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

Marketing

Personal Tips for Working from Home

I’ve been fortunate enough to work from home for almost nine years. It’s not always easy. Retaining focus and momentum through the day is one of the hardest things. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.

You can’t do it all on your own. Even though you work from home, presumably alone (although you may have family and kids and dogs and cats with you for the time being), there are still workers and colleagues you need. Not only to stay connected, but to communicate with regularly so you know what everyone is doing.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels

Having a schedule is critical. I block out various times of the day to get things done. Or make sure that on certain days, certain things get done. For instance, in normal times, I block out an hour of prospecting calls four times a week. Client calls are usually around the same time, although knowing that clients might not be as flexible, I often schedule calls early or later in the day. I write, record and produce a podcast late in the week, usually Friday although sometimes it happens on Saturday, and post it first thing on Monday. I try (and usually succeed) to write and post a new blog article on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Take a break. Snack, water, quick walk, get outside. Hey, you’re at home! You can take a few moments.

Have a start and stop time and do your best to stick to it. I realize that work-at-home schedules are fraught with influences that mean you have to be flexible. But if you have guidelines on when to start and stop, you’ll have a better time keeping on track.

Focus is also critical. If you can’t focus and find yourself getting on Twitter or Facebook, spend a moment there, then get up and leave the room. Get away from the computer. Talk with your spouse if they’re there, or a kid, or just take a break. Think about the most important thing you should do when you get back in front of the computer. Maybe even the most important two or three things, write them down, and when you sit down to work after a few moments, do those things. Put the blinders on, for at least a few moments. Some people work well with timers, shutting everything out for 20 or 30 minutes. Others don’t. Find what works best for you to keep focus, which is when you’ll likely do your best work.

Work when you’re most effective. I tend to like working best in the morning. After one or two in the afternoon, focus wanes and effectiveness drops significantly. With my wife not working now because her employer is closed due to the Coronavirus, I’m getting up a six, doing my morning Yoga routine while the coffee brews, and then work on my novel for an hour. Then I crank through the email and any immediate business items. Then it’s a shower and we walk the dog. Lately the walks have been an hour or more, getting in three or four miles. Finally, it’s back in the office for more business-related work for a couple of hours. Some people are not morning people and work better at night. Whatever works best for you is what you should try to make happen.

With the family home, communication is important. Your spouse may need to work as well, you may have kids that need hands-on attention. Or not. No matter your situation, make sure all parties are clear on your needs, and make sure you’re clear on their needs. It’s not fun to keep butting heads on schedules when a simple discussion and prioritizing of each person’s needs and desires can usually straighten things out.

With the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic, you may be working from home. But it won’t last forever. You’ll get back to the office at some point. Hopefully sooner than later. But in the meantime, get some work done. And have a little fun at the same time.

What do to When You Can’t Exhibit at Tradeshows

The tradeshow industry looks to be imploding, at least for the short term. Natural Products Expo West cancelled. NAB Show cancelled. HIMSS Show cancelled. SXSW cancelled. Even March Madness games will be played without an audience, if they’re played at all. I think it’ll get worse before it gets better.

You built an event calendar out for the year. You planned, you upgraded, you designed and produced new graphics, maybe you even invested in a new exhibit. But if the show doesn’t take place, how can you make the best use of your upgrades or your new graphics?

A couple of suggestions:

Put together a short video, maybe a minute or less, that you can share on social media. Explain that while you were planning to launch a new product or debut a new booth, but the show cancellation prevented you from doing so. Instead, show it off in the video. If it’s just a graphic upgrade, show those off in the video. If it’s a new exhibit, your exhibit house should have provided 3D renderings – show those off as well, and make sure to tell your clients and prospects and social media followers that you’ll be using it as soon as you’re able at the next show – whenever that is.

Use social media to launch the new products. If it’s feasible, have a little contest and give away some samples. Pick a few winners and mail them the samples.

