yourself these questions:

Do you really understand how they feel prior to learning about your product or service?

What is the perspective of your customer in regard to your product or service?

How do your prospects view the world?

What challenges do they face?

How do they view companies such as yours?

There are other related questions that will come up, but the goal is to see the world from their perspective as best as you can. The more you’re able to do this – and the better you’re able to communicate that understanding back to them – the higher your chances of converting them from a prospect to a client.

Schmidt’s Naturals Up for Exhibitor Portable/Modular Award

A year ago, our new client Schmidt’s Naturals debuted a new custom 10×20 at the Natural Products Expo West. It was a custom exhibit designed by Classic Exhibits‘ designer Kim DiStefano. The design was submitted to Exhibitor Magazine’s annual Portable/Modular Awards, which honor design excellence in portable, modular and system exhibits. Here’s what it looked like on the floor of Expo West:

Exhibitor Portable Modular Award Entrant

A couple of years ago, one of our clients, SoYoung, was a winner in the competition. We’re glad that Schmidt’s Naturals got the nomination and we wish them the best when the winners are announced in late winter at ExhibitorLIVE!

We’d like to invite you to see all of the entrants in the Exhibitor Portable/Modular Awards take a look here and vote your favorite. And remember, you can vote once per day until the competition closes.

10 Tradeshow Marketing Secrets They Didn’t Tell You

Well, these might not be actual tradeshow marketing secrets, simply because by its very definition, a secret is something that is not well known. The following items are fairly well known and no doubt you can easily find them online – but the question is: are you using them to their full capacity and capability?

tradeshow marketing secrets
  1. First, let’s look at first impressions. Hey, you only get one chance! And as you know, in tradeshows, perception is everything. Make your first impression strong, and the second piece of the puzzle will fall into place a little easier.
  2. Next, know that the image you put out at a tradeshow isn’t just a random piece of your brand – it’s your whole brand. It IS your brand. If you miss the mark here, your next puzzle piece just got harder.
  3. Up next: your staff. You can have the sweetest exhibit at the show, but if your staff sucks, it will all go for naught. Which means that your staff should not only know what they’re doing and be presentable and friendly and good with people, they should be well-trained in the challenges of dealing with hundreds of people on the chaos of the tradeshow floor.
  4. Now, be sure to have something for people to do when they arrive at your booth. It could be a product demo, an interactive tool, a video to watch, a virtual reality headset to wear – anything that engages them for more than 8.4 seconds.
  5. Ninety percent of success is showing up. Of course, you say, you’ll show up. But do you really? Are you really there for the full show? Are you there ready to listen to a client’s complaints and respond? Are you there to jump in when there is a problem or challenge and not leave it for someone else? Be there. All the time. Not just when you’re on the clock.
  6. Get the word out before the show. Pre-show marketing can take many forms. First question: do you have a plan? Second question: does your plan work?
  7. Cross your T’s. Dot your i’s! Details are important. When you slip on an important detail, someone – perhaps a potential client – is bound to notice.
  8. Yes, details are important, but so is keeping your eye on the bigger picture. Tradeshows are a powerful way to reach markets that you otherwise would not be able to access so easily and economically.
  9. Really, it’s all in the follow-up. Yup, I was kidding back in that earlier paragraph where I said the key to tradeshow marketing success was to draw a crowd and then know what to do with them. You’ve got to have a good follow-up plan in place. And be sure the work the plan.
  10. Finally, be flexible. Sometimes, you just gotta MacGuyver things and adjust to a changing landscape. Be willing to go with the flow and see where it leads, as long as your overall strategy doesn’t change.

Does Your Tradeshow Exhibit Evoke Emotion?

“Does your tradeshow exhibit evoke emotion in the mind of a visitor?” might be a funny question. The better question might be: “HOW and WHAT emotion does your tradeshow exhibit bring out in your visitors’ hearts and minds?” But by asking it, you’re pulling on the string of branding, high-impact motivators such as confidence, sense of well-being, protecting the environment, being who you want to be and a litany of other emotions that pull in one direction or another.

tradeshow exhibit evokes emotion

Let’s use one of our clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, Bob’s Red Mill, as an example. Their foods are mean to inspire good eating with high-quality grains, oats, cereals, mixes and more. Good eating equals longer life and better health. Better health equals a positive feeling. Hence, just seeing the Bob’s Red Mill exhibit can evoke an emotion that gives people familiar with the brand a sense of well-being and comfort. All without them even thinking about it. As long as the visitor has a familiarity with the brand and products, their brain will make a quick connection with a positive result.

