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

Marketing

Does Your Tradeshow Exhibit Evoke Emotion?

“Does your tradeshow exhibit evoke emotion in the mind of a visitor?” might be a funny question. The better question might be: “HOW and WHAT emotion does your tradeshow exhibit bring out in your visitors’ hearts and minds?” But by asking it, you’re pulling on the string of branding, high-impact motivators such as confidence, sense of well-being, protecting the environment, being who you want to be and a litany of other emotions that pull in one direction or another.

tradeshow exhibit evokes emotion

Let’s use one of our clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, Bob’s Red Mill, as an example. Their foods are mean to inspire good eating with high-quality grains, oats, cereals, mixes and more. Good eating equals longer life and better health. Better health equals a positive feeling. Hence, just seeing the Bob’s Red Mill exhibit can evoke an emotion that gives people familiar with the brand a sense of well-being and comfort. All without them even thinking about it. As long as the visitor has a familiarity with the brand and products, their brain will make a quick connection with a positive result.

Let’s try another brand, say, United Airlines. With the recent debacle of having a booked passenger dragged off the airplane with smartphone video cameras in action that spread quickly throughout social media and mainstream news outlets, many visitors to a tradeshow with a United Airlines exhibit might have a different feeling today than they did just a month prior.

According to Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon, writing in the Harvard Business Review, “On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.” Gaining that emotional connection pays off in numerous ways as they buy more, visit you online or in your store more, are less concerned about price in favor of quality, and listen more to what you’re saying, whether on a TV or radio ad, in a magazine, or in a weekly newsletter.

When it comes to evoking that positive emotion when visitors at a tradeshow come upon your booth, your branding and costumer experience already has to be in place, at least to a certain degree. A visitor that’s familiar with your brand and has a positive feeling upon seeing your exhibit has internalized that – but beyond that, she recognizes the key elements of the brand successfully executed in the design and fabrication, down to the small details.

A visitor that’s not familiar with your brand will still experience a gut feeling upon seeing your booth. The accuracy of that evocation has everything to do with how skillfully your 3D exhibit designer and your graphic designer have understood and communicated the elements of your brand. Once they inhale that look, as it were, they’ll make a decision on whether to more closely check out your products or services. If all is done right, your visitor will get an accurate emotion of the brand that you’re hoping to disseminate.

tradeshow exhibit evokes emotion

This is all not precise, of course. You can’t just plug in a color or texture or design or graphic and provoke a predictable reaction. Even ugly and unplanned exhibits can still have a successful tradeshow experience, which may be due to other factors, such as the competition, the specific product, the enthusiasm and charisma of a particular booth staffer or some other unknown element.

But the better your exhibit reflects your true brand, the more powerful it becomes in the heart and soul of your visitor. And they’ll take that home with them.

SIA Snow Show From an Exhibitor’s Viewpoint

I’ve never attended the SIA Snow Show but I think I should someday, for two reasons. Number One: I’m a ski bum. Number Two: uh, see reason number one. Oh, and that’s right – I’m TradeshowGuy – I do tradeshows.

SIA SNOW SHOW

SIA – Snowsports Industries America – holds the annual SIA Snow Show in January in Denver, Colorado, home of some of the greatest skiing in America. Of course. With close to 20,000 attendees, it’s the industry’s largest global annual B2B gathering. It’s a smaller and more narrowly focused show than Outdoor Retailer, but in speaking to SIA Snow Show exhibitors, I gathered that many of them also exhibit or attend Outdoor Retailer.

Having not attended the snow show, I thought it might be illuminating to ring up some of the exhibitors at the show and debrief them on how the show went for them. Here’s what I came up with over the past several weeks.

Overall, how did the show rate? Most gave it very high marks.

