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

Event Marketing

Tradeshow Marketing Bucket List

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What is on your Tradeshow Marketing Bucket List?

What? Why would that matter? Compiling a list of things that might be fun to do – in tradeshow marketing, no less – before you kick the bucket?

And again, why not?

By putting together a Bucket List for your tradeshow marketing efforts, you will begin to form larger ideas and put meat on the skeleton of tradeshow marketing ideas that already exist in your mind. But those ideas may be limited by the reality of your budget, schedule, availabilities and staff.

But wouldn’t it be get a little inspiration from the movies and have fun to play a “What If?” game?

So – suspend the constraints of your current reality and ask: what might go on your Tradeshow Marketing Bucket List?

  • Shows that you’d love to attend
  • Promotions you want to do
  • People you want to meet
  • Locations where you’d like to go to a show
  • Tradeshow booths that you’d like to purchase
  • Graphic artists or designers you’d love to work with
  • Products you’d like to promote

Can you see where this is going? Imagine all of the possibilities that you can come up with using those ideas as thought-starters. Undoubtedly you can come up with more kickstarters with a little more thought.

Create a Tradeshow Marketing Bucket List. Then keep it handy and start ticking off the items as you do them.

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photo credit: the paessels

Health of the Booth Staff

Guest post by Darryl Noble

Trade shows take a lot of money to invest in. Getting a return on investment makes it an imperative that everything at show goes well. There is a lot of books and advice available for displays, giveaways, traffic, and even which shows to attend. There is help on who to choose to man a booth and what they should do while in at the exhibit. What is most often ignored is the staff’s health. It would not take much to disrupt all the plans with a booth staff member taken out by sickness. A lackluster performance by staff could also torpedo all plans for a good return on the trade show investment.

Most everybody has general knowledge about healthcare make sure they follow it.

When the booth is set-up pre-show, have staff wipe it down with anti-bacterial cleaning wipes. The same during slow times of a show or at the end of the day. While talking about antibacterial, they should also use hand sanitizer often throughout the day, as they will be shaking a lot of hands.

If the trade show will be out of area, make sure they are prepared for a new geography or climate. If the staff is from Phoenix and use to a desert spring, taking a trip to the Pacific Northwest could require warmer and staying dry attire. Also, consider if one is staying at the conference hotel or staff has to travel to the exhibit area everyday. Staying in air conditioning all day and then having to take a hot twenty-minute bus ride can be hard on people. Places like Phoenix and Las Vegas can be above 100 degrees during all the summer months.

Then there is good scheduling of staff. The schedule should rotate staff often unless they are able to go somewhere and rest their legs. Also, they should have a place and rest their minds. Having rooms at the host hotel is always good, unless the trade show is far separated from the hotels. Regardless, the staff should be able to stay alert and lively. Also, if the trade show or conference has an active nightlife to it, account for it. Staff that is entertaining clients late into the night should not be working the morning shift in a booth.

With a little planning on everybody’s part, an entire exhibit staff can stay healthy and be able to bring the company a lot more money than it put out. Really, it comes down to remembering the little things along with the big things of a trade show event.

There is more help available for small businesses and entrepreneurs looking at exhibiting at expos and conferences. Here is information about using a used trade show display. One can also look at which trade show product options are available for an event. Visit now to learn more.

What I Learned From Talking Dogs

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In cartoons and movies, dogs can talk. All the time. They must think we’re not listening. Or maybe they’re smart enough to know that we puny humans don’t understand dog-talk.

Whatever.

I don’t mind talking dogs. In fact, I like them just fine. My 10-year old son watches Scooby-Doo and movies like ‘Cats and Dogs’ and ‘Homeward Bound’ that feature talking dogs.

As far as he knows that’s the way it should be. Dogs and cats talking, and if they’re on screen we can hear and understand them.

It’s as if someone magically transformed those run-of-the-mill pets into super-beings that now are able to converse in languages not common to their species.

I wonder if we humans can do that….

Let’s say that we’re able to…uh…read minds, for instance. What would your booth visitors be saying if you could read the thought balloons above their heads?

