Thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the cool exhibits, enthusiastic people and tasty products from Natural Products Expo West:
In this TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, we take a look at how graphics do a lot of work in your tradeshow exhibit. You can get on our notification list at TradeshowGuyWebinars.com.
Today’s GOOD THING: The New Yorker Radio Hour.
In our webinar How Fabric Graphics Changed the Tradeshow World, Dave Brown of Optima Graphics and I discussed myriad topics regarding tradeshow graphics. We looked at new trends in materials, print capabilities and color. We went over advancements in UV printing, Latex printing and fabric printing. We talked about Tac Tac graphics, a unique one-time use graphic that can really dress up a wall, booth, elevator door or whatever. We ended with a number of questions that tradeshow marketing managers can equip themselves with when discussing new graphic options with their exhibit house.
It’s less than 30 minutes! Take a look:
Sign up for the next webinar at TradeshowGuy Webinars.com
Last week I sat in with the good folks at Handshake.com and offered a look at Tradeshow Logistics: Getting Your Ducks in a Row. It’s a part of tradeshow marketing that is critical, but tends to be set aside in favor of things such as pre-show marketing, staff training, lead generation and so on.
In this webinar, we covered a lot of pertinent things, such as shipping, booth upgrades and graphic changes, the logistics of lead generation and getting them back to your sales team and more. Thanks to Handshake.com for offering to have me host another webinar with them!
The good folks at Bags of Ideas in the U.K. reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in sharing a new infographic from them. It’s great: succinct, easy to understand and to the point, like any good infographic. Take a look:
Bags of Ideas – The Promotional Bag Specialists
Where are you in your tradeshow booth life cycle? What impact would it be to your company to upgrade at this point vs. waiting another year or two?
The life of a tradeshow booth generally goes something like this:
- Realizing your company has outgrown the old booth and making plans for a new one.
- Designing a new booth based on current company needs.
- Brand new booth and loving it!
- Year 1 – 2: It doesn’t exactly fit your needs but you’re still doing fine.
- Years 2 – 4: Making small adjustments and liberal use of on-site repairs. You feel like MacGuyver.
- Making bigger adjustments and repairs as time goes by. The thing is starting to rival Frankenstein’s monster.
- Realizing that you’re about to outgrow the booth in so many ways, like that old bathing suit from when you were a teenager.
- Finally putting a budget together for a new booth.
- Repeat every 5 – 7 years.
Admittedly, every company and booth experiences the booth lifecycle in its individual way. Some companies want a new booth every couple of years, and others are proud that they’ve used the same booth for nearly twenty years! True! I’ve talked to them!
Once the booth crates or cases make it to a floor, they run into hundreds or thousands of other companies trying to setup their booths as well. Forklifts run wild. Ladders fall. Screwdrivers are dropped. Graphics and other pieces don’t fit as advertised and are hammered into place.
You can see why, given the somewhat destructive nature of how a booth ‘lives,’ it’s no surprise anyone that they need constant attention, repair and TLC.
So how can you extend the life of a tradeshow booth and when can you tell it’s time to move to something completely new?
One simple recommendation is to update graphics regularly. Refreshing the look of a booth with re-skinning it with new graphics is an economical and quick way to makeover the booth. The skeleton, or the main structure, of the booth, usually is good for five to seven years. By dressing the skeleton in new clothes regularly, the life cycle of the booth can be extended.
If you purchase a booth that’s designed to be expanded by using modular components, it doesn’t take much to expand that 10’ inline booth to a 20’ or 30’ or even a 20’ x 20’ island. That way you aren’t really buying a new booth, you’re just adding to your existing property. A good exhibit house will discuss these options with you when you first consider a new booth. That way the initial investment is a part of the booth as its given new life.
Maintaining longevity means being flexible. It means being willing and able to adapt to changing needs in your company. If you purchase a 10’ x 30’ booth that can also be setup as a 10’ or 20’ inline, you have the flexibility to attend several different shows with different layouts. If your designer is aware of your long term needs (any good designer will be by asking good questions before starting a design concept), flexibility will be built-in from the very beginning.
Add to that flexibility by adding and subtracting items such as counters, iPad kiosks, workstations and more depending on the needs of a specific show. Change out fabric graphic panels, add wings to the walls or a swoopy thing here and there to draw attention.