Let’s try another brand, say, United Airlines. With the recent debacle of having a booked passenger dragged off the airplane with smartphone video cameras in action that spread quickly throughout social media and mainstream news outlets, many visitors to a tradeshow with a United Airlines exhibit might have a different feeling today than they did just a month prior.

According to Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon, writing in the Harvard Business Review, “On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.” Gaining that emotional connection pays off in numerous ways as they buy more, visit you online or in your store more, are less concerned about price in favor of quality, and listen more to what you’re saying, whether on a TV or radio ad, in a magazine, or in a weekly newsletter.

When it comes to evoking that positive emotion when visitors at a tradeshow come upon your booth, your branding and costumer experience already has to be in place, at least to a certain degree. A visitor that’s familiar with your brand and has a positive feeling upon seeing your exhibit has internalized that – but beyond that, she recognizes the key elements of the brand successfully executed in the design and fabrication, down to the small details.

A visitor that’s not familiar with your brand will still experience a gut feeling upon seeing your booth. The accuracy of that evocation has everything to do with how skillfully your 3D exhibit designer and your graphic designer have understood and communicated the elements of your brand. Once they inhale that look, as it were, they’ll make a decision on whether to more closely check out your products or services. If all is done right, your visitor will get an accurate emotion of the brand that you’re hoping to disseminate.

tradeshow exhibit evokes emotion

This is all not precise, of course. You can’t just plug in a color or texture or design or graphic and provoke a predictable reaction. Even ugly and unplanned exhibits can still have a successful tradeshow experience, which may be due to other factors, such as the competition, the specific product, the enthusiasm and charisma of a particular booth staffer or some other unknown element.

But the better your exhibit reflects your true brand, the more powerful it becomes in the heart and soul of your visitor. And they’ll take that home with them.

Don’t Sell at the Tradeshow

Huh? Don’t sell at the tradeshow? Isn’t that why you’re there – to take names and kick ass? Sure, you won’t get an argument from me.

sell at the tradeshow

However, let’s take a look at the tradeshow situation. The event is designed to bring hundreds or thousands of people by your booth. If your intent is to sell – and just sell products at the event – then you’re going to spend more time with each person. It takes time to write up an order, and depending on your product or service, it probably takes time to determine exactly what that service or product is. How long is the service going to last? What version of your product is best for your client? When do they want it? What is their goal in using your product or service and can it really help them?

Sure, if you’re just selling single pack food items or something that can be sold in just a few seconds, they go ahead – sell, sell, sell!

Most products take longer. Even if you’re ultimately selling a single food product, you may be trying to get into more stores, or hook up with distributors. Which means you’re not actually selling at the show.

You’re just qualifying.

And once you qualify, you both then agree on the next step.

And that’s when the real selling begins.


Grab our free report: “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House”

Make Yourself Memorable! [Webinar replay]

Tradeshow Sales Trainer Andy Saks of Spark Presentations spent 30 minutes with me this week to discuss engagement at tradeshows. We called the webinar “Make Yourself Memorable: How to Attract and Qualify Tradeshow Attendees.” Andy is great at showing how important it is (and offers a handful of tips) to properly engage folks at tradeshows so you don’t miss out on opportunities.

Check it out:

Always Somebody Smaller, Always Somebody Bigger

It doesn’t matter what size your company is. It doesn’t matter how big your tradeshow booth is compared to your neighbor or competitor at the big tradeshow.

There will always be a company that is bigger than you. There will always be a competitor that is smaller than you, and probably nipping your heels.

There’s a sports analogy here somewhere, let’s see if, by fishing for it, I can find it.

We can’t concern ourselves with the other team. We have to play our game to the best of our ability. – a coach somewhere

I’m sure that applies in business as well. You should be aware of your competition, certainly, but more importantly, take care of all business needs in-house. That’s the paramount need to succeed.

