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

Event Marketing

10 Tradeshow Marketing Secrets They Didn’t Tell You

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

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

7 Ways to Create Social Media Buzz Before the Tradeshow

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!

Create Social Media Buzz
Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill marches into Expo West with a dixieland band.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. If you have new products or services, create a teaser video or three and get them out onto your social media platforms.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!

Uncovering the Prospect’s Real Issue at the Tradeshow

If you’re standing at the edge of your tradeshow booth ready to engage with a visitor, remember that as try you qualify him or her, you’re really trying to find the prospect’s real issue. Once you do that, you can determine if you can be of assistance, or if you can’t.

Prospect's real issue

Tradeshow selling take place in a chaotic environment. Hundreds or thousands of competing exhibitors, and thousands or tens of thousands of attendees means everyone is vying for attention and they all have their own personal agenda. So when you get an opportunity to interact with a booth visitor, the best recipe for a successful encounter is to know where you want to go.

And often that destination is reached by trying to uncover the prospect’s real issue. How do you do that? By asking questions.

Let’s say you’re exhibiting at a show to get more leads for your IT business such as virus eradication and firewalls and related services Your visitor mention that they think their IT department is doing okay. That’s a bit of an opening – not much – but it should give you an opportunity to peel back the onion a bit.

“When you say that ‘you think’ the IT department is doing okay, what do you mean?”

They may tell you that from what their IT guy says, they seem to have dealt with most of the recent viruses with a rebuilt firewall. Or something. He’s not an IT guy.

“What do you mean by most? Can you tell me more?”

They go on to say that the IT guy only “swore for half the day” earlier in the week at something-or-other that was taking up all his time instead of being able to add on to the network which he was supposed to be doing.

“So your network administrator only ‘swore for half the day’ at having to deal with viruses? It sounds like he must have dealt with it. So it’s a done deal, right?” (You’re trying to backpedal a bit: psychologically it’s going to spur them to open up a bit more. If you suddenly tried to sell them your services without knowing if they need it, their defenses would likely go up).

Naah, he says, still some work to do. But he doesn’t know because he’s not the IT guy. Maybe it would be worth giving you his contact number, he says.

“Well,” you say, “that may be a good move. But he probably has his own go-to team to deal with issues like this, right?” (Still back-pedaling and acting like it’s not a big deal, to get him to open up more).

He doesn’t think so. In fact, just an hour ago when he was having lunch with the IT guy, the guy got a phone call from his assistant and they must have sworn back and forth for ten minutes over the situation. In fact, the IT guy may have to leave the show early to go deal with it.

“He and his assistant swore about the situation for ten minutes while you were eating? So the assistant has it handled, then?”

Uh, no, says the visitor. Gulp. Doesn’t sound like it. But then, he says again, he’s not an IT guy.

Now you’ve uncovered the real issue. It took a bit of doing, because your visitor was unwilling to reveal that information until you kept asking questions – and following up those questions with some ‘aw, shucks, it’s probably not a big deal, right?’ questions. And with your laidback but curious approach designed to get more information, he’s revealed the issue: that there really is a problem that your IT guy is trying to solve. Trying to put out a fire, in fact.

Sales is essentially the same whether it’s on the tradeshow floor, on the phone, or in someone’s office. It’s not about features and benefits. It’s about uncovering the problem and seeing if there is a fit between your prospect’s problems and your potential solutions. If there is, you’ll find an opportunity to discuss it in full at the earliest opportunity. If there is no fit, you wish him or her well and move on to the next.

Next time you’re on the tradeshow floor, try to refrain from hitting your visitors with a list of features and benefits at the first sign of a possible lead. Instead, drill down by playing a bit dumb, asking more questions and getting to the prospect’s real issues. Then you can schedule the next move that both of your agree on.

