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

lead generation

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.

Responsible for Drawing a Tradeshow Crowd? 9 Top Notch Ways to Spend Your Money

Drawing a tradeshow crowd is the boiled-down essence of the reason for exhibiting at a tradeshow. With hundreds or thousands of competing tradeshow exhibits, every single one of them wants to find a way to draw the biggest crowds throughout the tradeshow. Having a crowd – and knowing what to do with it – is the best path to success in your tradeshow marketing endeavors.

drawing a tradeshow crowd

Given that, let’s take a look at ways you can spend a little money and draw a crowd.

  1. Hire a pro. Professional presenters know what they’re doing. They will put together a short presentation designed specifically to not only draw a crowd but inform and educate the crowd about your product or service.
  2. Have an exhibit that is visually appealing and feels comfortable to walk into. Many exhibits look great but feel intimidating and will turn people away. Does your exhibit invite visitors to come in?
  3. Do consistent pre-show marketing. Letting people know what to expect at your show is one of the keys to getting people to make a special trip to your exhibit.
  4. Have in activity that relates directly to your product. Digimarc’s appearance at the National Retail Federation expo in New York gave attendees a hands-on experience that was unique and unforgettable.
  5. Leverage your social media activity. Make sure that all posts include the show hashtag and your booth number.
  6. Have a famous person in your exhibit. No, you can’t hire the Brad Pitts, George Clooneys or Jennifer Lawrences, but you can hire an author or speaker that is well-known in your industry to draw a crowd.
  7. Have a well-trained and fun booth staff.
  8. Offer food. Yes, at a food show, you won’t stand out that much. But at a non-food show, it can help draw a crowd. One exhibitor I saw years ago at a tech show made smoothies for visitors. Since it took a minute or two for each smoothie to be made, the staff had plenty of time to chat with folks in the smoothie line to determine if they were prospects or not.
  9. Offer a unique giveaway. Promotional items are a dime a dozen, but if you are offering something useful and cool, word will get around.

And remember – once you have drawn a crowd, be sure you know what to do with them!

Exhibitor Magazine Offers Budgeting Numbers in Latest Issue

What does a custom exhibit cost on average? How much does it cost to store your exhibit? What’s the cost per lead when exhibiting at a tradeshow?

The answers to these and many other questions are revealed in the November issue of Exhibitor Magazine. You should check out the full magazine article for everything here, but it might be fun to look at just a few items for the sake of this post.

For instance, to answer the first question: what does a custom exhibit cost on average? According to the article, which quoted from the Experiential Designers & Producers Association’s 2017 Economic (Custom) Survey, the current average falls between $137 and $161.17 per square foot. In-line exhibits average $1,370 per lineal foot. Double-deck islands average $237 per square foot of total area.

Okay, let’s try another: exhibit storage. From the same survey, exhibit storage industry average is $.30 monthly per cubic foot, or $4.39 monthly per square foot.

How about the cost per lead? From a sales lead survey done by Exhibitor Magazine, only three in ten exhibit managers track the cost per lead generated at shows they attend, the average figure per lead among those who do is $164.91. I would suspect that number fluctuates widely over industries. And if you were to search for average cost per lead, you’ll get a very disparate cost from industry to industry. When you start to dissect lead cost numbers, you run into a litany of qualifications: what exactly is a lead? How are they qualified? How were they generated? And so on. But having that figure is a good bit of data; it’s often been shown that leads generated at tradeshows are more qualified and lower cost than leads generated other ways.

And finally, one bit of data from the article that jumped out at me: Exhibit-House Markups. How much does an exhibit house markup their prices from their suppliers? Keep in mind that this markup is generally the only way for an exhibit house to cover the cost of salaries, keeping the lights on, marketing, and so on. I’ve always been curious about this item and have never seen this information published. So, here’s the skinny:

  • Raw materials used in construction/fabrication: 93%
  • Subcontracted materials and special purchases: 67%
  • Subcontracted labor: 55%
  • Transportation: 28%
  • Show services: 27%
  • Installation-and-dismantle labor: 29%

This information came from the same EDPA 2017 economic survey as mentioned earlier.

Be sure to check out the remainder of numbers in the article, including average exhibit house charges, labor union charges, electrical, international exhibiting numbers and more. Good stuff to keep handy as you plan your budgets for 2018.


Are You Getting the Best Results from Your Tradeshow Lead Generation Tactics?

