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

lead generation

The Well-Rounded Tradeshow Marketer

As in any discipline, we can all end up very focused on just a few aspects of the overall skills needed to be a well-rounded and talented worked. For instance, in baseball, a pinch-hitter is great at hitting a pitch but may not be that great at fielding or running.

In the digital world, someone may be very good at engaging on Twitter or Instagram, but just doesn’t get LinkedIn or spend any time on Facebook.

A photographer may be an expert at photographing weddings but would have a difficult time to find a great landscape photo or have the patience to take a good night photo.

You’ve probably heard that it’s better to be focused on just one skill and become really, really good at that skill instead of being a Jack or Jill-of-all-trades.

I don’t agree. The more skills you have the better off you’ll be, even if those skills are only average or slightly above.

Take a writer. Some writers can be a great author but suck at promotion, social media engagement, public speaking and at other skills that would help them be more successful. There are lot of “average” authors that are very successful because they have learned how to engage on social media, speak in public, put together a solid promotion.

When it comes to the well-rounded tradeshow marketer, what skills should you have? Not necessarily be the greatest at, or extremely skilled, but all of the various skills to make you rise above the pack? Let’s take a look:

well-rounded tradeshow marketer

Organization: there are a lot of bouncing balls in the tradeshow world. Your ability to keep track of the many parts of tradeshow marketing is probably one of the most important skills.

Communication: whether it’s having a conversation or communicating with people via email, being able to understand, and be understood, is critical.

Social Media: you don’t have to have the most followers or engage with everyone that “likes” one of your posts, but you do need to know the basics of creating, writing, posting and engaging with those followers.

Scheduling: tradeshow dates on the calendar don’t move. Which means you’ll have to coordinate things such as logistics (shipping, travel, installation/dismantle), booth staff scheduling, updates to your exhibit (modifications, graphic printing, etc.) and more.

Photographer: maybe not the most important skill, but since you carry a camera around in your pocket, you’ll need to learn to take good photographs of the exhibit, and visitors in your booth. Learn how to frame people, get the lighting right, try not to let unwanted guests photobomb your photo, and more.

Labor: you may hire show labor to set up and dismantle your exhibit, or you may have to set it up with fellow staff members. Either way, knowing how everything goes together is a useful skill.

Networking: back to the communication and interpersonal skills. But networking on it’s own is critical to building a network of people you can call on when needed.

Finally, how to MacGyver things: you may not have to actually make your own parachute using a canvas and tie-downs, but being naturally resourceful is a gift. Don’t let it go to waste.

Any other critical skills come to mind?

What if Your Tradeshow Booth is Overwhelmed with Visitors?

I suppose having your tradeshow booth overwhelmed with visitors is a good problem to have, but if you have a small booth staff that can’t handle the number of visitors, it can be frustrating.

If you get lucky enough to face this problem, what should you do? Certainly, you want to capture contact info from as many people as you can.

tradeshow booth overwhelmed by visitors
Ken Newman of Magnet Productions knows how to draw a crowd!

Depending on the circumstances, you can approach it in a few ways. A little preparation for this will go a long way. For instance, have a couple of clipboards handy with pre-printed forms asking for just a few pertinent pieces of information such as name, phone, email and company. And if room, what do they want to talk with you about. If you’re overwhelmed with visitors, your staff can quickly hand out the clipboards and ask those that can’t stick around to leave their information behind – and be sure to ask for a business card as well. In fact, you can even say to those that hand you a business card to give a shortened version of their info on the form and make a note that they left a card. This gives you name, contact info, company and phone number without them having to write it down.

Don’t have clipboard with forms or even blank paper? You might think ahead and toss a small notebook in to the booth crate. You can at least ask the questions and write that info down.

No notebook? Ask for a card, tell the guest that you’re sorry that you’re swamped right now but that you want to get back to them soon: “Can we schedule a meeting later today or tomorrow? Or would it work better to call you when you get back to your office?”

The goal with this situation is to get contact info for as many people as possible – if they leave without you doing that, they’re likely gone for good. Grabbing a card and making a note on the card is sufficient. Even if you don’t get a chance to jot a brief note on the back, you can make a return call a few days later.

At busy shows, it’s kind of rare to have a few moments when you’re simply overwhelmed, where you just don’t have the booth staff to handle the influx of visitors. But if you can do your best to capture contact information before they leave, you have made a connection, even if it’s tentative. But it’s better than not capturing anything from them!


