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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So you wanna create social media buzz before the tradeshow but aren’t sure exactly how to pull it off? Of course there are dozens of strategies and tactics that will raise your profile above the average company, but not all will work in all situations and of course nothing is guaranteed. Your tweets and Instagram posts could be swept away by an unforeseen event or distraction that swoops up the eyeballs you were hoping to grab!
One of the most memorable methods was one I saw years ago when Griffin refurbished an old VW bus and drove across the country for a couple of weeks, tweeting and posting photos and videos all the way. By the time they drove the bus onto the tradeshow floor, hundreds of people were waiting for them. So you might consider how to play up your travel to the event. It might grab attention if it’s different than the norm. Anyone want to bounce from SF to LA on a pogostick wearing a branded shirt? Hey, just a thought!
So here are some more thoughts and ideas on how to create a little social media buzz prior to the show:
Know the show hashtag, so that everything you put out is trackable and findable by show followers, whether they follow your actual account or not.
If you have new products or services, create a teaser video or three and get them out onto your social media platforms.
Maybe you’re going to debut a new exhibit at the show. Work with your exhibit house to tease elements of the exhibit with photos prior to the show.
Consider creating a special landing page on your website just for the show. Let people make appointments, view more videos, learn about new products, get invited to parties, sign up for email or text notifications, whatever.
If you have a company CEO or other management member speaking at the show or being part of a panel, be sure to include that in any information you post. And if you’re sponsoring a specific event or area of the show, don’t forget that.
Got a contest or something else to draw people to your booth? Start promoting the contest online a week or so prior to the show. Any sooner and it becomes old quickly. Wait too long and you won’t reach as many people.
Create a special hashtag just for your company for just this show and invite people to post photos of themselves wearing your product using the hashtag. Draw several prize winners from among the photos during the show and give away a bunch of your products to both show attendees and those that weren’t able to attend.
By engaging with attendees prior to the show, you create social media buzz that increases the odds you’ll draw more people to your booth during the show. If you manage to come up with this year’s VW bus promotion that goes viral, you might even get a raise!
Secrets to tradeshow success? There’s no secret! It’s all out in the open. Actually, it’s all lurking online somewhere. Just for fun, I plugged the search term “tradeshow success secrets” into the Google to see what I came up with.
Success is measured by how much effort you want to put into it. I suppose that’s true of pretty much anything you do. But good effort is important.
Trade leads and information with other exhibitors (that aren’t your competitors). I admit, I’ve only heard this one a time or two, and I suspect it’s rarely done. I wonder if you could actually get anyone to do that with you.
Let people play with things. Yes, adults like to get hands-on experience as much as kids do. Create an experience where visitors can interact with something and they’ll stick to your booth longer than others.
Have a booth host that knows what’s up. A trained staffer is worth their weight in gold. The really connections are person-to-person.
Speak at a show. If you can’t speak at a show, sit on a panel. It’s better than nothing. If you can’t do either of those, create your own event that you speak at and invite everyone in your database.
Steam live video from your booth. With the advent of Facebook Live, it’s easy to pull out your phone and go LIVE! Interview guests, do product demos and more.
Stop people in their steps with creative flooring. Put your logo or some other attractive graphic at foot level. It’s still enough of a new thing that it’ll stand out and get people to stop.
Know what to say to people. It’s great to have a trained staff member, or to have booth staffers who are knowledgeable on the products you offer. But spend time honing a brief 30 second pitch that focuses on the pain people have around things that your products can solve. For instance, if you sell roofing with a lifetime guarantee, ask visitors if they experience leaks, or if they are due for a new roof but are afraid of hiring some fly-by-night firm that won’t back up the roof installation. Let them identify their pain, then tell them that your product can resolve that pain.
Follow up. When you do get leads, don’t sit on them. Pick up the phone and get back to them. Nuff said.
Or: How to Build Anticipation for Your Tradeshow Appearance
When I was just a mere 22 years old, the very first Star Wars movie came out. This was back when we would watch it, go buy another ticket and watch it again. And again. Star Wars, or as it’s now called, Episode 4: A New Hope, was a unique entry into movie-making. George Lucas says he was inspired by the Saturday afternoon movies he used to watch as a kid. He wanted to create a movie that was a rollicking, fun adventure for all ages, as well as a saga that tapped various historical points for inspiration.