 

Tradeshow Social Media Video Guide

In case you hadn’t noticed social media video is exploding, driving traffic and eyeballs both on and offline. So it makes sense to strongly consider making video a part of your tradeshow strategy. Posting videos or going live from the show gives followers a sense of the show without actually being there, and if done correctly can help paint a picture of the people behind your brand.

If you’re going to put some videos together to promote your tradeshow appearance, it helps to color inside the lines as it were. Unless you’re a creative genius like Scorsese. So let’s take a look at some of those guidelines you might follow.

Facebook: Go Live from the show floor from your phone or laptop or tablet. Keep it short, but look to connect with viewers using short product demos, in-booth interviews with clients or visitors, interacting with booth staffers and more. Give your followers an intimate look at the people behind the products and services.

YouTube: Great for longer-form videos, but don’t overdo the length. You can go live, but it’s not a simple one-click from your page as it is with Facebook. Create videos that give information: product demonstrations, how-tos, and stories that build your brand.

Instagram: Now that you can combine stills and videos into short stories, capture several items and publish together as a single post. Aim for collections that demonstrate a lifestyle that relates to your brand. And of course, with a click you can go live on Instagram.

Twitter: Short videos are the rule on Twitter, as the stream is going so fast. One or two minutes is all you really need to capture someone’s attention. To the best of my knowledge, you can’t go live on Twitter (is Periscope still a thing?), so you’ll have to upload to YouTube or Vimeo or some other video platform and post a link.

Regardless of the platform you’re on, plan on posting multiple times during the day. If you’re going to do video from a tradeshow at all, make a full-on commitment so that your followers that are not at the show are able to anticipate your videos and join in the fun from a distance. Be sure to use show hashtags so that people outside of your company social media followers can find your video posts. And have fun – it’s just video! Everybody’s doing it! You’ll learn and get better as time goes on.

8 Ways to Use Instagram at a Tradeshow or Event

Planning on putting more focus on using Instagram at your next tradeshow or event? Congratulations. After all, it’s one of the most popular social media platforms out there with more than 400 million daily active users. But before you get started, do a little planning and it’ll be much easier to capture and post photos.

  1. Use the Event Hashtag. This way people at the show will find your posts much more easily.
  2. Go behind the scenes with photos. Show the exhibit set up, the show prep meeting, or the travel to the show. Build some excitement as you approach the show, and of course during and after.
  3. Don’t focus exclusively on your products or services. The most boring Instagram accounts are those that do nothing but promote, promote, promote their own stuff. Sure a product placement is cool, but make sure you have faces, preferably happy and smiling. Show off your exhibit and the people that visit.
  4. Use the Geotagging options. And don’t just stop there. Spend some time going through other photos from the same event and location: either comment or like those so you’re building engagement and followers.
  5. Promote the event before, during and after. Show what you’re going to do, show your team doing it, and then once it’s over, show more photos of what you’ve done.
  6. Promote a contest. Instagram contests do work – but be sure to post your rules for how it works, and how you choose a winner. And be sure to give away a relevant prize.
  7. Share to other platforms. Yeah, it’s easy, but be clear about how you’re doing it. If you just click the buttons, you’ll likely get a link to your Instagram post instead of the actual image. So either share the images separately, sign up for an IFTTT account, link your two accounts, and add this recipe that will “tweet your Instagrams as native photos on Twitter.”
  8. Share the event hashtag photos on a monitor in your booth. Yeah, you’ll probably need some smart nerdy tech guy to set this up, but it’s definitely doable.

Have a great time at the show – and share on Instagram!


Free report: What 7 Questions Do You Need to Ask Your Exhibit House?

SIA Snow Show From an Exhibitor’s Viewpoint

I’ve never attended the SIA Snow Show but I think I should someday, for two reasons. Number One: I’m a ski bum. Number Two: uh, see reason number one. Oh, and that’s right – I’m TradeshowGuy – I do tradeshows.