Photo courtesy Ken Newman of Magnet Productions.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, November 5, 2018: Robert Strong

Magician and professional tradeshow presenter Robert Strong discusses how to draw a crowd, how he works with clients, and what makes a good opening line – and a lot more – in this enlightening interview.

 

Find Robert Strong here.

Robert was kind enough to share some great material including the following posts:

Want Over 1000 Quality Scans a Day at Your Tradeshow Booth?

If You Don’t Clearly Define Your Goals at Your Next Tradeshow, You Will Lose to Your Competition

Robert as Guest on the Savvy Event Planner Podcast

Your Tradeshow Booth Would Be Twice as Successful if Your Booth Staff Simply Removes Typical Bad Behaviors

Robert also shared a list of Best Booth Behaviors:

1.     Remove bad behaviors: No eating, drinking, cell phones, sitting, booth huddles, etc.
2.     Add good behaviors: Stand, face the aisles, smile, make eye contact, initiate conversation, etc.
3.     If you are not getting rejected a hundred times an hour, you are not initiating enough conversations.
4.     Have a strong opener: What do you do at your company? What is the most interesting thing you have seen at this show? What is your (companies) biggest pain point?
5.     Make the current attendee you are talking with the most popular person at the show.
6.     Be able to do the overview (elevator pitch) in 10 seconds, 30 seconds, and 90 seconds.
7.     Understand and communicate concisely the giveaways and raffles.
8.     Be able to scan badges and do it quickly.
9.     Qualify leads quickly, make introductions, and end conversations quickly.
10.Have three case studies (success stories) rehearsed and ready to go.
11.When doing a demo, scale. When you see someone else starting a demo, help them scale.
12.You are on stage. High five each other, fist bump each other, enthusiastically cheer for your fellow booth staff, and let the attendees see that you really like each other and are having fun.
13.Treat the attendees exactly how you would want to be treated if you were in someone else’s booth.
14.Make a follow-up plan and take notes.

And finally, this week’s ONE GOOD THING: the Bag Man Podcast about Vice President Spiro Agnew.


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House

Why Tradeshows Work – and Why They Don’t

When you think about it, there are several reasons why tradeshows work to reach new markets. And many reasons as to why they wouldn’t work for you.

Let’s start with why tradeshows work.

Tradeshows are organized for one very good reason: to bring buyers and sellers together under one roof for a short amount of time. It’s an extremely effective way to help both parties make connections. By setting up an exhibit at the right show – one that has hundreds or thousands of people or companies that are in the market for your product or service – you can save a ton of money when compared with trying to have face-to-face meetings with those same people at their company locations. Imagine meeting 100 people at a show over the course of three days. Then imagine the cost of traveling to 100 locations spread throughout the country (or state or world) and having the same meetings. Granted, a meeting in someone’s office is typically more relaxed than a meeting on the tradeshow floor. But other than the time and relaxation factors, it’s pretty much the same meeting! You’re determining if the prospect uses your product, is capable of making a purchase (they have the $$), and if they have the ability to make that decision for the company. It’s the same on the tradeshow floor.

Why tradeshows work

Given all of that, tradeshows are the perfect structure for spreading the word about your product among a very large crowd that – again, if it’s the right show – are your target market. Naturally, you’re competing against companies that may be trying to sell virtually the same product or service to the same target market. That’s where the fun starts: how do you differentiate from them, how do you approach the prospect, how do you understand their needs, how do you make them look (and feel) good?

On the flip side, given the high cost and a multitude of variables that go into planning and executing a tradeshow appearance, a lot of exhibitors have come to the conclusion that tradeshow marketing doesn’t work. For them.

You could point to a number of reasons why it doesn’t work for them. They’re at the wrong show. With the wrong exhibit. In the wrong space. With a booth staff that isn’t properly trained. Going against competitors that are way ahead of them in experience, savvy, planning, and attitude. In fact, attitude, I would argue, is one of the keys to winning vs. losing at a tradeshow. But let’s take it a step further: let’s not even use the words “winning vs. losing” because that frames it as a competition. Yes, it is, in a sense. But if you consider all tradeshows as more than that – as a learning experience – take that experience and apply it to the next round. What worked? What didn’t? Why did something work, and why did something else not work? If that’s hard to figure out, it might mean you’re too close to it. Ask someone on the outside to take a look and give an objective perspective. Buy a book or two and learn how it’s done from people that have been there before.

Don’t give up. Keep plugging away. Keep trying. It can – and will – work for you, eventually.


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House

Determining Which Tradeshow Metrics to Track Based on Show Objectives

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the main goal of all tradeshow marketing is to grow your business, right? Yes, you’re right. But that’s a general and somewhat vague-sounding goal, so it’s worth breaking it down a bit more.

