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

lead generation

Tradeshow Collaboration Marketing

How can you work with a partner at a tradeshow? What can collaboration do to cut your tradeshow marketing costs and help spread your company’s name around a bit more?

While there are some benefits to be gained by working with partners in any endeavor, there are trade-offs to consider as well.

Share a Booth

Let’s say you’re a small company that struggles to come up with money for booth space and exhibit rental. If this is the case you might consider contacting a company that, while not a direct competitor, is at least in your industry and would benefit from exhibiting at the same show.

Mosaic, 20 Feb 2005

By renting the booth space together, you’re splitting the cost of both the space and the exhibit. Of course, you only get half a booth. Depending on your offerings, however, that might be a good fit and a good way to get your name out into the marketplace.

Another benefit comes when staffing the booth. By paring down the booth size and splitting with a partner, you need less people overall. While you would obviously want to have your side of the booth staffed, in some shows and situations one benefit would be to spell the other guy while he’s on a break.

Promote Each Other’s Products

Here’s a promotion that I’ve seen done successfully. Find another 4 or 5 exhibitors that are complementary to your company – but not direct competitors – and create a traffic-generation promotion. Create a map of the show floor highlighing the five participating booths, print it on bright paper, give each booth a stamp. Offer prizes from each exhibitor to be drawn from all maps that are stamped by all exhibitors and submitted. This encourages more traffic to each booth. Of course it’s up to you to take advantage of the additional traffic with your own offerings.

Social Media Pumping

Whether you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you can easily work out a similar promotion. However, instead of doing it on-site, do it online. Each vendor sets up a series of tweets via to drive traffic to their own – and their collaborator’s – booth. By doing this, you’re taking advantage of each other’s community, exposing all of the separate exhibitor’s online communities to all of the others.

Team Up To Impress

If you have a partner company that you work well with, float the idea of doing a ‘team dinner/party’ to expose each of the company’s to the other’s community. Company A invites a dozen or so clients, Company B does the same. The two companies split the tab. Everybody gets to know everyone else. Imagine if you could ramp this up to three, four or five companies.


With all of the various companies that exhibit at any given show, how can you leverage the event to help your company and assist another company for the greater good? Can you come up with a single product together? Can you combine two products for a single offering? A real estate company might team with a home staging company to offer a special deal at a show. A software designer might team with one of his clients to create a custom version of the software for a larger, different market.

There’s really no end to the amount of ways that you can collaborate with other exhibitors to bring both (or all) of you more business.

Get on your thinkin’ cap!

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photo credit: Genista

Building Your Event-Related Community With Social Media

In the wake of the presentation I gave last week at the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association Access 2010 conference, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about what it takes to build community.

In the event industry, it’s my opinion that social media is an extremely useful tool to promote shows, create and connect with communities, and foster deeper connections while attending shows.

It seems that in one sense the social media world is just getting started with connecting at events. But with each new story, I sense that the ‘connecting’ is getting more involved and the ‘connectors’ are becoming more adept at the connecting.

And then this morning Paul Castain’s timely blog post on ‘How to Build an Online Community!’ shows up. Paul is a terrific connector and has built a large online community, and in this exquisitely useful post he shares what has worked for him.

If you’re looking to build a community around a specific event, there are some slight adjustments I’d make to his overall plan (which has a lot of great ideas).

If you’re attending a tradeshow, one suggestion might be to create a specific ‘virtual tradeshow website’ just for that show. It’s an approach that would make sense for those larger expo shows you attend, but likely wouldn’t be worth the investment of time or money for small, local or regional shows. Derek Mehraban of InGenex Digital Marketing shares his story in a recent TradeshowGuy Blog podcast.

If you choose not to create a virtual tradeshow website, make sure that you’re online with a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. If you have a good presence on LinkedIn, include that as well.

Don’t forget the media: connect with industry bloggers and trade publications ahead of time. Let them know what new products or services you’ll be unveiling at the show. The press are attracted to new and shiny objects, so if you can offer something new you have a much better chance of getting some press mentions.

In the run-up to the show, collect your in-house list of clients, friends, acquaintances and prospects. Send out an e-mail blast a couple of months ahead of time asking people to ‘like’ your Facebook page, and follow you on Twitter and YouTube (if you have a YouTube channel).