Convene people for a Zoom virtual meeting. Maybe even make it a virtual tradeshow to where you can show off your new booth renderings – and hey, if you want to go all out and it makes sense for you and you have the room, set up the booth and use that as a backdrop for your Zoom call. Show it off!

Photo by Canva Studio from Pexels

Do one-on-one outreach to clients. Make calls, send emails. If convenient (or wise), schedule coffee or lunch. Keep in touch! Heck, schedule a Zoom call and send a coffee gift card ahead of time so they can have a fresh cup on hand! Talk to them about what you were going to do with the show.

Other promotions: create a small brochure and mail it to your clients and prospects showing off your new products that you were going to debut at the tradeshow. Have a sale. Offer free shipping. Do a BOGO sale.

Bottom Line: It looks like the frequency and functionality of tradeshows and events are going to be drastically cut for the foreseeable future. Don’t wait to figure out what you can do in place of tradeshow and events. There’s always something.


Thanks to Andy Saks of Spark Presentations for the inspiration for this blog post.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, March 9, 2020: Expo West and a Week in LA

Natural Products Expo West was postponed and/or cancelled a couple of days before floor doors were to open. I happened to be sitting on the airplane headed to LA for the show when I got the news.

This week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee podcast/vlog is more or less a travelogue of the 6 days I spent in LA and surrounding area, along with a few comments about Natural Products Expo West. I worked with clients to make sure they had return shipping handled and connected with several old friends and relatives.

Take a look/listen:

Show Notes: I mentioned a handful of folks that I encountered during the week.

Jay Gilbert interview

Paul Jackson interview

Drew at Radio.com – Entercom Radio, including JACK-FM.

Roger Steffens, author, speaker, Bob Marley historian, reggae collector (Wikipedia page)

Roger’s Instagram page: The Family Acid.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: having a little free time on the road.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, March 2, 2020: Marcus Vahle and John Pugh

Share Experience is a new company formed late last year by Marcus Vahle and John Pugh, both with long experience in the event and tradeshow world. Given what looks to be a unique approach to carving out their niche in the event world, I thought it might be fun to catch up with them for a conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:

Check out Marcus and John’s new company Share Experience.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Dean Koontz’s “The Forbidden Door.”


What Data are You Measuring When Exhibiting at Tradeshows?

Face it, we’re all swimming in data. Every time we walk out the door, drive to the store, buy a cup of coffee, order something online or even just sit at home watching TV, that information is getting logged. If you have a doorbell camera, there’s a good chance that you also chose to connect with local law enforcement agencies, who now can use the images to theoretically catch the bad guys. Stories abound, good and bad, about how all of that data can be used.

So yes, the data at times can be overwhelming. But what about your tradeshow booth? Are there any ways to track data during a show that can be helpful?

Let’s say you set up a time lapse camera in your booth. Put it somewhere that allows you to track the number of visitors, that can show you how long people stayed, or what they interacted with in the booth. That would be one way. Certainly, it would take some time to go through the video after the show, but my guess is that you would get some good intel as a result.

Other data you could consider tracking isn’t so high tech: leads generated, sales made (and dollars brought in as a result of those sales), new customers. You might also look at web traffic you got during or right after the show. And be sure to look at social media impact: number of likes, retweets, engagements and so forth.

Back to tech, here’s a great article from the Event Manager Blog on ways to track visitors using smart mats, wi-fi monitors and heat maps, badge scanners, wearables, beacons and more. Loads of stuff to digest, and some of it may actually be useful in certain situations.

Gathering data to examine from a single show is certainly valuable. But it’s just one piece of the data-gathering path. When you gather the same type of data at show after show, year after year, you can see trends develop.

All of this information can help you make more informed decisions on how to approach and shape your marketing messaging by uncovering what makes things tick.


Tradeshow Rules

If you’re sitting on an airplane, there are certain rules that need to be followed. First and foremost, the attendants and the captain are in charge. In fact, on each and every flight I’ve been on, they remind you that federal law dictates that you must obey any instructions from flight attendants.