Bottom Line: Star Wars was big, and each impending release caused more anticipation.
Which brings us to Rogue One. It’s the latest movie in the Star Wars canon, and is set to be released before Christmas this year.
The anticipation is YUUUGE. My 16-year old son, who was introduced to the movies by his old man before he was 7 or 8, knows more about the Star Wars universe than I’ll ever know. And every time there is a new tidbit about the new Rogue One, such as a new trailer or story bit, he’ll let me know in no uncertain terms that he can’t wait until the movie comes out.
Now that’s product anticipation!
How can you build anticipation into your tradeshow appearance? Well, certainly, it’s hard to match the pent-up anticipation of Rogue One, but you can build anticipation.
First, have something that will whet people’s appetites. Maybe it’s a new product or a new service that you haven’t offered before. Or maybe you have grown to the point where you have a brand new tradeshow exhibit that will knock peoples’ eyes out.
Next, let people know about it. Send out press releases, talk to media outlets about what you’re unveiling at the big show, tweet about it, tease your audience with glimpses online. Make a big deal out of it: send out an email to your customer and potential client list. If you are unveiling a new product or perhaps a new and bigger booth, include a photo that only partially reveals the entire scope of the project. Build a contest around your product, service or even booth.
Finally, advertise at the show. Figure out how you might incorporate some methods at the show of building even more anticipation by using guerrilla marketing, putting footprints from the front door to your booth (with show organizers help, of course), buying ads around the show floor entrance, and so on.
No, you’ll probably never quite develop the full-blooded anticipation of a 16-year old Star Wars geek awaiting Rogue One, but with some work and planning, you can build up a healthy anticipation for your next tradeshow appearance.
At this year’s ExhibitorLIVE conference and tradeshow in Las Vegas, the annual Portable/Modular Design award were handed out. Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits (formerly) Communication One Exhibits, we snared a design award for last summer’s SoYoung 10×10 portable booth.
Keep in mind, this was not the popularity contest where everyone got to vote on their favorite design. No, this was the juried design award.
The goal of the competition was to “recognize the vendors and designers responsible for these remarkable exhibits, while also spotlight what’s possible in this realm.” It was the third annual version of this competition. While it appears that all of the awards have yet to be posted online, you’re welcome to review winners of the first and second years.
When we were contacted by SoYoung last summer, owner Catherine Choi indicated that they were looking to upgrade their current booth, which was a bit of a mishmash of hanging shelves and display units which didn’t work as well as they liked. Working with Classic Exhibits and designer Katina Rigall, we created an attractive and functional booth with a large backlit graphic, product display shelves and a unique aluminum CNC-cut display tree (which is what we think knocked it out of the park and got the judges’ attention).
The booth made its debut at Expo East last fall in Baltimore and will continue its work at Expo West in Anaheim this winter and beyond.
Exhibitor Magazine made the announcement of all of the award winners on March 1st, starting with the SoYoung booth. Many thanks to Classic Exhibits and Katina for creating a beautiful, creative and functional design, and of course to SoYoung for reaching out to us for the project.
Is a tradeshow marketing as easy as setting up a booth, smiling as visitors come by, and asking a few questions?
Sure, that’s some of it. But creating a mindset in your team for tradeshow marketing involves more.
So let’s capture a few items that are critical in creating a tradeshow marketing mindset:
Realize that all of your visitors are rushing around and want to visit as many booths as possible. Which really means, don’t waste their time.
Some thing: you have hundreds of people you’d like to see. Don’t let unqualified visitors waste your time.
Prepare for a marathon. Three or four days of standing, meeting, greeting, collecting information, giving demos and answering questions can take it out of anyone. Make sure you’re in good physical shape prior to the big event.
With the fast proliferation of mobile devices, your customers are connected to their world through the smartphone they carry. They do research, make connections, pay bills, find a nearby restaurant and more while on the move. Realize how this affects your marketing message and methods and learn how to reach them on this platform while they’re on the move at a tradeshow.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. I can’t stress this enough. Too many exhibitors think about things a few weeks ahead and try to make major (or even minor) changes without putting thought into it or knowing how much time things change. From graphic changes to booth makeovers to staff training to pre-show marketing and post-show followup, know how much time all the items take and work backwards from the show date.
While a tradeshow is a single, specific event, the online discussion around it will start weeks prior to the show and will continue for weeks afterwards. When you are targeting a show, be sure to listen to the chatter by monitoring the show hashtag, and prepare what you’ll do with sharing information, photos and videos for weeks after the show as the energy dies down.
