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

lead generation

Best Tradeshow Articles I Found on Twitter

Cruising Twitter is always an entertaining proposition. Sometimes because you find some really interesting stuff. Other times because you end up wanting to pull your hair out. But it’s never boring!

In search of some #tradeshow ideas, I entered that search term in the box on Twitter. Lots of companies use Twitter to push out advertisements and come-ons, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you mix it up with good useful information. But I looked and came up with a handful of good articles. Let’s take a look.

Color Reflections offers “8 Event Booth Design Tips for the Wow Factor,” including ideas on how to stand out, how to stay true to your brand, make sure your booth staff are all on the same page and more.

Skyline Southeast offers an article called “The Benefits of Custom Tradeshow Booth Construction” which is a good walk-through when you’re considering a new custom exhibit.

Our good friends over at Tradeshow Makeover has “5 Expert Tips on How to Stop Leaving Money on the Tradeshow Floor.” It’s got a wrap-up of tips from five individuals, including investing in your tradeshow staff training, goal-setting, and adding value to your interactions.

The UK’s leading business magazine, Business Matters, offers an article on the “4 Best Ways to Optimise Space in Your Tradeshow Exhibits.” The link was tweeted by Jahabow, a custom retail display company from Owensville, Missouri.

Fortunate PR guy (his words) Jim Bianchi tweeted out a link to a post called “Top Lessons Learned for Automotive and Mobility Suppliers from CES2020.” Much of the lessons had to do with how beneficial CES is to exhibitors (which it certainly should be), but it illustrates how many traditional auto suppliers are finding their way into one of the world’s biggest shows. Another tip had to do with navigating around Las Vegas during show time, given that the public transit systems can be overwhelmed by an additional 175,000 people. Yeah, no kidding!

Zentila, a meeting resource planning tool from Aventri, shared a link to an article titled “7 Signs You Need a Lead Retrieval System for Your Onsite Team.” Tips include saving time, organization of your leads, sustainability and more.

Photo by Anuja Vidhate from Pexels

And finally, a list from Architectural Digest on Tradeshows You Should Consider Attending in 2020, assuming you’re in the architectural world. Most of the shows are stateside, but there are mentions of the London Design Festival, Heimtextil in Frankfurt and others. Lots of details on each show for the serious planner. This was shared by Skyline out of South Carolina.

Yes, Twitter has its detractors and it can be a little overwhelming if crazy politics are going on at that moment (okay, that’s always going on), but it’s also a good source for good information if you just know where to look.


What Data are You Measuring When Exhibiting at Tradeshows?

Face it, we’re all swimming in data. Every time we walk out the door, drive to the store, buy a cup of coffee, order something online or even just sit at home watching TV, that information is getting logged. If you have a doorbell camera, there’s a good chance that you also chose to connect with local law enforcement agencies, who now can use the images to theoretically catch the bad guys. Stories abound, good and bad, about how all of that data can be used.

So yes, the data at times can be overwhelming. But what about your tradeshow booth? Are there any ways to track data during a show that can be helpful?

Let’s say you set up a time lapse camera in your booth. Put it somewhere that allows you to track the number of visitors, that can show you how long people stayed, or what they interacted with in the booth. That would be one way. Certainly, it would take some time to go through the video after the show, but my guess is that you would get some good intel as a result.

Other data you could consider tracking isn’t so high tech: leads generated, sales made (and dollars brought in as a result of those sales), new customers. You might also look at web traffic you got during or right after the show. And be sure to look at social media impact: number of likes, retweets, engagements and so forth.

Back to tech, here’s a great article from the Event Manager Blog on ways to track visitors using smart mats, wi-fi monitors and heat maps, badge scanners, wearables, beacons and more. Loads of stuff to digest, and some of it may actually be useful in certain situations.

Gathering data to examine from a single show is certainly valuable. But it’s just one piece of the data-gathering path. When you gather the same type of data at show after show, year after year, you can see trends develop.

All of this information can help you make more informed decisions on how to approach and shape your marketing messaging by uncovering what makes things tick.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, February 24, 2020: Hiett Ives

Hiett Ives is a four-decade veteran of the tradeshow industry. He publishes a weekly newsletter on language that is short and fun to read. Hiett also helps companies gather more leads at tradeshows with his company Show Dynamics.

Check out our conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:

Check out Hiett’s company, Show Dynamics, here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The release of “I’ll See You Again in 25 Years” by Completely Grocery and The Sauce Unlimited.

Tradeshow Rules

If you’re sitting on an airplane, there are certain rules that need to be followed. First and foremost, the attendants and the captain are in charge. In fact, on each and every flight I’ve been on, they remind you that federal law dictates that you must obey any instructions from flight attendants.

