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

Logistics

Tradeshow Exhibiting Questions (and Answers!)

Sometimes I get tradeshow exhibiting questions. Well, frankly, I get a lot of questions. Some of them are even about tradeshow marketing! It’s worth seeing what people are asking, as well as what they’re thinking but not asking (I think!).

Q. Are tradeshows really worth attending?
A. The answer is: it depends! It depends on a variety of factors. Where to start? Let’s say that on average, companies spend about a third of their yearly marketing budgets on tradeshows, so there is definitely a lot of money ending up promoting products and services via tradeshow marketing. To get the most bang for your buck, do your due diligence by making sure you’re at the right show(s), with a good-looking and effective booth and well-trained and prepared staff.

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Beyond that there are so many variables you could write a book about it. Well, actually, I did.

Q: How do I know what kind of booth to get or what size?
A. While this is generally dictated by budget constraints, other factors come in to play, such as the size of the show (exhibitors and attendance figures are important to have), what competitors will be at the show and how important a particular show is to your overall tradeshow schedule. Sometimes a small 10×10 booth does a great job representing your company with only a few staffers. Other shows may dictate that you consider stepping up your presence. Lots of exhibitors that show up year after year at shows that are beneficial and help them build their businesses will continually invest in larger booths to make a bigger impression at the show. And when it comes to tradeshows, more than any other kind of marketing, perception is critical!

Q: Graphics are a big challenge for us. What’s the best way to approach this subject?
A. Graphics are critical to the success of your booth, so it makes sense to get the most effective design and use the highest quality. Design is critical in that your design should be striking, compelling and simple. Putting too much into a design means that people will not stop to digest it. Large images, bold text, compelling questions or bold statements are all ways to get effective graphics on to your booth. And be sure to work with someone who’s used to creating the large-format, high-resolution graphics that are necessary for effective tradeshow graphics. And work with a production facility that does high-quality production.

Q. Even with a big booth in a good location and a great product, we’re still coming up short of the amount of leads we feel we should be generating. What else should I consider?
A. A few areas to look at: booth staff competency. Are they properly trained on how to handle visitors in a tradeshow? Also, do you have any interactivity in your booth? That might be something that a visitor can put their hands on, which takes them a few moments during which you can then uncover information to qualify or disqualify them. Finally, you might consider hiring a professional presenter. A good one is worth their weight in gold in the amount of leads they can generate.

Q. I’ve never exhibited before. We know it’s important to make our presence known at some very targeted shows. What’s the best way to start?
A. Talk with a professional who can walk you through your various options. These depend on budget, of course, but you’ll want to compare renting vs. buying; custom vs. modular or system booth and go over which shows are really a good fit for you. From there you can talk about how best to show off your product or service, how many people to take to the show and what kind of lead generation tools you might want to consider using.

Q. Tradeshows are expensive. What are some good ways to cut costs?
A. Yes, they can be expensive! But you can find ways to keep costs down. You can look at cutting exhibit costs by not using hanging signs (expensive to hang), using a modular booth vs. custom, using reusable packaging material, not having extra boxes shipped to the floor (drives up drayage cost) and much more. For a very thorough list, I’d recommend you take about 45 minutes and watch Mel White’s recent webinar with Handshake on 25 Ways to Cut Costs at Your Next Tradeshow. It’s well worth your time.

Got more questions? Let me know!

7 Things to Do Immediately After You Get Back from the Tradeshow

Once the tradeshow is over, it’s easy to let a few things slide because, after all, you’ve been working your fanny off for 12 or 14 hours a day for several days straight! But if your tradeshow followup can manage to do just a few things prior to taking that five minute well-deserved rest, here’s where to start:

  1. Make sure the leads are delivered to the sales crew. Depending on the size of your operation this may be hundreds of leads and 10 or more sales people, but it might be a lot less. Make sure the leads have good contact info, and correct follow up info (who gets what and when), and make sure they’re graded in terms of importance and urgency.
  2. Check the booth crate(s). It’s easy to let this step slide, because the crate may not get back for days, or even weeks. But take a half a day or whatever time you need, make sure the crates were packed properly, make sure all items are there and in good shape. Make a list of what’s missing and what needs repair before the next show.
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    Compile and file all of your reports: travel expenses, products sold, samples given away, booth personnel, comments from the staff, costs of the show, and so on.

  4. Gather photos and videos. These could be useful for social media, your company blog, and checking to make sure that the booth is in good repair, or to document damage.
  5. Gather any social media, media or PR stats. How many tweets and Facebook posts went up during the show? How many retweets or interaction? How many videos were posted on YouTube and how many views did they gather?
  6. Give a report to the boss. Not only will this show them the overall results, it’ll help justify your position (if it needs to be justified). Added benefits include having that information spread throughout the marketing team and management, show trends from show to show, and give you a go-to place for questions about the booth, shows or anything related.
  7. NOW take that break!

