On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, a lively interview with Ken Newman of Magnet Productions, a professional tradeshow presentation company based in San Francisco. I’ve had Ken on the show before, although it’s been awhile, and I wanted to catch up and talk about three things: what’s up with Magnet Productions; his involvement in music and how that music involvement led to his involvement with Blanket the Homeless, a SF non-profit.
Borrowing a riff from Seth Godin – “What is it for?” – is a good place to start when considering tradeshow marketing.
Not only “what is it for?” but the alternative approach of
“why are YOU doing it?”
There are many ways to look at tradeshow marketing and using
the “what is it for?” approach can be very helpful.
Is it for selling? Is it for launching new products? Is it
for maintaining brand awareness in a crowded marketplace? Could it be for
maintaining relationships with clients? What about showing off the speaking and
knowledge abilities of your top managers by having them appear on a panel or
give a keynote or breakout session?
There are no wrong answers, as long as it’s something that is valid and true. One that makes sense to you and your company. If you don’t know what it’s for, maybe you should start from scratch and figure that out.
I’ve been attending tradeshows for nearly twenty years. In
looking back on photos from that era – the early ‘Naughts as the first ten years
of this century are sometimes referred to – things look different. It’s often
subtle, but what the photos from that era show is what’s NOT there. You have to
look closely and compare the images from around 2003 – 2005 with images from
The big changes?
Video: Depending on the show, some are stark and blatantly obvious. For example, I saw so many large video walls at this year’s National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas I lost count. Big, small, portable banner-stand-like video walls, large walls used for training (Adobe and others), most of them extremely high quality.
Some smaller shows or different types of shows may not have
the large video walls (or only a few), but my impression is that a majority of exhibits
have large video monitors. These typically range from around 40” to as much as
70” and all show sharp images. It’s much easier to attach monitors on exhibit
walls when the monitors are so slim compared to what was available a couple of
Fabric Graphics: Printing on fabric has come so far, it’s hard to imagine what it was like at the turn of the century. Printers have gotten so much better and fabrics have also improved that in many cases what you’re seeing on the exhibit walls are fabric graphics printed with such depth and clarity it compares with top of the line paper printing.
LED lighting: Hand in hand with fabric graphics, the evolution of LED lighting has meant better lights for a fraction of the cost. Combine LED lights and an aluminum frame with fabric graphics and voila you have a fantastic-looking lightbox that shines!
Augmented Reality: I’ve only seen this a few times at tradeshows, but I think it’s going to spread. It’s showing up at museums and other permanent installations. Why not tradeshows?
3D Virtual tours: Again, not used so much these days, but check out the recent interview I did with Phil Gorski from Ova-Nee Productions and see what they’re doing in the tradeshow space. I can see this happening more and more to take the physical tradeshow to a larger audience in the digital world.
Virtual Reality: Not something that is taking over the tradeshow world, but it is definitely there and a smart exhibitor that chooses to use VR will plan to do it right. Here’s an interview I did with Foundry45‘s Dave Beck.
Interactive Touch Screens: Depending on the way you want your visitors to interact this can be a big benefit to help show off your company, products and people.
Charging Stations: At the turn of the century hardly anyone thought of the need to charge a portable device. Now it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have that need a time or two a day during a long tradeshow. Charging stations can be custom-designed and built to fit your brand and to fit seamlessly into your exhibit.
Apps: Of course, there were no apps 15 – 20 years ago. Today it is a rare tradeshow that doesn’t have its own app where you can find exhibitors, information and subscribe to updates about the show.
Social Media: This also didn’t exist back then. Today it almost seems old school to be doing regular social media posting about your tradeshow appearance. I mean, even Grandma is on Instagram, right? But social media is still a good way to post photos, respond to comments and let your followers know what’s going on while your company is exhibiting.
The marketing funnel. It’s something I learned about years ago, but it’s interesting to reexamine now and then. Recently I attended the NAB Show in Las Vegas as a blogger and was asked by a few dozen companies if they could scan my badge. Once they scanned, I was put in the top of their tradeshow marketing funnel, even though they did exactly zero qualifying. See where this is leading?