SIA SNOW SHOW

SIA – Snowsports Industries America – holds the annual SIA Snow Show in January in Denver, Colorado, home of some of the greatest skiing in America. Of course. With close to 20,000 attendees, it’s the industry’s largest global annual B2B gathering. It’s a smaller and more narrowly focused show than Outdoor Retailer, but in speaking to SIA Snow Show exhibitors, I gathered that many of them also exhibit or attend Outdoor Retailer.

Having not attended the snow show, I thought it might be illuminating to ring up some of the exhibitors at the show and debrief them on how the show went for them. Here’s what I came up with over the past several weeks.

Overall, how did the show rate? Most gave it very high marks.

“If it wasn’t a ten, it was a high nine,” said Ashley McGarvey of Meier Skis, who praised the show as bringing in lots of industry people. In spite of the challenges of being a smaller company, she felt the show was a very worthwhile marketing effort. According to SIA Snow Show information, over 96% of the supplier market share for ski, snowboard, AT, backcountry, cross country, snowshoe and winter apparel is there.

A big challenge that most small exhibitors faced, which is common throughout the industry and not just for the SIA Snow Show, is the high cost of transporting big booths and setting up the exhibits. This also resonated with the small core of Meier Skis team.

But all of the exhibitors I spoke with said they made great connections with retailers and distributors that made the show a ‘must.’

Whit Boucher of Strafe Outerwear agreed with Ashley, saying “It was a nine and a half, definitely,” saying that their 20×40 booth had a lot of traffic for the first three days, and saw a typical drop-off on day four. He speculated that it might be nice to drop the last day so they can show up then and break down the booth.

SIA SNOW SHOW

All exhibitors I spoke with felt the show opened doors to markets that they might not have normally had access to.

What challenges did they face? Besides the cost of exhibiting, smaller companies felt understaffed at times. Others felt that their exhibit wasn’t large enough to hold the people and products all at once.

One exhibitor, who preferred to remain nameless, felt the show was slipping in the past few years and felt that attendance had dropped “20 – 25%” in the past several years, and that the organizers had let in companies that had little to nothing to do with the core audience of snow sports: make-up companies, food companies and more. As a result, he said their company would be down-sizing next year. But still, he ranked the show as an “8 on a scale of 1-10 for what we need it to do.” He did express fear that the show would be sold or would merge into another show.

Erik Leines, CEO of Celtek has a personal mantra regarding tradeshows is “I’ve never met a tradeshow I didn’t like.” Why? “I’ve literally never done a tradeshow where I walked out and thought it wasn’t worth the money. For anyone doing a show, that’s the way to treat it. We have our own secret sauce on how to do it,” he added, as they always look at ways to attract attention and promote their products. Erik rated the show as “very high” as a marketing tool for their company.

Anything you’d change in your approach to exhibiting, or anything that is a challenge? Answers to this question ranged from “we need a bigger booth next year” to “we need more people in our booth” to “frustration and the cost of dealing with show services – how can it cost $1200 for three guys and a forklift to hang a sign in just four minutes?”

Bottom Line: a mixed bag. Even though most exhibitors I spoke with gave the show high marks, there was some comments that indicated that the show could be better and in fact might be slipping in some cases. Being such a narrowly focused show doesn’t necessarily give it strength, although it tends to draw the core audience that is needed for success. From all appearances, it is still a successful show, and yes, I’d like to get there and try out some new skis!


Thanks to Celtek, Meier Skis, Strafe Outerwear, POW Gloves, SKEA, 4F, Icelantic Skis, Red Feather and a few others that chimed in with comments on and off the record.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee: April 10, 2017 [video replay & podcast]

Finally, it’s official. We’ve turned this into a podcast. Yeah, I know it’s already a vlog (I’ll never get used to that word!), but now you can subscribe to the audio of the podcast.

This week: What happens when you have to roll with the punches. What’s your PLAN B?

Also, a quick look at Tim Ferriss’s podcast interview with Cheryl Strayed at SXSW last month.

And finally, ONE GOOD THING: John Cleese in CLOCKWISE. Check out the trailer. And find the movie – you’ll love it!

