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

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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)

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!

10 Ways to Stand Out at a Home Show

Smaller, regional or city home shows are where local residents go to see the latest in roofing, home repair and improvement, HVAC, landscaping, and more. It’s not uncommon for exhibitors at these smaller shows to lack experience in exhibiting that their national show exhibiting brethren might have. If you are going to set something up at a home show, how do you attract the attention of attendees? Let’s look at a few different ways.

First, have an outstanding exhibit. This can be done in many ways. I’ve seen, for example, exhibits that are unique and custom. They were possibly designed and assembled by the company’s work crew using a little creativity and a lot of ability, and they reflect the company’s brand and personality. Sometimes they’re done by an exhibit house, but not necessarily. By presenting yourself with something that’s attractive to look at and delivers a strong message, you’re ahead of the game. Examples: companies that sell leaf gutter blockers who have a small room sample showing their gutter blockers with water running down the roof with leaves caught on top of the leaf guards. Also, a landscaper that decks out their entire space with rock, sod, waterfalls, small creek bridges or whatever. It’s time-consuming, yes, but it catches people’s eyes.

IDEA! Have a Polaroid camera, take people’s pictures and put ’em on a corkboard!

Second: Have a well-prepared booth staff. Make sure they understand the goal: gather more leads, capture their contact info for follow up. They need to know the basics: no talking on their phones in the booth, no eating in the booth, no sitting on a chair. The do’s and don’ts also include offering a smile to visitors, asking pertinent questions (are you looking to improve your landscaping? etc.) and being present with visitors when the ask questions. Tell people thanks for coming by, even if they didn’t show much interest.

Three: have something for visitors to DO. Interactivity keeps visitors in your booth and if it’s really good they’ll stick around long enough for you have a good Q&A. You see a lot of spinning wheels where people can win a prize, and while I’m not a big fan of these because virtually everybody that wants to win something stops, and they’re not all potential customers. But they do get people stop long enough so you can ask them a few questions. Other things you can have them do: find something quirky about your business, or even get a life size cutout of a famous figure like Frank Sinatra or Elvis and put up a backdrop with your company name and the show hashtag and invite people to snap photos and post on social media for a chance to win something. It gets people involved and helps promote your booth number. Another idea: have a really big Jenga set, where each block has a question that relates to your business, and when they pull it out, give them a chance to win by correctly answering the question. Give away LED flasher buttons with your logo and booth number and tell them a secret shopper is wandering the hall and if they spot you with the button you could win something. Another way to promote your booth away from your booth space. One more: custom printed flooring that invites people to take their picture with the floor (another variation of the social media back drop/life size figure).

Four: Make sure that you give your visitors what they want. And what is that? They want to see what’s new. They want to speak to someone who knows their stuff. They want to be treated like a friend and with respect. A warm smile goes a long way. They don’t want their time to be wasted.

Five: Have your booth staffers stand out by wearing unusual or different clothing. Could be that all of your staffers at an HVAC booth don tuxedos. Or everybody wears colorful branded t-shirts. Purple one day, orange the next, red the next, and so on.

Six: Have a magic word of the day (or hour). Put up a sign on the front counter that everyone can see. If someone says the magic word, they win a prize. It’ll intrigue people enough so that they stop and start a conversation. Have a few ready-made hints for what the magic word might be.

Seven: Put on a small white board and invite people to write a short Haiku (a short three-line unrhymed verse of five, seven and five syllables. Have a few examples for starters. Give away prizes.

Eight: Shoot a commercial at the show. Invite visitors that are customers to record a short testimonial. Interview one of the managers and ask her how things work.

Nine: Conduct a survey. Make it very simple, maybe two or three questions. Ask people to fill in the answers. If they want a chance to win, give them a space to put in their name and phone number or email address, but don’t require it for the survey. Find out what people really think about some of the things you do.

Ten: Make sure your graphic messaging is very simple. One of the keys to delivering a good message is to make it easy to understand. On tradeshow back wall, use no more than seven words. Put the more complicated stuff in a handout or a download.

No doubt you can think of more. What comes to mind?


Capturing a Tradeshow Attendee’s Attention

You have literally a few seconds to catch a tradeshow attendee’s attention. You’ve been there: walking the show floor, heading across the hall. You see someone you know; you get distracted, you spill your coffee on your pants. There’s always something that keeps you from paying attention to the tradeshow exhibits around you.

Even highway billboards sometimes get more attention than your booth.

Which means that people are ignoring you. Not because you don’t have something good to offer. Not because you are slacking in the ‘look at us’ department. But if you’re doing just the average approach to getting attention, you’ll be, well, average when it comes to having people stop. What are some of the top ways to get attention?

Do something different. Unexpected. Unusual. I often point to the Kashi island exhibit that’s shown up at Natural Products Expo West in at least a couple of iterations the past few years. It’s simple, and it delivers a simple message. It invites people to stop and find out what it is. The design itself is unusual enough that it stops visitors.

