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

Custom exhibit

Getting the Color Right on Your Tradeshow Graphics

When I first got into the tradeshow world around the turn of the century (!), an issue that kept coming up time and time again was the color of tradeshow graphics.

There are a number of problems that come up with printing graphics with accurate color.

tradeshow graphic color

First, since we printed everything in-house at that point, we needed to make sure that the printer’s output was consistent with what was called for. A graphic designer will usually spec a PMS color (Pantone Matching System), which is a proprietary color space that identifies exact shades. That meant regular testing of the system to make sure that the color matched.

The inks in the printer must be of high quality so that when the computer that is used to process the print calls on the right combination of the various ink tanks.

Next, you have the computer monitor. Many clients would look at something on their monitor and think it looked exactly how they wanted it. Trouble it, monitors differ in their output as well. So, what you see on your monitor in your office may not be what I see on my monitor.

Don’t forget about the substrate you’re printing on. Whether it’s fabric or paper, simply by changing the source of paper from one package to another may bring a subtle difference. It’s the same with carpet dye. One dye lot may be slightly different from another, and if you try to match a new printed piece with an older printed piece, chances are good it won’t exactly match.

Then there’s the human factor. We all see colors differently, and usually the person operating the printers have a good eye for colors.

So how to address this? If you are trying to match a PMS Pantone color exactly, the best thing is to provide a paper-printed color sample that you like. For example, if you have a brochure or other printed piece that is exactly what you want, color-wise, make sure your printing vendor has that. If they have that piece in hand, chances are very high they can make adjustments in their process to create a printed tradeshow graphic that matches your desired color.

But understand that there a lot of variable! The technology has generally made it easier to color-match, but it’s not always guaranteed. Just work with your exhibit house or print shop if color-matching is important.

Speaking of colors, did you hear about the chemist that accidentally discovered a new blue a couple of years ago?

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.

TradeshowGuy Exhibits at Expo West

Fifteen years ago, my very first client, Kettle Foods, made an appearance at Natural Products Expo West with a custom 20×20 exhibit. Since then, I’ve been back every year, many times with new clients, and updated exhibits with current clients. Kettle Foods, by the way, has been sold at least three times since the old days and the brand is now owned and managed by Snyder’s-Lance.

A few years after that, I worked with Bob’s Red Mill to debut a new 20×20 island. Since then, we’ve created a new 30×30 exhibit, which has since increased to a 30×40. The Bob’s Red Mill marketing team is on top of updates every year with new graphics to promote new products.

This year we saw expanded and/or upgraded versions of current clients. Schmidt’s Naturals of Portland (recently acquired by Unilever), kept the same size, but added some custom product display units, and washed away the previous gray-ish look and brought forward their new array of stunning colors.

Schmidt's Naturals

Dave’s Killer Bread/Alpine Valley increased the size of their exhibit from 10×30 to 10×40, adding new backlit graphics and a new custom greeting counter with LED-highlights.

Dave's Killer Bread at Expo West

Wedderspoon Manuka Honey increased the size of their exhibit from 10×20 to 10×30, adding in new fabric graphics to their wooden display shelving units. We also fabricated a new hexagon shaped, LED highlighted, charging table (reportedly it was loved by visitors as they sat and talked business). A new 60″ monitor capped it off.

Wedderspoon Manuka Honey at Expo West

 


Natural Products Expo West: Days Three and Four

Babies – lots of babies – along with young kids, the occasional dog, lots of mascots/costumes, and a few weirdly dressed people. Typical Expo West!

natural products expo west

Saturday night – Day Three of Expo West – was spent hanging out with Oregon Business folks at their annual soiree at McCormick and Schmicks, and later, producing Monday Morning’s vlog/podcast. Now let me see if I can manage a recap of the final two days of Expo West.

Dozens of people I spoke with agreed that the show was somewhere between amazing and fantastic, or perhaps crazy-busy and overwhelming. Just saw the press release this morning from New Hope which showed that there were over 85,000 attendees, and 3,521 exhibiting companies, including more than 600 first-time exhibitors.

