What is there to love about tradeshow marketing? After all, it’s expensive, it’s hard work and you have to travel and set up stuff. And then stand for hours a day talking to hundreds or thousands of people. And then tear it down, pack it up and head home.
So what’s to love? Let’s count the ways…
Opportunity: a tradeshow is a great opportunity to meet people who, in most cases, have PAID to be there and WANT to see what you’re showing off.
Learning: when you’re attending a tradeshow you’re going to be exposed to hundreds of new products and service offerings in your industry.
Competition: while the booth across the aisle may be competing with you, it’s easy to feel a kinship with him. After all, they’re in the same boat as you: trying to keep their business going and thriving. By sharing stories and getting to know each other, you can connect better to the community that you all share.
Travel: If you don’t like to travel, scratch this from your list. But if you do, getting on the road for several days is always great – if for nothing more than a change of pace.
Challenge: the simple challenge of putting your best foot forward at a tradeshow amidst all of the other exhibits is unlike other marketing challenges.
Challenge 2.0: If you approach the next tradeshow as a personal challenge, see how well you can do in your sales, your presentation skills, listening, answering questions. There’s a lot to learn about your interpersonal skills engagement on the tradeshow floor.
Opportunity 2.0: At a tradeshow you have access – if only for a few moments – to CEO’s company presidents, marketing managers, etc., any of whom can open great doors for you if make a good connection. So…how can you make a connection?
Market Research: Your booth visitors are a great source of information – if only you ask. Do a survey, hand out questionnaires, have people demo new beta products so you can get in a little product testing while pitching your newest stuff.
After Hours: Whether you’re in Vegas, New Orleans, Anaheim or Buffalo, there’s always a new place you can check out after the show. Take a client, get to know a colleague a little better. After hours at a tradeshow is a great opportunity for deepening relationships. And, uh, y’know…for having some damn FUN!
What can you add to the list? What do you love about tradeshow marketing?
In the wake of the presentation I gave last week at the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association Access 2010 conference, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about what it takes to build community.
In the event industry, it’s my opinion that social media is an extremely useful tool to promote shows, create and connect with communities, and foster deeper connections while attending shows.
It seems that in one sense the social media world is just getting started with connecting at events. But with each new story, I sense that the ‘connecting’ is getting more involved and the ‘connectors’ are becoming more adept at the connecting.
And then this morning Paul Castain’s timely blog post on ‘How to Build an Online Community!’ shows up. Paul is a terrific connector and has built a large online community, and in this exquisitely useful post he shares what has worked for him.
If you’re looking to build a community around a specific event, there are some slight adjustments I’d make to his overall plan (which has a lot of great ideas).
If you’re attending a tradeshow, one suggestion might be to create a specific ‘virtual tradeshow website’ just for that show. It’s an approach that would make sense for those larger expo shows you attend, but likely wouldn’t be worth the investment of time or money for small, local or regional shows. Derek Mehraban of InGenex Digital Marketing shares his story in a recent TradeshowGuy Blog podcast.
If you choose not to create a virtual tradeshow website, make sure that you’re online with a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. If you have a good presence on LinkedIn, include that as well.
Don’t forget the media: connect with industry bloggers and trade publications ahead of time. Let them know what new products or services you’ll be unveiling at the show. The press are attracted to new and shiny objects, so if you can offer something new you have a much better chance of getting some press mentions.
In the run-up to the show, collect your in-house list of clients, friends, acquaintances and prospects. Send out an e-mail blast a couple of months ahead of time asking people to ‘like’ your Facebook page, and follow you on Twitter and YouTube (if you have a YouTube channel).
With the show a month or so away, send another email reminder asking people to connect with you online. At this point, it would be appropriate to include a link to a short video about what they might expect at the show or a blog post promoting your appearance. Remember, you’ll get more response if you slant the article or video to ‘what’s in it for THEM’ and try not to make it so much about YOU.