The main goals for exhibiting typically fall under these categories:

Branding

Lead Generation

Sales

Most everything you can do, whether it’s pre-show marketing, in-booth activities, or post-show follow-up, helps support these three main goals.

To support your Branding efforts, consider the following goals:

tradeshow metrics

Easily recognizable exhibit that captures your brand. How do you measure this? One way would be to survey visitors as they pass through the booth to gauge their feelings on the exhibit.

A trained booth staff that knows and understands your show goals and how to properly interact with your booth visitors. This isn’t something that is easily measurable, but investing in your booth staff by hiring a professional trainer is an expense that can be measured – and I’m confident you’ll see an improvement in critical metrics as a results.

Samples given away – if a lot of people want your stuff, that’s a good indicator. Easy enough to measure.

Social media engagement. Did you get good response from the photos and videos you posted from the show floor (as well as before and after the show)? Compare post count and engagement from show to show.

When it comes to Lead Generation, the following metrics and activities can contribute to the overall success:

Making sure that your lead has concrete contact information and specific follow up details. Count leads and track trends from show to show.

Tracking the overall visitor count. Yes, this is hard to do, but with technology it’s becoming easier. By knowing the percentage of visitors that convert to leads, you have valuable information that can be used at subsequent shows.

Sales Success comes from the follow up and the tracking of the total amount of sales achieved as a direct result of a show. Here’s where it gets a little dicey. Some tradeshow leads will pay off immediately, others in the medium-term and some in the long-term. If you can attribute a sale in March of 2019, for example to a show you did in July of 2016, add the profit earned from that sale to the Return on Investment from your July 2016 show. You probably won’t automatically know this information, especially if your company is a fairly large business and goes to several shows in a year. But by tagging the prospect as someone that first came into your sales funnel at that specific July 2016 show, no matter how many follow up steps it took, if they become a new client and you can attribute the income from them to a specific show, make sure to do so.

Being Proactive in Your Tradeshow Booth

It almost seems dumb to suggest that you should be proactive in your tradeshow booth, but with the number of relaxed and frankly lazy exhibitors I’ve seen over the years, it’s not so dumb.

proactive

I’ve seen exhibitors standing behind a table in their booth on the phone, eating lunch, talking with co-workers and more. They’re doing anything but paying attention to attendees.

And that’s just dumb. Keep in mind that tradeshows are a focused marketing opportunity where hundreds or thousands of potential clients or customers are going by your booth space. Also keep in mind these attendees are qualified: they’re in the upper-reaches of the decision-making echelon of the companies that decide to attend the show. You know, the show where your company has spent thousands of dollars to connect with those very decision-makers.

So when I see booth staff ignoring passers-by, I think “they’re letting money just walk on by. Don’t they get it?”

On the other hand, being proactive in your tradeshow booth isn’t hard. It might be slightly harder than standing there gazing idly as potential clients walk but, but not by much.

Instead, your booth staff should have a plan. They should be trained. They should understand the reason they’re there. They should know how to engage attendees in an upbeat positive way.

As our old pal Andy Saks says, you must find a good way to break the ice. Once you do that, you have control over a brief conversation. During that conversation, you’re proactively working to qualify or disqualify the attendee. Once you do that, you dig a little deeper to find out a handful of items. Start with a collection question such as “how did you get started in this industry?” It’s an innocuous question, but it gets people talking. They you proactively peel the onion by uncovering what problems they may have with their current product or service-provider.

Finally, once you’ve gathered sufficient information, close with a confirmation question to verify that you indeed understand the visitor’s situation and move on to setting up the next step before disengaging them.

Or take our old friend Richard Erschik’s approach. There are five questions you should get answered to know if the visitor is qualified:

  1. Do you currently use our product?
  2. Are you considering the purchase of a product such as ours?
  3. If so, when?
  4. Do you make the buying decision?
  5. Do you have the money to spend?

In both cases, the goal is to proactively find out if the person standing in your booth can be turned into a customer.

If you’re proactive about how to engage with tradeshow visitors, this approach can be extremely effective in uncovering leads, identifying their problems, moving them from a prospect to a customer.

Sitting on a chair eating a sandwich just won’t cut it!


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House

Is This the Golden Age of Tradeshow Marketing?

