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

Event Marketing

Podcast: Interview with Kate Slonaker of CVent

CVent bills itself as the ‘largest event management software company’ in the US. With 800+ worldwide employees, CVent obviously has its fingers in a lot of places. So to speak.

But what really caught my attention was the release a couple of weeks ago of their newest ebook ‘Event Marketing 2.0‘. Being the sort who is always interested in how social media works with event marketing, I downloaded it right away (it’s free!) and after a quick read, concluded it’s a very useful addition to any tradeshow marketer’s library.

So I sent an email asking if they could hook me up with someone to discuss the company and the book. That’s where Kate Slonaker comes in. She and I chatted a bit this week to explore just those topics. Here’s our conversation.

Be sure to check out CVent here, follow them on Twitter, and yes…download the book here.


Compelling Tradeshow Booth Sales Strategies

Moving tradeshow attendees from tire-kicking to closing a deal is the holy grail of tradeshow marketing. After all, nothing happens until a sale is made.

So what can you do to get people to actually close a deal?

First, you gotta HAVE a compelling deal. If all you’re offering is a warmed-over widget with a new color or a fancy flag, you’re not going to really inspire visitors to WANT to have it. No, you have to make them feel like they NEED it. NOW.

Cookie Salesman

Is your deal compelling? Are you making an offer that is irresistible? Is the product something they can’t get elsewhere or won’t be able to get in this form until a certain amount of time goes by? Is it NEW? Is it UNIQUE? All of these can go towards making an IRRESISTABLE OFFER.

Next, your sales staff at the booth needs to be good LISTENERS. Many visitors to a booth will say a lot, dropping several code words that indicate they’re ready to buy, but if the sales person isn’t trained to notice those words and follow up with appropriate questions, the visitor will most likely walk away – to another booth where the sales staff senses what’s going on and makes the sale.

Train your sales staff properly and you’ll reap the rewards.

Third, as visitors walk by your booth, have a compelling question ready. Catch their attention, ask the question, and if it’s the right question, it’ll immediately do two things. First, it’ll qualify or disqualify them. If it qualifies them, it’ll get them interested in finding out more. The question should relate to a solution that your product or service offers, and get them curious about how you might solve it.

Fourth, have a plan to handle hot prospects. If someone is obviously interested, have an action plan for the next steps that it takes to get them to the sale. Does it take a follow-up call from someone back at the office? Does it take filling out an order form? Whatever your process involves, make sure that the steps are easily understood, not just by your sales team, but also by the prospect.

Fifth, you should have a strategy in place to grade your leads. The ‘hot’ leads are handled first, the warm leads are handled next and the cool leads are put on a mailing list of sent a white paper or something. Whatever your system is, make sure it happens. More sales are lost due to lack of follow up than any other reason in tradeshow marketing. It’s been reported that approximately 4 of 5 leads are never followed up with. That’s money left on the table.

Finally, assume the attitude that you’re there to HELP someone solve a problem, not SELL him or her a pre-packaged solution. People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy a solution to their problem. Keep asking your questions, look to peel the onion down to uncover the visitor’s real issue, and then explain to them how your product or service will benefit them. Yes, it sounds great in theory, but in the real world it’s probably more clunky and funky to actually make happen. But it can. Eyes light up when your visitor sees a solution to their difficult problem. And more importantly, wallets open up. Willingly.

Creative Commons License

photo credit: vigour

Why Your Tradeshow Marketing Strategy Deserves Loving Care

The tradeshow exhibit is at least 6 – 8 months away – have you considered your tradeshow marketing strategy? You’d better get started – that’s not that much time!

“Huh? Over half a year and I have to rush things?” you say…

No, I didn’t say RUSH things…I mean you have better get your stuff together because those six months are going to go by pretty quickly. And the last 2 months will go by like an Indy Racer if you haven’t spent the first four months working on it.

Face it: when people visit your tradeshow booth, they expect to see the BEST that your company has to offer. If you’re a manufacturer, your prep time may mean several meetings and coordination with your manufacturing division to make sure you’re showing off the BEST of your BEST.

Why would you want to go to a tradeshow and put anything but the BEST of the BEST you have to offer on display? This is the one time a year that those visitors get a chance to see your goods and services. They’re comparing YOUR BEST with the BEST of several other companies – perhaps dozens of other companies.

So plan to put on your best.

