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

Event Marketing

Best Tradeshow Articles I Found on Twitter

Cruising Twitter is always an entertaining proposition. Sometimes because you find some really interesting stuff. Other times because you end up wanting to pull your hair out. But it’s never boring!

In search of some #tradeshow ideas, I entered that search term in the box on Twitter. Lots of companies use Twitter to push out advertisements and come-ons, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you mix it up with good useful information. But I looked and came up with a handful of good articles. Let’s take a look.

Color Reflections offers “8 Event Booth Design Tips for the Wow Factor,” including ideas on how to stand out, how to stay true to your brand, make sure your booth staff are all on the same page and more.

Skyline Southeast offers an article called “The Benefits of Custom Tradeshow Booth Construction” which is a good walk-through when you’re considering a new custom exhibit.

Our good friends over at Tradeshow Makeover has “5 Expert Tips on How to Stop Leaving Money on the Tradeshow Floor.” It’s got a wrap-up of tips from five individuals, including investing in your tradeshow staff training, goal-setting, and adding value to your interactions.

The UK’s leading business magazine, Business Matters, offers an article on the “4 Best Ways to Optimise Space in Your Tradeshow Exhibits.” The link was tweeted by Jahabow, a custom retail display company from Owensville, Missouri.

Fortunate PR guy (his words) Jim Bianchi tweeted out a link to a post called “Top Lessons Learned for Automotive and Mobility Suppliers from CES2020.” Much of the lessons had to do with how beneficial CES is to exhibitors (which it certainly should be), but it illustrates how many traditional auto suppliers are finding their way into one of the world’s biggest shows. Another tip had to do with navigating around Las Vegas during show time, given that the public transit systems can be overwhelmed by an additional 175,000 people. Yeah, no kidding!

Zentila, a meeting resource planning tool from Aventri, shared a link to an article titled “7 Signs You Need a Lead Retrieval System for Your Onsite Team.” Tips include saving time, organization of your leads, sustainability and more.

Photo by Anuja Vidhate from Pexels

And finally, a list from Architectural Digest on Tradeshows You Should Consider Attending in 2020, assuming you’re in the architectural world. Most of the shows are stateside, but there are mentions of the London Design Festival, Heimtextil in Frankfurt and others. Lots of details on each show for the serious planner. This was shared by Skyline out of South Carolina.

Yes, Twitter has its detractors and it can be a little overwhelming if crazy politics are going on at that moment (okay, that’s always going on), but it’s also a good source for good information if you just know where to look.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, February 24, 2020: Hiett Ives

Hiett Ives is a four-decade veteran of the tradeshow industry. He publishes a weekly newsletter on language that is short and fun to read. Hiett also helps companies gather more leads at tradeshows with his company Show Dynamics.

Check out our conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:

Check out Hiett’s company, Show Dynamics, here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The release of “I’ll See You Again in 25 Years” by Completely Grocery and The Sauce Unlimited.

Odds and Ends I Take to Tradeshows

Everyone is different, yet everyone is the same. We all attend or exhibit at tradeshows with things we need, and if we end up there without those things, we feel like part of us is missing. Here’s a short list of things that I always take on the road to tradeshows. I mean, beyond the clothing and other stuff that ends up in a suitcase. Here are a few things I’ll have with me when I head to the show floor at Natural Products Expo West in early March:

Charging cord and plug-in adapter for my phone

iPhone 6S: holds thousands of photos and songs, not so mention show apps and a million other things.

Boosa charger: this is the best I’ve had. It holds enough juice to re-charge my iPhone 6S at least four times before it needs to be plugged in again. Great to have on the show floor.

Laptop: while I suppose I don’t really need this I’d feel lost without it. It’s a 2011 MacBook Pro that’s been upgraded a couple of times and runs like a clock. Great to offload photos, do some writing and blogging, surf the web in the Airbnb. More comfortable with this than an iPhone for handling email or writing or sharing social media.

Spare key locks for client counters: most of these counters use the same lock, and it seems that the keys can easily go missing, so I keep a few in my backpack.

Backpack: where would you be without it, right? Like a purse, only bigger and it fits easily on the back.

Reading material: often it’s a piece of fiction, but sometimes something else.

iPad Mini 2: It doesn’t get a lot of use, but on the plane I find that it’s great to pull up something from my Kindle app and read.

Allen wrench set: always handy on the show floor.

Fitbit: belt version, not a wrist wearable. Plus extra battery because of course when you’re on the road, that’s when the battery dies, right?

Business cards: more than I think I could possibly need.

Rubber bands: always need a few of these to keep the business cards from spewing all over my backpack pockets.

Cash and a couple of credit cards. I don’t carry much cash, but a little comes in handy. Most everywhere takes cards, credit or debit.

Eyeglass cleaner spray with a mini-cleaning rag

Mini-flashlight: you never know when this will come in handy.

Snacks: always!