I mentioned in my vlog/podcast that I was impressed by the great detail that exhibit designers go to to capture a brand’s essence. I also got into a conversation with one booth staffer about the wild colors that are everywhere in the show. “Can you imagine what this show would be like without all of those colors?” he asked. Agreed. Bright and bold colors everywhere.

There were also a lot of BIG hanging signs, from 40’x40’ aluminum structures/fabric graphics to wooden panels and what looked like carved wooden signs. Does anybody look up these days at shows?

natural products expo west

There were a lot of clever interactive things going on at booths, offering people an opportunity to walk into the booth space and do something. It’s always a great way to capture attention. I counted at least a dozen “selfie” stations, with some including a circular light where you can take a selfie where you’re fully and evenly lit, and some stations where they’ll take a photo and then email it to you. One of the most fascinating and eye-catching interactives was a Rube Goldberg contraption in the KIND Snacks booth, showing how KIND snacks are made from start to finish.

There were many opportunities to tweet a hashtag with a photo for a chance to win something, so it was good to see the social media tie-in as well. Although, frankly, it almost seems run-of-the-mill, when six or seven years ago social media was all so new!

Another thing I noticed in booth fabrication was the use of see-through printed fabric. Everywhere I turned there was another example. See-through fabric is very useful in creating a barrier, but the see-through aspect gives you a view of what’s beyond it, without intruding on people that might be in a meeting room for example.

This was my sixteenth consecutive time I’ve attended Expo West in support of clients, for years, the halls have been set up in a specific configuration: foods, manufacturing, supplements, new products and more all have had their own areas. That didn’t change this year, but the layout changed – drastically – and it was interesting to see how the whole layout was essentially flopped from one end to the other. Lots of comments from people who weren’t sure how it worked, but from my view it worked just fine. Took a little getting used to.

Sunday – Day Four – started off much slower, in terms of visitors roaming the aisles. I was there at opening of ten o’clock, and the back reaches of the halls were lightly travelled. it didn’t take long for that to pick up. By late morning, it seemed almost as busy as previous days. It did give me a chance to speak to more people without feeling rushed. By 2:30 to 3 o’clock, exhibitors were offering all of their samples to attendees so they wouldn’t have to transport them back to HQ. And of course, some folks were pulling down banner stands and packing up suitcases by 3 o’clock. Ya ain’t s’posed to do that, but it happens anyway. Planes to catch.

natural products expo west

And finally, I know of no other show where, frankly, you never need to eat a meal offsite for ate least three days. Virtually every company is sampling the goods, from sausage, bagels, bread, toast and eggs to energy bars, drinks, coffee, teas, juices and other goodies. It’s easy to consume a couple of thousand calories without even batting an eye. Even if you try to avoid eating much, you’ll end up taking bite-sized samples here and there.

And don’t get me started on the varieties of chocolates.

7 Tradeshow Exhibit Add-Ons for Less Than $500

Your tradeshow exhibit may look great. It may function well. But once the show is underway, you find yourself always ducking into a storage room to grab some paperwork or literature or end up answering the same question over and over again. Or showing a demo on a laptop when you keep thinking it should be on a monitor because people are looking over your shoulder.

It could be your tradeshow exhibit might need a little add-on that will add an element that either functions, spruces it up, or shows visitors just a little more than what you had originally been thinking. Let’s look at a handful of add-ons for under five hundred bucks.

  1. iPad or Surface stand. Putting a table at the front of your exhibit often is an unspoken invitation for visitors to engage. These could be free-standing, or attachments that mount on an existing table or counter.
  2. Literature stand. Instead of stacking sales sheets on a counter where they’ll always get messed up or keeping them inside a counter where you’re always reaching for them, put out a literature stand. A literature stand could also be free-standing, or it could attach to an exhibit you already have.
  3. Easel. Easels are cool. And they’re old-school. But a well-placed easel can show off a larger poster-size graphic in a slightly different way.
  4. TV Monitor. It seems that most exhibits have a monitor of some sort, whether free-standing or mounted on a wall. Monitors up to about 50” can be had for under $500.
  5. Table throws. Maybe it’s just a small exhibit, or you’ve got a small table in the midst of a larger exhibit. In either case, adding a custom printed table throw is an easy call.
  6. Turn a table in to a charging table with an add-on charging kit. Probably won’t work on any table, but if it fits your table, it’s a great little feature that your visitors will thank you for!
  7. Banner Stands. Banner stands are an easy add-on and it’s easy to find one that’ll fit your budget of under $500.