With the show a month or so away, send another email reminder asking people to connect with you online. At this point, it would be appropriate to include a link to a short video about what they might expect at the show or a blog post promoting your appearance. Remember, you’ll get more response if you slant the article or video to ‘what’s in it for THEM’ and try not to make it so much about YOU.

Keep publishing: videos, blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates/photos, etc. During your planning, be sure to use a tool such as that allows you to schedule posts ahead of time. This will free up your show time to focus on the actual show, interacting with folks and sending out real-time tweets or posts (“just met @clientXYS at the show!”). Make a point of mentioning people by name or Twitter handle so they’ll feel loved.

With a couple of weeks to go, invite people to your booth (if you’re exhibiting), or to connect with you at a Tweet-up or other meeting. Find opportunities to connect face-to-face.

During these face-to-face meetings, collect business cards or other contact info. Schmooze! It’s fun!

During the show, try and shoot some timely videos, such as testimonials, customer or visitor interviews and post a few of them. Hold back a few for posting after the show.

Once the show is over, do a wrap-up or two. Post a few videos. Send out a thank-you e-mail with links back to your show follow-ups. Send physical thank you notes to those folks that you felt you made a great connection with – and those that you’d like to make a better connection with. A cool tool for card follow-ups is (yes, that’s an affiliate link).

As Paul points out, it’s great to have all of those online platforms, but the key is to keep engaged. INTERACT with those folks in your community. Respond to their questions. Reach out with an offline thank-you or phone call. Give content away with no strings attached. Find out what your community’s ‘pain points’ are and work to resolve them. Work to move those online connections to an offline relationship or friendship.

When it comes to building a community around a tradeshow, keep in mind that those folks you’re connecting with will become more active during show time. Work to leverage those folks to stay connected with you via Facebook or your newsletter.

You’ll find that the first show will likely fall short of your expectations. Don’t worry. Social media connections take time. Keep at it. From my observation, as exhibitors and organizers keep at it, each show becomes more successful than the last and the connections get deeper and wider.

With social media connections, you’re in for the long haul. Or you’re likely not in at all.

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

The Big Problem With Tradeshow Lead Collecting


Companies spend boats full of dollar bills on tradeshow marketing. They’ll spend to train their staff, spend to put up a great booth, spend to spiff it up with cool graphics and maybe contrive an outstanding demo of their products.

They may do it so well, in fact, that they’ve got hundreds of folks clamoring for their product. These hot prospects leave contact information and details on their wants and needs in regard to the product or service.

Then they go back to their office, expecting a follow-up call or email. Or brochure, or postcard. Something. Anything!

But they get nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Squat.

Why? Because the company with the booth dropped the ball. They didn’t follow up consistently. The sales staff didn’t see the value in the leads. Or they made a couple of calls, ran into a few dead ends and assumed that all the leads were equal. And stopped calling.

Or the leads were delivered to the sales staff, but someone there didn’t do much with them. Because it was, after all, a pretty big job. With hundreds of leads, the idea of calling or writing all of those folks was intimidating to say the least! So the follow up was far short of what was necessary to drum up more business. Which was, in fact, the whole point of going to the tradeshow.

So often the long chain of events that starts with the decision to exhibit at a tradeshow falls apart with a single weak link.

In this case the tradeshow leads were collected – a lot of them! – but there was minimal follow up, mainly because the system broke down. Or expectations were unrealistic. Or the manpower to follow through wasn’t available. Or the will was weak. Or something.

Before heading off to the tradeshow, make sure the ‘back end’ is set up. Put your system into place which takes into account the following:

  • How will the leads be distributed?
  • Who will follow up?
  • What is the nature of the follow up?
  • How many leads are expected?
  • Is the manpower sufficient to handle the new show leads?
  • Is the budget in place to make sure the follow up happens?
  • Is someone actually in charge?

Tradeshow leads – by themselves – are worthless. Like a great idea that sounds cool over a can of beer, nothing happens until the action takes place.

If your tradeshow leads remain in stasis, you won’t write any business. Without action, you’re like the wallflower at the dance thinking about asking the pretty girl to dance. You’re just standing there. In the shadows. Against the wall.

If on the other hand you have a plan – and a system – for tracking the leads, the follow up (phone, email, direct mail, in-person visits), and the inevitable customer wants and desires, you can actually make hay with tradeshow leads.

In a recent chat with Fred Trembley with, he confirmed what most people in the tradeshow consulting business say: that almost 80% of all tradeshow leads go a-wasting. He says that a system is definitely needed to prevent that from happening.