“If it wasn’t a ten, it was a high nine,” said Ashley McGarvey of Meier Skis, who praised the show as bringing in lots of industry people. In spite of the challenges of being a smaller company, she felt the show was a very worthwhile marketing effort. According to SIA Snow Show information, over 96% of the supplier market share for ski, snowboard, AT, backcountry, cross country, snowshoe and winter apparel is there.

A big challenge that most small exhibitors faced, which is common throughout the industry and not just for the SIA Snow Show, is the high cost of transporting big booths and setting up the exhibits. This also resonated with the small core of Meier Skis team.

But all of the exhibitors I spoke with said they made great connections with retailers and distributors that made the show a ‘must.’

Whit Boucher of Strafe Outerwear agreed with Ashley, saying “It was a nine and a half, definitely,” saying that their 20×40 booth had a lot of traffic for the first three days, and saw a typical drop-off on day four. He speculated that it might be nice to drop the last day so they can show up then and break down the booth.

SIA SNOW SHOW

All exhibitors I spoke with felt the show opened doors to markets that they might not have normally had access to.

What challenges did they face? Besides the cost of exhibiting, smaller companies felt understaffed at times. Others felt that their exhibit wasn’t large enough to hold the people and products all at once.

One exhibitor, who preferred to remain nameless, felt the show was slipping in the past few years and felt that attendance had dropped “20 – 25%” in the past several years, and that the organizers had let in companies that had little to nothing to do with the core audience of snow sports: make-up companies, food companies and more. As a result, he said their company would be down-sizing next year. But still, he ranked the show as an “8 on a scale of 1-10 for what we need it to do.” He did express fear that the show would be sold or would merge into another show.

Erik Leines, CEO of Celtek has a personal mantra regarding tradeshows is “I’ve never met a tradeshow I didn’t like.” Why? “I’ve literally never done a tradeshow where I walked out and thought it wasn’t worth the money. For anyone doing a show, that’s the way to treat it. We have our own secret sauce on how to do it,” he added, as they always look at ways to attract attention and promote their products. Erik rated the show as “very high” as a marketing tool for their company.

Anything you’d change in your approach to exhibiting, or anything that is a challenge? Answers to this question ranged from “we need a bigger booth next year” to “we need more people in our booth” to “frustration and the cost of dealing with show services – how can it cost $1200 for three guys and a forklift to hang a sign in just four minutes?”

Bottom Line: a mixed bag. Even though most exhibitors I spoke with gave the show high marks, there was some comments that indicated that the show could be better and in fact might be slipping in some cases. Being such a narrowly focused show doesn’t necessarily give it strength, although it tends to draw the core audience that is needed for success. From all appearances, it is still a successful show, and yes, I’d like to get there and try out some new skis!


Thanks to Celtek, Meier Skis, Strafe Outerwear, POW Gloves, SKEA, 4F, Icelantic Skis, Red Feather and a few others that chimed in with comments on and off the record.

In Tradeshows, Perception is Everything (Almost!)

When you are going out on a date, my guess is you dress up. If you’re a guy, you’ll put on some nice clothes, fuss with your hair a bit, brush your teeth and maybe put on a dab of cologne. If you’re a girl, you’ll do much the same, only probably spend longer (is that a sexist remark or just an observation of reality?). In either case, the intent is to put your best “YOU” forward. You want to give a good impression.

tradeshow perception is everything

It’s the same at a tradeshow. You want to put your best look forward. And in probably almost more than any other marketing medium, tradeshows are critical to putting out a good impression.

The perception visitors have of you is what they’ll take away. And while there are many elements, from the exhibit to the booth staff and how they interact, to the products or services you offer, the bottom line is: what the visitors thinks they see is the impression they’ll take home.

And while this often means bigger is better and more impressive, that’s not always the case. And in fact, smaller exhibitors can often make a big impression by doing thing differently with booth activities, a ‘must-see’ product, a special guest in the booth, an unusual exhibit or giveaway or more.

If your visitors leave with the perception that your company is sharp, the product is great/cutting edge/marketing leading or whatever, and your exhibit is top-notch regardless of the size, you’ve accomplished your mission.

