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

Event Marketing

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!

Using the Location-Based SCVNGR Game at Tradeshows

I keep hearing how SCVNGR is being used to engage tradeshow attendees with pics, check-ins and other game activities. So let’s take a look at how it’s being done in a tradeshow or event setting.

First, what the heck is SCVNGR?

SCVNGR is a game. Playing is simple: Go places. Have fun and share with your friends. Check-in, snap pics, do the social check-in or try a challenge! Everywhere you go, you’ll earn points and start unlocking real-world rewards at over 12,000 locations (think free ice cream!). SCVNGR makes it easy to share where you are and what you’re up to with your friends on SCVNGR, Facebook and Twitter. Start playing SCVNGR by downloading our free iPhone & Android app. SCVNGR is funded by Google Ventures, Highland Capital Partners and Balderton Capital. Visit www.scvngr.com to learn more.

Last summer the New England chapter of Meeting Professionals International looked for a social media activity that met the needs of buyers and suppliers, encouraged networking and interaction, helped give back to the community, and is really fun, too…is such a thing even out there? Turns out it is: SCVNGR.

They set up a 90-minute scavenger hunt for the 150 attendees. Each venue ponied up a sponsorship fee and once the scavenger hunters arrived they were tasked with doing something. “For example, arriving at restaurant Post 390, participants had to find the private function room. There, they had to try some hors d’oeuvres. After submitting a photo to prove they’d completed the task, participants got a text message noting that the restaurant has three private function rooms.”

Read more here.

Map Dynamics blog gives a blow-by-blow walkthrough of how to set up a SCVNGR game for your show or function.

Kodak set up a SCVNGR game at CES 2011 in Vegas earlier this year.

The International Manufacturing Technology Show used SCVNGR in Chicago last summer, and while the attendee participation was low, the time and energy required to set it up was very low. ‘According to Lee Anne Orange, IMTS exhibitions special project manager, the decision to use SCVNGR is an outgrowth of the show’s existing social media strategy, albeit in a less demanding exercise. “We use a couple other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter that require a certain amount of maintenance that we have a hard enough time keeping up with,” she says. “SCVNGR was appealing because it starts and ends here.”‘

Here’s another look at the event from Successful Meetings.

Also last summer, member of SCVNGR worked the SIGGRAPH show in Los Angeles. While the article broke the daily ration of using the word ‘awesome’ it is a great endorsement for using SCVNGR at an event.

And finally…ya gotta love bloggers. Unlike a news reporter who feels she might have to stick with convention on describing something, here’s a great example of a blogger who got all enthused about how SCVNGR worked (or might work) for them in a number of situations.

6 Posts on Using iPads at Tradeshows You Might Have Missed

…in which our intrepid reporter takes a stroll through a number of blogs and news outlets. And takes a couple of the companies to task for, well, various things…

Alexis Exhibits details a number of ways tradeshows will benefit from using iPads, including:

  • videos and photos
  • lead retrival and demos
  • attendee schedules
  • and more…

As an aside, I was disappointed in the Alexis website for one BIG reason: they only list a toll-free number and general e-mail but NO other contact information. Who are these people? Where are they? Why the mystery?

Tradeshowfeed, courtesy of Rogers Exhibits, lists several ways to use the iPad at a tradeshow:

  • incorporating multimedia
  • interactive demos
  • agendas, one-to-one appointments, and personalized agendas
  • way-finding
  • and more…


The Tradeshowfeed blog is actually a nice enough blog with useful information and a good look, but seems pretty inactive. However, when you click the ‘Latest” link, the four most recent posts are from Feb 8, 2011, November, 2010; October, 2010 and August of 2010. Uhm, that’s barely enough to fog a mirror, folks.

Eric Lukazewski’s “Tradeshow Insight” blogs is one of the more active and interesting tradeshow blogs that you’ll find and this post lists 5 iPad apps that may make your tradeshow world a little easier.

Sullen iPad Catalog App Launches At Trade Shows” details a custom catalog that is being used on tradeshow floors to demo an art-driven lifestayle apparel brand. Nicely done.