You’re one of hundreds, or thousands of other exhibitors. There are only a few ways to stand out: have a freakin’ awesome booth that stops people in their tracks, have something going on in your booth space that compels them to stop such as a professional demo or interactive activity, create a pre-show marketing message and campaign so powerful that people make a stop at your booth one of their priorities or have a product that everyone needs or wants to see NOW.
Once the show is over, your work is not done. To make the show worthwhile, all of those leads and related information must be delivered to the right sales folks to follow up in a timely manner. Again, the race is still underway and you’ll have competitors who are following up within 24-48 hours. What’s your follow up plan?
Mindset is everything. The more you’re prepared for what tradeshow marketing and execution entails, the better your results!
Whether you are new to the trade show biz or you have been around the proverbial trade show block a few times; new ideas for capturing and keeping the attention of passersby are always welcome and sought after. So whether you have heard it all, seen it all, or it is all brand new; you can always learn something new and if you truly have the entrepreneur spirit you will always be on the lookout for new and catchy hook ideas.
So, what’s the new, fun, exciting idea? Simple – create an experience. I don’t mean create something that your audience can look at or takeaway. I mean create an actual experience, something they can see, touch, taste, smell, hear, and takeaway. That is the simple answer, here are some ways you can carry that answer out into realty:
Create an Emotional Connection
According to Maya Angelou, American author and poet, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What does this mean for trade show marketers? Seth Braverman, marketing manager at Xylem Design, said, “The experience for the trade show attendee must be understood chiefly as an emotional experience. The aesthetics and ethos of a brand and a booth all play into this. What the attendee really takes home with them isn’t the knickknacks or the schwag. It’s the emotional connection they make with a brand and a product.”
Help trade show attendees make emotional connections with some of the following ideas:
A company that sells lotions, oils, and other personal care items can create an emotional – and physical – connection with trade show attendees by offering free 3-5 minute hand/scalp/back massages. Getting attendees to sit for a few minutes gives you the perfect opportunity to talk about the products you are using and why they are so amazing.
Tell a Story
Most people are affected and remember things more clearly when a moment is associated with an emotion. Tell a personal story, talk about how your business got started, and discuss how you moved up in the world. Whatever story you tell, make sure it invokes some kind of emotion for your listeners.
Create an Atmosphere
What kind of atmosphere does your business exude? Enhance the experience for trade show attendees by adding things like smells, sounds, and sights that match the overall feeling of your business. – Have a more relaxed business? Use candles, soft music, and calming scents like lavender. – have a more upbeat and modern business? Use sleek and clean displays and include new technology in your booth.
You should be prepared – before the trade show – by signing up for social media platforms and putting together a marketing plan. You can utilize trade show attendees by inviting them to your booth and offering special giveaways and incentives through social networks. This is a great way for you to get more followers, make connections, and add value to a potential customer. Here are some other ways you can utilize media in your trade show exhibit:
Does your company have a ‘welcome to our business’ video? Get a laptop or a T.V. to play this video in your exhibit. Sometimes people prefer to watch the videos and ask questions after it is over instead of walking up and talking to a complete stranger.
Use QR codes in the business cards or flyers that you hand out at the trade show and make sure they lead to something of value to a potential customer.
Make your exhibit more atmospheric by using background music.
Display Your Products
So how do you create a more interactive experience at a trade show? Braverman answered, “Display your actual products/services as much as possible. People are there in-person to meet the brand and the product in-person. Allowing as fluid an introduction to your product as possible is paramount. For the small role we, as display designers and makers, play in the trade show booth, the focus is on creating a display that gets out of the way of the products. The goal is to quietly communicate the excellence of the product, and this is achieved through proper design, lighting, and high quality construction.” In other words, when a trade show attendee stands in front of your booth and is unable to tell what your products are, or what your company does – you have failed.
Snacks, Drinks, and Contests
You can’t create a true trade show experience without providing something the client can participate in or walk away with. Include things like snacks, drinks, flyers, and contests in order to draw in attendees and to keep them happy.
Madison Resare is a content creator at Xylem Design (xylemdesign.com) who enjoys writing about trade shows, marketing, and social media.
How can you work with a partner at a tradeshow? What can collaboration do to cut your tradeshow marketing costs and help spread your company’s name around a bit more?