So when it comes to tradeshows, you’ll always be somewhere in the middle. Others will be bigger, richer, have wider distribution, more products and more staff. There will be competitors who are smaller, with fewer resources, have less distribution than you and fewer products available.

The biggest competitor – and the biggest cheerleader – will always be yourself.

Become a Person of Interest at the Tradeshow

Tradeshows cost time and money. A lot. So how do you differentiate from the thousand other exhibitors all vying for attention?

One way is to become a person of interest at the tradeshow. Here are a few ways to stand out from the crowd.

magnifying glass

Be a speaker, or participate in a panel presentation. Typically these slots are open to company management, so if one of your management team is good at delivering a presentation or speaking extemporaneously in a panel situation, work to get them involved. Depending on the show, this kind of exposure can do wonders for word of mouth, especially if the presentation is top-notch. When I’ve given presentations at tradeshows, no matter how many people were in the audience, there were always a handful that wanted to pigeonhole me right afterwards and talk shop. Some have become clients.

You want more ways to become a person of interest? If you’re good, give demonstrations in the booth.

What about one-on-one interactions with booth visitors? You can be interesting by being energetic, outgoing, and asking a lot of questions. And if you have good stories, tell them. Everyone should have at least three good stories. At a party, they could be about things you’ve done or how you’ve lived. But at a tradeshow, if you have three good stories about the business, your products and how they impacted customers, share them.

Above all, if you want to be a person of interest at a tradeshow, just be an interesting person.

“Tradeshow Success” Book Released

This week is the launch of my new book “Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level.” I’m doing a lot of the normal launch things an author would do: sending copies to industry media and bloggers, along with industry colleagues. Creating a list of clients and potential clients that I’d like to get the book into. And much more!

Beyond that, I’ve created a series of 14 videos, with each one relating to one of the chapters in the book. Those videos are appearing, about one a day, at my YouTube Tradeshow Marketing channel. Check ’em out!

So what can you do? If you want to purchase the paperback, here’s the Amazon.com page. You can also buy the Kindle version for about half the list price of the paperback.

You can also read the book for free here at TradeshowSuccessBook.com. You’ll be asked to opt-in to a mailing list (which, if you gotta, you can always unsubscribe from).

Book cover 3DV3 325 pix

What do you get in the book? As mentioned in the subtitle, I’ve detailed 14 steps that are critical to tradeshow success. Not every successful tradeshow marketer uses all of these steps with utmost efficiency, but most of them make very good use of many of the steps.
So what are the steps?

Let’s take a look at the 14 Steps:

  • Step One: Going with or without a Map? Are you doing enough planning and organizing around your tradeshows?
  • Step Two: Dollars, Pounds, Euros: How Much Do You Really Need to Make This Work? A breakdown of the budgeting process for tradeshows and what it takes to budget for a new exhibit.
  • Step Three: Getting Ready for the Big Dance: Pre-show planning and marketing.
  • Step Four: Did You Come to the Right Dance? Just make sure that your target market is at the show you’re going to dump all of that money into.
  • Step Five: Home is Where the Booth Is: Booth design essentials, including function, traffic flow, graphics and more.
  • Step Six: Is Your Frontline Team Up to Snuff? Booth staff training!
  • Step Seven: What Do I Do With All of These People in the Booth? Now that you’ve drawn a crowd, what do you do with them?
  • Step Eight: Tweeting, Posting and Instagramming Like a King or Queen: Putting social media to work for you in a creative way.
  • Step Nine: Who’s Keeping Track of Those Damn Tweets? Someone needs to create videos, blog posts, tweets, etc. Here’s a great look at some online content ideas.
  • Step Ten: Got a Stack of Leads: Now What? Lead generation and follow up.
  • Step Eleven: Becoming the Zen Master of Stats and Records: Record-keeping is the secret sauce to tracking your success.
  • Step Twelve: Stirring the Public Relations and Media Pot: Working with industry media.
  • Step Thirteen: Do QR Codes Still Kill Kittens? And Other Tech Questions: A quick examination of technology in tradeshows.
  • Step Fourteen: Out Of Your Nest: Time to Fly! Your call to action!

Want to grab your own copy? Use the links above to own your own. Or if you want the digital version (PDF download), try this:

Click Here to Get Your Digital Copy of My New Book

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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