Renting Furniture: Good Idea?

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With a multitude of moving parts in tradeshow exhibits, where does furniture play a part in your booth? Do you purchase chairs and tables and ship them with your booth? Or do you simply rent furniture each time you exhibit?

There’s no single right ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer. Life isn’t that way, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately)! Nope, in fact it might be that your exhibiting needs change drastically from show to show, and you have to rent sometimes and other times it makes sense to ship furniture.

So how often to exhibitors actually rent furniture? Surprisingly, it’s over half, according to several I&D companies that were queried at an April event. In fact, it was close to 75% to 90%! So if you’re currently NOT renting furniture, you’re likely one of the few that are either shipping it in your booth crates, or having your clients and staffers stand the entire show. Whew!

The cost of renting furniture can add up, we know. In fact, if you’re new to furniture rental, you might be shocked to see that it will often cost more to rent a nice chair or table than it is to buy. And if it doesn’t cost more, it will likely cost close to the purchase amount. But if you calculate the cost of shipping, drayage, return shipping and storage of the furniture, the cost continues to increase. And even if you own the furniture, you’ll have to replace it at some point due to damage and wear and tear. So how much does it really cost? Unfortunately, tradeshow exhibits – including furniture – take a beating and often have to replaced or repaired frequently. So your cost of owning keeps going up.

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With furniture rental, you are paying not only for the cost of the furniture, which rental companies go to great lengths to make sure are in excellent shape (otherwise they’ll lose customers), your cost typically includes shipping and drayage. So that $300 for a chair is a one-time cost that means it’ll show up at your booth and will vanish once the show is over – all coordinated by show services or your tradeshow coordination company.

TradeshowGuy Exhibits Exhibit Design Search recently added a new strategic partner: Cort Furniture. Here is where you’ll find virtually any furniture item that you’d ever need in a tradeshow booth, from plants to stanchions, from small refrigerators to tablet stands, from bar tables and stools to luxury office chairs and ottomans and much more. And the prices are very competitive, so if you’re looking to rent a furniture item for your next show, just review the selection here and see what works for you.

Care and Feeding of Tradeshow Exhibits

You bought a new tradeshow exhibit. You took it to the show, set it up to great fanfare and response, then packed it up and took it back to the office. Now what? Will you wait until the next show, pull it out and think it’ll look exactly the same as the first time?

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Hardly. Unfortunately, tradeshow exhibits are not like the common household items, such as a recliner, TV set or backyard patio table and umbrella. With those items, you can see any rip that needs repaired or gouge that should be covered or food spill that needs cleaning. Nope, a tradeshow exhibit is handled roughly for most of the time it sees daylight. It’s pulled from crates, assembled, used, abused, battered and more prior to being crammed back in the crate by employees who are in a hurry and are thinking ahead to what they can do later in the day. Sometimes a forklift and a tradeshow panel will have a close encounter. Other times an aluminum strut gets a big gouge from who-knows-where.

So how is the best way to handle it?

Cleaning

The first step is to realize that simply, the purchase of a tradeshow exhibit means that you are also responsible for its care and feeding. Much like a pet or child, you have much more responsibility than just making the purchase.

Tradeshow exhibits need care and feeding. To wit, start with each time the tradeshow exhibit is set up. Document the set up with photographs and notes if necessary. Point out areas that are damaged and need repair, or need cleaning. Most exhibits will need some sort of cleaning after each show, especially if you’re in the food industry and have been handing out samples. Take soap and water, scrub counters and shelves and let dry.

Damage Assessment

Once the tradeshow exhibit crates come back, schedule time to open the crates and go through each piece. Again, document the state of the items, and document the way the crates were packed, comparing to the way they were originally packed at the exhibit house, or prior to shipping from your warehouse. In any event, the more you are aware of what shape your exhibit is in, the better off you are.

Does the exhibit need repairs? If so, determine what type of repairs it needs and who will do it. Clients we’ve worked with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits have approached this issue in a couple of ways: some will ship the crates straight to the exhibit house to have it closely examined every three or four shows. Others will make sure they spend time a month or so prior to an upcoming show to pull the exhibit pieces out of the booth and set it up. If it needs repair, and they’re capable of making those repairs, they’ll do it. Sometimes they’ll need to order a specific part or two from their exhibit house that originally fabricated the booth, but often it means doing it themselves.

Storage

How is your exhibit stored? It should ideally be stored in a warehouse that has a consistent temperature, is dry and pest-free. This avoids damage from the changing temperatures, mildew and insects.

Professional I&D and Shipping

Another way to keep your exhibit in top form is to have it handled by professionals who know what they’re doing. This means having it set up and disassembled by professionals, and having it shipped by companies that are used to handling tradeshow freight.

