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

lead generation

Will Time Away from Tradeshows Change Our Marketing Approach?

Now that most companies haven’t exhibited at a major show in the US for nine months or so, where does that leave their marketing efforts? I’ve heard some companies badly miss shows because that’s where a large portion of their lead generation came from and without that they’re struggling to generate as many solid leads. Some companies have shifted to other marketing outlets and been at least moderately successful, and I suppose some companies have even determined that they don’t really need tradeshows.

It’s my impression that there’s always been a bit of perception from many management and sales staff that tradeshows are a grind, a big waste of money and time. That they only attend because their competition is there but if they could they’d bail on exhibiting or even attending shows.

Meanwhile, tradeshow managers are buried in details of exhibiting and logistics and new product launches and are-there-enough-samples and so on.

By the time bigger shows return, it’s likely that at least a year will have passed for many exhibitors since their last appearance at a national or international show, and the question is undoubtedly being asked: are tradeshows still even that important?

That question can only be answered by each company individually based on their own goals, budget and personnel.

Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels

One result might be that companies will exhibit at fewer shows. If that’s the case, the focus on the shows should be to make sure that exhibiting is worth their time. Maybe you’ll have the same budget but with fewer shows, you can concentrate on those select handful of shows and make sure you carefully and completely execute all of the tradeshow marketing steps from A to Z to ensure great results.

Another consequence of the coming post-COVID world may mean smaller budgets, which means downsizing your exhibit, or renting an exhibit save a few dollars. Or taking fewer people to shows.

One other change that I believe will be a result of no tradeshows for a year or so: the psychological effect on both exhibitors and attendees. How will we feel, for instance, about shaking hands with people we meet, or hugging old friends that we haven’t seen for a year or two or three? How will food companies hand out samples so that everyone who is picking up a tasty sample is comfortable with it? Will we really feel okay flying across the country to attend a show, stuck in an airplane for hours with strangers? Some will be okay; others may have high levels of anxiety. It’s likely that aisles will be wider, giving more separation between booths and giving attendees more space to keep people at a distant.

Things will change, things are already changing.

I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Find Improvement at the Edges

Sure, we’d all like to make big changes. Swoop in, push all the old stuff aside, and institute something NEW and DASHING and DAZZLING and TERRIFIC, something that impresses the hell out of customers, the media, and especially your boss. Because if your boss is impressed, he’ll remember you and you might be in line for a promotion, which means a raise and so on and so forth.

Sounds great! Except that making big changes, making that one BIG CHANGE that gets all of that attention, isn’t easy. You have to start from scratch, tear everything down and do something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. And if you change everything, you’d better have a damn good reason. First off, it’ll cost more. Probably a lot more. It has to be a big bold idea. How many of those have you had lately? And you have to get buy-in from the right people, and especially the people who control the purse strings.

There’s a better way, and it doesn’t cost as much. It doesn’t require big bold ideas. It doesn’t change everyone’s job that’s involved in the initiative.

Make improvements at the edges. Opportunity lies in the margins. Find a way to bring ten percent more visitors to your booth. Generate another five or ten percent leads by adding a small interactive element to your booth. Move your booth space closer to the main entrance of a big show once you’ve accumulated enough points and time in the show to warrant it. Take a survey of half of your visitors to uncover what they really think of your new products or services, adding just a little new information to your product development.

There are a lot of little things you can do on the margins to make a notable improvement that doesn’t cost a lot, take much time, or strain the system (and your brain). Yet little changes can still have a strong positive impact on the bottom line.


Tradeshow Tips From Twitter

Every now and then I cruise through Twitter looking for a handful of marketing tips for tradeshow exhibitors. Let’s see if there’s anything there now!

First up, TSNN gives us some planning tips to engage virtual attendees.

Next, Lotus823 links to a SmartBrief post that offers thoughts on pre- and post-show planning.

Then, SourceGroup links to an article with 7 Tips to Hosting a Successful Virtual Networking Event.

Ljubica Maletković tweeted out a link to an article that helps you make the most of your tradeshow marketing budget.

Finally, Exhibit Options linked to a TSNN article on how to embrace the new normal for 2021.

Twitter can be a lot of things, but when it comes to finding useful information for your industry, it’s pretty good most of the time!

Follow me on Twitter.

The Long Slog Until Tradeshows Return

We don’t know when tradeshows will return, or what “normal” tradeshow schedules will look like.

We don’t know how many attendees will plan on going because we don’t know how they feel about mixing with thousands of other attendees.

We don’t know how many fellow exhibitors will decide to spend the money to exhibit at the show because they don’t know how many people will actually show up. No doubt some will decide to go; others will hold off for another year.

It’s the uncertainty of it all that is probably the hardest. Not knowing. Like restaurants now knowing when they can finally have full capacity. Like sports leagues not knowing when they can invite a full contingent of fans. Like schools across the country having all students back, knowing that they’ll be safe.

Until then, we’re all stuck in the long slog.

A really freakin’ long slog.

S. L. O. G.

A reallly long slog…

What to do in the meantime, especially if a lot of your job or monthly planning includes tradeshows, events and conference?

Find something else to focus on. Marketing is marketing, and in a recent post, I mentioned a number of ways to market. But what else can you do besides marketing?

I suppose you could try and come up with a viral video or promotion, but chances are the more you actually try to make something viral, the more forced it feels and the less likely it’ll happen.

Maybe you can write more blog posts, or read about what other businesses, both competitors and those that are in different industries, are doing. Learn from them, try new things.

Obviously, every person and every company are dealing with the long slog in a different way. But business still has to come in. Marketers still have to market. Salespeople still have to sell.

Let’s go back to learning. What can you learn that will help you in your current position?

Perhaps one of the first things is to gain some perspective and realize that everyone is in the same long slog. Next: realize that, yes, one day you will get back to normal, and so will everyone else.

Then, determine what you can do RIGHT NOW. What skills do you have that can be used, either inside or outside your company, that can be applied to the current situation. Is there any way you can help others find their way through the morass? Maybe, maybe not.

Mark Schaefer, in his short free ebook The Pandemic Business Strategy Playbook, writes, “the long-term relevance of the brand is more important than short-term sales.” He references several big brands that have put their marketing on hold or shifted to finding ways they can help not by doing ads, but by doing things: offering free food to volunteers and first responders, making donations to hospitals or homeless shelters. In other words, taking action.

In fact, taking action that benefits others, no matter how small or large, is probably one of the best things you can do.

For example, I think many of us have a tendency – I know I do – to walk past the dozens of homeless people I see on the streets in my city every day and try and pretend we don’t see them. They’re standing with hand-written cardboard signs at stoplights, or camped in groups under overpasses, or shuffling aimless down the street. It’s easy to keep walking and ignore them and not even think of them as humans. But when you do take a few moments and offer a few dollars and a smile, it counts. Certainly, to them, and hopefully to you.

The COVID-19 Pandemic will permanently change the world. We don’t know how all those changes will affect us, or what the changes will be. Finding a way to be open to helping people through the long slog is one of the most important things we can do to get through it. And we will get through.

No matter how long it takes.

14 Dumb Things Tradeshow Exhibitors Do: Video

Are you guilty of any of these? Don’t feel bad. We’re only human, but if we know ahead of time what things to know, what to avoid and how to prepare, we can have a much better and more successful tradeshow exhibiting experience.


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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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