If those visitors see an old and tired exhibit, lazy or uninterested booth staffers, products and services that don’t inspire, that’s what they’ll remember.

Regardless of what your company or employees or products are really like, the perception is the reality. So put out the best impression you can. And if for some reason the perception is more impressive than the reality, you know you’ve got some work to do behind the scenes. But on stage – out where everyone can see you and make up their own minds based on what they see – that’s where you’ll leave a lasting impression.

Don’t Sell at the Tradeshow

Huh? Don’t sell at the tradeshow? Isn’t that why you’re there – to take names and kick ass? Sure, you won’t get an argument from me.

sell at the tradeshow

However, let’s take a look at the tradeshow situation. The event is designed to bring hundreds or thousands of people by your booth. If your intent is to sell – and just sell products at the event – then you’re going to spend more time with each person. It takes time to write up an order, and depending on your product or service, it probably takes time to determine exactly what that service or product is. How long is the service going to last? What version of your product is best for your client? When do they want it? What is their goal in using your product or service and can it really help them?

Sure, if you’re just selling single pack food items or something that can be sold in just a few seconds, they go ahead – sell, sell, sell!

Most products take longer. Even if you’re ultimately selling a single food product, you may be trying to get into more stores, or hook up with distributors. Which means you’re not actually selling at the show.

You’re just qualifying.

And once you qualify, you both then agree on the next step.

And that’s when the real selling begins.


Grab our free report: “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House”

The Importance of Knowing Your Tradeshow Marketing Goals

What are your tradeshow marketing goals? It may seem an obvious question. But it bears some attention before schlepping off to the show, setting up and accosting attendees.

Each show is different with a unique audience and a unique set of competitors. How you determine your goals depends on those combinations. Some shows may be better at connecting you with retailers, some better at interacting with buyers, others better at connecting with bigwigs who can make big things happen.

In general, the tradeshow marketing goals can fall under three main areas:

the importance of knowing your tradeshow marketing goals

Brand Awareness and Perception

In this area, you can build on your company’s marketplace awareness with an effectively branded booth that shows off your credentials or capabilities. You can promote specific products, launch new products, position your company effectively against competitors, or even reach new markets.

Floor Activity Goals

This is where you can work to increase traffic, have one of your managers speak at a conference or panel, speak with industry media outlets, compile information about your competitors, interact with attendees, promote your message, give demos or hand out samples, work to build traffic through promotions and social media engagement and more.

Things to Measure

I’ve always advocated that exhibitors count visitors. It’s not always easy on the crazy chaos of a tradeshow floor, but if you can keep count you’ll know the number of visitors you had. Use that as a baseline and count the visitors at each show and compare year-to-year. You’ll also count leads and sales that result from those leads. Do a little market research by taking a survey or visitors and compile the results. Keep count of any new distributors, suppliers, retail buyers and more.

Knowing your tradeshow marketing goals gives you focus, especially since those goals change from show to show, from audience to audience.


Free Report: “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House”

State of the TradeshowGuy Blog, 2017

The Beginning

What is the state of the TradeshowGuy Blog in 2017?

This blog started in December of 2008 with a podcast interview with Magic Seth. Since then, there have been 600+ posts that discuss and explore the tradeshow world and what it takes to succeed as a tradeshow marketer. The aim has always been to give useful information to small and medium-sized business tradeshow managers. In many ways, it’s succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. In some ways, I feel there’s much more work to do.

I started the blog when I was VP of Sales and Marketing for Interpretive Exhibits in Salem, Oregon. I picked the name TradeshowGuy mostly at random, but it wasn’t without some spurring by an old radio colleague who, when asking about my new job, I said I was no longer a radio guy, I was a tradeshow guy.