This means your best graphics. Your best exhibit. Your best product. Your best people. Your best lead-capturing system.

When you put your best out there, you’re competing on the same level as the rest of the exhibitors – your competitors. Face it, most of them (but not all) are putting on THEIR best face at the exhibit. So you’d better be putting on YOUR best, too.

The challenge, though, is that we’re all just humans. We all have crazy schedules and incessant demands. And given those demands, when push comes to shove putting on your BEST is often extremely difficult to do. That’s why it takes more effort than you really think it will.

So that gets you back to idea of starting NOW and not waiting another few months on your tradeshow marketing strategy. If you start now and determine WHAT you’ll need to do to put on your best, HOW you’re going to do it, and WHO is going to help you to make sure it’s going to get done, the odds increase that you’ll actually make it happen by the time the show rolls around.

And that gets back to the idea of loving care: if you approach the planning of your next tradeshow with loving care, you’ll cover all the bases you need to cover to ensure that you are putting on your best.

Start now. Give your tradeshow marketing strategy some good old-fashioned love.

Grab our free report “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House” – click here!

Event Marketing Summit –Thoughts on a Conference

Just wrapping up the three-day Event Marketing Summit at Chicago’s Hyatt Regency – and so how has it gone?

Tim meets the Sumo wrestling world champ...
Tim meets the Sumo wrestling world champ...

First, the real reason I came was that I was invited to speak – and that I did. Beyond that I had a chance to attend learning sessions with some great presenters from a wide variety of folks in the event marketing world – and network with people from across the country and as it turns out, several countries as well.

On Monday I gave a 40-minute presentation ‘The Tradeshow Four-Pack: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube” on how to use social media to promote tradeshows, events and conferences.

Had a great time doing the presentation and received very positive feedback. I’ve included the slide presentation below. Having put together a lot of webinars and live presentations, I try to use the slides to support the stories I tell and the points I make. So – unlike a lot of slide decks – there aren’t as many statistics and detailed information as you might like to see. But that’s the point: the slides should support and enliven the stories – not tell them for you.

In watching other presentations throughout the past two days, most (but not all) of them went overboard with information on the slides. And most presenters ended up almost reading many of the slides verbatim.

There was one presentation – a keynote by author Scott Belsky (“Making Things Happen”) – which to my mind was extraordinary for a couple of reasons. First, Scott is obviously an accomplished presenter. He knows his topic inside and out – he’s lived it. Second, the slides were there to support his presentation – not to BE the presentation. The visuals he used to help illustrate the stories were well designed, easy-to-understand and were enhanced but not overwhelmed with animated elements.

One of the best reasons to attend an event like the Event Marketing Summit is for the networking. This event it set up with numerous networking opportunities and even for a hesitant networker such as myself it’s a lot easier to reach out to people and find out who they are and what they do and to see if there are opportunities to help them out.

The event is bigger and broader than I thought it would be. At the opening luncheon it was announced there are about 1000 people attending, including many from other countries.  It seemed like half the people I met, though, are from Texas! I did encounter Carol Abade of EXP, who came with a group of eight from South Africa.  Her company puts on a conference every October and may bring some speakers over from the states. She asked if I’d ever been to South Africa. No, but it would be quite an experience – so, yeah, I’m game!

Mozes provided text message survey results and updates throughout the conference. In fact, at the beginning of most presentations (but not mine!), the moderator asked everyone to respond via text to a survey question, with results being shown in real time.  The survey results were interesting, but it seemed at times that they felt like because they had the service, they had to use it – some of the questions seemed contrived. Nonetheless it was a good tool and it got people engaged at the outset of the sessions.

I used a service called Opiniator to ask three separate questions during my presentation. I liked the display of results in Opiniator better than Mozes, simply because they were shown in graphical form and to my mind easier to read (see screen shots of the results as they were displayed in the attached slide deck).

As far as the actual presentations, my overall judgment is that they were generally of a higher quality than I’ve come to expect at events like this. Speakers seemed more prepared. They handled questions adeptly. Slide decks – for the most part – were appropriately balanced between offering too much information and being too bare. There were some presentations, however that fell short in at least one respect. I tweeted after one presentation that whoever designed the slides should have kept in mind that slides are free. Instead of putting ten slides’ worth of information on one slide, they could have broken it up into ten slides. Putting too much info on one slide does a couple of things: first, they’re harder to read and second, if you are able to read all of the information, it’s natural to jump ahead, read the entire contents of the slide and make the presenter superfluous. As a presenter, it’s not in your best interests to do that!