When it comes to tradeshow marketing, the funnel does indeed
get interesting. As in any type of marketing, there are things you can control
and things you cannot. Scanning the badge of every person that comes through
your booth does indeed capture name and contact information and will likely
mean they’ll soon be getting emails from your company.
Let’s look at the tradeshow marketing funnel starting at the
The first step – the top of the funnel where its widest – is
the number of people attending a particular tradeshow that you’re setting up an
exhibit. For the sake of argument and easy math, let’s say it’s 100,000 people.
Do the Math
If you are one of 2000 exhibitors, that means you’re vying
for the attention of those 100,000 people along with 1,999 other exhibitors.
If the show is three days, 10 am – 5 pm, that means the show
floor is open for 21 hours. If each attendee walks the floor an average of four
hours a day and manages to visit one booth every five minutes, that means they
are visiting (again this is hypothetical and on average) 12 an hour, or 48 a
day, or 144 over the course of the show. If every attendee visited each
exhibitor at the same rate, you’d get about 13.9% of the 100,000 attendees to
stop by your booth, or 13,900 people. That’s 660 per hour, or about 11 per
minute. If a visitor stops by a booth every 2 ½ minutes, these numbers double.
But since people are unpredictable, let’s stay with the five-minute visit on
Now – if those numbers are even close to real, what are you
doing to get their attention?
Are you giving out samples to visitors, doing product demos,
having one-on-one conversations? Or are you just randomly scanning badges of
every visitor even though they haven’t expressed any interest in your products
other than standing within scanning distance of the booth.
Every one of those interactions will mean that each person
will go into the top of the funnel, although admittedly they can’t be treated
equally because some will be more interested than others, some will be more
prepared to buy than others, and some are just kicking tires.
But they’re all in the marketing funnel. At this point we
can treat them equally.
For argument’s sake, let’s say that for every ten that visit
your booth, one expresses interest, enough interest to let them capture their
That means some 66 people per hour have made at least an
initial commitment to let you invite them to the next step of the funnel. They
may have opted into an email list, agreed to have their badge scanned, or had a
conversation with someone in the booth. Again, assuming the show is open for 21
hours, you have approximately 1386 at the second level of your funnel.
Move People Through the Funnel
What do you do to move them along?
Here’s where the marketing funnel gets more interesting. Do
you simply email them? Or do you call them one-on-one to assess their real need
(or lack) to find out if they are a “hot” lead, “warm” lead or just a “cool”
lead that will be put on the back burner and perhaps inserted into a drip
campaign? Do you send them a sample? A PDF report of some sort?
An ideal tradeshow marketing campaign will have a number of
options available at the show, and each interaction should assess the visitor’s
desires and situation.
And let’s add one more step to the math.
Let’s say the average profit of your product is $10,000.
By adding up all the costs of your tradeshow appearance, you’re
spending $100,000 for this particulate show. That means you need to sell 10
customers to break even. If your average profit is $1,000, you’ll need 100
Anything more than those numbers, and the Return on
Investment on your tradeshow marketing plan is out of the red and into the
But let’s take it one more step.
Improving Funnel Results
Let’s say that for every customer that purchases your premium product continues to purchase other products from you for an average of 7 years. The lifetime value of that customer acquisition just increased substantially, which means the money you spent at the tradeshow to come into contact with her means a lot more.
And if they’re a really happy customer, they may end up referring
a handful of new clients to you. Which makes that initial cost look better and
better with each passing year.
The more tradeshows you exhibit at, the more people you put
your products and services in front of. If you’re doing things right, or at
least learning from any mistakes you’ve made over the years and made adjustments,
your tradeshow marketing funnel will become less leaky. You’ll retain more of
the people that enter at the top.
We all have leaky marketing funnels. But by being aware of what works, what doesn’t and doing your best to maximize your returns, your results will keep improving. But it means paying close attention at every step. Keep asking your prospects what they need to learn, do they want to hear more, do they want a free sample or another product demo, or how they may want to interact with you and your company.