Getting the most out of your investment is key to increasing the usability and life cycle of your booth, not to mention increasing the overall ROI of your investment.
Tradeshow marketing takes place in a challenging environment. The more you can plan and prepare for the longevity of your booth, the further you’ll extend the dollars you are investing.
This is number 5 in a series. Check the previous articles here:
Let’s tackle the BIGGEST part of your tradeshow strategy – at least in terms of potential cost.
We can agree that booths come in all shapes and sizes. We can also agree that they usually cost a LOT MORE than you anticipated, right?
Let’s leave the cost and size up to your particular company’s available budget, goals and marketing presence. For some companies, a 20×30 booth would be a huge investment, more than they could possibly justify. For others, a 70×100 might be smaller than they’re used to. So for now we’ll dispense with the actual size and cost and focus on other important elements.
Let’s start with the BRAND. Your booth should convey, at a glance, the look and feel of your brand. For some, that’s a natural wood look. For others, it means a high-tech look straight out of Star Trek. That doesn’t mean that a rootsy, earth-mama brand couldn’t get away with an aluminum structure with fabric graphics. Those decisions are typically made through long and detailed conversations with a 3D booth designer, the company’s marketing team and a booth fabricator. But still, the goal should be that when a visitor sees the booth and the company’s name, it evokes a FEELING that is in congruence with what the company wants the visitor to feel. If not, somebody messed up.
Secondly, your GRAPHICS MESSAGING should be planned so that a visitor’s eyeballs will follow it to its proper conclusion. Usually this means the hierarchy works like this:
- Company Name or Logo
- Positioning Statement or Bold Challenge
- Supporting Statement
However, if your company is not well know, this typical hierarchy might change a bit:
- Bold Statement or Challenging Question
- Company Name or Logo
- Supporting Statement
And on somewhat rare occasions, the company name might drop all the way to third place, if it’s an unknown company or if the company name is really insignificant:
- Bold Statement of Challenging Question
- Supporting Statement
- Company Name or Logo
If your company name is unimportant in the sense that a product or brand is important or more recognizable than the company name, that might go first:
- Tagline or Positioning Statement
- Supporting Statement
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for graphics on tradeshow booths that covers all companies or situations. Instead, your goals, products and objectives should help determine how the graphic hierarchy is displayed. The main thing to keep in mind is that visitors pass by booths quickly and they all become a blur. Imagine your booth is a freeway billboard and you have 2 – 3 seconds to catch someone’s attention.
Next up: BOOTH FUNCTION.
From a 10×10 booth to the larger island booths, the function of a booth must be carefully thought out and discussed, and it will be determined largely by your show goals and objectives, the number of booth staff and how you want to interact with visitors. If you’re doing product demonstrations, for example, you’ll need to make sure the booth is big enough to accommodate the presenter or demonstrator and a small audience. If you’re sampling edibles, perhaps all you need is an easy-to-reach sampling table.
Every booth is different, every show is different and every company’s goals and objectives are different. Other questions to settle: Do you have enough storage? How many meeting areas do you need? Should the meeting areas be completely private or only semi-private? What products and/or services are you promoting at this show? Do you need video monitors, or an iPad kiosk to help visitors interact?
Take the time to address all of the functions that your booth needs. Those needs can be determined by the experience you’ve had at past shows as well as conversations with company staff that are involved.
And no matter what functions you detail and prepare for in your booth, chances are good that once you’ve lived in the booth for a few days, you’ll notice things that need to be changed for the next time. For example, one of our clients wanted a meeting space for their clients in a 20×30 booth, so one end of the booth – about a 10×20 space – was covered and mostly inaccessible to the casual visitor. However, after 2 – 3 times exhibiting in the booth, it became apparent that client meetings didn’t happen as often as they thought, and booth staffers found it to be a quick and easy place to hide out. So the covered meeting space was removed and the space was better utilized as product display and visitor interaction.
Of course BOOTH FUNCTION also includes things such as storage, meeting areas and traffic flow. While planning a booth you’ll want to take into account these three critical things. Not to say that they’re often – or ever – overlooked, but it’s not out of the ordinary for them to be miscalculated. For instance, traffic flow: do visitors have easy access to the booth? Or do you even want them to have easy access? Some companies design booths so that only desired visitors are allowed inside, limiting access to casual passers-by. Others want any and all visitors to step inside the line.