Keep publishing: videos, blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates/photos, etc. During your planning, be sure to use a tool such as Hootsuite.com that allows you to schedule posts ahead of time. This will free up your show time to focus on the actual show, interacting with folks and sending out real-time tweets or posts (“just met @clientXYS at the show!”). Make a point of mentioning people by name or Twitter handle so they’ll feel loved.
With a couple of weeks to go, invite people to your booth (if you’re exhibiting), or to connect with you at a Tweet-up or other meeting. Find opportunities to connect face-to-face.
During these face-to-face meetings, collect business cards or other contact info. Schmooze! It’s fun!
During the show, try and shoot some timely videos, such as testimonials, customer or visitor interviews and post a few of them. Hold back a few for posting after the show.
Once the show is over, do a wrap-up or two. Post a few videos. Send out a thank-you e-mail with links back to your show follow-ups. Send physical thank you notes to those folks that you felt you made a great connection with – and those that you’d like to make a better connection with. A cool tool for card follow-ups is SendOutCards.com (yes, that’s an affiliate link).
As Paul points out, it’s great to have all of those online platforms, but the key is to keep engaged. INTERACT with those folks in your community. Respond to their questions. Reach out with an offline thank-you or phone call. Give content away with no strings attached. Find out what your community’s ‘pain points’ are and work to resolve them. Work to move those online connections to an offline relationship or friendship.
When it comes to building a community around a tradeshow, keep in mind that those folks you’re connecting with will become more active during show time. Work to leverage those folks to stay connected with you via Facebook or your newsletter.
You’ll find that the first show will likely fall short of your expectations. Don’t worry. Social media connections take time. Keep at it. From my observation, as exhibitors and organizers keep at it, each show becomes more successful than the last and the connections get deeper and wider.
With social media connections, you’re in for the long haul. Or you’re likely not in at all.
The International Manufacturing and Technology Show is a bi-yearly affair that attracts 80,000+ attendees and thousands of exhibitors to Chicago’s McCormick Place every other September. This year saw an explosion in the use of social media to enhance the experience for attendees and for those folks who would like to have attended but were unable to.
Monica Haley is the Marketing Communications Manager for AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology – and was part of a small team that coordinated the social media marketing effort at this year’s expo.
Social media proved to be an extremely useful catalyst to drive engagement at the show. The numbers of people posting content from the last show in 2008 jumped significantly, according to Haley. In ’08 there were only 50 people at the show who joined in posting content on Facebook or Twitter and other networks; this year the confirmed number was over 350.
The social media effort started with a strategy planning session. Out of that session grew a plan for using social media on many platforms throughout the show, including scheduled blog posts, many of which were solicited from speakers and other industry voices. The intent with the pre-show blogging was to offer unique content with a thread back to the show.
They also scheduled Facebook posts and Twitter tweets before hand using Hootsuite with a plan to offer ‘live’ ongoing posts off-the-cuff as they happened during the show.
They set up a separate social media/blogging areas where attendees could watch the Twitter Roll with the hashtag #IMTS on a large flatscreen TV, as well as plug in and log-on with laptops to engage (if they weren’t already doing that with a smartphone).
As an additional tool, Haley and her crew used SCVNGR for booth check-in (a location-based service somewhat similar to Foursquare and Gowalla), a mechanism to push people around the show who were willing to participate; it got people to the corners of the show and provided another aspect of experience to the show. She says it helped people that couldn’t come to the show feel a part. Haley says they first looked at using Foursquare but it proved to be unwieldy for the task.
SCVNGR is a location-based service game played on smartphones, which was utilized to bring people to various booths looking for specific items.
Having the social media in places helps facilitate movement of the people at the show, and helps engage people who aren’t able to attend. “One of the biggest benefits of social media is humanizing the people behind the scenes,” said Haley.
Looking ahead, Haley says in 2012 (and likely for the European version next year) they’ll be looking to engage online attendees in many ways. If successful, she feels the show could draw another 20,000 virtual attendees.