I said 7? Let’s give you one bonus:

        8 .Rental plants. No, seriously, rental plants. Like a topiary ball or a 4 ft. hedge.


Check out our Exhibit Design Search.

How to Do Tradeshow Math

Wait, you probably already know how to do tradeshow math, right? You add up all of the costs, hit “total” and you have a sum that tells you how much you need to spend.

Could be that easy. Let’s take a look.

I’m always doing math. In fact, my buddy Rich and I will always answer strange queries with “Do the math.” Even on things that supposedly have nothing to do with math.

“Hey, do we need another bottle of peppermint schnapps?”

“What do you think? Just do the math!”

“You gonna watch the new X-Files season?”

“Could be. Do the math!”

I guess you really can apply math to just about everything.

tradeshow math

When it comes to tradeshow math, you might want to take a more precise approach than just winging it like Rich and I do during our golfing sojourns.

Identify all of the various things that you need to spend money on: new or upgraded exhibit and all of the related items such as carpeting, electrical, sign hanging, exhibit set up and dismantle; then add in shipping (both directions), drayage, booth space rental and cleaning, internet access if desired.

Beyond that, if you’re looking at the whole picture for one show, what is the cost of creating a mailing piece to let people you know you’ll be at the show? Add the cost of mailing. Email is certainly significantly cheaper than sending out snail mail, but someone is still going to have to create and send the email. Is that done in-house, or is it done by a creative agency? And are you including the cost of email list rental?

Other pre-show and during-show activities may include social media creation (photos, video, blog posts or other). If your staffers are doing that as part of their job, it may not be an additional separate line item.

In-show marketing or activities may include badge scanner rental, sponsorships, professional demonstrators, lead form printing and more.

Take the last step and do the tradeshow math for the entire year. Add up all of the shows and see how your full year’s costs look. Then at the end of the year, add up the actual costs and compare to your estimates. Make adjustments as needed. Rinse and Repeat.

If you’d like to make it a little easier, just download this Excel spreadsheet we created here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits.

How to Stand Out at a Tradeshow

One of your biggest tradeshow marketing challenges is how to stand out at a tradeshow. Every other exhibitor is vying for the attention of visitors, so not only are you trying to grab the attention of the eyeballs and mind of a visitor, but every other exhibitor there is looking to do the same thing.

To stand out, you have to be unique. Or if not unique, you have to execute the various properties of your exhibit in such a way that you catch eyeballs.

What is unique? It’s something that no one has thought of before. An exhibit that I saw in the last year at Expo West in Anaheim was nothing more than a large “1%” that dominated the entirety of the booth. In the booth, by Kashi, there was a small sign that explained that the 1% referred to the amount of organic farmland in the US. That unique approach, along with well-informed booth staff, made for a presence that really stood out.

stand out at the tradeshow

Another way is to have an exhibit that represents your brand so well that frankly, no other exhibitor could have that exhibit. If you’re familiar with Bob’s Red Mill, you know that their brand is the iconic face of Bob Moore, and a red mill. Their exhibit shows that red mill down to the T. Bob Moore, in his late 80s, still represents the brand at the bigger shows, signs books, gives them away, and poses for pictures. Another way the company stands out at Expo West is when Bob and a small Dixieland band make an entrance every morning, marching throughout the show floor, finally ending at the booth.

stand out at the tradeshow

Other exhibitors stand out by having unique hands-on activities, mascots, celebrities (in the industry), unusual giveaways and more.

Standing out is critical to getting attention. What can you do to stand out?