Alexis Exhibits covers some of the same ground as their other iPad post, but still offers a batch of good ideas for using iPads at tradeshows:

  • Personal demos
  • Portability
  • Interactivity
  • Create a hands-on kiosk
  • and more…

The Monetate Market Optimization Blog offers a review of their experience using the iPad to demo their marketing software at a recent tradeshow. One thing that they like was the personal interaction that the iPad offers over a larger flat screen.

iPad photo (CC-BY-SA) by Glenn Fleishman from Seattle, Washington

Ways You Can Use QR Codes

Even though QR Codes have been in existence since the mid-90s, they’re only now become hip. Fashionable. Tres chic. (whatever that means)…

And if you put your mind to it, you can come up with all sorts of ways you can use QR Codes.

First, review the blog post where you can find out all about QR Codes and how they work and how to create them.

Then listen to the podcast interview with Marie-Claire Andrews of ShowGizmo.com where she discusses ways to use QR Codes.

Then brainstorm a bit on how you might use a QR Code to assist your other marketing efforts. Here are some brain-starters…

  • Tradeshow rugs or flooring: easy to put a graphic on a custom piece of flooring. Putting it on a rug will inspire people to pull out their smartphones and capture the QR Code to see where it leads.
  • “The Mechanic” movie poster
  • Business cards: have too much information to put on your business card, like Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/YouTube links, and more…? Create a web page on your blog or website that has all of that, along with a bio, photo, or whatever else you deem appropriate.
  • Cupcakes!
  • Storefronts: mention a freebie if you scan the QR Code.
  • Best Buy label
  • T-shirts: I saw a QR Code t-shirt for sale online (just search any t-shirt site); upload your QR Code, include an invitation such as “Scan me to win!” and wear it proudly while people stop to scan you!
  • Like” us on Facebook
  • Marketing materials: Of course you can insert a QR Code in virtually any piece of marketing. The trick is to offer an incentive to scan: free download, limited-time product discount, exclusive offer, etc.
  • At a tradeshow: link the QR code to a ‘secret’ site where visitors can find such things as streaming video of the show, a virtual tradeshow website, special offers, photos, and more.
  • A few more ideas: business advertising, clues for a treasure hunt, an artist manifesto, link to a non-profit’s donation page, and a bunch more on this cool collection of QR Code ideas.

If you search for QR Codes on Google, there are just a million+ results. I would bet that in another year there will be five times as many. QR codes are exploding. The more companies that get involved will spur even more companies to get involved. It’s like a snowball rolling down hill. Or like global warming. Except for the snowball thing.

Using QR Codes at a Tradeshow

One of the most effective methods to get involved in mobile marketing is to create a QR Code and display it openly at a tradeshow. It’s a somewhat familiar-looking graphic widget but not everyone knows exactly what it is or how it works.

Invented in 1994 by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave, the QR (Quick Response) code has graduated from a simple two-dimensional code used to track parts in vehicle manufacturing to much larger use. More and more companies are finding ways to use them in tradeshow marketing by including codes on booth graphics and handouts. One main use of the QR code seems to be to direct the viewer to a website where they are introduced to company-related information.

It’s easy to include a QR Code and it makes sense for at least a couple of reasons: first, it’s a great way to reduce the amount of printed material that you have to carry around and pass out. It reduces printed products that may end up on landfills or recycling bins. Secondly, the QR Code is still new enough that the use of it positions your company as a leader – or at least very sensitive to the spirit of reducing printed materials. By steering your visitor to a website to download PDFs, view videos or other material, you’re seen as much ‘greener’ than competitors that may still be handing out pamphlets (so last century!).

Scan this QR Code!
QR Code for Tradeshow Marketing Newsletter

Third, it’s cool looking!

In the Wikipedia entry on the QR Code, you can see that marketers are making use of the symbol in many ways: “Media where QR codes have been deployed include: billboard ads, in-store displays, event ticketing and tracking, trade-show management, business cards, print ads, contests, direct mail campaigns, websites, email marketing, and couponing just to name a few. QR codes are of particular interest to marketers, giving them the “ability to measure response rates with a high degree of precision”[20] allowing for easier ROI (return on investment) calculation, thus helping justify spending on marketing budgets.”

If you want to create a QR Code, there’s no cost. Even though Denso-Wave owns the patent, they are choosing not to enforce the patent rights. Search online for ‘create QR code generator’ and you’ll find several applications that allow you to create your own code in a few seconds.