And I say that if you are able to follow up on most of your tradeshow leads, you’re at least one important step ahead of 80% of your competitors!

Are your leads wasted?

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photo credit: aikijuanma

Tradeshow Marketing – 3 Critical Steps That Will Ensure Your Success

Guest post by Rashid Kotwal

Alex was both exhausted and excited at the same time.

He’d just spent the day finalising his stand at a major tradeshow, and was looking forward to the hoards of people who’d be streaming past the next day.

It was an expensive exercise. By the time he added up the floor space, construction and personnel costs, he’d spent about $15,000, but Alex was sure it would be worth it due to all the new leads he’d be getting.

Walking through two major tradeshows over the last couple of weeks, I met lots of Alex’s.

Jamey, visiting at Origins

Sadly though, most of them will be disappointed with their results from the show.

Why? Because in many cases they won’t meet the right people, won’t engage them when they do, and won’t follow up.

Interestingly, there are major parallels with networking functions, so even if you’ve never contemplated exhibiting at a tradeshow, the principles I’m about to outline apply in everyday business networking.

So let’s take them in turn.

Meeting prospects…

Tradeshows, like networking events allow you to meet a lot of people at one time and in one place.

So rather than you running around the countryside visiting people, you get them to come to you.

How? By personally inviting them and setting up appointments to meet. That way you know you’ll be busy talking to the right people.

Greeting prospects…

While walking the aisles, I noticed three general behaviours.

Some stand attendants stood in the corridors and actively made eye contact, smiled and invited me to talk to them. Others stood there looking bored and made no attempt at contact. And the last lot sat at the backs of their stands talking amongst themselves or eating.

Guess which ones I spoke to? In fact there were other people I was interested in meeting, but they showed no interest in me, so I gave up after waiting a few minutes.

Ever been to a networking function where you’ve experienced something similar? You’re new and no one takes an interest in you, makes you feel welcome and you leave wondering if this was all a colossal waste of time.

And finally, following up…

Generally, you can’t actually buy things at a tradeshow. You’re there to make connections, not lug stuff out the door with you.

So it’s critical that you follow up any prospects you meet. And not just once. You need to keep your name in front of them on an ongoing basis – forever!

Offer them something (an article you’ve written or something else you know would interest them) in return for their business card.

I recommend you use a combination of phone (for the hot prospects), letter, fax and email over an extended period of time. And it’s not always about making the sale. Send them articles you think they’d be interested in, stuff happening in their industry etc. It’s about consistently keeping in contact.

Once again, the same applies if you meet someone at a networking event.

Do all three of these things and you’ll extract the greatest return from your investment in both time and money. Miss one and you’ll leave money on the table.

Rashid Kotwal is an international speaker and author who specializes in on-line and off-line strategies for direct response marketing and sales optimization. He works with sales organizations want to get more business, faster and with less wasted effort.For more information on Marketing, Sales and Customer Retention Strategies head over to

Copyright 2010 Rashid Kotwal

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photo credit: Benimoto

Ways to Attract a Crowd at Trade Show Exhibits

Guest post by Chris A. Harmen


When it comes to standing out among all of the other trade show booths, having something that catches visitors’ attention is key. At trade events, attendees don’t have time to visit each and every booth. They are there on a mission – to seek out the best of the best and give their business to the companies they feel match their organizations’ goals and needs. Some businesses may carry a highly superior product or service as compared to most of their competitors, but they simply do not have the attention-getting gimmick to attract business. Make sure your company does not fall into this category by choosing one of the many exciting ways to catch the attention of attendees at trade show booths.

Entice Trade Show Booths’ Visitors With Giveaways

One of the simplest ways to attract people to your trade show exhibits is to offer something free. Everyone likes the prospect of free things, and the bigger the better. If your company has the budget for it, offer something like a couple of nights free at a luxury resort. If you do not quite have the financial capability to offer something that glamorous, consider a free visit to a day spa or massage parlor, or something as simple as a free meal at a nearby restaurant – maybe one that offers or utilizes your company’s products or services. For smaller companies, even a bowl of candy will bring people into your booth. Position the candy display a little ways into the trade show booths, so it is harder for visitors to just grab the candy and keep walking.

Demonstrations And Technology

There are many basic ideas that can be overlooked when trying to attract and retain potential clients. Product demonstrations at trade show exhibits are always a great way to show off your product and build up a crowd. Consider wearing a microphone with a small speaker to really draw attention.