Nine Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Custom Tradeshow Exhibit

It’s a big commitment, investing in a custom tradeshow exhibit. Maybe not as much as getting married or buying a new house, but it’s more than deciding who should accompany you to the prom. It’s a big deal – buying a new custom exhibit. If you haven’t been through the process before, or in a while, it’s not a bad idea to review the steps.

What are the pros and cons of the decision? What about budget, logistics, staff preparation and more? They’ll all be impacted by the purchase of a custom tradeshow exhibit.

Some of the pros and cons to weigh before choosing between purchasing a custom tradeshow exhibit or a more standard, modular or manufactured exhibit.

  1. Uniqueness: A custom tradeshow exhibit means that your company will have a unique, one-of-a-kind presentation. No one else will look like (if the designer does his job!). Your designer starts with a blank slate and before doing anything on the slate they should ask a lot of questions. They should ask so many that you may wish they’d stop! But it’s all good – it means they care about creating an exhibit that you really want; one that works well for your company from many aspects: the look and feel, the branding, and the functionality.
  2. Flexibility: A custom exhibit can be designed and fabricated form the outset to accommodate a variety of needs and intended uses. For instance, if you have an exhibit schedule that demands you exhibit in a 10×20 space in one show, a 10×20 space in another show, and a 20×20 in yet another show, your exhibit components can be designed to work in all three configurations.
    Custom Tradeshow Exhibit
  3. Pride of Ownership: A custom exhibit will give you those intangibles: pride of ownership, unique corporate identity and a feeling that can’t be beat, from the CEO to the front-line staffers!
  4. Other Options: Of course, you have options other than custom, especially when it comes to smaller exhibits, such as 10×10 or 10×20 inline exhibits. There is pop-up, modular, flat-panel, fabric panels, fabric back-lit walls, monitor inset options and more. There are custom hybrids that take elements of modular designs and add unique twists that help you stand out – maybe for less money than designing and fabricating a custom exhibit from scratch.
  5. Logistics: Drayage, Shipping and Installation & Dismantle: It seems that nothing can torpedo your tradeshow marketing budget faster than logistics. Shipping, show drayage and the costs to install and dismantle your exhibit are often seen as nothing short of highway robbery. But in the tradeshow world, it’s a cost of playing the game. So, what can you do from the design and fabrication standpoint to keep these costs as low as possible? Using lightweight materials such as fabric graphics and aluminum framing can help. Knowing how to set up your own small exhibit can help you avoid having to pay an I&D company, but there are tradeoffs. You’re either paying your own crew for their time, or you’re paying the pros.
  6. Custom Look, Function and Branding: The main reason to consider a custom exhibit is that, after all is said and done, you want a booth that looks like no other. If your company handcrafts potato chips, for example, uses biodiesel fuel, donates to charitable causes, mitigates wetlands on the site of a new factory, works a staying green by invoking heavy use of solar energy, you have a solid idea of how you want your exhibit to reflect those values as part of your brand.
  7. Design/Fabrication: One question that pops up on occasion: is it important to have the same company that designs your booth fabricate it? Not necessarily. But having the design and the fabrication shop right next door means communication is smoother and more efficient. Some independent designers will gladly create a custom design that is guaranteed to wow your audience. But many may not have as much experience designing using specific materials that an exhibit house typically uses. They may also not have as much experience at knowing how much things cost. Having an exhibit project manager in close communication with the designer can help keep the design within budget.
  8. Pricing: Budget is often the key element of a new exhibit project, and creating a custom exhibit will often drive the cost higher than picking something that’s more “off the shelf.” Those standard-issue exhibits will, in most cases, cost less than a similarly sized custom exhibit. But that doesn’t mean your custom exhibit has to cost an arm and a leg. Taking time to go through the process carefully helps rein in those costs. Know what your needs are, communicate those needs to your exhibit house, and make sure they are aware of your budget. Confirm all steps of the design and reviews, all the way through to fabrication.
  9. Learning Curve: Many companies that step up from a small modular booth to a custom booth will go through a few growing pains. It’s not uncommon. They’re spending more money, they’re having to deal with higher shipping costs, I&D, and their staff now has a larger space to deal with. But ultimately, every company I’ve worked with that has gone through the process unanimously report it was well worth it. Partners, clients, prospects, and even competitors see them as bigger players in the industry. Higher respect and recognition are your due.