“Tradeshow Guy!” he exclaimed. So for lack of anything better, I named the blog TradeshowGuy Blog and it’s stuck. Hell, it’s copyrighted now and my company is named TradeshowGuy Exhibits, so it must have been a good pick.

Over the years I’ve followed some of the metrics associated with the blog, but I can’t say I obsess on them. In about the fourth or fifth year of the blog, shortly after I started tracking traffic using Google Analytics, I discovered there were about 3000 visitors a month. Not a ton, but certainly nothing to sneeze at. That was when I was posting as often as I could manage something substantial. Two or three years later I was too busy to post much and I noticed that traffic had dropped to about a tenth of than, around 300 a month.

Since then I’ve endeavored to post 2 – 3 times a week. Something. Anything: photo albums, tips, lists, videos, you name it. Traffic is now at its highest. According to Sitelock, human visitors add up to over 6000 visitors a month – about 210 a day over the past three months.

Buuuuut, when you look at Google Analytics, it shows 938 page views in 716 sessions with 632 users in the past month.

So who to believe?

Sitelock tracks both human and bot traffic and separates them out. Bot traffic is usually 10 – 15 times more than human traffic.

Any way you look at it, traffic is there and it’s consistent.

According to Google, 63% of visitors are there from organic search, and 26% comes from direct links (such as a newsletter). 8% comes from social media links.

Blog Content

I could ramble on and on about what it takes to come up with content for the blog for hours. In fact, I have taught courses about blogging, and done webinars about blogging and creating content. But that doesn’t make it easier. In fact, I don’t even know if I have a process. But I do have a goal: create at least 2 – 3 posts per week. If I do that, I know that traffic comes and people find me more often.

Content can come in many forms. Articles, video posts, podcasts, photographs, lists, guest articles, web travels and so much more. I still get a kick out of creating a great posts and clicking ‘publish.’

And I know it works. Our company TradeshowGuy Exhibits, see business as a direct result of people finding the blog and reaching out to make contact because they have questions about tradeshow marketing. Last year, in fact, over half of the business we did in dollars came as a direct result of people finding us online and either sending an email or filling out a quote request form. The year before, I know we acquired at least three clients as a direct result of the blog – so I know it gets attention in the tradeshow marketing industry space. But there’s no direct push-button response. There’s no way to predict these things! I can’t write eighteen blog posts and put up three videos to get a client. It just doesn’t work that way – if only it did! But when I started the blog eight years ago, I figured it couldn’t hurt. But as I said, it’s not predictable, so I don’t count on it – it’s just an additional benefit. I still do sales calls, attend tradeshows, network and prospect as any good sales person should.

Blogs are not the platform that they were six or eight years ago. Popular blogs back then got a lot of comments. Now most comments end up on Facebook and comments on blogs, even really popular ones, tend to be much less than just a few years ago. Facebook is the giant gorilla in the online space, and yes, you can find our TradeshowGuy Blog page here on Facebook, where all of the posts show up.

The WrapUp

And finally, it’s worth mentioning that I’m ramping up my online visibility with the TradeshowGuy Webinars training portion. For all of 2016 I did a webinar a month, usually with a guest but sometimes not (you can find them here), and as the year wound down I decided to change it up a bit. I still use the WebinarJam/Google Hangout platform which seems to work relatively bugfree, but instead of monthly webinars, I’m doing live weekly Monday Morning Coffee gatherings and posting the video shortly thereafter on the blog. I’ve thought that I should probably podcast the audio as well, but as of today that hasn’t happened yet. I’m still trying to convince myself that the extra step is worthwhile!


Download a free digital copy of the “Tradeshow Success” book.

Five Mistakes You’re Making at the Tradeshow

More than two-thirds of exhibitors do not have a solid plan in place and end up making mistakes at the tradeshow as they exhibit.

5 mistakes you're making at the tradeshow

In fact, not having an organized, comprehensive plan is one of the most common mistakes that exhibitors make.