Simple and bold. Deliver an important message, maybe something that’s more important then your products or servies.

Hire a pro. A professional presenter knows how to stop people in their tracks, entertain them and deliver a powerful message in just a few moments.

Have something for them to do. Interactivity means, if the activity appeals to them (chance to win a prize or get a little mental engagement), they’ll stop. And of course a small crowd draws a bigger crowd.

Ask a great question. Take a tip from our pal Andy, who specializes in teaching this to his clients, there’s a lot to be said for knowing how to immediately engage with someone in a positive manner.

Offer a space for people to sit and charge their phones. This usually takes a bigger booth than just a small inline, which means you need a little space to spare. But if you can get random visitors to sit for ten minutes, offer them something valuable: a bottle of water, a chance to view a video about your company or product.

Lots of ways to capture a tradeshow attendee’s attention – it just takes a little planning and execution and you can be drawing them in.

11 Ways to Attract Attention at a Tradeshow

Wear colorful branded clothing. Whether it’s a staff of two or three, or twenty, having colorful branded clothing will immediately let visitors know who’s working the booth and who’s a guest. Bright colors attract, so put your logo on the front and an enticing message on the back. And to change things up from day to day, create a different colored set with a different message for each day of the show, and make sure your crew coordinates. Bright colors, especially if they’re tied into your brand work well: yellow, red, orange, blue, fluorescent.

Setup a giant prop and invite people to take a photo. Could be anything: a mascot, a giant purse, a full-size model of one of your products (if it’s small, for instance); something that stops people in their tracks. I’ve seen mascot, angels, musicians, giant hanging props, exhibits made from bicycle frames and more. They all had one thing in common: they begged to have their picture taken.

Once that photo has been taken, invite the visitor to spread the word on social media and include the show hashtag to make sure the post gets seen. Offer prizes to people that photo and share online.

Give something away and offer an incentive to wear it. One way is to print up a few hundred t-shirts or hats with your logo along with a fun message and tell people that if they put it on right there, they can also take home another gift. And tell them if you catch them wearing it at an after-hours show (be specific as to which one), you’ll be giving away $50 bills to random shirt wearers. This type of promotion gets others involved and spreads the word about your booth and products throughout the show.

Have a unique exhibit that begs to be seen. Sounds straightforward, but to break out of the cookie-cutter mold, it takes a designer that’s willing to create something unique and wild and a company that’s willing to spend to make it a reality.

Give visitors something to DO. Interactivity goes a long way. At the NAB Show, there were several exhibitors that gave visitors a chance to learn new software by joining them for a free class. Not only are you drawing interested people in, you’re keeping them involved for up to an hour and showing them exactly how the product works.

Contests. Give people a chance to win something by guessing the number of beans in a jar, answering a quiz, spinning a wheel or something else increases the chance you’ll get visitors to stop at your booth. Make sure to engage them in a brief conversation to uncover their needs regarding your product.

Famous mugs. Lots of companies hire famous (or at least semi-well known) people to be a part of the show. Authors, speakers, sports stars, actors, and so on can all draw a crowd. Authors in particular, if they’re in your industry, can be a good draw if they have a new book out. I’ve seen dozens of people in line to pick up a free copy of a new book and get it signed by the author (and snap a selfie!), and I’ve waited in line to get a prop soft baseball signed by Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

Comment wall. I see these more and more. Ask a bold question or make a bold statement and invite people to chime in with their thoughts on a wall. Invite people to snap a photo of what they wrote and share it on social media (make sure the wall is branded and has the show hashtag on it).

Bring media production to your booth. Know someone that is a podcaster in the industry? Invite them to record a few episodes of their show in your booth, and make sure to provide some good guests for them, whether it’s people from your company, or others. The simple act of recording a show in your booth will make a lot of people stop. That’s a good time for your staff to engage those visitors politely to find out if they’re prospects.

If someone in your company has written a book, offer free copies of the book along with free printed photos with visitors and the author. This has worked great for years for Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill, one of our long-time clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits. Every time they exhibit at the bigger expos, Bob spends time signing books and posing for photos while a photographer takes photos and has them printed up in a few moments for the visitor.

There are literally countless ways to draw crowds to your booth. It all boils down to creativity and execution. What can you do to improve the traffic at your next show?

Tradeshow Competitor or Collaborator?

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.

10 Types of Instagram Posts to Use When Exhibiting at a Tradeshow

Trying to find some new and different posts the next time you’re on the road at a tradeshow? Try a few of these and see what you get:

  1. Clients and Customers in Your Booth: Click a quick photo or if they’re up for it, videotape a brief testimonial.
  2. Your Staff: You should make sure that you show off how much fun your staffers are having, even in the midst of a busy day. Nothing communicates your company’s brand more than your people having a good time.
  3. Demos of Products: A series of stills, or a brief video works here.