I’ve been in the tradeshow industry for almost 20 years, and it seems like we’re moving into what may be the Golden Age of Tradeshow Marketing. Usually when you think of the “Golden Age,” you’re thinking of that long-forgotten past. A time of fun, peace and prosperity and good times. Us older folks might think of the Golden Age of Rock and Roll, for example, as the time when Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly were making music and leading the music charts. Or maybe we think of the Sixties as the Golden Age of Rock and Roll, when the Beatles led the British Invasion and with the help of bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Yardbirds and The Searchers dominated the music charts for years.

golden age of tradeshow marketing

What about movies? Was the Golden Age the days of great movie stars such as Clark Gable, Dorothy Lamour, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Greta Garbo and others lit up the big screen?

Or is the Golden Age something that might be happening today, and we won’t realize it for decades to come?

Tradeshow marketing may, in fact, be moving into something of a Golden Age. Look at what’s happened in the past decade or so: an influx of a variety of new products and technologies that is impacting the bottom line and exhibiting capabilities and impact in unforeseen ways.

Fabric graphics, for example, have pretty much taken over the tradeshow floor. Sure, you could see fabric graphics ten years ago, but they weren’t much to look at. The printing quality was suspect, and the fabrics were not all that great. But technology has improved fabric printing by leaps and bounds, and the same has happened to the fabric that is used for printing.

And what about light boxes or back lit fabrics? Just a decade ago salesmen would come through our door pitching the next generation of LED lights, which were definitely impressive. But the past ten years have seen a drastic drop in the cost of LED lights, and a sharp uptick in the quality of the lights.

And what about social media? Fifteen years ago, social media frankly didn’t exist. Online promotions were barebones at best. Email marketing was fairly well established, but preshow marketing stuck mainly to traditional channels such as direct mail and advertising. But now, any company that doesn’t engage in using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and add on some elements of their outreach via YouTube and LinkedIn is increasingly rare. All of those social media channels have matured greatly and can be used to drive traffic and move people around a tradeshow floor.

Video is also part of the renaissance of tradeshow marketing which contributes to the idea that we’re experiencing a Golden Age. More and more exhibits show off one or more video monitors, and you’ll increasingly see video walls, which grabs visitors’ eyeballs with a visual impact that was previously unobtainable, or only at an ungodly price. Video production has also come down drastically in price and obtaining great footage to go with your video messaging at a lower cost means more exhibitors can show off a lot more of their brand for less. Drones, for one example, have given anyone the ability to drop in aerial footage into their brand videos for a few dollars, instead of the thousands of dollars it used to cost. Most brand videos I see at tradeshows have at least some drone footage, and I suspect that most people don’t even give it a second thought (I do – drone footage is freaking cool, man!).

golden age of tradeshow marketing

Add to all of that the coming-of-age of Virtual Reality, which will open doors to creative people getting involved to do more fantastic VR for tradeshows. The VR I’ve seen so far has been disappointing, as were the first few VR games and programs I’ve seen. But lately the bar has been raised, and the quality and creativity will come up.

What about data tracking and electronic product showcases, such as ShowcaseXD? This and similar programs will not only allow exhibitors to show off products in an easy format, the data that comes out of these systems proves to be extremely useful to companies. Didn’t have anything as sophisticated as that only a decade ago.

Automated email has been around for perhaps a couple of decades, but that also gets more and more sophisticated, and combined with a data entry, product catalog or context on a tablet, marketers can send out detailed, personalized responses based on visitors’ interests.

All of these – and more technologies that I’ve either missed or are in their infancy – are having a great impact on tradeshows and giving exhibitors the ability to maximize their dollars, create a bigger splash, take home more data and find an edge in a very competitive marketplace.

If not a new Golden Age of Tradeshow Marketing, at least a Renaissance or resurgence.

Four Foundations of Tradeshow Lead Generation

When it comes to tradeshow lead generation, you’ll find you can break it down into many steps. But for the purpose of simplification, let’s take a look at the four foundations of tradeshow lead generation that will allow you to not only bring in more leads, but bring in more qualified leads. And that’s what we want as exhibitors, right?

tradeshow lead generation

The first foundation is to have clear message on your exhibit graphics. The text should simply and clearly communicate what it is you do. What problems do you solve? Images should support that message. If the first impression is not clear and the reason that a prospect should stop at your booth is not immediately understood, you’ll lose potential customers.

The second foundation is asking the right questions. Once the visitor has made the decision to stop in your booth, your questions should be aimed at clarifying five things: do they currently use your product, are they presently considering the purchase of a product such as yours, when they are looking at the purchase, does this person make the buying decision, and does the company have the money to spend? If you can satisfactorily answer those questions, you can move on to the next phase.