Make use of technology like internet access, lights, a DVD player/projection screen, or even lasers. Display your company’s professionally designed website in the background, and use spotlights, like colored, moving ones, to draw attention to areas of your booth. If your business has a workshop video or DVD demonstrating what you do, have it play in the background. Lasers can flicker in the background to make your trade show booths seem exciting and tech-savvy.

Hire Show Stoppers And Stay Friendly

Again, if your company has the budget for it, hire whoever you can who will attract attention to your exhibits. Celebrities, athletes, musicians, and comics are all options. Clowns on stilts, jugglers, celebrity look-a-likes, and even attractive models with marketing backgrounds can help bring over potential clients.

Even your own sales staff and booth exhibitors can be showstoppers if trained correctly. Be sure to project energy at all times. Have a couple people manning the booth, so if someone gets tired they can switch positions. Remember to smile and mingle with the crowd. Don’t just remain in the booth’s background.

By enticing attendees with giveaways, demonstrations, technology, and special guests who may stop visitors in their tracks, you will see more traffic and, consequently, more sales after trade show exhibits.

Chris Harmen writes for the leading provider of trade show exhibits Canada Skyline. They offer professional consulting and advice as well as a complete line of Canada trade show booths.

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photo credit: AskDaveTaylor

What I Learned From Talking Dogs


In cartoons and movies, dogs can talk. All the time. They must think we’re not listening. Or maybe they’re smart enough to know that we puny humans don’t understand dog-talk.


I don’t mind talking dogs. In fact, I like them just fine. My 10-year old son watches Scooby-Doo and movies like ‘Cats and Dogs’ and ‘Homeward Bound’ that feature talking dogs.

As far as he knows that’s the way it should be. Dogs and cats talking, and if they’re on screen we can hear and understand them.

It’s as if someone magically transformed those run-of-the-mill pets into super-beings that now are able to converse in languages not common to their species.

I wonder if we humans can do that….

Let’s say that we’re able to…uh…read minds, for instance. What would your booth visitors be saying if you could read the thought balloons above their heads?

“My, that booth needs cleaning.”

“Jeez, that guy’s on the cell phone again!”

“Hmmph, he should have at least used a breath mint to cover up that onion breath!”

Or what if all cell phone conversations within ten feet were beamed right to your head?

“Yeah, uh…let’s meet at the street…no, never mind, let’s do it after lunch. No, wait. Can you meet me here?”

“What’s your problem? I mean, what’s your freakin’ problem, man?”

“Yeah, I know, I know, but I really DO have to go out to dinner with her…it’s business…the boss told me I had to…”

I’m sure you’d hear a lot of idiotic and innocuous chatter. Maybe every 100th phone call you were eavesdropping on contained a nugget of information about your competitor or industry that made you rich.

Hey, since we’ve already established that dogs can talk, it’s not much of a leap to tell ourselves that we can hear private cell phone calls, right? Or read minds?

By imagining talking dogs, you can imagine a lot of wild and crazy things. Like making your booth from orange peels (what a smell!). Or creating a booth back wall of tires. Or teaching your visitors to juggle. Or sending visitors home with a Polaroid photo of themselves. I dunno – creativity comes in many forms. Are you being creative in your booth?

Are you being creative – I mean, really creative – in the important areas of tradeshow marketing?

  • lead gathering
  • lead follow up
  • booth design
  • visitor interaction
  • staff training
  • schmoozing with clients
  • putting on a demo
  • enticing visitors to your booth

If you can be more creative and interesting than a majority of your fellow exhibitors you’ll find yourself with more traffic.

The whole talking dog approach to this blog post was to draw you in and make you say ‘what the hell?’

Did it work? Did you wonder what the hell I was writing about?

If you’ve made it this far you should check out my new favorite book on creativity, ThinkerToys by Michael Michalko. I just finished it today and am already planning a number of ways to use it for future endeavors: sales, writing, brainstorming, planning, creating…so many ideas have come out of just READING the book that I can’t wait until I actually start to implement and use his ideas.

Check it out here (affiliate link): Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition)

Also check out a funny talking dog joke.

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photo credit: raggio(ALL4HIM)productions

25 Reasons NOT to Bother With Tradeshow Marketing

Overheard complaints about tradeshow marketing, the travel, the show and other things…?

