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

lead generation

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.

10 Ways to Stand Out at a Home Show

Smaller, regional or city home shows are where local residents go to see the latest in roofing, home repair and improvement, HVAC, landscaping, and more. It’s not uncommon for exhibitors at these smaller shows to lack experience in exhibiting that their national show exhibiting brethren might have. If you are going to set something up at a home show, how do you attract the attention of attendees? Let’s look at a few different ways.

First, have an outstanding exhibit. This can be done in many ways. I’ve seen, for example, exhibits that are unique and custom. They were possibly designed and assembled by the company’s work crew using a little creativity and a lot of ability, and they reflect the company’s brand and personality. Sometimes they’re done by an exhibit house, but not necessarily. By presenting yourself with something that’s attractive to look at and delivers a strong message, you’re ahead of the game. Examples: companies that sell leaf gutter blockers who have a small room sample showing their gutter blockers with water running down the roof with leaves caught on top of the leaf guards. Also, a landscaper that decks out their entire space with rock, sod, waterfalls, small creek bridges or whatever. It’s time-consuming, yes, but it catches people’s eyes.

IDEA! Have a Polaroid camera, take people’s pictures and put ’em on a corkboard!

Second: Have a well-prepared booth staff. Make sure they understand the goal: gather more leads, capture their contact info for follow up. They need to know the basics: no talking on their phones in the booth, no eating in the booth, no sitting on a chair. The do’s and don’ts also include offering a smile to visitors, asking pertinent questions (are you looking to improve your landscaping? etc.) and being present with visitors when the ask questions. Tell people thanks for coming by, even if they didn’t show much interest.

Three: have something for visitors to DO. Interactivity keeps visitors in your booth and if it’s really good they’ll stick around long enough for you have a good Q&A. You see a lot of spinning wheels where people can win a prize, and while I’m not a big fan of these because virtually everybody that wants to win something stops, and they’re not all potential customers. But they do get people stop long enough so you can ask them a few questions. Other things you can have them do: find something quirky about your business, or even get a life size cutout of a famous figure like Frank Sinatra or Elvis and put up a backdrop with your company name and the show hashtag and invite people to snap photos and post on social media for a chance to win something. It gets people involved and helps promote your booth number. Another idea: have a really big Jenga set, where each block has a question that relates to your business, and when they pull it out, give them a chance to win by correctly answering the question. Give away LED flasher buttons with your logo and booth number and tell them a secret shopper is wandering the hall and if they spot you with the button you could win something. Another way to promote your booth away from your booth space. One more: custom printed flooring that invites people to take their picture with the floor (another variation of the social media back drop/life size figure).

Four: Make sure that you give your visitors what they want. And what is that? They want to see what’s new. They want to speak to someone who knows their stuff. They want to be treated like a friend and with respect. A warm smile goes a long way. They don’t want their time to be wasted.

Five: Have your booth staffers stand out by wearing unusual or different clothing. Could be that all of your staffers at an HVAC booth don tuxedos. Or everybody wears colorful branded t-shirts. Purple one day, orange the next, red the next, and so on.

Six: Have a magic word of the day (or hour). Put up a sign on the front counter that everyone can see. If someone says the magic word, they win a prize. It’ll intrigue people enough so that they stop and start a conversation. Have a few ready-made hints for what the magic word might be.

Seven: Put on a small white board and invite people to write a short Haiku (a short three-line unrhymed verse of five, seven and five syllables. Have a few examples for starters. Give away prizes.

Eight: Shoot a commercial at the show. Invite visitors that are customers to record a short testimonial. Interview one of the managers and ask her how things work.

Nine: Conduct a survey. Make it very simple, maybe two or three questions. Ask people to fill in the answers. If they want a chance to win, give them a space to put in their name and phone number or email address, but don’t require it for the survey. Find out what people really think about some of the things you do.

Ten: Make sure your graphic messaging is very simple. One of the keys to delivering a good message is to make it easy to understand. On tradeshow back wall, use no more than seven words. Put the more complicated stuff in a handout or a download.

No doubt you can think of more. What comes to mind?


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 28, 2019: Sam Smith

The biggest challenge of tradeshow marketing, it seems, is to draw attendees to your booth. There are hundreds of ways to do that. On today’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, Sam Smith of Social Point joins me to discuss the many ways his company has devised to get people to stop at booths and stay engaged.

Here’s where to find Sam and Social Point.

This week’s one good thing: the legal cannabis industry.

Put Your Tradeshow Plan in a Box

You’ve heard the phrase “think outside the box.” But in the tradeshow world, sometimes it makes more sense to think inside the box.
In many cases, it does make sense to think outside the box. Which means, generally, to do things you don’t normally do. Turn it upside down. Work backwards. Do something random.

But tradeshows have so much riding on them that the more you have a plan and the better you stick to it – with minor deviations as warranted – that it pays to stay inside the box.

Make the plan. Execute the plan. Stay inside the box.

While you’re making the plan, many weeks or even months before the tradeshow, that might be the time to think outside the box. What can you do that’s different? What your competitors aren’t doing? What might be an activity in your booth that attracts people? What kind of different ways you can think of to promote your appearance?

During the brainstorming and planning phase, come up with as many different and unusual approaches you can think of that might help you stand out. But vet them. Test them. Make sure they are practical and can be executed as flawlessly as possible. Then, once you have something in place, iron out the rough spots and prepare it for the show.

And once the show starts, don’t stray from the script unless there’s agreement among the principals that it’s a good move. Otherwise, work the plan, take notes on how it went, and make adjustments for the next show.

Thinking outside the box isn’t a bad idea, in fact in many cases it’s a great idea. Just know when and where to do it. The tradeshow floor where thousands of visitors are passing by, where competitors are putting up their best, is not the place to wing it.

Applying the Modern Business Plan to Tradeshow Marketing

The ‘modern business plan’ was hatched on a blog post by Seth Godin. I was a recent enrollee in Godin’s The Marketing Seminar, where at one point we were referred to the post which breaks down the five elements of what he feels are the important parts of a modern business plan: truth, assertions, alternatives, people and money.

It’s also possible to apply that thinking to how you approach tradeshow marketing.

The truth of tradeshow marketing would be the facts and figures of the specific show(s) that you plan to participate in. How many people attend? What percentage of decision-makers and influencers are among the attendees? Who are the competitors/exhibitors?

Assertions might include your thoughts on what you believe you know that is not necessarily supported by data. What new products are you launching that might be similar to new products from competitors? What types of marketing tactics and strategies are those competitors using? This is where you state what you believe to be true, although you might not be able to prove it.

Alternatives: ­This is where you play the “what if” game. What if things go wrong? What is your plan B? What if you get lucky by meeting the exact prospect that you didn’t anticipate? What if your top salesperson is poached by a competitor? Hey, anything can happen. At least opening your mind to some of those possibilities gives you a chance to chew them over.

People: who are your best people and how can you best use them? Where are your weak spots and how can you improve with them? Do you need to acquire people to get your tradeshow department to run like a clock and not like a Rube Goldberg machine?

Finally, money: Budgeting, logistical costs, personnel costs. Return on investment, cost of samples. You know the drill. But are your numbers accurate? And did you run the calculations a year later after the show so that you actually know what your return on investment really is?

What is your Return on Objective? Thanks to the Exhibition Guy Stephan Murtagh!

There are any number of ways of looking at your business or marketing plan, but taking this approach helps to clarify several issues at once. Give it a try!

© Copyright 2016 | Oregon Blue Rock, LLC
Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

Call 800-654-6946 for Prompt Service
Copyrighted.com Registered & Protected <br />
QA4E-AZFW-VWIR-5NYJ