If you’re playing golf, there are rules upon rules about addressing the ball, putting, where you can take a drop and so on. Same with basketball, climbing a mountain, lifting weights. Some of the rules are well-thought out and dictated by organizations that manage the sport. The NBA, for example, can have different basketball rules than the NCAA. Or different football rules. Some rules are just plain common sense but aren’t written down.

When it comes to tradeshows, as an exhibitor or an attendee, as part of the agreement that allows you access to the hall, you agree to certain rules. If you’re an exhibitor, there are dozens and dozens of rules about the exhibit you are allowed to set up, heights, fees, and so on and so forth.

Unwritten Rules

What about rules that may not be written down, but are just common sense? No doubt most of these are just rules of polite society: don’t be a jerk, treat people as you would like to be treated, and so on.

There also several unwritten rules of etiquette that you should adhere to. No eating in the booth, no sitting in the booth, greet visitors with a smile and a great engaging question, being on time when you’re scheduled to work.

But about the tradeshow floor itself, rules are again often unspoken. Let’s check in on a few.

Suitcasing is a term for someone who is walking from exhibit to exhibit and trying to pitch their product or services. Or they occupy space where people are coming in and out and hand out flyers or brochures. It’s considered unethical because the visitor didn’t pay for being there. They have no money invested.

Outboarding is when a company doesn’t exhibit, but they’re willing to rent a suite at a nearby hotel and invite attendees to see their wares. I’ve read that it’s less common than it used to be simply because show managers now often reserve blocks of rooms for exhibitors and if someone that is not exhibiting tries to reserve a room or a suite the hotel just refuses.

Extending beyond the booth confines is not something I see a lot, but I do see. This is when exhibitors will push things like banner stands or literature stands outside of their booth dimensions.

Using music in your booth. Unless you hire the musician, and the musician is playing his own unpublished music (rare, but it could happen), you’ll be liable for paying licensing fees. And they ain’t cheap.

After hours a good rule to follow is limit your alcohol intake, don’t stay up late, make sure you’re well-fed and hydrated. If you’re hosting a client dinner or event, let the visitors eat or drink first. Be a good host.

There are literally hundreds of other rules we could get into, and no doubt you could come up with your own. Rules about marketing strategy, collecting and following up on leads, attracting key prospects, graphic design and so on.

The final rule I’ll offer, though, is this:

You’re going to be on your feet for hours at a time. Wear comfortable shoes!

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.


Gearing Up for Natural Products Expo West 2020

In three weeks, Natural Products Expo West will be launching in Anaheim California. It’s a show that TradeshowGuy Exhibits is most involved with of all the shows our clients go to each year. For the past couple of months, we’ve been working with new and current clients to finalize artwork, shipping and logistic schedules and more. It’s a crazy wonderful show. I’ve met hundreds of people there over the years and gained clients with almost every appearance. And of course, I’ve met people from companies that seemed to think they’d become clients, but it never happened. Maybe next year!

Schmidt’s Natural Products

The preparation for a big show for many clients goes well beyond making sure the tradeshow exhibit is up to snuff and sporting new graphics or furniture or counters or new AV elements or lights. It’s about making sure they’re positioned right with new products and services. It’s about making connections with old colleagues and meeting new ones. It’s about seeing what your competitors are launching.

It’s also about all of the details and all the moving parts: scheduling labor, electrical, shipping, flooring, furniture, you name it. There are endless details when it comes to tradeshow marketing. Handling it each year and making adjustments at the next show to improve is not uncommon.

Bob’s Red Mill

We’ll report more from the show during and after, but if you want to see how last year went for us, well, it went pretty well. I don’t think we’ll be quite as busy this year as a few of those clients are not making changes to last year’s presentations. But yeah, we’ll be busy.

I look forward to walking the floor for a few days, seeing what people are doing, talking with exhibitors, learning their challenges. I look forward to being in warmer climes than Oregon during early March! I look forward to connecting with an old friend in LA and catching up on a spare night (there aren’t many).