Storage needs to be considered: personal items (coats, purses, laptops, briefcases, etc.), products so samples can be replenished and more. Do you have enough space? Make sure you have enough, but try not to overdo it: space is at a premium at tradeshows and every cubic inch needs to be considered.
Finally: meeting areas. How many staffers will be meeting with clients or media types at the booth? How often? How many meetings are already scheduled ahead of time? How many do you anticipate to happen randomly?
Truthfully, it’s quite possible that the needs of each show will shift slightly from previous shows. The best approach seems to be to pay attention to how the booth is used at each show and make adjustments as budget and goals shift.
Finally, let’s touch on LOGISTICS, SET-UP AND DISMANTLE. In recent talks with a new client, they first mentioned the most important aspect of their new booth: it HAS to ship in a case small enough to go by UPS of FedEx. The large 4x4x8 wooden crates were a big NO-NO. So every possibility that came up from then on had to ultimately meet that objective.
To them, set up meant having a couple of booth staffers arrive a day or two early at the show, set it up with a minimum of fuss and tools, and avoid the double-whammy costs of pre-show staging and arrival at the advance warehouse, and having to hire show help to set up the booth.
Other companies don’t mind the extra cost – they try to minimize it, of course – but it’s more important to show their audience a great booth. Even if it means the booth is a 40×40 that requires a day to set up with hired help, and takes a dozen crates to ship.
Any good company will be aware of your desires in these areas, and determine what’s most important.
Best Case Scenario: having a booth that a) immediately conveys your company’s BRAND, 2) your GRAPHIC MESSAGING is clear and relates to this show’s goals and objectives, 3) is built to FUNCTION properly with room for meetings, storage, product/service display and 4) meets your company’s objectives when it comes to SET-UP and DISMANTLE.
After perusing an array of statistics from CEIR, Exhibit Surveys and others, I thought it might be fun to grab a handful of them and stick them in a cool infographic. Here’s what I came up with:
Download the PDF here: Tradeshow Marketing
In preparation for a meeting with a potential client, I put together an infographic on the various steps of the 30×30 Bob’s Red Mill booth our company did in 2012-2013.
Check it out! (click to expand)
Are QR codes even worth using anymore?
I admit it. I carry a cell phone around with me that can read QR codes in an instant. Yeah, it’s the new iPhone 5. Works a whole a better than my last phone, the iPhone 3, which was my last phone.
Nonetheless, I scan QR codes all the time. Why? Because I want to see if they work. And, it appears that many of them fail miserably.
Most QR codes miss at least one of the three main items that are required for a successful QR code. One, they have to be easy to scan. Two, there has to be an explicit stated reason to scan the QR code. And three, the link that you are taken to must be easy to read and optimized for a smart phone, since most QR codes are scanned on a smart phone.
When I was at Expo West in Anaheim in March of this year, I scanned about 15 QR codes. Not one of them had all three of those items in place. Most had the first two, but failed on the third – which is the optimization of the landing page for the QR code.
I’ve seen a number of articles in the past few months that lament QR codes, and some even go so far to say that QR codes are dead. I don’t think QR codes are dead, but I do think that they are not used quite as much as they used to be. Just a couple of short years ago they seem to be ‘the new thing’ but it never quite materialized in that way. Instead, QR codes are more effective when used for a very specific purpose such as downloading a sell sheet at a tradeshow, or linking to a specific landing page for more information then you can easily show.
However, it still comes down to this small but apparently difficult challenge: getting all of the elements of your QR code right before launching it. First, make sure people know exactly what they get when they scan the code. Describe what it is they’re going to get when they scan it. Is it more information? Is it a contest they can enter? Is it some downloadable PDF file that gives them more information? Is it a white paper?
Next, make sure the QR code is easy to scan. Black ink on a white background on a fat surface is best. It should be at least an inch to an inch and a half in size. If you really want to make a big deal every cougar out of your QR code make it a foot in size and invite people to scan it. Put it in their face.
Third, create a landing page that looks great on a smart phone. A typical webpage comes up on a typical smart phone with such small font and graphics that it is useless and people will just go away.
Finally, test it! Print out your QR code in real size, scan it with several smart phones in your company, examine the results and make sure it all works.
No, I don’t think QR codes are dead. But it appears that most companies attempting to use them are slowly killing them by misuse.