The third foundation is the gathering of information. This may seem pretty straightforward, but don’t let the little details slip away. Capture all of the pertinent information: name and company, best contact method, what they’re interested in, and if they want any samples. Having all of this is important, but the final foundation seals it:

The fourth foundation is getting agreement from your prospect on the next step. Your visitor will often happily give you a lot of information, but before they leave, CONFIRM with them the type of follow up and when the follow up will take place. Is it a phone call? Is it an email? Are you sending them sample? Are you visiting them in person or schedule a video call? No matter the type of contact, confirm with the prospect what exactly that is, when it is, what will be discussed at that meeting.

Now that you have all four of those foundations in place, you will find that the leads you gather will be of more value to your sales crew, and a higher chance of closing more deals!


 

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

When You Don’t Meet Your Tradeshow Best Practices

Of course, we always want to make sure our tradeshow best practices are out on display for everyone at all times. But as Steve Miller says, “Perfection is your enemy.”

And…we’re only human. That means you’ll find that your booth staff will sometimes be eating in the booth, or on their phone when people are walking by. Or they’ll fail to direct a visitor to the person with the right answer for the question. Or maybe you realize that your pre-show marketing efforts were lame this time around. Or your post-show follow up really left something to be desired.

Sometimes your graphics will be scuffed or torn. Perhaps your flooring is ripped and mended. All of these are irritating, aren’t they, because you want to always have the best presentation at all times. But perfection is not attainable.

So, keep moving forward. If one of your staffers is sitting in the back of the booth with hands in pockets, put on a smile and ask them to move to the aisle where they can be helpful. And vow to schedule a trainer who can teach staffers better habits. If your hanging sign or large graphics look great but are outdated because some minor branding thing changed, take a photo and plan to get together with management to find the dollars to make upgrades.

There are times that you’ll come up short. There may even be times you consider your tradeshow efforts a failure.

Improvement doesn’t happen all at once. But keeping tradeshow best practices in mind every time you’re involved in setting up the booth, planning upgrades, scheduling your booth staff and related show logistics, you will see improvement. But chances are you won’t see perfection.

10 Tradeshow Best Practices

Seriously, you could compile a list of 50 tradeshow best practices and still add to the list. For the sake of brevity, let’s whittle it down to a reasonable number and see what we get.

  1. Create your marketing plan based on the specific event where you’re going to set up your exhibit. Different audiences, different competitors, different goals will all help steer you to a marketing plan that fits the situation. One size does not fit all.
  2. Your promotion item should be a natural fit with your product or service. Give away an embossed flash drive if you’re in the tech industry and want people to remember what you do. Give away a letter opener if you pitch direct marketing via mail. Things like that.
  3. Try to have some activity in your booth space. People are drawn to movement, or things they can get personally involved with. And when you have lots of people playing with something in your booth that relates to your product, that crowd draws a crowd.
  4. Prior to show floors opening, have a brief meeting with your staff. Remind them of the show goals, hand out kudos for work well done, and gently remind those who are perhaps coming up a bit short what they should work on.
  5. Graphic messaging on your exhibit should be clear as a bell. The fewer the words, the more distinct your message. The message should be enhanced with an appropriate image that supports the message.
  6. tradeshow best practices

    Follow up on leads in a timely manner. Your lead generation and follow up system should be something that you continually work to improve. Warm leads that are followed up on right after the show will produce more results than those that are weeks old.

  7. Qualify and disqualify your visitors quickly. Unqualified visitors should be invited to refer a colleague and be politely disengaged. Qualified visitors earn more time to dig deeper into their needs, including the time frame they need the solution your product can solve, their contact information and an agreed-upon follow up schedule.
  8. The power of a professional presenter cannot be understated. Some products and shows lend themselves more to presenters than others, but a good presenter will make it work in any situation and will bring in more leads than not using them. Caveat: if you hire a presenter, you must have a staff that understands and is prepared to deal with the additional leads generated. If not, most of the leads the presenter generates will slip away.
  9. Tradeshows are a marathon. Be alert, but pace yourself so you can make it to the end of the last day still upright and able to fully engage with visitors.
  10. Spring for carpet padding / wear comfortable shoes. You can never say this enough!

And a bonus number 11:

  • Spend more time on pre-show marketing than you think you should, or more than you’ve done in the past. It costs less and is easier to sell to current customers than it is to sell to new customers. Create a list of current customers, or those who have raised a hand by downloading a white paper, subscribing to a newsletter, or inquired about your services or products over the past year or so. Finally, check with show organizers to see if they can rent the attendee list to you prior to the show.

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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