Graphics and more

Other parts of care and feeding of your tradeshow exhibit include making sure all graphics are up to date and fit properly, making sure all the pieces of the booth are returned and in good shape, and making sure the crates are still sturdy and stable enough to endure another shipment.

By taking complete ownership of your tradeshow exhibit, you’ll not only get more life out of your exhibit in terms of years that you are able to use it for tradeshow promotions, you’ll save money by avoiding large repairs due to neglect.

Tradeshow Logistics [Webinar Replay]

Last week I sat in with the good folks at Handshake.com and offered a look at Tradeshow Logistics: Getting Your Ducks in a Row. It’s a part of tradeshow marketing that is critical, but tends to be set aside in favor of things such as pre-show marketing, staff training, lead generation and so on.

In this webinar, we covered a lot of pertinent things, such as shipping, booth upgrades and graphic changes, the logistics of lead generation and getting them back to your sales team and more. Thanks to Handshake.com for offering to have me host another webinar with them!

Take a look:

Tradeshow Logistics Webinar with handshake.com

8 Essential Tradeshow Metrics to Track

Tradeshow Success is built on a lot of moving parts, and it’s often hard to know exactly how successful the show is unless you track the details. So let’s dive in a little and see what 8 essential tradeshow metrics mean the most to your overall success.

  • Booth visitors: knowing the overall number of booth visitors, or at least a valid estimate, can give you valuable information, especially in a year-to-year comparison at the same show, and from show-to-show. Even though when you measure show-to-show it’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, it does give you intel to help judge the show’s effectiveness.
  • Leads generated: one of the more straight-forward metrics you can track, but it’s important to break them down into at least thre
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    e levels: hot, warm and cool. This will give the sales team the information to correctly follow up on the hot ones right away and the warm and cool ones later.

  • Sales as a result of the leads: track how many new customers came out of the show in the first three months, six months and year (depending on the type of product or service you offer). Track the overall sales amount. It’s harder to track B2B sales from a tradeshow simply because you might not get a new customer until a year or more has passed.
  • New leads: a slight differentiation from all leads, this breaks out the brand new potential clients from those that you’ve had some sort of contact before. Valuable information, indeed.
  • New customers: same with customers – how many news ones did you get as a result of a show vs. how many are repeat customers that happened to be at the show and buy something because of the show.
  • Budget: actual vs. estimated. Keeping track of the investment is important; knowing how much over or under budget is critical.
  • Cost per lead: divide the overall cost of the show by the number of leads gathered to get a cost per lead.
  • Return on Investment: divide the overall net profit you’ve gained over three, six, twelve months by the net profit from the show (gross profit minus the cost of attending the show).

There are other numbers you can track, but if you do nothing but track these metrics you’ll have a lot more insight into the kind of success your tradeshow marketing program is giving you.

Tradeshow Exhibit Installation Dismantle (I&D)

If your tradeshow booth is so big you can’t set it up yourself, you’ll need to hire a crew for installation/dismantle, commonly known as I&D in the industry. If you have an island booth, you’re much better off leaving the set up to the professionals.

Because the booth won’t listen when you yell at it, “Go on, get into place, you booth you!” Sorry, maybe on Harry Potter, but not in real life.

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If you are going to set up your own inline or modular booth, make sure you arrive early at the event. This becomes much easier if you choose a manufacturer that designs products to be lightweight and easy to set up.

Generally you have a couple of choices for hiring: using the show services or hiring an exhibitor approved contractor that is familiar with local rules.

Some of the items that come up as you’re planning your I&D include making sure that the contractor is familiar with local rules where you’ll be exhibiting, making sure they have an accurate rendering (or booth set-up instructions) so they can give you an accurate estimate for installation, and any special equipment you might need for installation, such as a Genie lift, long ladders, electrical equipment and so on. If your contractor needs to buy anything you’ll need to know that upfront so that you can find yard ramps for sale or buy any other equipment needed.

Knowing some of the terms of I&D is helpful as you navigate your coordination with an I&D group:

  • Advance rates: you can save money by booking the exhibit space ahead of time.
  • Advance receiving: with hundreds or thousands of exhibitors all shipping several crates to a show, there is usually a advanced receiving warehouse that gives exhibitors a window to ship booths and have them stored until it’s show time.
  • CIF: if your shipping contract lists a CIF, this simply means that the price is inclusive of cost, insurance and freight.
  • Craftsperson: a skilled worker or laborer
  • Dead time: time when your hired workers are sitting, usually getting paid a lot, while there is nothing to do because of factors beyond their control
  • EAC: Exhibitor Approved Contractor – any company other than the official designated contractor. These may be companies that not only do the booth I&D, they may be involved in AV set-up, photography, plant rental and so on.
  • Four hour call: minimum time that a union laborer must be paid for work performed on the show floor for an exhibitor.
  • Straight Time (ST): work performed on the show floor during normal business hours
  • Overtime (OT): work performed on the show floor outside normal business house which usually included holidays and weekends

Many clients we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits are in the process of moving from the comfort zone of setting up an inline booth to outside the comfort zone of working with an I&D company for the setup of an island booth. Believe me, it can be a challenge if you’ve never done it before. But having seen many of them go through it, it’s also a great growing experience for the company as their booth presence on the tradeshow floor increases and they make a bigger impact on their market.