Tradeshow Rules

If you’re sitting on an airplane, there are certain rules that need to be followed. First and foremost, the attendants and the captain are in charge. In fact, on each and every flight I’ve been on, they remind you that federal law dictates that you must obey any instructions from flight attendants.

If you’re playing golf, there are rules upon rules about addressing the ball, putting, where you can take a drop and so on. Same with basketball, climbing a mountain, lifting weights. Some of the rules are well-thought out and dictated by organizations that manage the sport. The NBA, for example, can have different basketball rules than the NCAA. Or different football rules. Some rules are just plain common sense but aren’t written down.

When it comes to tradeshows, as an exhibitor or an attendee, as part of the agreement that allows you access to the hall, you agree to certain rules. If you’re an exhibitor, there are dozens and dozens of rules about the exhibit you are allowed to set up, heights, fees, and so on and so forth.

Unwritten Rules

What about rules that may not be written down, but are just common sense? No doubt most of these are just rules of polite society: don’t be a jerk, treat people as you would like to be treated, and so on.

There also several unwritten rules of etiquette that you should adhere to. No eating in the booth, no sitting in the booth, greet visitors with a smile and a great engaging question, being on time when you’re scheduled to work.

But about the tradeshow floor itself, rules are again often unspoken. Let’s check in on a few.

Suitcasing is a term for someone who is walking from exhibit to exhibit and trying to pitch their product or services. Or they occupy space where people are coming in and out and hand out flyers or brochures. It’s considered unethical because the visitor didn’t pay for being there. They have no money invested.

Outboarding is when a company doesn’t exhibit, but they’re willing to rent a suite at a nearby hotel and invite attendees to see their wares. I’ve read that it’s less common than it used to be simply because show managers now often reserve blocks of rooms for exhibitors and if someone that is not exhibiting tries to reserve a room or a suite the hotel just refuses.

Extending beyond the booth confines is not something I see a lot, but I do see. This is when exhibitors will push things like banner stands or literature stands outside of their booth dimensions.

Using music in your booth. Unless you hire the musician, and the musician is playing his own unpublished music (rare, but it could happen), you’ll be liable for paying licensing fees. And they ain’t cheap.

After hours a good rule to follow is limit your alcohol intake, don’t stay up late, make sure you’re well-fed and hydrated. If you’re hosting a client dinner or event, let the visitors eat or drink first. Be a good host.

There are literally hundreds of other rules we could get into, and no doubt you could come up with your own. Rules about marketing strategy, collecting and following up on leads, attracting key prospects, graphic design and so on.

The final rule I’ll offer, though, is this:

You’re going to be on your feet for hours at a time. Wear comfortable shoes!

Reaching Other Markets via Tradeshows

One of the most valuable aspects of tradeshow marketing is the ability to reach markets you would not normally be able to reach. In fact, it’s what has helped Bob’s Red Mill grow through the years. Bob Moore, the iconic Bob of the company, recognized early that by exhibiting at regional and national tradeshows, they could get their products into markets that would otherwise be extremely difficult to crack.

Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill, with the Dixieland Band

It means going to the right shows where attendees are from companies that can ramp up distribution, that can become good partners. It means making those connections and deepening them over the years so that your products are valuable to them, and their ability to distribute into outlets that you would have a difficult time doing on an individual basis is valuable to both parties.

Yes, selling and making connections at tradeshows is important. But one of the most important things to recognize is that once you meet and acquire a partner there, part of the purpose of the show is to use it as a platform to introduce new products. Not only that, but when you’re in those longer conversations with partners, you can dig deeper into what’s important to them and their end users, the consumers. Feedback is critical not only to making sure the right products are being created and manufactured, but for keeping the lines of communication open and honest. When problems come up, if you have a good partner, the communication can be candid, and problems can be addressed. Often a tradeshow is the only face-to-face meeting that partners have each year, and the value of meeting and shaking hands and seeing people in person cannot be overstated.

Use the tradeshow as a way to find and open new markets. Keep in mind that relationships will solidify as time goes by and the face-to-face communication is an important part of those relationships. Which you get when you sit down across the table at a tradeshow.


Guest Appearance on Power Up For Profits Podcast

I’ve known Kathleen Gage of PowerUp for Profits for years and she recently asked me to be on her podcast. Like me, she posts both audio on her podcast page and video on her YouTube channel. Kathleen knows how to get to the center of what is helpful to listeners, and this time was no different:

If you’d like to click through to the post that is specific to this interview, click here. She has broken down the conversation into the topics we covered, including Foundation for Success, Follow Up, Make Your Booth Time Engaging, Pre-Show Marketing, Swag and more. We covered a lot of ground in a short conversation.

Visit Power Up For Profits here.