When Knoxville, Tennessee’s In10City Interactive planned a B2B one-hour seminar on event marketing with social media, they first reached out to their clients, colleagues and partners with a typical direct-mail piece. They sent out 1500 postcards a few weeks before the September 9th event earlier this year. Scott Spaid, the VP of Marketing for In10City Interactive, said that they had just a handful of RSVP’s less than a week prior to the event.
In other words, the postcard direct marketing piece was a bust.
So they jumped headfirst into social media to reach their audience. They started with an e-mail invitation blast to the same 1500 folks, and then posted frequently on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
By show time a few days later they had received over 70 RSVPs and some 50 attended the event, which included a free lunch (hint: offer free food if you can!). Twenty of the RSVP’s came directly through Facebook, said Spaid, which they deemed a win.
According to Spaid, the event “was not a ‘101’ event; we assumed that they knew what we were talking about.” Instead they discussed social media marketing, shared anecdotes and networked. They discuss ‘Why should someone be friends with your brand? What is the value you add?’
In10City Interactive’s goal was to move more folks into their sales pipeline with the outreach event. From that aspect, Spaid called it a success: “We have four appointments on the calendar that came out of the show.” He says their typical sales cycle is 3 – 6 months.
In10City Interactive focuses on building websites, refining SEO and CRM for clients. They have some 55 employees in 5 locations in the eastern and southern US.
Denise Quashie shared so many ideas on how she’s utilized social media in conjunction with events that it’s not surprising to discover that her pet dog on Twitter led to the launching of a successful conference.
In my recent call for social media tradeshow success stories through HARO, Denise contacted me saying she used Twitter, Facebook and more to market shows, sell sponsorships, promote exhibitors and drive onsite traffic. And more.
Her company, Events by Canvas, is an event consultancy focusing on social media events, social media ghosting, and event consulting and training. They also produce several social media driven start-up events. Denise is always looking at ways to offer additional value to her clients with social media: sponsored Tweet-ups, platforms for press releases, Twitter mention packages, offering education benefits to attendees at her events and more.
But one of the more intriguing stories came about when she told me that when she put her dog on Twitter, which prompted hundreds of pet-lovers to start networking and helping each other. That then inspired BarkWorldExpo, a social media expo in Atlanta for pet lovers and the pet industry.
The first BarkWorldExpo, held in August of this year, drew 250 attendees and 30 exhibitors. Tickets were $129 for the event, held at Atlanta’s Atlantic Station. BarkWorldExpo featured several speakers who talked about aspects of social media; there were sponsored Tweet-ups and other gatherings, and plans are underway for a follow-up event in 2011.
Some of the successful ideas for promoting events via social media that Denise and Events by Canvas have used in the past for other shows and clients include:
Sending out tweets for scavenger hunts down empty aisles (first person to spot the green back pack on aisle 7 gets $100 on the spot!), which caused a stampede
Speakers incorporating a live Twitter wall during the speech
Sponsored Tweets during the event
Tweet lounges where several screens showed running tweets from the show
A Big (Twitter) bird to draw traffic to a specific area
Just chatting with Denise – and furiously jotting down ideas – inspired me to believe there is really no limit to what you can do with social media. The only limit is lack of imagination.
Besides…if a dog on Twitter can inspire a successful conference…?
All face-to-face meetings bring their baggage with them – including the trash and recyclables that are generated. Does the amount of cups, paper, water bottles, and more that are generated during the meetings put the meetings and events industry in a bad light? Can anything be done to substantially reduce meetings waste?
MeetGreen®, a meetings coordination company in Portland, Oregon dedicated to environmental sustainability, recently released a comprehensive report on how their work is impacting sustainability in events they are involved in. MeetGreen® works with the UN Global Compact, a global policy initiative that promotes the adoption of strategic sustainability principles into the activities of organizations. As a result, they’re required to generate an annual report that focuses on sustainable business practices within the meetings attended or organized by their clients.