Once the code is created, you can insert it in any marketing materials you may have.

To read the phone, the most common way is with a camera phone with an app or the software that can decode it.

To create a code, there are limits to the amount of text you’re able to insert:

QR Code data capacity:

  • Numeric only Max. 7,089 characters
  • Alphanumeric Max. 4,296 characters
  • Binary (8 bits) Max. 2,953 bytes

There are more creative uses of the QR code being developed. Businesses are linking to discount coupons, games, treasure hunt clues, mail-in rebates and more. Check here, here and here.

And if you want to see what a social media crowd thinks of the QR code and grab some more ideas, check this Facebook page.

Tradeshow Collaboration Marketing

How can you work with a partner at a tradeshow? What can collaboration do to cut your tradeshow marketing costs and help spread your company’s name around a bit more?

While there are some benefits to be gained by working with partners in any endeavor, there are trade-offs to consider as well.

Share a Booth

Let’s say you’re a small company that struggles to come up with money for booth space and exhibit rental. If this is the case you might consider contacting a company that, while not a direct competitor, is at least in your industry and would benefit from exhibiting at the same show.

Mosaic, 20 Feb 2005

By renting the booth space together, you’re splitting the cost of both the space and the exhibit. Of course, you only get half a booth. Depending on your offerings, however, that might be a good fit and a good way to get your name out into the marketplace.

Another benefit comes when staffing the booth. By paring down the booth size and splitting with a partner, you need less people overall. While you would obviously want to have your side of the booth staffed, in some shows and situations one benefit would be to spell the other guy while he’s on a break.

Promote Each Other’s Products

Here’s a promotion that I’ve seen done successfully. Find another 4 or 5 exhibitors that are complementary to your company – but not direct competitors – and create a traffic-generation promotion. Create a map of the show floor highlighing the five participating booths, print it on bright paper, give each booth a stamp. Offer prizes from each exhibitor to be drawn from all maps that are stamped by all exhibitors and submitted. This encourages more traffic to each booth. Of course it’s up to you to take advantage of the additional traffic with your own offerings.

Social Media Pumping

Whether you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you can easily work out a similar promotion. However, instead of doing it on-site, do it online. Each vendor sets up a series of tweets via Hootsuite.com to drive traffic to their own – and their collaborator’s – booth. By doing this, you’re taking advantage of each other’s community, exposing all of the separate exhibitor’s online communities to all of the others.

Team Up To Impress

If you have a partner company that you work well with, float the idea of doing a ‘team dinner/party’ to expose each of the company’s to the other’s community. Company A invites a dozen or so clients, Company B does the same. The two companies split the tab. Everybody gets to know everyone else. Imagine if you could ramp this up to three, four or five companies.

Brainstorm

With all of the various companies that exhibit at any given show, how can you leverage the event to help your company and assist another company for the greater good? Can you come up with a single product together? Can you combine two products for a single offering? A real estate company might team with a home staging company to offer a special deal at a show. A software designer might team with one of his clients to create a custom version of the software for a larger, different market.

There’s really no end to the amount of ways that you can collaborate with other exhibitors to bring both (or all) of you more business.

Get on your thinkin’ cap!

Creative Commons License

photo credit: Genista

What Gets You Noticed at a Tradeshow?

After walking the floor of many a chaotic tradeshow, I’m always interested (and somewhat amused) by what catches my eye. And what doesn’t.

So what works to bring ’em in? What is like honey to the fly?

Here, in no particular order, are several things that made me stop and take a look at a product or service:

  • demonstrations: a professional presenter with a 5-7 minute presentation can do wonders for a tradeshow exhibit
  • eye candy: this can be large colorful graphics, something moving (rotating or spinning graphics/wheels/etc), booth babes, anything that says “STOP! LOOK! NOW!” Admittedly, the booth babes drew my eyes but rarely connect me to an actual product!

  • What Gets You Noticed at a Tradeshow

    celebrity: whether it’s Muriel Hemingway or Dr. Andrew Weil or anyone else that catches an eye, a celebrity gives your booth credibility and power – at least to a certain amount of the audience.