5 Must-Do’s for Successful Tradeshow Marketing

I sat down with a long-time colleague to be interviewed this week and to prepare I put a list together of the 5 must-do’s for successful tradeshow marketing. We didn’t go over the whole list because the conversation took its own path. But I thought – hey, it’s a good list! Here it is:

  1. Have an exhibit that draws people in.
    1. We could go into this in detail, but your graphics and messaging should clearly tell people at a glance:
      1. Who you are
      1. What you do
      1. What problem you solve for them
  2. Have a goal. Share that goal with your staff.
    1. Brand awareness
    1. Sales
    1. Generate leads
    1. Add distributors
    1. Reach new markets
    1. Launch new products or services
    1. Find new hires
    1. Meet current customers, partners and distributors
  3. Have a well-trained staff
    1. Your staff should know how to greet people
    1. Your staff should know the products or services
    1. Know how to gather the proper information for a good lead…which leads to…
  4. Know what a lead is…
    1. A lead is NOT a card in a fishbowl
    1. A lead is someone who qualifies
      1. They’re looking to buy what you’re selling
      1. They have a budget
      1. They know when they’re going to buy
      1. They have the power to make a decision
    1. Once a lead is qualified, the follow up is critical
  5. Follow-up:
    1. Gather the right information
      1. Name and contact
      1. When is the follow up
      1. Where is the follow up
      1. Who is doing the follow up
      1. What is the follow up: sending a brochure, sample, in-person meeting?

We did get to a few of these, and they were good talking points throughout the conversation. One she produces the interview and gives me a link, I’ll make sure to include it in a blog post soon!


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House (Free Report)

Shake it Up

Seth Godin’s go-to phrase is “Go make a ruckus.”

Webster’s defines “ruckus” as “a disturbance or a commotion.”

A disturbance can be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint and the circumstances. The word “disturbance” is non-judgmental. “Commotion” is the same. It’s not necessarily inherently good or bad; positive or negative.

But you can insert your judgment into your ruckus, into the disturbance or commotion you make.

Nick Woodman at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009

At tradeshows, GoPro’s Nick Woodman used to famously create a commotion by standing on a table, hooting and hollering, gathering people around, showing off the GoPro camera and give away prizes. The company’s market cap zoomed to almost ten billion dollars before coming down to earth. Along the way GoPro created a new category in the digital camera world. Now that’s a ruckus. That’s one way to shake it up.

Meduri Farms decided to invest in a new island exhibit and double the size of their footprint at the International Food Technicians Show. Their first time with the new exhibit they tripled their leads. That’s another way to shake it up.

Meduri Farms at IFT 2017

Dave’s Killer Bread dedicated much of their branding space at 2019’s Natural Products Expo West exhibit to the idea of giving felons a second chance. That’s yet another way to shake it up.

Dave’s Killer Bread at Natural Products Expo West 2019

There are plenty of ways to use your tradeshow space to shake it up, to make a ruckus, to cause a disturbance or commotion for a good cause. Or to double your leads. Or to grow a company.

What can you do?


Should Your Company Really Exhibit at That Show?

If you’ve attended the same tradeshows over the years, no doubt you’ve seen an interesting phenomenon: some companies attend for years and then just stop.

Why? What caused them to disappear?

Certainly, there are a thousand answers to that question, and much of those answers likely have a lot to do with internal dynamics as much as the show itself.

But I’ve seen it happen frequently.

I’ve worked with some companies that have exhibited at the same show for years, only to decide after seven or eight appearances that they weren’t going to get anything useful out of another appearance.

Why’d you stop going? I’ve asked that question and received a variety of answers:

“We’ve pretty much maxed out our ability to get new distributors, which is why we exhibited at that show. Our focus is on working with those retailers one on one to get more focused on giving them better products based on what their customers want.”

“The show moved a couple of weeks. Meaning it fell into a different fiscal year. And once the new company owners saw how much their tradeshow budget would be increasing for the fiscal year, they got to looking closer at all the marketing. We’ve decided to pull back and re-examine our entire marketing strategy.” This company did return to the show a couple of years later.

“We kept getting lousy locations which we couldn’t overcome. We put our marketing dollars elsewhere.” In this case, we wondered if they couldn’t have done better to market their appearance in spite of the bad location. It’s been done.”

“Our company has matured to the point that this particular show no longer works for us.”

And so on. There are a thousand reasons to continue exhibiting at a show. And as many to decide not to exhibit again, or at least for a couple of years.

Tradeshow marketing is expensive. For companies that are investing in this marketing channel, it behooves them to make sure the dollars are well-spent. And one of the questions that should be asked is: should we really be at that show this year?

It’s worth talking about.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, January 6, 2020: David Meerman Scott

I first crossed paths with David Meerman Scott over a dozen years ago. Since then he’s written several books and been a keynote speaker at countless conferences, discussing the changing world of marketing and public relations. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, David joins me to talk about his just-released book, Fanocracy, co-written with his daughter Reiko Scott.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING. Actually, four of them!

Dolomite Is My Name, the new Eddie Murphy movie:

Also: Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron.

And: Nicholas Kristoff’s column: This Has Been the Best Year Ever, his annual look at so many good things going on in the world.

And: An Astronaut’s Guide to Optimism. Chris Hadfield’s short video on the good and amazing things in the world amongst the noisy badness:

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