Create Tradeshow Buzz

How do you create tradeshow buzz? You know the one: the exhibit that keeps getting talked about. Don’t you want to be that exhibit? Don’t you want to be working at that one location where everyone seems to be heading?

create tradeshow buzz

Buzz is not something you can automatically turn on like a light switch. And even the best-laid plans to create buzz don’t always work, especially if some other company has gotten a plan afoot to outbuzz you!

A few things to consider that may get you to the place where you are creating buzz:

  • Giveaways: do you have that one thing that people want to have? Do you have that one game that everyone wants to play?
  • Interactivity: what is it people are doing in your booth that draws a crowd. Is it a virtual reality station? Is it a hands-on demo that leaves people talking?
  • In-booth demos: with the right pitch man or woman pitching the right product or service at the right show, a crowd can magically appear. Is it because the demonstrator is doing baffling magic along with a pitch? Is it because of their charisma and stage presence?
  • Celebrities: face it – most celebrities at shows are not the top name draws, such as Brad Pitt, Will Smith or Jennifer Lawrence. But there are a lot of second-tier celebrities (and third and fourth) that may mean something to your target market.

Beyond the in-booth activities, or the exhibit itself (which, is a stunner, can create buzz), look beyond:

  • Public Relations: Prior to the show, connect with influencers who might be interested in your products or services. Media, bloggers, industry wags and more can help build advance buzz.
  • Advance planning: get the word out before the show using pre-show advertising, social media engagement, direct mail, email, broadcast and internet opportunities as you see fit.
  • Press conference: if your product launch is truly newsworthy (and you should confirm that with industry media folks), throw a press conference. If you’re not used to putting on a good press conference, hire a pro.
  • Be crazy: this takes chutzpah and frankly, most companies probably don’t have it. But if your CEO is a leading edge person with an outlandish outlook, maybe saying something crazy about your product or service will bring people to your exhibit.
  • Unusual promotions: Spy at Moz was a promotion that invited attendees to track down ‘spies’ at the conference who were waring special red stickers, take a picture and then tweet it out. If you can co-promote with a couple of other exhibitors, the word will spread quickly.

It may be somewhat trite as an expression, but thinking out of the box can go a long way to generating tradeshow buzz. What are you willing to try next time?

In Tradeshows, Perception is Everything (Almost!)

When you are going out on a date, my guess is you dress up. If you’re a guy, you’ll put on some nice clothes, fuss with your hair a bit, brush your teeth and maybe put on a dab of cologne. If you’re a girl, you’ll do much the same, only probably spend longer (is that a sexist remark or just an observation of reality?). In either case, the intent is to put your best “YOU” forward. You want to give a good impression.

tradeshow perception is everything

It’s the same at a tradeshow. You want to put your best look forward. And in probably almost more than any other marketing medium, tradeshows are critical to putting out a good impression.

The perception visitors have of you is what they’ll take away. And while there are many elements, from the exhibit to the booth staff and how they interact, to the products or services you offer, the bottom line is: what the visitors thinks they see is the impression they’ll take home.

And while this often means bigger is better and more impressive, that’s not always the case. And in fact, smaller exhibitors can often make a big impression by doing thing differently with booth activities, a ‘must-see’ product, a special guest in the booth, an unusual exhibit or giveaway or more.

If your visitors leave with the perception that your company is sharp, the product is great/cutting edge/marketing leading or whatever, and your exhibit is top-notch regardless of the size, you’ve accomplished your mission.

If those visitors see an old and tired exhibit, lazy or uninterested booth staffers, products and services that don’t inspire, that’s what they’ll remember.

Regardless of what your company or employees or products are really like, the perception is the reality. So put out the best impression you can. And if for some reason the perception is more impressive than the reality, you know you’ve got some work to do behind the scenes. But on stage – out where everyone can see you and make up their own minds based on what they see – that’s where you’ll leave a lasting impression.

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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