Face it: you and your competitors are going head-to-head in tradeshow lead generation. But are you really getting the best results you can possibly get?

If your main goal for going to a tradeshow is to generate leads for future sales, you’ll need to focus on that aspect of your tradeshow marketing program to maximize results. Sure, you also have to have other pieces of the puzzle in place, such as branding, messaging, booth function and more, but if your ultimate goal at the tradeshow is to come away with a bag full of good leads, maybe it’s time for a deep dive into what that takes.

tradeshow lead generation

Establish what you want for a good lead. What does it mean to you and your team? After all, not just any old person that stops by and kicks a tire in your booth, so to speak, is a lead. Determine what will you accept as a lead by defining what that is – and get very specific.

The first thing you have to know is if the booth visitor uses your product.

Next, find out if they are shopping around for a company that provides what you provide. There’s a good chance since they’re at a tradeshow that was organized to specifically draw a crowd in your market.

Third, determine who is the decision maker. If you’re speaking to that person, great. If not, can the person you’re talking speak for them, or direct you to them?

Fourth, do they have a budget to purchase your product? If they don’t have a budget, they’re not really a prospect. They’re ‘pie-in-the-sky’ at this point. It doesn’t mean they won’t have a budget in the future, but for now, they’re not a hot lead.

Finally, you need to know when they’re going to make that decision. If it’s not some far-off future date, but is closer to today’s date, that gives you all the information you need for a HOT lead.

Once you’ve done all of this, you can safely grade your leads. Or if they don’t pass the “lead” test they may become someone that can make a referral. Or they’re off your list for good if you don’t think they’ll ever lead to any business via a direct lead or referral.

The leads can be graded HOT, WARM or COOL. But frankly, I usually only use HOT and WARM. HOT is obvious: it’s a lead that needs to be followed up on quickly because there is an explicit and stated desire for your product. WARM is probably a little more flexible depending on your product, sales cycle and so forth. COOL may only apply to those that you know the bare minimum: they will at least use your product occasionally but have no immediate interest or desire or budget or you don’t know the decision maker. So this puts them in the COOL pile but given their at least occasional use they are not a DISCARD.

In any event, the better your planning and the more thorough execution on your tradeshow lead generation tactics, the better your results.

 

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee: October 23, 2017 [video replay/podcast]

Richard Erschik of TradeshowLeadstoSales.com joins me for a fun and very useful conversation about how to generate (and follow up with) great leads at your next tradeshow. What are the five questions you need to ask before you’ve identified a good lead? Watch or listen now:

 

This Week’s ONE GOOD THING: Clean My Mac software.

7 Quirky Interactive Things to Do at a Tradeshow

Another list! Would any of these interactive things help to draw a crowd to your tradeshow booth?

  1. Create a small box with a lock. Have a bin full of keys – only one of the keys opens the box. Each person that comes by your booth can try a key or two. Once the key has been tried, it goes into the discard bin. As the keys (say, a couple of hundred) slowly go down to just a few, more and more people will keep trying to get the thing to open. Once the prize box has been opened the winner gets a prize, and another prize is inserted in the box and you start all over again.
    Tradeshow interactive things
  2. Create a large-than-life size front page newspaper mockup. Out of some solid substrate, like sintra. Have a hole cut in it so that people can stand behind it and get their picture taken for posting on social media. Invite people to sign up for a newsletter or something else for a chance to win some cool stuff, or just give them some swag if they post the photo on their social media accounts.
  3. Make a big Jenga set, only have each block relate to a specific question or topic that relates to your product or industry. Once someone pulls a block, you can talk about the topic, answer the question, and find out of the visitor has any questions about the topic.
  4. Bean bag games such as bean bag toss, or bean bag Tic-Tac-Toe.
  5. Give away LED flashing pins with your logo. Tell the visitor that a ‘secret shopper’ is going to be walking around the tradeshow floor giving away swag to people wearing the flashy things.
  6. Use tradeshow special printed flooring that gives visitors opportunities to photograph themselves standing there. How about a spot with footprints and some clever graphic and text including a hashtag phrase?
  7. Get a promotional robot.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee – September 11, 2017

We are awash in data, no matter what business we’re in. TradeshowGuy Tim Patterson talks with Oz du Soleil of ExcelOnFire (YouTube channel) about how to handle all of that data: how to make sure it’s clean, how to analyze it and much more.

ONE GOOD THING: For Oz, it’s cigars. For me, it’s the beginning of football season – college and pro!

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