From an organizational standpoint, the Event Marketing Summit is exceptional. The Hyatt Regency facility is set up to handle all of this. Everything went off without a hitch (from my perspective – who knows what happened behind the scenes!), so the attendees all seemed pleased with the event overall.

Dan Hanover, the General Manager with Red7 Media Division of Access Intelligence, was my main contact. Red 7 is the publisher of a number of magazines in the event and media industry, including Event Marketing, EXPO and Event Design, and produces numerous events nationwide tied to the magazine audiences, along with smaller regional events. Red 7 Media was acquired this year by Access Intelligence.

Kudos to Red 7 and all the speakers for a fabulous and engaging event.


Grab a CR Code Tradeshow Marketing Guide

After the #socialmedia #tradeshow #marketing #checklist went over so well last week, I put together another (hopefully) helpful marketing guide. This one is all about making your QR Code marketing come alive. It’s a freebie download, so grab it now. Either link direct to it here, or head over to the Freebie Tradeshow Downloads page and grab the QR Code guide along with the other free downloads there.

As always, would love your feedback so that the next updated edition can be New and Improved!


Using Social Media to Support Your Overall Tradeshow Marketing Goals

Are you using social media to drive traffic to your tradeshow booth? That’s great – it be an effective tool for creating buzz at the show. Even though social media activity is effective at communicating with your community, using social media is often not integrated very strongly with a company’s overall marketing goals. Let’s see if we can help change that for you.

Let’s say you’re working with an ad agency. They’re tasked with getting fifteen media mentions out of your tradeshow appearance. Meanwhile, your marketing department is tasked with getting X number of brand impressions. And your sales staff is tasked with generating X number of leads and closing a certain percentage of those leads. All of these entities are working to support the company’s overall marketing goals of creating more sales.

So how can you use social media to directly support all of those entities on conjunction with your tradeshow marketing, instead of just being a stand-alone operation that interacts with your community and not much else?

Start with the end in mind by breaking down your marketing goals: for example, based on past experience the sales department will need X number of leads to create X number of sales. For instance you may know that for every 100 leads generated at a tradeshow, the sales department can close 62% within three months.

Add to that your goals in press and blog mentions, and overall branding impressions and you have your end goals in mind. How can social media support those goals?

Start by choosing your key social media marketing metrics that relate to your tradeshow appearances. It’s easier to take each individual show and look at them separately, although at the end of a year it’s useful to compare and tally all of those numbers to see how the overall efforts at all shows combined performed.

  • Traffic: are you using social media to drive your customers to your tradeshow booth? Keeping track of traffic at a tradeshow is difficult without outside help, but by adding this component to your metric measurement, you get a better handle on how effective your tweets and Facebook postings can be. Beyond that, you can promote giveaways or contests via social media which specifically brings people to your booth for that contest or event.
  • Leads: when you track tradeshow leads, have a check box or area where you can indicate whether the visitor found you via social media. Did they reach you via a tweet? Was it a Facebook posting? A YouTube video? A company blog post? All of these social media outlets should support your efforts and by tracking the results you can determine which is most useful.
  • Buzz or Mentions: often an ad agency that’s working to bring you media mentions will have their own set of industry press contacts, and they can effectively exploit those relationships. Those efforts can be supported through social media: Twitter in particular is becoming known as a place where press relationships are started and developed. Not only that, once you meet a blogger or reporter on Twitter, the connection is direct with no gatekeeper.
  • Customer Support: your community of customers, clients, hangers-on and competitors (yes, they’re there too!) are all talking about you. Whether you want them to or not, they’ll say what they want when they want. By being proactive in listening to and responding to that conversation when appropriate, you are helping to improve the company’s overall performance. It may not show up as a direct impact on the bottom line, but the impact is there: fewer customer support tickets; less need for customer service support personnel; quicker response to nip problems in the bud before they become giant negatives that have to be dealt with. Your customer support team can be invaluable in your social media monitoring because they often are the front line in dealing with customer problems and know what’s happening before anyone else in the company.