  • unusual product: a new or unusual product, even in a lousy-looking booth, can be enough to draw me in.
  • unusual booth design: a stellar, spare, unusual booth design is a very attractive piece. If it’s unusual enough it’ll have people stopping regardless of the product. Again, the product has to be worth the attention or the booth design fails. But with the right combination, POW!
  • giveaways or free samples: a typical giveaway gets me to stop for a heartbeat. A cool/unusual/clever giveaway that ties in with the product gets me thinking. If it’s damn yummy I will come back for more and figure out where to buy the product when I get home.
  • smile: a pleasant smile and non-threatening greeting from a booth staffer does wonders in getting people to stop and examine your offerings.
  • action in the booth: video or audio interviews draw a crowd. A simple camera/microphone set-up makes people curious. Curiosity helps draw a crowd.

The initial goal of your booth is to get a visitor to stop. Once they’ve stopped, they’ve mentally committed at least a smidgen of time to your offerings. From that moment, it’s up to your (highly trained) booth staff to positively engage them, qualify or disqualify them, grab contact info if interested and move them into the sales funnel.

Easy, right?

Social Media Planning: What to Do In the First Quarter of ’11

Depending on what your company’s involvement is in social media, there are a number of approaches you can take to moving forward during the first quarter of 2011. And that’s the KEY: MOVING FORWARD from wherever you are at this moment. With the forward motion of all things social media, if you sit still you’ll get further and further behind!

If your company is NOT doing anything with social media:

If you’re at the very beginning, you’ll have to start somewhere. Starting anywhere is better than not starting at all. Ask around the office, and look for your company’s own ‘digital native.’ This is the person that’s already online with social media. They’re already on Facebook and Twitter. They may be posting fun videos on YouTube or Facebook. Perhaps they’ve got a LinkedIn account. They’re adept at discussing and moving around in the social media world.

Once you find that person, sit down with your marketing manager and the company owner (presuming you’re a small or medium-sized company and have easy access to these people) and discuss the following steps:

  • Where you are
  • Where you want to go in the next 3 – 6 months
  • What tools you’ll need
  • Who will be in charge of the company’s social media efforts
  • How much time it will realistically take to set up accounts and start to build your community
  • What are your goals
  • What are the steps required to meet those goals
  • What other internal or external help you’ll need

At this point, you’re really doing a full assessment of where the company is in social media. Find out what your strengths are, where the holes are in your knowledge and determine the best way to fill those gaps. Here is where you’ll also be appointing someone (or two or three) that have the capabilities to lead the company’s social media efforts.

From here, look to what how you can start to create a community, stay in touch with them and provide them with information, content and response to their feedback.

Then, start: get the Facebook and Twitter accounts going, check in daily, put up links on your website to direct people to the new social media outposts. At the outset, once the accounts are set-up (should take a very short amount of time), the initial involvement might be a few minutes a day. As you see more of your community finding you, you’ll have more opportunity to ask questions, look for feedback and find ways to respond to their comments and questions.

If your company IS ALREADY involved in social media…but you feel there’s a LOT more you could be doing:

GET CREATIVE: If you’re past the first few baby steps described above, this is where you can start to get creative with your postings. Take note of what other companies that ‘get’ social media do. Riff off of their efforts. Come up with ways to creatively produce short videos that show the human side of your company, such as this one from gDiapers that was a video birthday present where employees described what they liked about their boss Kim.

VIDEO is a great tool to share how-to’s, information, what-ifs and much more. It’s an invaluable tool to humanize your company. How can you be creative with your videos?

January 2011 - Interfaith Calendar

EVENT CALENDAR: Create an event calendar that outlines your company’s 2011 event schedule. Determine which of the events is the most important, and focus on putting together a significant social media effort into connecting with your community around that event. Don’t ignore the other events; but by choosing a ‘most significant’ event, your social media efforts will fall in line. If you choose to, for instance, do a lot of giveaways via Twitter at the big show, plan on supplementing your other shows with smaller Twitter giveaways. If you’re planning a Tweetup at the big show, think about putting together smaller Tweetups at your smaller shows.

LISTEN: Consider digging deeper with your listening tools. The more you listen to what’s being said online about your products, company and competition, the quick you can respond to issues that arise. Tools such as Radian6, Jive Software, Hubspot and more offer access to deep, real-time conversations around the important things in your world. Some are free, some are paid, but all can help lift the lid a little more on what people really think.