There is a tremendous benefit to your company when your tradeshow marketing moves to a significantly higher level. Tradeshow marketing is by far one of the most cost-effective, highly targeted methods of reaching your potential customers and maintaining strong relations with your current clients.


7 Ways to Save Money at a Tradeshow

Oh yes, tradeshows can be very expensive, so what should you do to save money when exhibiting at a tradeshow? Let’s take a look at just a handful of ideas.

  1. Partner with a bigger exhibitor. You may be a perfect complement to a partner with a much larger booth presence. Explore the idea of taking a small corner of a smaller exhibit. Both exhibitors will benefit from the added traffic when both exhibitors are promoting the joint appearance.
    save money at tradeshows
  2. Rent an exhibit. Not always the best of go-to solution, but for many exhibitors, renting a booth means not dealing with storage. Usually at one-third the cost of purchasing a similar exhibit.
  3. Dig deep to cut your travel costs. Cutting those costs may mean taking one or two fewer people, staying in hotels that are on a transit line but still a bit away from the convention center.
  4. Save power by using LEDs instead of hot halogens.
  5. Cut your shipping weight. Using graphic graphics that fold up are going to cost a lot less to ship, and will take up less space.
  6. Cut your shipping costs even more. Shipping monitors isn’t a big deal. But imagine if you had them purchased locally, delivered them to the convention center, and then either shipping them home in your crates, or donate them to a local nonprofit and take a tax write off.
  7. Don’t use your exhibit properties only at the exhibit. Work creatively to use them at other times of the year. Set a graphic up in your company entrance, show it off in the conference room or use it for a video shoot. Getting more usage out of your exhibit materials, especially the graphics, gives you a chance to stretch those dollars.

Exhibitor Magazine Offers Budgeting Numbers in Latest Issue

What does a custom exhibit cost on average? How much does it cost to store your exhibit? What’s the cost per lead when exhibiting at a tradeshow?

The answers to these and many other questions are revealed in the November issue of Exhibitor Magazine. You should check out the full magazine article for everything here, but it might be fun to look at just a few items for the sake of this post.

For instance, to answer the first question: what does a custom exhibit cost on average? According to the article, which quoted from the Experiential Designers & Producers Association’s 2017 Economic (Custom) Survey, the current average falls between $137 and $161.17 per square foot. In-line exhibits average $1,370 per lineal foot. Double-deck islands average $237 per square foot of total area.

Okay, let’s try another: exhibit storage. From the same survey, exhibit storage industry average is $.30 monthly per cubic foot, or $4.39 monthly per square foot.

How about the cost per lead? From a sales lead survey done by Exhibitor Magazine, only three in ten exhibit managers track the cost per lead generated at shows they attend, the average figure per lead among those who do is $164.91. I would suspect that number fluctuates widely over industries. And if you were to search for average cost per lead, you’ll get a very disparate cost from industry to industry. When you start to dissect lead cost numbers, you run into a litany of qualifications: what exactly is a lead? How are they qualified? How were they generated? And so on. But having that figure is a good bit of data; it’s often been shown that leads generated at tradeshows are more qualified and lower cost than leads generated other ways.

And finally, one bit of data from the article that jumped out at me: Exhibit-House Markups. How much does an exhibit house markup their prices from their suppliers? Keep in mind that this markup is generally the only way for an exhibit house to cover the cost of salaries, keeping the lights on, marketing, and so on. I’ve always been curious about this item and have never seen this information published. So, here’s the skinny:

  • Raw materials used in construction/fabrication: 93%
  • Subcontracted materials and special purchases: 67%
  • Subcontracted labor: 55%
  • Transportation: 28%
  • Show services: 27%
  • Installation-and-dismantle labor: 29%

This information came from the same EDPA 2017 economic survey as mentioned earlier.

Be sure to check out the remainder of numbers in the article, including average exhibit house charges, labor union charges, electrical, international exhibiting numbers and more. Good stuff to keep handy as you plan your budgets for 2018.


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