“My, that booth needs cleaning.”

“Jeez, that guy’s on the cell phone again!”

“Hmmph, he should have at least used a breath mint to cover up that onion breath!”

Or what if all cell phone conversations within ten feet were beamed right to your head?

“Yeah, uh…let’s meet at the street…no, never mind, let’s do it after lunch. No, wait. Can you meet me here?”

“What’s your problem? I mean, what’s your freakin’ problem, man?”

“Yeah, I know, I know, but I really DO have to go out to dinner with her…it’s business…the boss told me I had to…”

I’m sure you’d hear a lot of idiotic and innocuous chatter. Maybe every 100th phone call you were eavesdropping on contained a nugget of information about your competitor or industry that made you rich.

Hey, since we’ve already established that dogs can talk, it’s not much of a leap to tell ourselves that we can hear private cell phone calls, right? Or read minds?

By imagining talking dogs, you can imagine a lot of wild and crazy things. Like making your booth from orange peels (what a smell!). Or creating a booth back wall of tires. Or teaching your visitors to juggle. Or sending visitors home with a Polaroid photo of themselves. I dunno – creativity comes in many forms. Are you being creative in your booth?

Are you being creative – I mean, really creative – in the important areas of tradeshow marketing?

  • lead gathering
  • lead follow up
  • booth design
  • visitor interaction
  • staff training
  • schmoozing with clients
  • putting on a demo
  • enticing visitors to your booth

If you can be more creative and interesting than a majority of your fellow exhibitors you’ll find yourself with more traffic.

The whole talking dog approach to this blog post was to draw you in and make you say ‘what the hell?’

Did it work? Did you wonder what the hell I was writing about?

If you’ve made it this far you should check out my new favorite book on creativity, ThinkerToys by Michael Michalko. I just finished it today and am already planning a number of ways to use it for future endeavors: sales, writing, brainstorming, planning, creating…so many ideas have come out of just READING the book that I can’t wait until I actually start to implement and use his ideas.

Check it out here (affiliate link): Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition)

Also check out a funny talking dog joke.

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photo credit: raggio(ALL4HIM)productions

Tradeshow Time: Class is in Session

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What did you learn from your last tradeshow appearance? Did you learn that you, well, perhaps shouldn’t have even been there?

Sometimes that’s the best lesson you can learn: that the money you spent on the show was wasted and you won’t do that show again.

Or will you? Maybe the lessons you learned included the fact that this particular show was wasted, but that you learned enough about the show to make adjustments and refocus for the next go-round.

Let’s face it: even the most expensive marketing mistake comes with a lesson. Sometimes it’s hard to find, and other times it’s staring you in the face.

It could be that you learned that the show’s audience is not for you.

I recently teamed up with the Salem Business Network and Communication Steroids for the Salem Chamber of Commerce’s ShowBiz 2010, a business-focused day-long tradeshow. We prepped and planned, created and executed. And when it was over, we evaluated the results.

First, we couldn’t point to more than a handful of actual leads for Communication Steroids. And we had about 20 sign-ups for the Salem Business Network. As it turns out, signing people up via our laptop in a busy, chaotic show was more time-consuming than anticipated. So even had everything gone according to plan, the sign-ups would have been fewer than desired.

But luring people to sign up for something FREE isn’t always easy. You’d think so, but it’s counter-intuitive. When people hear that something is FREE, they often thing there’s a hidden catch or that the service is not worth much anyway. After all, they must reason, if it’s free what value can it have?

We also didn’t quite understand the audience that showed up to the show: instead of business folks, it was mostly (probably 90%) people ‘trick-or-treating’ to grab free samples and handouts at a lot of the booths. To their credit, the Salem Chamber of Commerce has tried to dampen that portion of the crowd by charging $5 entrance fee – but it still didn’t seem to have much effect. So there were few people at the show that we could actually describe as serious prospects.

Given all that, it’s hard to know how things will unfold over the next year. We did have a handful of folks we met who liked the offerings, and if any of them develop into a good client in the next 12 months we can say the minimal investment in booth space rental and graphics was worth it. But we can’t say it yet.