I spoke with MeetGreen®’s Nancy J. Zavada, CMP about the report and their work with companies. She said one of the more interesting things to come out of the report is the realization that there is a big ripple effect – “what changes can you make in the world?” Nancy says that while MeetGreen® is a small company, by helping events become greener, it can have a bigger impact on the industry and the world.
According to the report, MeetGreen says that ‘as an independent sustainable event management company we are hired to assist others to manage their events, reduce their impact and improve their event-related business. As an outside consultant our role is one of manager, advisor and influencer in these projects, but not often final decision maker.’
So how well did MeetGreen® do with the year’s events? Among other stats, these came to the fore:
Eliminated 774,000 water bottles from the waste stream
Saved 1653 trees
Avoided emissions equivalent to taking 300 cars off the road for a year
There are more, but I don’t want to steal their thunder.
After tracking the results and compiling the report, Nancy told me that the big aha to her was ‘the importance of transparency.’ By showing people what you’re doing and how you’re doing, it creates more trust and helps the ripple effect to make more changes in the world.
The report breaks down the objectives and targets set up before the year started (which ran from August 2009 – July 2010). Goals included giving back to the community, being accountable for their carbon footprint, ensuring the supply chain has responsible social and environmental practices and more. Most were met or exceeded.
While the report is in essence a report on how one company’s efforts are unfolding to reduce, reuse and recycle using sustainable practices, the effect is far-reaching. A list of clients and organizations that MeetGreen® worked with in 2009-2010 includes Cisco, Jack Morton, Oracle, Wallace Fund, Unitarian Universalist Association, Cascadia Group, IMEX America and many more. The report looks at results from 48 events with over 130,000 participants in 19 destinations.
Ninja: – noun, a member of a feudal Japanese society of mercenary agents, highly trained in martial arts and stealth (ninjutsu), who were hired for covert purposes ranging from espionage to sabotage and assassination.
While the term ‘ninja’ seems to hold reverence for a lot of people due to the clever and stealthy way in which he practiced his arts, in most tradeshow marketing cases you DON’T want to be hidden. You want to be right out there in plain sight for all to see and engage with.
And never mind the sabotage and assassination aspects of the ninja. Those blatant acts would probably get you headlines of the unfriendly type (and should it be capitalized – Ninja? – I’m a little stumped here…)
As for espionage, in a tradeshow marketing situation I’m all for it. As long as you’re not breaking and entering or hacking a competitor’s website, you should try to find out as much information about your competition as you’re legally able to.
When it comes to promotion and marketing, perhaps you want to be ‘anti-Ninja’ as much as possible:
Get out in front of people. Wave the flag. Do a dance. Shine a light. Bang the drum.
Ninjas would do none of that in the course of their jobs. But you should.
“A Ninja causes confusion among the enemy.”
Is your tradeshow exhibit is able to confuse your competitor? Are you a large company with a small presence? Or maybe a small company able to create a large presence at a show through partnerships, sponsorships or guerrilla tactics?
“A Ninja is able to camouflage themselves from their enemy.”
Can you find a way to present your tradeshow presence in such a way that your competition is unable to find out what you’re really about? Or by doing that do you obfuscate your intent to your potential customers?
“Superhuman or supernatural powers were often associated with the Ninja.” Invisibility, flight, shape-shifting, appearing as animals…
Do your products do things that are able to surprise and astonish your potential customers? Or are they everyday, run-of-the-mill widgets? Perhaps a little creativity can bring out the ‘supernatural’ or ‘superhuman’ elements and show them off in your booth. A good presenter can astonish the audience at a tradeshow, and as long as the astonishment is directed back to the product it’s effective marketing.
You can borrow Ninja tactics in many tradeshow marketing circumstances….leaving out the arson, killing and sabotage, of course.
But in many cases, being a Ninja could be a good thing.
I’ve been reading a lot about social media engagement lately – and talking about it a lot, too. Have you noticed that if you even mention the term ‘social media’ to some people, it’s like you handed them a gold Rubik’s Cube. They’ll want to play with it and play with it and never put it down.