Now that you’re tracking metrics, add those to your actual goal numbers previously set. Build a spreadsheet that takes into account the number of booth visitors you achieved through social media and where they came from. Add in your confirmed impressions via industry press and blogs (often a harder number to pin down: you should be able to determine a magazine’s circulation numbers, for instance, but knowing how many blog readers a specific blog has is probably harder – I’d suggest looking at Alexa rankings along with and although the caveat is that the data is very approximate).

Finally, add in actual leads and confirmed sales. When you track the numbers from show to show, and continue to implement social media to draw people to your booth, a clearer picture will emerge of which social media tools are the most effective and which are not. Having that information will help guide you to determine where to put your focus from show to show.

(graphic author: Gautheron – Creative Commons)


Tradeshow QR Code Usage – A Few Brief Tips

At the Natural Products Expo West show earlier this month in Anaheim, I had the opportunity to scan several QR Codes that were displayed in booths, posters and banners. Some were prominently displayed in large form – maybe a foot square – and others as small as less than one inch on business cards. All in all, I saw perhaps twenty QR Codes. Since I became aware of QR Codes a year ago ago, and have blogged about them a couple of times, I was curious to see how business incorporated the goofy-looking symbol into their marketing efforts.

Here are a few thoughts on what worked and what didn’t:

First, it’s easy to generate a code and stick it on a banner or poster and invite people to scan it. However, the very act of scanning a QR Code should be extremely easy. I found a few codes that were not easy to scan because they were placed in odd locations. One was placed close to the floor, making it difficult to get the camera phone at a good enough angle to capture the QR Code.

Another code was so displayed so small that it was difficult to capture it on the phone. Yet another one was put up high – it was large, but behind a counter which was a barrier to getting a good shot of the code. Finally, one code looked incomplete, as if it was missing a part of it. I scanned it twice and my iPhone app said ‘no code scanned’ even though the guy in the booth insisted it was a good working QR Code. Um, sorry, no.

  • Best practice: put the QR Code in an easily accessible location, about 12″ x 12″ in size, with an invitation to “Scan Me!” right above the code. Put it at about head height with no barriers; print it in black ink on a white background. Smartphones need to be able to recognize the code so they can interpret it and take you to whatever information is contained within the QR Code. Include a Call To Action, such as “Scan me to Win!” (I just attended a webinar where the presenter suggested putting QR Codes in odd locations to make it more interesting to scan, such as temporary tattoos…not sure I agree with how practical or effective that would work in the real world!)
Make sure your QR Code URL landing page is optimized for the smartphone!

Once the code is scanned, the information is processed. Most often the code is a URL (although I’ve seen simple contact information), which spawns the phone’s web browser. Here’s where the marketing thought process tends to break down. Question: what device is used to scan the QR Code? Answer: a smartphone. Since that’s the case, wouldn’t you think it wise to have the web URL optimized for viewing on a smartphone? Of course.

But that’s not the case. Not a single QR Code that I scanned was optimized for a smartphone. Instead, the links all led to a typical HTML page that looks crappy and hard to read on a smartphone.

  • Best practice: make sure your web landing page is optimized for viewing on a smartphone. If you have a WordPress blog (like this), it’s easy to install a plug-in that displays the page optimized for a smartphone.

Finally, I scanned one QR Code that was prominently displayed at the entrance to the tradeshow hall. The link was BROKEN! Hard to say why: server could have been down; link not confirmed; entered wrong when the QR Code was set up. I did scan the link the next day and it was working correctly.

  • Best practice: TEST everything BEFORE the show. Double and triple-check that everything works as it should and looks right as it will be most likely be seen by your end user – the person who’s scanning the QR Code.


Have a Plan Even if it Changes Mid-Stream

No matter what your goals are at a tradeshow, whether you’re walking the floor or exhibiting, you probably won’t get far unless you have a plan (obviously that’s a given) – and are flexible enough to let the plan adapt and evolve as necessary.

This past week at Natural Products Expo West 2011 in Anaheim, my plan – as it originally stood – was to meet people, find out their problems and issues with their exhibits or marketing approach, and have a brief conversation that left me an opening to follow up later with a specific reason. This is the ninth time I’ve been to the show (we have eight client booths there), so my plan is based on what’s generally worked in the past.

As someone just walking the floor, I’m prohibited from offering my services or trying to sell something at the show. That’s the way it should be. After all, I’m NOT an exhibitor. Only exhibitors who have paid those high space rental fees have the right to blatantly sell their products.