Every opportunity to get out into the marketplace is a chance to learn; to understand your market better, to research the wants and needs of your market, to understand the show better, to see how your people work in a chaotic sales situation.

Given that tradeshow marketing is not cheap, your best approach is to learn as many lessons as you can on as many different fronts as you can.

Doors are open: Class is in session!

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photo credit: Christina Spicuzza

McCormick Place to Benefit From New Legislation

It’s a done deal. The law that was expected to be passed is now, in fact, reality:

Officials of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) and the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB) today applauded the passage of a new law meant to reform labor rules, establish exhibitor rights and realign McCormick Place operations with its major competitors in the convention and trade show industry.

Downtown Chicago

The new law calls for (according to today’s press release):

• New labor work rules that reduce crew sizes, require less overtime pay and eliminate hassles for customers.
• Expanding exhibitor rights, allowing customers to do their own work, regardless of booth size.
• The appointment of a Trustee, former MPEA CEO Jim Reilly, to oversee operations during an 18 month transition period and select a private manager for McCormick Place.
• Restructuring capital debt to allow the MPEA to further lower costs to customers and put the MPEA on sound financial footing.
• Allowing shows to select outside electrical and food service contractors.
• Auditing contracts to ensure savings are passed on to customers.
• Make recommendations to whether Navy Pier should remain in control by the Authority or become an independent entity.

I’ve only been to McCormick Place once and was pretty impressed – a very nice hall for all the big shows that come through. Let’s hope this law does what its intended to do.

For more information, click here…

Focus Group at a Tradeshow?

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I spent a couple of hours this week as part of a focus group for Portland adult alternative radio station KINK.FM. There were about 18 of us, and I found it to be a very interesting experience. Having worked in radio for more than 25 years (I left the industry in 2002), it was interesting to experience being on the ‘other side’ for once.

I’ve seen focus groups, read about them, helped form them…but never been on the other side of the coin.

We were asked a lot of questions about our favorite stations, fave music, likes and dislikes about the station. All the stuff you might expect. For 90 minutes the facilitator guided us through a number of topics, while KINK’s Program Director scribbled notes quietly.

To the radio station, each of us represented thousands of their listeners or potential listeners, so they listened closely to what we had to say.

Do you do any market research in your industry? If you’re a professional speaker, do you take time to find out what your audience wants? Do you ask them what they DON’T like? Do you ask them what’s missing?

KINK.FM did all that and more. They fed us and gave us free CD’s and bumper stickers, too!

Now…here’s your task: can you use a tradeshow as a focus group of sorts? If so, how?

Would you have a short questionnaire that you can use to engage booth visitors? Can you set up a short demo of a new product and get their reaction? Can you show them mockups of a half-dozen proposed ads that your ad agency has conjured up? Should you bother to waste their time with annoying questions like ‘what do you think of this…?’?

Of course you can. You’re paying good money for your booth space. You have an audience of people that are interested in your industry – and probably your products – or they wouldn’t have paid to attend the show.

So take advantage of the situation. Set up your own series of mini focus groups during the show, and mine them for useful information.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll unearth a gem!

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photo credit: crazyoctopus

Changes at Chicago’s McCormick Place

I don’t usually do hard news on this blog, but I was contacted this week by The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB), who asked if I might be interested in taking a look at the following story. Having been to Chicago a couple of times for events at McCormick it’s good to see this consumer-focused legislation moving into place.

(Dateline: Chicago)

Downtown Chicago

Changes were announced this week that “truly changes the landscape here in Chicago,” according to David Causton, McCormick Place General Manager.

What are the changes?

New legislation that wound its way through the Illinois General Assembly that basically gives the customer (the exhibitors) a new bill of rights.

For instance, “The legislation grants exhibitors the ability to do their own electrical work or contract it out, and bring in their own food for personal consumption.” That from the press release issued last Friday, May 7th by the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB).