We all wish we had that idea that spread like wildfire.
Hotmail, or Napster, for instance. But with so many millions of ideas floating
to the surface of people’s minds on a daily basis, how do you get something to
Tradeshows, surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly), are
naturally built to spread ideas. There are lots of mediums that can spread
ideas: books, podcasts, radio shows, TV shows, online video, email, and so on.
But tradeshow marketing has a few advantages (and a few disadvantages, which we’ll
look at shortly).
The big advantage of using the medium of tradeshows to
spread an idea, whether it’s a product or service that you’re marketing, is
that you have a gathering of people that are specifically interested in your
products. Or at least they’re specifically interested in the market in which
your product sits. Another advantage is that the attendees usually have a lot
of influence in the company they work for and the market that they work in.
Which means if they see an idea they like a lot, one that resonates with them
or helps them out, they’ll talk about it. They’ll spread the idea to others
that can also spread it, or act on the product or service represented by the
What about the disadvantages? Even though the attendees at
the show have a lot of influence, it’s somewhat of a closed system. If you want
the idea to spread outside of the market that the tradeshow addresses, you’ll
need to go beyond. Having said that, perhaps that’s not even important.
Another disadvantage that tradeshow have as far as spreading ideas is that it’s largely a marketing effort, not an effort to spread an idea. But it can be done. I think back to 2009 when I attended Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City. In promoting his new cameras, several times a day GoPro CEO Nick Woodman would stand on a table in the company booth, and shout and scream and give away t-shirts and other swag, and finally give away a few new cameras. His enthusiasm, hype and excitement simply could not be ignored if you were within hearing distance. To win, you had to sign up on one of their kiosks and opt in to an email list – and you had to be there to win when they gave away the goodies. They stilluse thesame approach (without Nick, though); I saw them do the same thing at NAB Show earlier this month.
At the time, the idea of a standalone “action camera” was
new. By using tradeshows as a marketing platform, or marketing medium, GoPro
was able to spread the idea of the standalone cameras right when the
competition was the new smartphone, and older digital cameras. But the GoPro could
be attached to your helmet, your torso or even to a skateboard or surfboard or
whatever – and with the wide-angle lens, it captured exciting and dynamic footage.
The idea was so new and unusual, it created a new genre of cameras, which have
been replicated by other companies in an effort to compete.
If the product or service brings with it such a forceful
idea, it can definitely spread like a virus. And tradeshows can be used
effectively to help launch the idea into the wider world.
You’re there to sell a product or service, or to connect with distributors who will sell your products or services. Which means you want to know if the visitor even uses the product. Thanks to an interview we did with Richard Erschik, we know that the first question is often:
Do you currently use our product or a similar product?
After that, you’re trying to determine if the visitor is
interested in purchasing that product in the near future:
Are you considering making a purchase soon? When?
Next, you’d like to know if the person you’re speaking to
has decision-making power:
Who makes the decision? You? Or is there someone else that is involved?
And of course, you want to know if they have the capability
to spend the money you charge for your service:
Do you have the money you’d need to invest in this product or service?
Many shows really aren’t trying to make sales on the spot.
For example, the bigger expos are more about branding, launching new products
and making connections with current clients, partners or distributors. In this
case, what’s important is to get visitors to either sample your products (such
as food), know about the new products, or in the case of other products such as
electronic gear, cameras, software and more like we saw at NAB Show, to make
sure that visitors were able to learn as much as they needed.
The company is paying good money – usually a lot of money –
to exhibit at the show, which means that every visitor is critical. Ask good
questions. Stay off the phone. Don’t eat in the booth. And don’t ask about the weather!
From extremely large video to big training sessions from Adobe and others, to keynotes and journalist panels, it was all there. And I soaked it up for a couple of days last week. Here’s my take on the first couple of days of the 2019 NAB Show:
Having never attended the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, I did not have a full grasp of the scope and size of the show. And once I was walking the floor earlier this week, it still took a few hours to fully comprehend how freaking big it is. There are nearly 2 million square feet of exhibiting space in 13 halls separable by movable walls.