While there are some benefits to be gained by working with partners in any endeavor, there are trade-offs to consider as well.
Share a Booth
Let’s say you’re a small company that struggles to come up with money for booth space and exhibit rental. If this is the case you might consider contacting a company that, while not a direct competitor, is at least in your industry and would benefit from exhibiting at the same show.
By renting the booth space together, you’re splitting the cost of both the space and the exhibit. Of course, you only get half a booth. Depending on your offerings, however, that might be a good fit and a good way to get your name out into the marketplace.
Another benefit comes when staffing the booth. By paring down the booth size and splitting with a partner, you need less people overall. While you would obviously want to have your side of the booth staffed, in some shows and situations one benefit would be to spell the other guy while he’s on a break.
Promote Each Other’s Products
Here’s a promotion that I’ve seen done successfully. Find another 4 or 5 exhibitors that are complementary to your company – but not direct competitors – and create a traffic-generation promotion. Create a map of the show floor highlighing the five participating booths, print it on bright paper, give each booth a stamp. Offer prizes from each exhibitor to be drawn from all maps that are stamped by all exhibitors and submitted. This encourages more traffic to each booth. Of course it’s up to you to take advantage of the additional traffic with your own offerings.
Social Media Pumping
Whether you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you can easily work out a similar promotion. However, instead of doing it on-site, do it online. Each vendor sets up a series of tweets via Hootsuite.com to drive traffic to their own – and their collaborator’s – booth. By doing this, you’re taking advantage of each other’s community, exposing all of the separate exhibitor’s online communities to all of the others.
Team Up To Impress
If you have a partner company that you work well with, float the idea of doing a ‘team dinner/party’ to expose each of the company’s to the other’s community. Company A invites a dozen or so clients, Company B does the same. The two companies split the tab. Everybody gets to know everyone else. Imagine if you could ramp this up to three, four or five companies.
With all of the various companies that exhibit at any given show, how can you leverage the event to help your company and assist another company for the greater good? Can you come up with a single product together? Can you combine two products for a single offering? A real estate company might team with a home staging company to offer a special deal at a show. A software designer might team with one of his clients to create a custom version of the software for a larger, different market.
There’s really no end to the amount of ways that you can collaborate with other exhibitors to bring both (or all) of you more business.
It’s our observation that Social Media is a great fit to promote events: it’s a focused time-frame; social media is extremely mobile (something like 70% of tweets are from mobile platforms) which fosters on-site interaction; and tweets and Facebook page posts can bring people to your booth in real time for contests, plugs, etc.
Putting a strong Social Media Plan into place can help you:
build your opt-in marketing lists
get on the list of ‘must-see’ show booths
create product awareness
create buzz around new products
add to the company’s sales leads
identify your company’s brand champions
accelerate the sales cycle
deepen the relationship with customers
You may recall the e-book I put out earlier this year “Twittering Your Way to Tradeshow Success.”
With minimal promotion (read: no budget) and nearly 500 downloads later, I’m ready to take a whack at updating the book to include all Social Media, not just Twitter. We’d want to include at least the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and a good argument could be made to include Flickr and YouTube.
Thanks to a suggestion from a recent social media compadre I met, Steve Farnsworth, I’m launching a mini-contest to get some of your ideas for how you have used Social Media to promote your appearance at tradeshows, events or conferences – and thanks to Steve’s generosity we’re teaming up to offer an hour of consulting on how to get your Social Media plan together:
So…here’s the deal: submit either an idea or anecdote you may have on how to use Social Media to promote your appearance at an event, conference or tradeshow. Easy to do: either post the idea as a comment below, or join my Facebook Page and make a post there.
Then, once we close the mini-contest down on the night of Thursday, November 5th, I’ll put all the names of the submitters in a hat and draw a random winner for a one-hour consulting session.
You would be able to consult with me on a number of things:
*Any aspect of tradeshow marketing: planning, booth design, staff training, etc.
*Social Media: marketing, setting up a blog, podcasting, video blogging, how to best use Twitter or Facebook, setting up a Facebook company ‘fan’ page, getting traffic, what to Tweet about, etc.
And yes, I look to include many of these ideas into the re-vamped e-book. Naturally we would include your name and links back to your company or blog.
So…what’s your best story or idea on using Social Media with Tradeshows, Conferences and Events?