And it’s safe to say that nearly all exhibitors don’t have a solid grasp of the metrics of their success or failure that comes from that tradeshow appearance. Why? Because companies tend to put all of their energy, time and money into putting on a good show, and very little into counting the results after the end of the show. Measuring your results – leads, sales closed – is one of the most critical measurements you can make.

Let’s look at some of the common mistakes you might make as you exhibit at the tradeshow.

  • First, you don’t have a comprehensive plan. This means going from A-Z and planning to cover all your bases, from pre-show marketing and show execution to having an exhibit that accurately represents your brand and communicates your message to counting leads and sales after the show is done. Know what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, how you’re planning to get back your return on the investment and where your tradeshow appearance fits in your overall marketing strategy.
  • Secondly, you may have the wrong people in the booth. Tradeshow floors are a chaotic busy mess where hundreds or thousands of people come and go all day long. Without proper preparation, which usually means staff training and picking the right people, you’ll end up with sales people or other staffers that can’t interact with precision, veracity and alacrity with those visitors. They’re not asking proper questions, they’re letting big fish get away and they’re spending too much time on little fish or people that won’t ever buy.
  • Third: you’re repeating yourself. Do you ever see the same company at the same show with the same exhibit year after year, showing off the same products? On close examination it seems nothing really changes from year to year. A company that’s on top of their game will upgrade the booth regularly or replace it when necessary; they’ll have new products to show off and new ways of interacting with visitors.
  • Fourth: you’re cheapening your brand by having inappropriate brand ambassadors in your booth. Pretty models in skimpy outfits may attract a crowd, but they do nothing to improve or define your company’s brand unless, of course, your brand is built on pretty models in skimpy outfits. Otherwise, in today’s climate, exhibiting in the US using those types of representatives will likely get you negative feedback.
  • Fifth: the biggest tradeshow marketing sin of all – you’re not following up on all of those leads in a timely manner. The fact that tradeshow leads are cheaper by the dozen and more targeted than any other kind of lead, coupled with the fact that your competitors have many of the same leads in their bucket, means that you must strike while the iron is hot. Letting a lead sit more than a few weeks means it grows colder and colder until you might as well toss it out with the other dead fish.

We all make mistakes – it’s part of life – but the more you can minimize mistakes with oodles of tradeshow marketing dollars on the table, the better off you’ll be.


Click here to grab my Tradeshow Follow-up Checklist

What’s your Tradeshow Marketing Narrative?

We all have stories – narratives that we can use to let people know who we are and what we stand for.

In the recent US presidential election, it was truly a battle of narratives. One side was viewed as a stable, dependable candidate albeit having been painted as crooked for decades by the other side. The other candidate was viewed as an outsider looking to ‘drain the swamp,’ but was painted by the other side as vulgar, unpredictable and unstable.

We all know how the election turned out. But what’s interesting is that no matter how much fact-checking came into play by countless individuals and entities, that the narrative of each side was what mattered most. We tend to believe what we want to, and if the story that’s depicted resonates with us, we’ll be moved by it.

It’s the same with tradeshow marketing. I have a number of clients in the natural products industry, and each company endeavors to tell a specific story using images, colors, graphics and messaging as part of an exhibit. Each company backs that up with products that continue that story and personnel that believe in the narrative. If there is a weak link in the chain, the dissonance will be felt, even if it isn’t clearly seen or understood.

That’s why, when crafting your tradeshow marketing narrative, all elements are important. Think of it: you’re under the microscope in a location where dozens if not hundreds of direct competitors are being examined as well. Every little thing contributes to the overall perception of your product and company: your employees, the clothes they wear, how they present themselves; the graphics, messaging, images, colors, booth construction materials, the flooring – are all communicating a distinct message. And if your story or narrative is not fully understood by the people designing the booth and creating the graphics, there is a good chance that the message will be garbled.