Bigger is often better – but it takes more effort and coordination to make it happen.

Tradeshow Logistics Play a Critical Part of Your Success

This is a guest post by Valerie McSween.

Your company has invested substantial capital to purchase an exhibit, you’ve spent thousands of dollars to secure floor space at an upcoming tradeshow and your marketing team developed a thorough marketing campaign to make the show as successful as possible. You will also incur important travelling expenditures. You are looking forward to flying in with your team for the event.

You arrive at the show with excitement of meeting quality people over the next few days and discover that your booth’s delivery missed the receiving deadline at the marshalling yard. Your floor space has a lovely carpet, which you also paid for, however your booth didn’t make it on time and the show must go on…

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Tradeshow logistics plays a vital role in delivering a successful event. When efficiently orchestrated, it implies getting the booth and events material delivered to the tradeshow venue on time, and in perfect condition. We’ve listed a few general rules of thumb to help mitigate the risks involved in not delivering – or recovering – your exhibit material on time.

  • Time permitting, ship early. Most transportation providers won’t charge storage to hold your goods near the tradeshow venue for a few days. You can also use the show’s advance warehousing option. You will be billed higher handling fees by the show organizer yet this ensures you are on time for the move-in.
  •  Hire a transportation provider familiar with tradeshow logistics and make sure they can easily be reached 24 /7. Communicate the marshalling yard location and the check-in time you have been assigned. Be prepared to pay for waiting time and negotiate the hourly rate ahead of time with your transportation provider to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  •  Detail as much information as possible on the bill of lading: name of the show & exhibitor, booth number, on-site contact name, telephone number, number of pieces and weight.
  •  Label each shipping unit with all pertinent information, including the number of pieces (i.e. 1 of 5, 2 of 5, etc.). Insert your business card in every package to ensure any items that get separated from the shipment make it back to you after the dismantling.
  •  Wrap your crates/pallets with coloured stretch wrap to help your team locate the shipment more easily at the venue’s receiving dock if need be.
  •  Stacking crates/pallets inside the delivery truck may reduce your shipping costs, however you will be billed additional handling fees to have the exhibit offloaded at the show (more or less 25% greater). Be sure to weigh the trade-offs between reduced shipping costs and resulting higher handling fees before deciding how to package and ship your material.

There are a few key issues you want to address before leaving the premises once the show concludes. To mitigate the risks of penalties and resulting costs for not recovering your shipment on time:

  • Confirm outbound shipping arrangements with your transportation provider and with the show’s service desk. Confirm your assigned check-in time for the recovery of your exhibit material.
  •  Remove old labels and affix new ones with the outbound information to each package. Attach copies of the return bill of lading to your shipment. Indicate the name of your transportation provider and their 24/7 telephone number and contact name.
  •  Turn in the material handling form (MHA) and the bill of lading to the general service contractor of the show. The MHA authorizes the show contractor to transfer your shipment from the booth location to the designated carrier. Both forms need to be turned in to avoid your shipment being “forced”.
  •  Make sure your carrier’s name is clearly specified in the designated area on the MHA.
  •  Ensure that all payment arrangements have been made with the show organizer. Your shipment may otherwise not be released to your carrier and consequently ‘’forced”.
  • When a booth remains on the show floor after the scheduled move out, it gets “forced” out. This implies that your exhibit will ship from the tradeshow venue via the show’s designated carrier. Unless that carrier happens to be the one you booked for the move-out, you will have exorbitant fees to pay to recover your shipment.

Understanding the importance that transportation plays in tradeshow logistics will help you make the right choice when hiring a transportation provider for your next tradeshow exhibit. Your day-to-day carrier may offer competitive pricing for non-time-sensitive orders, however they may lack knowledge and experience with tradeshow logistics. To help you reach your tradeshow objectives, choose a carrier who will give you the peace of mind and let you focus on the reason you are exhibiting at the show to begin with.

Whichever transportation provider you hire to carry your exhibit material, request references and reach out to clients who swear by them when it comes to events and tradeshow logistics.

Valerie McSween, CCLP is the Vice President, Eastern Region at Mactrans Logistics Inc. She is also the Vice Chair Finance for the CITT Board of Directors. Over the last 20 years, Valerie has worked with both asset based and non-asset based transportation providers in various strategic business development functions. She holds her CCLP designation as well as an Executive MBA in Logistics.

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