According to the e-mail I received this week from Maura Cheeks on behalf of the CCTB, the legislation is waiting for Governer Quinn’s signature to become law. He’s expected to do that soon.

As Maura put it: “The new legislation will create a new business model for McCormick Place. This important first step was the collaborative outcome of state, city, business and industry leaders to bring a host of positive changes for our meeting and convention customers, exhibitors and attendees.”

Check out links here for more on the story:

The CCTB’s official statement in support of the bill.

The CCTB’s President, Tim Roby, has presented a webcast with Dave Causton, General Manager of McCormick Place, to discuss how these proposed changes will benefit Chicago’s convention customers and exhibitors. View the webcast and video comments here – or click to view now:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R9IAkOCxHY&feature=player_embedded

Along with the CCTB website, check Chicago Meeting Matters for background, fact sheets, videos and other information.

Wow. Hard news from Tradeshowguy Blog. Whodathunkit?

How Bob Marley Can Inspire Your Tradeshow Marketing

Bob Marley, 1979- photo by Roger Steffens

It was 29 years ago today when I was a young DJ in Salem, Oregon. One of my jobs was to ‘rip-n-read’ the news, so I was regularly heading to the news room to see the latest, and include the pertinent stories on the air.

On that day, May 11, 1981, the news came over that Bob Marley had died of cancer. He was in Miami, on his way home from alternative treatment in Europe. He didn’t make it alive.

As Music Director, my main job was to handle the music playlist for the Top 4o AM station. I was a big Bob Marley fan, but it was hard at that time to justify playing any of his music on the air. No one in the world of TOP 4o knew who he was. Yes, some folks knew he wrote “I Shot the Sheriff” which had been a Number One Hit for Eric Clapton in ’74. And he had written “Stir It Up,” which Johnny Nash tossed up the charts in the mid 70s.

But his recordings had a hard time getting a toehold on ‘traditional’ music radio. The one minor exception was “Roots, Rock, Reggae” which made it up to #51 on Billboard’s Top 100 in 1976. And yes, as a Music Director I played it. Mixed it right in with Wings’ ‘Silly Love Songs,’ Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music’ and Dorothy Moore’s ‘Misty Blue’ among others. Hell, I thought it fit just fine. But when it faded a few short weeks after debuting, I couldn’t justify keeping it around so I dropped it out of rotation. Except in my living room of course.

So how could Bob Marley make an impact on your life? On your tradeshow marketing? Think it’s a stretch? It depends on how you apply it.

In reading about Bob’s life, one thing sticks out: his unceasing devotion to his path. He knew from the age of seven that he would be a singer. He never let anything derail him. No doubt there were many chances to choose to do something else, but he never wavered.

So that’s one thing: figure out your tradeshow marketing goal – and stick to it. Don’t let anything keep you from your objective.

Another piece of Bob’s life I truly appreciated was his dedication to his craft. He gave his audience his best. Always. There are stories of when he was in the recording studio, he’d stay late nights for hours and do take after take on a vocal track to get the right one.

When Bob Marley and the Wailers toured, he was always the first off the bus to rehearsal, and the first back on the bus after the show.

So: devotion, dedication and takin’ care of business. Good things to keep in mind for any endeavor.

When you get to his music, you run across lyrics and songs that lift and inspire:

“Could You Be Loved” – are your visitors looking for a little love from your business? Treat ’em nice!

“Get Up, Stand Up” – stand up for your visitors’ rights! Again, treat ’em nice.

“Positive Vibration” – one of Bob’s best known uplifting songs:

If you get down and quarrel everyday
You’re saying prayers to the devil, I say
Why not help one another on the way
Make it much easier

And of course you could tie in many other song titles to tradeshow situations (make up your own situation for the following…)

“Work”
“Judge Not”
“Keep on Moving”
“Rat Race”
“Night Shift”
“Jammin'”

and my fave:

“Slave Driver”…ever had one of those bosses?

Okay, all in fun…but definitely some inspiration here. Put on some Bob Marley next time you’re doing prep for your upcoming tradeshow – and see if you can get a little inspiration, Jamaica-style.