If you’re playing golf, there are rules upon rules about addressing the ball, putting, where you can take a drop and so on. Same with basketball, climbing a mountain, lifting weights. Some of the rules are well-thought out and dictated by organizations that manage the sport. The NBA, for example, can have different basketball rules than the NCAA. Or different football rules. Some rules are just plain common sense but aren’t written down.

When it comes to tradeshows, as an exhibitor or an attendee, as part of the agreement that allows you access to the hall, you agree to certain rules. If you’re an exhibitor, there are dozens and dozens of rules about the exhibit you are allowed to set up, heights, fees, and so on and so forth.

Unwritten Rules

What about rules that may not be written down, but are just common sense? No doubt most of these are just rules of polite society: don’t be a jerk, treat people as you would like to be treated, and so on.

There also several unwritten rules of etiquette that you should adhere to. No eating in the booth, no sitting in the booth, greet visitors with a smile and a great engaging question, being on time when you’re scheduled to work.

But about the tradeshow floor itself, rules are again often unspoken. Let’s check in on a few.

Suitcasing is a term for someone who is walking from exhibit to exhibit and trying to pitch their product or services. Or they occupy space where people are coming in and out and hand out flyers or brochures. It’s considered unethical because the visitor didn’t pay for being there. They have no money invested.

Outboarding is when a company doesn’t exhibit, but they’re willing to rent a suite at a nearby hotel and invite attendees to see their wares. I’ve read that it’s less common than it used to be simply because show managers now often reserve blocks of rooms for exhibitors and if someone that is not exhibiting tries to reserve a room or a suite the hotel just refuses.

Extending beyond the booth confines is not something I see a lot, but I do see. This is when exhibitors will push things like banner stands or literature stands outside of their booth dimensions.

Using music in your booth. Unless you hire the musician, and the musician is playing his own unpublished music (rare, but it could happen), you’ll be liable for paying licensing fees. And they ain’t cheap.

After hours a good rule to follow is limit your alcohol intake, don’t stay up late, make sure you’re well-fed and hydrated. If you’re hosting a client dinner or event, let the visitors eat or drink first. Be a good host.

There are literally hundreds of other rules we could get into, and no doubt you could come up with your own. Rules about marketing strategy, collecting and following up on leads, attracting key prospects, graphic design and so on.

The final rule I’ll offer, though, is this:

You’re going to be on your feet for hours at a time. Wear comfortable shoes!

Reaching Other Markets via Tradeshows

One of the most valuable aspects of tradeshow marketing is the ability to reach markets you would not normally be able to reach. In fact, it’s what has helped Bob’s Red Mill grow through the years. Bob Moore, the iconic Bob of the company, recognized early that by exhibiting at regional and national tradeshows, they could get their products into markets that would otherwise be extremely difficult to crack.

Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill, with the Dixieland Band

It means going to the right shows where attendees are from companies that can ramp up distribution, that can become good partners. It means making those connections and deepening them over the years so that your products are valuable to them, and their ability to distribute into outlets that you would have a difficult time doing on an individual basis is valuable to both parties.

Yes, selling and making connections at tradeshows is important. But one of the most important things to recognize is that once you meet and acquire a partner there, part of the purpose of the show is to use it as a platform to introduce new products. Not only that, but when you’re in those longer conversations with partners, you can dig deeper into what’s important to them and their end users, the consumers. Feedback is critical not only to making sure the right products are being created and manufactured, but for keeping the lines of communication open and honest. When problems come up, if you have a good partner, the communication can be candid, and problems can be addressed. Often a tradeshow is the only face-to-face meeting that partners have each year, and the value of meeting and shaking hands and seeing people in person cannot be overstated.

Use the tradeshow as a way to find and open new markets. Keep in mind that relationships will solidify as time goes by and the face-to-face communication is an important part of those relationships. Which you get when you sit down across the table at a tradeshow.


Tradeshows Are a Mix of Precision and Experimentation

When it comes to tradeshow marketing, anything goes. Right? Well, maybe not everything, but certainly it’s a time to try things. Do things differently. Experiment.

Or. Maybe not. Tradeshows are fraught with risk. You’re putting a lot of money on the line. Generally speaking, the cost of tradeshow marketing is about a third of a company’s overall marketing budget. Which means that it’s a lot of money in play, making it hard for a company to risk much.

In a sense, tradeshows can be an interesting mix of the precise and the experimental.

The precision is important, to be sure. Your tradeshow staff is your front line. The most important piece of the puzzle. They need to know what they’re doing and why. If mistakes are made, or if your staff isn’t as well-trained as they could be, your company might miss out on a good amount of potential business.

Your exhibit is important. It’s the 3D representation of your brand, and if it’s not spot-on, it’ll send mixed messages to your audience.