  4. Type of Instagram Posts

    Your Exhibit: Have a great exhibit? Show it off!

  5. The Hall You’re In – Include Your Booth Number: Share your location at the beginning of each day (at least) so that people can find you.
  6. Educational: Inform your audience how your product or service can help them. A picture with a useful description goes a long way.
  7. Questions or a Short Quiz: People will respond to questions if they’re interesting and engaging.
  8. Promotional: Give something away. Try offering a prize for show-goers to get them to come to your booth. And offer a prize for people watching from afar that can’t make it.
  9. Dinner out with Client (or not): Okay, food photos are usually boring unless it’s really a stunning photo. But if you’re out with a client or friend, post a photo and include the hashtag.
  10. Local Tourist Stops: Making a few side trips during your busy show? Snap photos and share.

Follow me on Instagram here!

TradeshowGuy Expo West 2018 Exhibit Awards

Welcome to the (perhaps) annual TradeshowGuy Expo West 2018 Exhibit Awards, where I totally (almost) at random, pick out a handful of the 3600+ exhibits at the Natural Products Expo West show and give them a little notoriety here on the TradeshowGuy Blog!

A couple of caveats: I’m not including any current clients of TradeshowGuy Exhibits – they’re already award winners in our book, and we don’t want this fun post to be biased towards, you know, clients! Besides, we’ve already posted photos of those exhibits.

So, let’s get started!

Best Big Brand Makeover: Kettle Foods

Kettle Foods started out as a small nut and chip maker in Salem, Oregon. In the past ten years or so the company has been bought and sold a handful of times and is currently operated as one of the major brands of the Snyder’s-Lance product suite. The island exhibit shows great color and ingenuity in piecing together many elements of the Kettle Brand.

Best Client-Made Exhibit: Stahlbush Farms

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with the good folks at Stahlbush Farms, near Corvallis, Oregon, for several years. But when it came time to do a new booth, it finally came down to having their own fabrication shop create it. It’s built using crates that double as counters, and everything fits neatly into a couple of crates. Nicely done!

Best Kitchen Sink Exhibit – DanoneWave

I think they used to be White Wave, but now it’s DanoneWave, still offering brands under the Silk, Dannon, Oikos, SoDelicious, Wallaby Organic and many others. I’ve always stopped by their booths over the years and chatted and tasted and this year was no exception. There’s a lot going on here: carts, hot air balloons, colorful images, detailed woodwork, a random vehicle or three – seriously, you can just walk around the thing for fifteen minutes taking it in!

Best Retro Motor Vehicle Use – Hansen’s

A cool psychedelically painted hippie van? Ff course! There are a lot of vehicles that show up in booth spaces at Expo West, but this one catches your eyes like no other.

Best Photo Op – Enjoy Life

Enjoy Life has seen their exhibit grow significantly in the last few years, from a small inline to a dominating island. This year they showed of a pseudo-underwater photo alley that invited people to shoot and share. Yes, there were a lot of photo ops throughout the show, but this made the biggest impression.

Best Rustic Exhibit – Kodiak Cakes

Kodiak Cakes of Park City, Utah, also had a great photo op section of their booth space, but I felt that the rest of the exhibit was more impressive. Beyond the photo op section was a forest, a lookout-like building and a wall of photos of booth visitors. A fun-loving and lively crew, too, passing out samples like crazy.

Best Simple Yet Powerful Statement Exhibit – Kashi

Last year, Kashi caught eyes with a simple statement with no brand ambassadors, no sampling – just a simple statement to support farmers in their transition to organic farming. This year they made a similar statement with a slightly modified exhibit. Powerful stuff.

Best Split Exhibit – Aqua Carpatica

Downstairs in the busy ballroom at Expo West, it’s a little hard to stand out. But Aqua Carpatica of Romania booked two 10×20 spaces across the aisle from each other and dominated the space with a spare, almost ascetic approach to pitch the cleanliness of their water. It was capped by a giant video screen, around 8 x 12 feet, and some tables and chairs – but not much else. Very attention-getting!

Best Tribute to a Fallen Comrade – Clif Bar

I met John Anthony over a decade ago when Kettle Foods was a client, and John worked for them. A fun and engaging guy to talk to, he moved to Clif Bar, Nature’s Path, UNFI and CLIF’s White Road Investments. I was having lunch with an old Kettle Foods friend a few months prior to Expo West and mentioned that I’d run into John at the 2017 show. He said he’d heard that John had died unexpectedly in the fall of 2017. Clif Bar did a nice job in their tribute:

All right – on that note, we’ll wrap up this year’s TradeshowGuy Expo West Exhibit Awards. Hope you enjoyed. Sorry if we missed your booth – but hey, there were over 3,600 exhibitors this year. Maybe next year!

Check last year’s awards here.

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.

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