Over 90,000 attendees showed up along with over 1600 exhibitors to see the latest in video and audio tech in all its glory: broadcast and cable TV, sports, podcasting, radio, lighting, cloud services and much more. It was all there. And it was overwhelming.
The biggest takeaways? As an old radio guy who started his career by playing single 45s on a turntable, I can safely say: we’ve come a long way (mentioning those 45s to the 20 and 30-something folks staffing the booths also was a good way to bring forth those puzzled looks along with a hesitant chuckle – yeah, I know I’m old).
Video is huge, as are the gigantic video walls, which seemed
to adorn nearly one out of three booths. Quality is impressive. Cameras are
going up in quality as the price creeps down. Seeing and playing with 8K
cameras showed attendees what the working video world will be working with soon
if they aren’t already.
Audio production, and in particular, the production of audio
in conjunction with video, is a really big deal. Avid’s booth featured a large
screen displaying how they mixed the music that was a part of the Oscar-winning
Bohemian Rhapsody. Also there were the Oscar winners, who sat on a panel discussing
Visitors also could partake in training on a large scale:
Adobe, Avid, DaVinci Resolve and many others were doing full-on all-show-hours
in-depth training on their latest products.
From an exhibit standpoint, I also saw something I’d never
seen before: many video camera and monitor manufacturers built set and had them
populated with stand-in actors. The idea was to give visitors a chance to put
their hands on the various cameras and zoom and pan and see how everything worked
under conditions that replicated what they’d find on an actual set.
I also saw at least three stationary cars equipped with cameras to film actors as they drove. One exhibitor went even further: behind the car there was a large video image of a road as if the car was moving. On the right and left were more screens with similar images. And for the coup de grace, a large video panel suspended over the entire car which simulated the movement of the sky, reflections of streetlights and more. An actor need only sit in the car and everything else is captured in one take, with little post-shoot work needed.
Lots of international exhibitors, including Europe and China, Korea and Canada among the more prominent. It seems pretty common that exhibits from China and Korea will set up exhibits with walls that enclose much of the space. I don’t see that as much from US exhibitors, so my hunch is it’s a bit of a cultural thing. I also don’t think humor passes easily from culture to culture. One exhibitor from China had a McLaren automobile on display (wasn’t really sure of the purpose, but it certainly looked sharp). As I was talking to one of the reps, I joked that maybe they should raffle off the car at the end of the show. All I got in return was confused look. Hey, I thought it was funny!
Exhibits were impressive from the big companies, and many of
the smaller companies also had a good look. Although as in any show, you always
see the smaller companies in the 10x10s around the edges of the main floor
struggling to be seen or to even have something worth seeing. The most
impressive things seen in the smaller booths were the company’s product lit up
with LED, or something moving that catches the eye.
Esports had its own section, showing off gamers and gaming.
We know that gaming has become a multi-billion dollar industry and if you
search for esports competition, you’ll find a lot. There were panels and
competitions taking place in the section, but frankly, since I’m not a gamer,
it didn’t hold my interest that long. However, my 18-year old son probably
could have spent all of the show in this area and it wouldn’t have been enough!
The tech that supports radio, tv, cable and Internet was
also displayed throughout the halls. Not being a tech guy, much of this was
over my head, but impressive nonetheless: network, audio, video controllers;
studio design and audio and video production boards, facility infrastructure,
transmitters, processors, automation software, captioning AI, streaming,
scheduling, logging, transcription…you name it, somebody was here promoting it.
I talked to well over a hundred people about the show, how
it worked for them, how it helped create leads, sell their products. Most told
me it was a great show for them. Several said this show in particular was the
one show that gave them most of their good leads for the year for them to
follow up on.
But not everyone agreed. One woman I spoke with said she’d been coming to the show for thirty years, and it’s not the show it used to be. One comment she made totally threw me. She said the “little Sony” booth wasn’t impressive at all. My jaw dropped because I’d been at the Sony booth (probably around 10,000 square feet) earlier in the show and determined it to be one of the top exhibits there, going so far as to walk through the booth for a minute or two shooting video to capture it all. But no, she said, “Sony used to take up a third of the hall!” She said that the networks (CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS) don’t send the people they used to, and the few they do send spend all their time behind closed doors in meetings, and don’t get out and mingle on the show floor like they used to. So her market wasn’t there to the extent they used to be. I found her perspective fascinating: no matter how much evidence you see to support one view, there’s always another view that’s just as valid.