But they’ll never solve it, either.
So how do you get on board with social media in your tradeshow marketing?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. If there was, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Speaking of conversations, what is your audience talking about? Are they discussing your products or services? If so, are you aware of what is being said?
And if you’re aware of it, are you responding? In real-time?
In a Vocus-hosted webinar this week by David Meerman Scott, he stressed that the ‘real-time’ response is what is needed. Because if you don’t see what’s happening in real time and respond accordingly, you’ll get left behind. Or run over by the steamroller.
So when it comes to tradeshows, yes, it’s great to have a strategy in place complete with a bunch of tactics that you intend to use: tweeting out your appearances, posting video interviews, demos and testimonials and launching a bunch of cool visitor photos to Facebook. This is all important.
But are you aware of what your competitor down the tradeshow aisle is doing? Do you know that their customers are going crazy over a new product they just launched? If so, did you insert your company into the conversation in a light-hearted way steering some of those tweeters and bloggers and Facebook-posters your way?
It’s not about all the tweets or videos you post. It’s about getting the attention of your audience in a place where they live.
And when it comes to responding to the pertinent tweets and Facebook postings, as Scott said in the webinar: ‘Speed and agility are decisive competitive advantages.’
Peter Shankman went off on social media marketers this week in a ranting post. I chewed over the post along with the webinar from @DMScott, did a little mashup of those thoughts along with my own and came up with a list of reminders as you prepare to bring social media on board for your tradeshow marketing efforts (thanks to Peter and his readers for a few thoughts and phrases here):
Awareness – what is the conversation about regarding your products and industry?
Add value – don’t just try and get more followers to increase your numbers; what of value are you really offering those followers?
Know the difference between social media and social marketing
Be available – break the ‘impenetrable wall of stupid’ that seems to surround most companies
Why? Make the connection with your customers by telling them WHY it matters to you and them
It’s not about YOU. It’s about your customer.
Twitter, Facebook, et al are TWO-WAY, not ONE-WAY communication platforms
We check on how the tradeshow floor can be used as a research lab; look at new gadgest for exhibits; finding out what happens if your boss goes undercover; launching a new product; cutting costs at a convention, and look at how tradeshow planning increases your chances of success.
The Research Lab of a Trade Show Floor
The Fall trade show season is upon us. It is time to show off our products and services to prospects and customers. But another big opportunity can present itself on the trade show floor and that is to “listen in” on all the conversations.
Twitter Ticker: A New Gadget for Trade Show Exhibits
More and more companies are turning to Twitter to amp up the excitement before a trade show. Once you get to the show you want to keep the momentum and communication going. This can be easily accomplished with Twisplays- a new LED sign that lets you display your Twitter streams.
My mind has been pondering this question for awhile. However it was brought front and center when I read this announcement in the September 21 issue of MeetingsNet Extra. They had a brief about a hotel executive who is featured on the CBS reality show, Undercover Boss.
Launching a New Product and Utilizing Your Tradeshow Display
An exciting event that can occur within your trade show display is the launch of a new product. Many businesses use the venue to spread the word about new products and services. A successful product launch takes a lot work and preparation. Only those that put in the hours behind the scenes find success while exhibiting. There are three steps that cannot be overlooked during planning.
The recession may be over, but companies are still trying to recover from their losses by cutting costs. Trade shows are now more important than ever, since they allow you to promote your business/products in a venue with hundreds, maybe thousands, of attendees. There are ways to participate in exhibits without having to spend a lot.
You don’t have to be a fan or even like Yoko Ono to learn from her.
And I say that because most people I know that have expressed an opinion about Yoko don’t have too many nice things to say about her.
“Yoko broke up the Beatles….”
“How can you stand her singing voice?”
“And that weird stuff she calls art…”
But I’ll come clean: I’ve liked Yoko and admired her art and music since the late 60s when my older brother started buying her albums. Yes, she put out weird music. Avant-garde. Different. But there was something in there that appealed to my young sensibilities.