Organixx

But most of all, I look forward to seeing the clients we’ve worked with, whether for decades, years, or even a few months. I look forward to seeing how all of the hard work is received. It’s great to make clients look good, not only to their immediate supervisors who may not have been intimately involved in the new exhibit or upgrades, but also the clients who come away impressed with the exhibit.

Profit Toolbelt Podcast Features TradeshowGuy Interview

It was a couple of months ago that we featured Dominic Rubino on the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee video blog/podcast. This month the interview Dominic did with me appeared on his Profit Toolbelt Podcast, which is aimed at the ‘growth-minded contractors,’ who often end up attending or exhibiting at home shows.

Our conversation focus was on how to stand out at a Home Show. Fun conversation. Click the image below or this link and head on over to the interview.


The Pros and Cons of Giving Out Free Gifts

This is a guest post by Rodney Laws, Editor at Ecommerce Platforms.

We’re all familiar with tradeshow swag. If you’ve been through a hectic stretch of tradeshow attendance, you’ve surely lurched back to your vehicle of choice with a heavy bag of assorted items — and if you’ve ever presented at such a show, you’ve most likely opted, or been told, to hand out some products (free of charge).

It’s a long-standing staple of the industry, so you might think it’s inevitable, but you have a choice in the matter. Don’t want to offer free gifts? You don’t have to. If you’re on the fence, though, you might be looking for a nudge in one direction or the other. So what should you do? Cover your stall in tempting swag, or leave it bare and focus on the reason why you’re there?

To borrow from ecommerce parlance (it is my industry, after all), it’s like the delicate matter of landing page development: you can have a generic landing page that doesn’t impress or offend, or you can build a custom landing page that differs from the competition in ways that may delight or frustrate. Neither option is perfect. Either can go wrong.

To help you decide what’s best for you, here are the pros and cons of giving out free gifts. Consider them my gifts for you (have I tipped my hand there?).

Why you should give out free gifts

All those tradeshow presenters can’t be totally misguided in breaking out the swag bags. Here are the main reasons why you should dish out the goods:

  • They can easily be branded. You don’t need to hand out generic items that will get thrown in bags and immediately lose any association with you. If you do it well, you can give out branded gifts that get across your brand identity and possibly your brand message too (it depends on how much space you have for text and visuals).
  • Tradeshows can be dry. As much as professionals will get hyped-up ahead of a tradeshow, the energy can run out quickly if exhibits are dull and they drank too much the previous evening. But free gifts will always get attention — and even if that attention is brief, it’s better than no attention at all.
  • You can get quite creative. Pens are always useful, but you don’t need to offer pens. If you can think of something portable and not overly expensive, you can make it a free gift, and that gives you a lot of creative scope. Look at what others are doing, and come up with something different.
  • People often expect them. Unfortunately, the precedent of free gifts at tradeshows can make life hard for those exhibitors who don’t have any. It might be viewed as indicative of a lack of effort, or even a cheapness that bodes poorly.

Why you shouldn’t give out free gifts

That something is popular doesn’t mean it’s sensible. Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t give out free gifts at tradeshows:

  • The ROI might not be there. While it’s great to get plaudits for the quality of your swag, you need meaningful ROI for the process to be worthwhile. If you keep handing out products and getting less value in return than you spend on them, then you’d be better served not giving out any gifts at all. Sometimes there isn’t much point.
  • You can make it a selling point. If you just have an empty stall, no one will care, but if you make a point of your lack of free gifts — you could make it a stand against plastic use, for instance, or simply explain that your brand is so good that you don’t need gimmicks (this is itself a gimmick, of course, but don’t mention that) — then you can get the same kind of attention at no cost.

Overall, then, should you bother giving out free gifts? Well, it depends on whether you think there’s ROI to be yielded. If you can choose the gifts well and make them actionable somehow, they can prove quite fruitful. Here’s my suggestion: try to come up with a smart free gift strategy. If you devise one, use it. If you don’t, forget the gifts. Simple!

Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.

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