RESPOND: When you come across a conversation that relates to your product or service offerings, step in. David Meerman Scott, in his newest book “Real-Time Marketing and PR,” tells the tale of a company that saw a comment from someone who was not happy with the non-response from a company on a request for quote for a telephone system. The company politely stepped in offering to help on any questions or to offer a quote. Long story short: they sold a $250,000 phone system be responding to a tweet and asking if they could help. So yes, this stuff does happen. It is important and it shows that by responding to an issue in real-time, good things can happen.

BLOG: If you’re not blogging yet, this is an opportune time to figure out how your company can use a blog to stand out in the crowded marketplace. Blogging is not a casual commitment; it requires consistent time, energy and thought, and there’s likely no immediate payoff. But a blog is the best online tool to position your company as a leader in your field, share ideas, create community, and stake out ground.

If your company is neck-deep in social media:

If you’re already doing great things with social media, you probably have a good sense of how you got here, and perhaps where to go from here.

CONTINUE LISTENING: look at different tools that can help you uncover conversations that you previously didn’t hear about. Look at new tools. Keep your ear to the ground. Read blogs on social media such as the Social Media Examiner and Mashable.

BUILD YOUR NETWORK: The wider and deeper your personal and professional network, the more opportunities that will arise out of that network. You’ll find new knowledge, timely information and quicker access to new tools.

ENHANCE YOUR PRESENCE: Since you’re already blogging and you’re on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and perhaps other social media outpost, ask yourself: how can we enhance the connectivity of these tools? What can we do to show our community who we really are? What can we do to reach more of them? Do we share more of ourselves? Do we offer more how-to’s and tutorials? Do we do more webinars? Do we bring in experts in the field and interview them? Do we step up to a higher level of video production? No matter where you are, there is always room for improvement. How can you improve either in incremental steps or in a big leap?

Social media is many things. It’s a great learning tool. It’s an amazing real-time connectivity tool. It’s hard work; it’s fun. It’s unlike anything the world has seen up until this century and it’s changing the nature of business. It is leading to transparency in more company activities. It empowers consumers to gather information from unlimited sources before they commit a dollar to a purchase.

Social media is perfect for the event world. Events are inherently social. Business is social. By learning how to effectively use the social media tools at your disposal, you’re moving a step ahead of your competition and a step closer to creating a valuable community that will help support your business.

Creative Commons License

photo credit: Alaivani

How Blogging Can Help Your Tradeshow Marketing

When speaking in Jacksonville at the EDPA’s annual conference earlier this month, I asked for a show of hands to see how many bloggers were in the audience.

A few hands went up. I expected more. Many more. Not sure why…maybe my expectations are unrealistic. Or maybe it’s that I’ve seen the value in having an active blog. It keeps your mind sharp, it keeps you in front of a growing audience, and it it lets people know who you are and what your expertise is.

Yet many companies simply don’t consider blogging as a valuable marketing tool. Here’s how I see blogging in terms of helping promote a tradeshow appearance or to enhance a tradeshow marketing schedule.

  • It gives you a place to tell your audience about the new stuff (products, service) that you’ll have at the show.
  • Blogging is a platform to invite any partners that may have at the show to discuss their products and how it ties in with yours.
  • It’s easy to insert a video into a blog.
  • You can easily post photos of visitors to your booth.
  • You can give reviews and opinions of the show and other products and services.
  • Your blog is a ‘home base’ for all things show-related. Post documents, downloads, press releases, etc.

Having said all of that, blogging is not to be taken lightly. It’s a significant committment in terms of time and energy. And if you are going to set up a blog for your company, it’s important to make sure that you have new material showing up regularly, whether it’s every week, three times a week or just a couple of times a month.

But once you’ve made the committment and the process of blogging becomes part of your routine, you’ll discover that it’s a great outlet for all sorts of things. You can post slides from a presentation, videos from your company, how-to’s and informational tidbits that educate and illuminate your audience.

It also allows you and your company to gain more visibility within your industry and target audience.

Blogging isn’t the end-all and be-all of online presence, but it’s a valuable marketing and positioning tool.

If you’re not blogging yet, you should seriously consider it!

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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