Earth Mama Angel Baby at Expo West 2011

But I can certainly engage people in conversations and see where they lead. More often than not the best way to leave the door open for someone to hear from me is to invite them to subscribe to my monthly tradeshow marketing newsletter. Easy enough to do – I simply ask as I’m ready to leave if they mind if I put them on the list. Only once did someone say no – and that was because they weren’t the right person in the company, so the newsletter would have been of no use to them.

And I value not only my time, but the exhibitor’s time, too. I want to be in and out of a booth in about 90-180 seconds, which means that I strive to be precise with the encounter. It’s the same for an exhibitor, by the way: you should try and keep your engagement time with attendees at a bare minimum. Enough to qualify or disqualify them and to gather pertinent information should they be potential clients.

I started the show with a list of exhibitors and booth numbers that had promoted themselves on Twitter – some 75 at least, along with their Twitter handles. Knowing that it would take fully two days to cover the show and talk to that many booths (along with several others that I randomly stopped at for one reason or another), I figured I had would my hands full.

Turns out the ‘Twitter’ greeting was very engaging to almost everyone I met:

“Hi, I’m curious who your company Twitterer is? Or would that be ‘Tweeter’? I’m Tradeshowguy, I saw your booth number on Twitter and someone tweeted out an invitation to come by!”

It was a bit of a goofy intro that created smiles and broke down barriers. Often I was quickly subjected to what is commonly referred to in sales as an “information dump” where a bunch of product information is dumped on you before the speaker has even bothered to qualify you. I’d just smile and let them go on. Sometimes it turned out to be pretty interesting stuff. Other times…not so much.

(By the way, I found it interesting that over half a dozen people I met throughout the show had heard of me; they were looking for tradeshow marketing tips before heading to Expo West and found this blog. Definitely a nice ego stroke…)

Then we’d chat about Twitter and social media and how they used it to promote their company at the show. If the opportunity arose and they showed interest, I’d mention that I regularly speak about, consult and teach social media. By then, I’m about ready to wrap it up. If they’re active on Facebook or Twitter, often I’d offer to take their picture and post it on Facebook immediately (always a big hit – who doesn’t like having their picture posted on Facebook?…apparently, no one). Finally, I’d suggest they subscribe to the email newsletter. Again – almost everyone took me up on it…which means they’ll be hearing from me once a month. The key: stay on someone’s radar regularly and you increase your chances for a future sale.

The real evolution of my approach happened when I discovered that not only did people love to get their photos on Facebook, but they loved to talk about Twitter – even those that didn’t use or understand what it could do for them. The natural curiosity of the social media phenomenon was a conversation starter every time – much more than I originally thought it would. So I made a point of beginning almost all conversations with that.

How do you approach your tradeshow marketing? What’s your plan? Are you able to adapt and evolve the plan as necessary? Do you need several people to implement the plan, or are you just walking the floor of a show trying to make connections that could turn into future business?

Whatever your situation, make a plan, follow it, and let it evolve as necessary.



Find me at Natural Products Expo West

If you’re attending the Natural Products Expo West 2011 at the Anaheim Convention Center March 10 – 13, try and catch up with me! I’ll be roaming the aisles, meeting exhibitors, looking for Tweetups and monitoring my Twitter feed, Facebook and blog for any connection opportunities.

Our company, Interpretive Exhibits, also will be well represented with eight custom-designed and fabricated exhibits. Come see our work – check out the following booths:

  • Hyland’s: 1320
  • Mountain Rose Herbs:  2820
  • Bob’s Red Mill: 2660
  • Nancy’s Yogurt: 2481
  • gDiapers: 3276
  • Natracare: 3316
  • Bi-O-Kleen: 3856
  • Earth Mama Angel Baby: 4120

Here are a few suggestions for you IF you happen to be at the show:

  1. Tweet your booth number (if you’re exhibiting) to @tradeshowguy and include the #expowest hashtag. I’ll come by and say hi!
  2. Download a PDF with the booth listings and my contact information here.
  3. If you hear of a great tweetup, send out a tweet with the time/locale and be sure to include #tweetup #expowest hashtags.
  4. Download the ExpoWest app from iTunes to check schedules, look up exhibitors, plan your event, get local info and more
  5. If catch me wearing my QR Code t-shirt, fire up your QR Code smartphone app, scan it and see what goodies you get!

And…have fun!

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