I caught a couple of events on the main stage: opening day, NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith (and former Oregon senator) gave a keynote and ended by awarding MASH actor Alan Alda the NAB Distinguished Service Award. Alan sat for about 15 minutes after the award to chat about his career. I also caught the next morning’s panel, Tales from the White House Beat, featuring Smith chatting with ABC’s Cecilia Vega, NBC’s Hallie Jackson, CBS’s Steven Portnoy and PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor as they shared stories and insight into covering the Trump administration.
I was invited as a blogger which made me a member of the media, so I felt a bit of kinship with these professional journalists. I’ve been in radio news teams, hosted talk shows and been behind the microphone for decades, and it was great to hear the stories they told.
Lastly, a shout out to these folks: Josh at Time Lapse Cameras, Kent at Sharp Electronics and Suzy at FeiyuTech for their time and information. They reached out and invited me to check out their latest. Time Lapse Cameras has, as you might imagine, some great little affordable time lapse cameras which can be used to record any number of things from construction to exhibit setup and dismantle. Sharp showed off their new 8K cameras which are out later this year, and FeiyuTech demonstrated a new action camera, the Ricco, along with a handful of three-axis gimbals and other assorted goods for the video camera market. All good stuff and thanks for having me!
This is a guest post by Kayleigh Alexander from Micro Startups.
So you’ve had a successful tradeshow, meeting lots of new potential customers and contacts and generated awareness and sales for your product or service.
But the work doesn’t stop there. The post-event period is crucial for capitalizing on your tradeshow success and promoting your next event.
Read on for five cool ideas for great post-event content that will grow your business and ramp up attendance for your next tradeshow.
Collate attendee quotes for some quick content
One great idea for some stellar post-event content is a
review piece by your attendees. During your tradeshow, you were probably laden
down with business cards, coffee plans, LinkedIn requests, and Twitter follows.
Consequently, you’ve got a huge bank of people to source
post-event reviews from. Reach out to your new contacts with a
personalized message and ask them how they found your event, what they took
away, what the most memorable point was, and so on.
Compile all these quotes into a single piece, crediting your attendee and linking out to their LinkedIn page or website. It’s quick content that serves as the perfect marketing piece for your next tradeshow.
Reach out to industry figures for their thoughts
As well as reaching out to your contacts and attendees, why
not reach out to notable industry figures for a post-event review too? These
influencers are respected in their field, and can provide insightful opinions
on your tradeshow.
When you contact these influencers, bear in mind that they
probably receive a lot of contact from their peers. Keep it professional and
If they’re happy to provide a quote, do the same as you did
with your attendees and ask for their insights, favorite exhibit, and any
actionable takeaways they can provide. Again, this makes for some valuable
post-event content that’s easy to collate.
The key here is immediacy. Don’t wait a week after the event to make this content — the sooner after the event, the better.
Offer your own post-event takeaways
Beyond reaching out to your attendees and industry
influencers for their thoughts, just as valuable are your own opinions. Break
down your tradeshow and describe how the day went, who attended, and what
attendees were able to take away.
A post-event review from your own perspective keeps your
tradeshow in the mind of your attendees. Invite comments from those who
attended your event and encourage them to respond with their own thanks and
And as well as providing some useful post-event content, this also helps those who weren’t able to attend your tradeshow see what they missed.
Check out search trend data to create targeted content
After your tradeshow, the chances are that your attendees
have a lot of questions. While many of them were asked during the event, plenty
of attendees will turn to Google afterwards for more information.
This gives you the perfect opportunity to create content
that addresses these questions, directing people to your blog after your
tradeshow to drive up engagement. Use search data trends to spot what your
attendees and customers are searching for online after your tradeshow.