From the whole grains company to the bread company to the natural deodorant company to the men’s hygiene products company, they are all working to tell their story so that it’s easily understood, that it’s intuitively inferred by visitors.

Smarter people that me have the knowledge to craft those stories based on their knowledge of images, colors, messaging and so on and how people absorb those messages. The top companies in any industry are the ones that do the best job of depicting a narrative that fully and simply tells the story that they intend to tell.

Preparing for your 2017 Tradeshow Schedule

Yes, it’s upon us – 2017 – have you planned your new year tradeshow schedule? Chances are you’re at least planning a few months into the new year, but have you detailed out the entire year?

Tradeshow planning, as any tradeshow coordinator will tell you, is the key to success. And since there’s a lot to planning, it makes sense to spend a lot of your time making plans, checking plans and then double-checking.

Start with your tradeshow schedule. What shows are you going to? Make a master list of the dates of the shows.

Size of exhibit. Note the size of booth space your company has committed to rent at the various shows.

Break it down. Now start breaking out the various products and services that you’re promoting at each show. Chances are those items will change depending on the audience that’s expected at each show.

From there, you can start breaking out the graphics messaging, sampling needs if any, demos desired at each show and so forth. Break out the details as far as you can at this point; you’ll need to break them down further at some point anyway.

tradeshow schedule

Now you can start determining how many people will be required at each show based on booth size and expected visitors. From this you can figure out what staff members will likely be tasked with working the show.

Beyond this, you can compile website URLs and contact information for all of the shows. Pull up previous year’s paperwork to compare to pricing and floor plan and booth location to what is happening this year.

From this you can compare costs and leads generated, perhaps going so far as to compile the number of new clients or sales generated from 2016 show appearances.

Once you’ve put down most of the broad strokes and details of your shows and booth rental spaces and so on, you can start the task of determining what, if anything, might be changed or added to your current booth properties. Is your exhibit in good shape, or does it need an upgrade of some sort? Or is this the year you’ve decided to invest in a brand new exhibit? That’s another task entirely, but it would be part of your yearly tradeshow schedule planning.

While this is really just a 30,000 foot view of the process, once you put this all together, the real fun begins of breaking out each element of each show and making them work successfully.


Free Report: “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House”

How to Benefit from Tradeshows Without Exhibiting

You can benefit from tradeshows without exhibiting – it just takes a little planning.

How to Benefit from Tradeshows Without Exhibiting

For example, the simple fact of tradeshows means that there is an assemblage of buyers, managers, clients and prospects all at the same time. Consider scheduling an informal meeting with several of them. Perhaps it can be a dinner or an after-hours party or gathering. One show I attend regularly throws a party for all regional folks to see the best of the region. Several exhibitors are organized to gather their products for a state-specific gathering to show off the best-in-state (make sure that your activities are approved and sanctioned by the show and don’t break show rules).

Work with another company. Is there a larger exhibitor that you have worked with in the past? Perhaps it’s a good fit to co-exhibit with them and show off your goods at their booth. It might be marketing partners, customers, vendors or others that are complementary. For instance, if your co-exhibitor makes bread, that might be a good opportunity to show off your toast toppings.

Speak at a show. Larger shows in particular have ongoing training and seminar programs. Show off your expertise by offering to give a presentation or join a panel. It’s not really an opportunity to promote products (it’s frowned on, obviously), but if you can show your expertise and knowledge it’ll improve your standing in the industry, which can attract prospects. Work with noncompeting speakers: meet and greet and see how you might assist them in future projects.

Research products and competitors. Some shows are worth attending just to see if it’s a good fit for you in the future. While there, you can find what companies have the biggest footprint, find out what your competitors are up to (and maybe uncover some new ones), and get up close and personal with new products and services that will either compete with your offerings or complement them.

Other ideas that might let you benefit from tradeshows without exhibiting include purchasing a mailing list of exhibitors and/or attendees from show organizers. Consider purchasing ad space in the event newsletter, website or app.

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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