And I never bought the story that Yoko broke up the Beatles. They would have broken up at about the same time anyway from what I can gather. They had matured to the point as people and musically where they all had to move on. It’s like getting out of college and getting on with your life. The crazy energy, the partying, the creative juices eventually all have to go in a different direction.
We looked at the marketing prowess and lessons learned from the Beatles awhile back on this blog, and thought it might be fun to look at what we can learn from Yoko Ono.
Yoko had early training as a classical musician, was from a well-to-do family that was reduced to begging on the streets during World War II, and went on i the early 60s to collaborate with avante-garde artists such as John Cage and Ornette Coleman.
She cuts a unique figure in the world of music and art. Her early films and performance art were simple, elegant and broke a lot of the rules. But they made a simple point. The famous story about John Lennon’s first meeting with Yoko went something like this: It was November 9, 1966 at Indica Gallery in London during a performance art installation by Ono. he had been enticed by the gallery’s co-owner, John Dunbar (ex-husband of singer Marianne Faithfull), who had told him about a “happening” that would be taking place there, featuring a Japanese woman from New York in a black bag. As John revealed to Playboy interviewer David Sheff, this sounded to him like something to do with sex: “Artsy-fartsy orgies. Great!”
After being introduced to “the millionaire Beatle,” the woman handed him a little card that said simply, “Breathe.” John, although puzzled, responded politely with a quick pant. Next, his eyes settled on a ladder leading up to a canvas suspended from the ceiling, with a spyglass hanging from it on the end of a chain. Climbing to the top of the ladder, he looked through the spyglass to read a word printed in tiny letters.
“You’re on this ladder — you feel like a fool, you could fall any minute — and you look through it and it just says ‘YES,’ ” he told David Sheff in 1980. “Well, all the so-called avant-garde art at the time, and everything that was supposedly interesting, was all negative; this smash-the-piano-with-a-hammer, break-the-sculpture, boring, negative crap. It was all anti-, anti-, anti-. Anti-art, anti-establishment. And just that ‘YES’ made me stay in a gallery full of apples and nails, instead of just walking out saying, ‘I’m not gonna buy any of this crap.'”
As a marketer, Yoko let her art do the talking. It either succeeded or failed on its merits. And it was often so unusual it generate enough comment to draw a crowd.
Once she and John became a couple, the two of them were able to use John’s star power: the Toronto Bed-in after their Gibralter wedding, where John recorded ‘Give Peace a Chance’; the ‘War is Over (if You Want it)’ poster and song campaign in 1972.
Among her many artworks of the past 30 years, Yoko flooded the city of Liverpool with banners, bags, stickers, postcards, flyers, posters and badges, with two images: one of a woman’s naked breast, the other of the same woman’s vulva. The piece, titled “My Mummy Was Beautiful”, was dedicated to Lennon’s mother, Julia, who had died when Lennon was a teenager.
On October 9, 2007 she officially lit the Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey Island in Iceland, dedicated to peace and to Lennon.
Her art and media have drawn worldwide attention. You could say it’s mainly because of her association with John Lennon, but her work is considered to be very good – and spare: as David Quantick wrote for Uncut: “Yoko Ono’s art came from an uncluttered place; nobody save possibly John Cage has ever used so much space, and whiteness, and silence in their work.”
‘Ms. Ono’s well-preserved air of naïveté — and the license it gives her to say things simply and primally — has been her artistic gift since the ’60s, first as a conceptual artist and then, with John Lennon’s impetus, as a rocker and songwriter.’ –
So what are the marketing lessons we can take away from examining Yoko’s life, art and music?
Don’t worry about what the press thinks. Think about your market instead.
Be true to yourself.
Simplicity and elegance lead the way.
Use the tools at your disposal to the best of your ability (using her celebrity to promote her favorite causes, for example).
It’s a marathon, not a sprint (still going strong at 77). Persevere.
Overcome adversity in whatever form. What other choice do you have?