For example, you might spot spikes in certain search terms related to a new product you demonstrated. Create content that goes into greater detail about this, and share it across your marketing channels. This addresses your attendees’ questions and keeps them engaged with your business.
Cascade tradeshow video across your marketing channels
Hopefully, you will have recorded plenty of video during
your tradeshow. Interviews with attendees, product demos, meet and greets,
talks and Q&As — these all make for strong post-event content that you can
If you used Instagram to promote your event on the day, it’s still possible to download it and reuse it across your website and email channels. Use the Repost For Instagram app to download the original clip from your social feed and cascade across the rest of your post-event marketing.
Invite interaction with a pop quiz
One piece of post-event content that is guaranteed to
delight your audience is a quiz. Quizzes are fun, engaging, and great for
creating discussion after an event.
Use a free quiz maker to create a quick test of your
attendees’ knowledge. Write questions that reveal more about your business,
product, or service. For example: “how many states did we expand into in 2018?”
or “what was the number one reason why customers used this product last year?”
— it’s up to you.
This doesn’t need to be particularly demanding — the
emphasis here is on fun rather than competition. You could even turn this into
a lead generation exercise, offering people the chance to win if they provide their
email address when they complete the quiz.
The period immediately after your tradeshow is ripe for boosting your business and marketing your next event. Use the ideas above to create a great post-tradeshow content strategy that will keep you going for time to come.
MicroStartups helps aspiring entrepreneurs achieve their dreams, however big or small. We love sharing the microbusiness message around the world.
I shouldn’t be surprised, but every year when the full exhibit floors are open, I am still a bit astonished at how many people are walking the floors. With over 80,000 attendees, Natural Products Expo West is a huge show. Not as big as the Consumer Electronics Show, but still mighty big.
So I spent the day walking, walking, walking and then walking some more. 19,221 steps according to my Fitbit! One major goal of the day was to make sure all of our clients were taken care of, so that meant making a stop at Target for requested supplies from a couple of them. Later in the day another client asked if I could track down a stapler, so after a few back-and-forth texts, another client was willing to lend their. I love when everybody helps out!
The second major goal was to drop by and say hello to exhibitors that I’ve met previously. As you may know, I’ve published two books on tradeshow marketing (here and here), and they are great calling introductory cards to start a brief conversation. Having been attending the show for almost two decades, lots of them recall me from previous years, so it’s good to reconnect, if only briefly. My main question to them is “how is the show going this year for you?” and 95% are very positive. One person said they weren’t coming back next year – they are just not getting the audience they want. The complaint is that the attendees in their booth were either other exhibitors or brokers and not retailers, which is what they want. I understand that not everyone has a great experience. I checked my list from last year and found that about a third of them are not here this year. From my perspective (anecdotal, not backed up by any data), there is a lot of turnover. But companies are still chomping at the bit to get into the show.
Since I’m Oregon-based, I lean towards finding Oregon or Northwest exhibitors. Many of them see me year after year, so even though we may never do business, it’s always good to make a brief reconnection. No selling, no pitching, not even a hint. Conversations usually revolve around (again) how the show is for them, and how their business is doing. So many businesses that I speak with are growing quickly, expanding product lines, and occasionally expanding their exhibit space. So I know that the industry as a whole is doing very well.
Over the years it’s been interesting to see some of the things that pop out and get your attention. A couple of years ago I couldn’t turn more than 90 degrees without seeing another bone broth product! This year, I see a lot of CBD-related products. I also see a lot of oat milk and keto-related products as well.
I’ve probably made this observation before, but it’s hard to walk the show floor without eating a fair amount of food. Most exhibitors offer samples, and many are literally pushing them on you. A bite here and a bit there, and after a couple of hours, you’ve had the equivalent of a meal. And it’s all (well, almost all) really good!
Let’s close out today’s diary with a few photos of some of the exhibits at the show. Backlit fabric graphics are still popular, as are eye-catching one-of-a-kind items in booths. Exhibit designers never cease to impress me with ways to capture eyeballs, communication messages in a 3D format and attention to detail.