  1. It’s expensive.
  2. You usually gotta travel.
  3. Logistics are a bear.
  4. Shipping an exhibit costs an arm and a leg.
  5. Did I mention the drayage? Oy….
  6. Standing on your feet all day.
  7. You don’t get to sleep in your own bed for a few days.
  8. My suitcase didn’t fit in the trunk of the rental car.
  9. Getting in an airplane. Yikes. Not a middle seat!
  10. So many unexpected challenges on the road.
  11. Deadlines, deadlines.
  12. Who are all of these people? I don’t know any of these people!
  13. Our hired ‘pro’ presenter really blew it that time.
  14. I thought YOU had the leads!
  15. Yeah, we just put up a fishbowl to collect business cards to give away an iPod. Got some great leads!
  16. No, we’re not on Facebook. Should we be?
  17. Yeah, I heard that Twitter thing was a waste of time.
  18. YouTube? Why should we be on YouTube? I thought that was only for funny cat videos.
  19. The coffee here in (fill in the blank) sucks.
  20. The bars don’t have any microbrews like we do back home.
  21. Geez, the time change is really throwing me off.
  22. That last guy asked so many questions I finally told him to leave.
  23. Hey, I think I’m gonna go hit on that girl at the booth around the corner. Be right back!
  24. No, I can’t meet tonight. There’s a game on TV.
  25. I’d rather be at home.

Okay, complaining is fun. Maybe you have your own?

What Questions Do Your Customers Ask at Your Tradeshow Booth?

Do your customers ask questions at your tradeshow booth?

Are they curious about things like flavor, color, delivery time, production values, technical details or design elements?

Do they want to know MORE?

Who Am I Sam

Of course they do! That’s what customers do. They’re curious. They give feedback. And often it comes in the form of a question.

At your next tradeshow make a point of writing down questions that your booth visitors ask about your product, service or company. This can be beneficial for a number of reasons.

First, you get more insight into what’s important to them. Yes, you may already know a lot of those questions. But pay attention and see if any of those questions are new. Are they bringing up things that you haven’t heard yet? Is there an indication that your customers are shifting desires around your products? Do they want something new? Can you find out now and provide it before your competitors?

Next, you can compile those questions and put them on your website or blog. By creating an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page or post on your site, you’re reaching out to those visitors who are interested in learning more. While a specific visitor may not have that particular question, by browsing your page or blog post they get a chance to learn more about your products – and especially to find out what’s important to other customers. They may find out a new way to use your product or service that they hadn’t thought of before – which makes your product more valuable to them.

You can also use questions as market research. If your customer are asking questions about something that your company DOESN’T provide, it gives you some insight into what the marketplace is interested in. Maybe it’s time to look at developing solutions to those problems they’re bringing you. Which gives your company a wider reach in the market.

So many businesses look at questions as a nuisance – something to be avoided.

Not you – you welcome them, right? You welcome them because it gives you more opportunities to learn about your market, and gives you a leg up on the competition (who are trying to avoid those questions).

Make a point to keep track of as many of those questions that come up at tradeshows. Take them back and share them with your sales and marketing team, management, designers, product gurus…whoever can benefit from having front-line questions that are burning in the mind of those clients and potential customers. And you know those questions are burning because they took time to stop at your booth and ask them!

Treat questions as valuable bits and pieces of information. Tradeshows are a great place to field questions – make sure you’re doing it on a regular basis.

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photo credit: ϟnapshot 19

The Big Picture vs. The Details

You may have a good grasp about your overall BIG PICTURE tradeshow marketing plan. But what about the DETAILS?

Blurred vision

Overall execution of your plan at the show may be great, but if you slip on details, someone – a potential customer, perhaps – is bound to notice.

Some of the details to track: Is the booth clean and tidy? Are all your marketing materials in synch? Do all the colors match or complement your brand? Are your staffers greeting people with a smile? Do they fill out lead cards with all the information you require? Do the garbage cans get emptied when they start to spill over?

Details are important because they help complete the picture. If the carpet hasn’t been attacked with a carpet-sweeper and there are crumbs or bits of paper or junk, people will notice. If your graphics are peeling at the edges, people will notice. If personal belongings are not stowed out of site, people will notice. They’ll also notice if your staffers are talking on a cell phone, eating, drinking or sitting with their arms crossed.

So cross the T’s and dot the I’s – take care of details and the overall perception of your booth will be more positive.

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photo credit: Stefano Mazzone

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