Your products, demos and sampling have to be well-thought out and well-executed. Make some mistakes in these areas, and again, you’re leaving potential money on the table.

Capture someone’s attention!

Precision is important in these areas.

But tradeshows are also ripe for experimentation. You have opportunities to do surveys, market research, unusual activities, oddball booth items and much more that will grab eyeballs and attention without impacting the precision needed in other areas. VR, smoothie bikes, live music, projection mapping, unusual use of video….the list is endless as to how creative you can get at tradeshows and still do all of the precise things that you need to do to engage with attendees, capture leads, have an exhibit that captures your brand precisely.

Tradeshows are a balancing act no matter what you’re trying to balance. Adding some experimentation along with the precision gives you flexibility, a little tension (which makes people stop and look), and keeps you, your visitors and your competitors on your toes.


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House (Free Report)

Should Your Company Really Exhibit at That Show?

If you’ve attended the same tradeshows over the years, no doubt you’ve seen an interesting phenomenon: some companies attend for years and then just stop.

Why? What caused them to disappear?

Certainly, there are a thousand answers to that question, and much of those answers likely have a lot to do with internal dynamics as much as the show itself.

But I’ve seen it happen frequently.

I’ve worked with some companies that have exhibited at the same show for years, only to decide after seven or eight appearances that they weren’t going to get anything useful out of another appearance.

Why’d you stop going? I’ve asked that question and received a variety of answers:

“We’ve pretty much maxed out our ability to get new distributors, which is why we exhibited at that show. Our focus is on working with those retailers one on one to get more focused on giving them better products based on what their customers want.”

“The show moved a couple of weeks. Meaning it fell into a different fiscal year. And once the new company owners saw how much their tradeshow budget would be increasing for the fiscal year, they got to looking closer at all the marketing. We’ve decided to pull back and re-examine our entire marketing strategy.” This company did return to the show a couple of years later.

“We kept getting lousy locations which we couldn’t overcome. We put our marketing dollars elsewhere.” In this case, we wondered if they couldn’t have done better to market their appearance in spite of the bad location. It’s been done.”

“Our company has matured to the point that this particular show no longer works for us.”

And so on. There are a thousand reasons to continue exhibiting at a show. And as many to decide not to exhibit again, or at least for a couple of years.

Tradeshow marketing is expensive. For companies that are investing in this marketing channel, it behooves them to make sure the dollars are well-spent. And one of the questions that should be asked is: should we really be at that show this year?

It’s worth talking about.


5 Things to Do in January Before Your Tradeshow Schedule Really Takes Off

Let’s assume that your company does a fair amount of tradeshow marketing. Maybe a dozen shows, including two or three large national shows and smaller, regional or more-focused shows where your product fits in.

Your first show of the new year is still a couple of months away, so you’re probably thinking you have time to make sure all is right.

And you’re probably on the right track.

But it might be worthwhile to go over your checklist for the new year one last time.

Let’s assume that you had decent results last year but would like to improve on those results in 2020.

Here are a number of areas to look at and things to consider as you plan your show schedule.

Know Your ROI

Return on Investment is critical for tradeshow success. Just because you’re getting sales doesn’t mean you’re making money. Calculating your ROI is, in theory, straightforward enough. You’ll need to know a few things, such as how much it cost you to exhibit at a specific show. Add those numbers up, including travel, booth space, any capital investments such as a new exhibit, any samples you handed out, drayage, shipping – all of it – until you get a final number.

Now, gather all the leads from that show, check with sales to learn how much profit the company actually netted from those leads. Then do the math.

Here’s a link to a blog post on calculating ROI and ROO. And if you’d like to download an ROI calculation spreadsheet courtesy of Handshake, click here.

Expand Your Goals Beyond ROI to Other Things

Beyond your goals of making money, see what else you can do to make your tradeshow investment worthwhile. Drive traffic to your website or social media platforms, track the number of booth visitors, networking with industry colleagues, launching new products and more – these are all valid and valuable things to track.

Plan Some Surveys

A tradeshow is a great place to do a little casual market research. Set up a survey on a tablet, offer a prize to people that answer questions, and see what useful information you get.

Train Your Staff

Really, when was the last time you paid a professional to come in and train your booth staff? The proof is in the pudding. A well-trained booth staff is one of the most important things you can do to increase your level of success.

Hire a Professional Presenter

Perhaps not every tradeshow booth needs a presenter, but if you’re going to get serious about showing off a complicated product, having a professional presenter that knows how to draw a crowd and distill the critical bits and pieces of your product or service in invaluable. And worth every penny.

Beyond these ideas, it always helps to keep your staff informed on plans as appropriate. If your staff knows what you’re planning and what the company’s goals are, and why, they will be much more likely to have buy-in to the company’s success.

Make it a great 2020!