Why the Beatles Were the Greatest Marketing Models of Their Time (and what you can learn from them)

The Sixties were an incredible decade. From the beginning to the end of that ten-year span our worldwide culture grew and expanded at an incredible rate that no one standing at the precipice of 1959 could have foreseen.

As a country we saw pop music go from bland to biting, the Vietnam War, political assassinations, the rise of the counterculture, recreational drug use, casual sex, JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech”, civil rights legislation…

You can hyperventilate just trying to talk about it. Thousands of books have been written about the Sixties.

But this is not a book. I just wanted to set a little context for what the Beatles did with marketing their ‘brand’ in the 60s.

Well, maybe not their marketing exactly, but the essence of who they were. It’s what people saw, felt and heard. So in a way they were marketing.

The Beatles came out of working-class Liverpool. There were a lot of other bands out of the Sixties that started in similar circumstances – looking for a way out. Look at The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds, the Dave Clark Five, Chad and Jeremy, Peter and Gordon, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Animals, The Zombies, Herman’s Hermits, Manfred Mann and other Sixties bands.

On this side of the pond we had Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the Righteous Brothers, The Turtles, Tommy James and the Shondells, the Ventures, The Monkees, The Mamas and the Papas, Lovin’ Spoonful, Simon and Garfunkel and more.

But in looking back at the music, the photos and music chart listings from that time, very few bands were able to sustain anything beyond their initial ‘look and sound.’

Not the Beatles.

They evolved, changing from mop-top pop teen idols in ’64 and ’65 to experimental psychedelia in ’66 and ’67 that incorporated worldwide influences, to mature radio rock in ’68 and ’69 to a rootsy farewell in 1970.

From “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Ticket To Ride” to “Paperback Writer” to “Penny Lane” to “All Your Need Is Love” to “Strawberry Fields Forever” to “Rocky Raccoon” and “Back In The USSR” to “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” to “Come Together,” “Something,” “Octopus’s Garden” to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” to the final LP ‘Let it Be.’ (Yes, I know that Abbey Road was recorded after Let it Be…don’t quibble…I’m on a roll)…

And that’s just the music.

How about the looks they incorporated?

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Early 60s: skinny ties, identical suits, Beatle Boots, identical mop-top hair cuts that were more than cutting edge.

Mid-60s: casual, relaxed mod clothing, individuality…to the psychedelic look of the Sgt. Pepper album.

Late 60s: more individuality and variety. Paul moved to more conservative clothes, John let his hair grow (until he shaved his head in the early 70s); Ringo was always dapper; George was the uber-upscale hippie.

Few of their contemporary bands can claim that type of evolution in music or looks. Which is probably why they are much more ‘trapped in time’ than the Beatles, who remain timeless in many ways.

When you picture Paul Revere and the Raiders you conjure images of those three-cornered hats and the Revolution outfits. Think of the Dave Clark Five and you picture those black ties and coats. And so on.

By the time the rest of the rock bands of the mid-60s tried to play-catch up it was too late. They were already pigeon-holed to a time and place.

But not the Beatles. They led the way, changing fashion and music by being true themselves, true to their creative spirits and urgings. The ultimate test came in 1970 when, to continue to be true to themselves, they had to disband. They had been together for over ten years. They had changed the world. It was time to move on.

As a company or a personal brand, are you being true to yourself? Or are you jumping in the slipstream looking to catch a ride on someone’s coattails and hope that they eventually fade away and leave you standing alone?

It’s not gonna happen.

Evolve.

photo credit: JMazzolaa


Get our free report: 7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House

Podcast: Matthew Selbie Interview

Matt Selbie of Oberon3 in Portland, Oregon is a recent Oregon transplant. The company’s business-enhancement product The Opiniator is less than a year old. After finding my blog, Matt reached out to introduce himself (great networking) and after a conversation or two I thought I should get him on the blog with a podcast. What is the Opiniator? How can you use it in your business? What can you do with it at tradeshows? Matt addresses all of these questions and more…including the origin of that decidedly non-Oregonian accent.

Check out The Opiniator website

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