When Tradeshow Marketing Gets Overwhelming, Concentrate on Just a Few Things

Many people look to a yearly tradeshow as a single event, a one-time experience where everything is on the line. In a sense, it’s hard to argue against that viewpoint. So much is on the line. The booth rental space is expensive. It’s not cheap to get your exhibit there, or the travel costs for your booth staff.

And yes, there are a lot of moving parts. Making sure the new product samples are ready, appointments are set ahead of time, the booth staff is up to speed (or professionally trained), the lead generation and information-capture system is in place. And so on and so on.

It can get overwhelming. Which makes it easy to let a lot of things slip through the cracks. And when that happens, it’s easy to beat yourself up for not getting the results you wished for.

Let’s take another approach, especially if you’re a smaller company with limited resources and a limited number of people that can attend the show on behalf of the company.

Learn to do a few things very well!
Learn to do just a few things really, really well!

Let’s say you have as many as 14 things that are on your list, things that are important that they get done. But because you don’t have enough people to do all of them effectively, pick just a few, maybe two or three or four things and focus on those. Give a little attention to the remaining things but pick a few and make sure you do a bang-up job on them.

Maybe you choose to focus on one in-booth activity and the follow-up details on those interested in your products or services. Let everything else come in after that. Yes, spend a little time, but make sure you do those two main things as best as you can, every single time. If you focus on those two things, you can create an in-booth activity that succeeds more than you ever hoped for. And your attention to detail on the follow up, such as when/where/who/how/what will make sure that each and every post-show phone call or email or in-person follow up is exactly what the prospect expected. Wouldn’t that be something? Wouldn’t your booth staff like that? How about your sales staff?

And if you do more than one big show a year, carry that concentration on just a few things to each of the other smaller shows, and then measure your results. Once you have figured out how to do those few things with excellence, add another item or two, such as pre-show outreach or marketing or building a tradeshow-specific landing page or checking out the competition. Doesn’t matter.

Just don’t try to do it all at once, especially if your company doesn’t have the bandwidth. Focus on a few things and grow from there.

7 Ways That Fiction Can Help Your Tradeshow Marketing

A good piece of fiction is surprisingly like a good tradeshow marketing effort. You don’t believe me? Let’s take a look. What happens when you read a good piece of fiction?

1. Create a unique world.

Fiction allows an author to create a world that exists only in one place: the reader’s mind. A good tradeshow exhibit and marketing plan creates a world that exists only in your booth. Whether it’s a unique display, a professional presentation or a one-of-a-kind activity, creating a unique world for your visitor is a good way to make sure they remember you. Having a great product that no one else offers is also a good way.

2. Create tension.

A good story has tension that pulls the reader further into the story. A good tradeshow exhibit can create a good kind of tension. Maybe it’s a compelling and challenging statement on their graphic, or maybe it’s a challenging question that makes you stop and want to know more. That tension creates a kind of desire to learn more.

3. Know who your story is for.

I like to read detective page-turners and mysteries. I don’t like to read romance novels or fantasy. A good tradeshow marketing plan knows exactly what audience is attracted to their type or product or service and they don’t try to bring in anyone that isn’t interested.

4. The main character in a story has a “super objective.” What’s yours?

I recently heard this concept about a character’s super objective. You may not actually see this super objective detailed in the story, but it drives the main character. Jack Reacher, for example, is compelled to do what he can to right the wrongs that he sees. Harry Bosch believes that ‘if anybody counts, everybody counts,’ when it comes to solving a murder. No one gets more or less attention simply because of their place in society.

5. There’s always an objection (or a hurdle).

Know your prospect’s objections. Any novel where the protagonist has no hardships or obstacles is a boring novel. Expect your potential clients to have tough questions. If they do, it shows they’re interested and want to know more. Identify the most common objectives and make sure your booth staffers know how to answer those questions.

6. Keep the page turning.

Have you ever gotten part way through a book and just decided that you couldn’t finish it? Maybe it was boring. Maybe it wasn’t your type of book. Maybe you bogged down in too many unrelated bunny trails and lost the main story. In a tradeshow booth, show your attendees enough compelling evidence – the storyline, as it were – to stay until they learn enough to know if they’re going to buy from you or not. Depending on your product, this might mean that you’re giving in-booth demonstrations or training sessions, or your professional presenter is sharing enough information in a lively and engaging manner that compels the visitor to want to find out more.

7. Deliver the goods: make it a great ending.

Every novel has a wrap up where you find out what happened to the character, the storyline. It’s the payoff. Does your product or service make that same delivery? Are they the great payoff, the great ending that your prospect is looking for?

Yes, I think fiction can be a good inspiration for tradeshow marketing. By using the various elements contained in a good novel, you can create a template for showing your visitors all of the best of your products or services in a compelling and intriguing manner.

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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