A tradeshow floor sales call is something a little different than a typical sales call. Okay, it’s a lot different. Let’s compare.
With a typical call, whether in person or on the phone, a sales person will research the prospect, sometimes to the point of reviewing their LinkedIn Profile, the company, the possibility of doing business, their needs in regard to the offered service or product and maybe more. Sometimes the sales person just has an inkling that the target prospect may have a need for the product or service and they just make a call with little more to go on, figuring they’ll either uncover a need or disqualify them and remove them from a prospect list. Either approach is valid and each sales person has their own system for making contact and determining potential.
On the tradeshow floor, a sales call is something different. Not altogether different, but it is different than a typical sales call. The floor is controlled chaos with hundreds of people near your exhibit, either walking by or stopping if your exhibit has done a good job of pitching a proper message.
Once the person stops, the conversation is usually faster-paced, with an eye on qualifying or disqualifying quickly. A prepared booth staffer will have a few questions at the ready, and use them to find out if the visitor is a prospect. If they are, the next questions will determine if they’re in the market currently (or soon), if they make the buying decision and if they have the money to spend. As Richard Erschik put in in a recent interview, the five questions a staffer should have at hand are:
Do you currently use our product?
Are you considering the purchase of a product such as ours?
If so, when?
Do you make the buying decision?
Do you have the money to spend?
In a more typical sales call, where the sales person is either on the phone or in their office, the conversation is a more nuanced approach, covering agreements on the amount of time agreed upon, the agreement that if there is no need for the product that the prospect will be honest about that, and if there is a need, the two parties will agree on the specifics of the next step.
During a tradeshow floor sales call, the timing is quicker – mainly you cut to the chase. If the visitor is prospect, determine the next step. If not, politely disengage and move on to the next person.
A tradeshow floor sales call may take place dozen, maybe a hundred or more times during a day, as opposed to just a few calls in person on location, or on the phone.
Knowing what to expect and being prepared will give you a distinct advantage over your competitors who are at the show without a concise plan.
Over the years I’ve suggested that companies create a tradeshow-specific landing page for each appearance they make at a show. But frankly, I don’t see too many of them.
But I recently ran across a tradeshow-specific landing page from Digimarc that caught my eye. Digimarc is a Portland-based company that helps clientele with product identification, labels, barcodes and the like.
Digimarc has a tradeshow-specific landing page for their upcoming appearance at NRF 2018 at the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center.
Let’s take a look at their landing page and see what they are doing right.
In the first screenshot, Digimarc starts off by everyone that they’re going to be at the NRF 2018. They mention their booth number and invite visitors to check out their store.
Next shot: you’re invited to dig a little deeper to learn about increasing operational efficiencies and more, and again mentioning the booth number. Right below that are a pair of buttons inviting you to schedule a visit with them at their booth, and offering an NRF Registration and Discount Code, reinforcing the notion that not only do they want to you stop by their booth, they want to make it easy:
In the third screenshot, Digimarc offers a chance to learn even more specific knowledge, with buttons to get better labels, implement easy checkout and engage consumers now.
Finally, there is an offer to get a personalized language booth tour – when you click through, the options are to get a tour in Japanese or German – making it easier for those international visitors to make a connection with the company. Then there’s a Lyft voucher and (still to come) an NRF Survival Guide. It’s all capped off with an invitation to follow them on social media to continue the show connection.
Everything is clearly marked, easily understood and very specific. The only quibble I have is that the date and location of the show (NYC in January) are not on the page. But you might argue that anyone going to the show already knows that information, and this tradeshow-specific landing page from Digimarc is being shared with people who are already aware.
In any event, Digimarc did a great job with this.
My question is: why aren’t you doing this with your upcoming tradeshow appearance?
It’s a common question: should you stay with your current exhibit house or move on to a new one? Naturally, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. So, let’s go over some of the situations where the question might arise.
How long have you been with your exhibit house? While the length of association isn’t a critical factor, it’s often one of the items that people look at first. If you’ve been using the same company for a decade, you may start to wonder if you’re being taken for granted. Which takes us to the next question:
Are you being taken for granted? As a longtime salesperson and project manager working with clients in the exhibit world, it’s easy to slip into the ‘take it for granted’ mode. You think that once you have a client, they’ll always be there. After all, loyalty works both ways, right? No. It doesn’t.
Is their creativity limited? Even though you’ve been working with the same vendor for years, do they have enough creativity to help you as you expand? This gets to the next question:
Are you outgrowing your own exhibit house? You may work for a company that is growing by leaps and bounds. If your current exhibit provider only offers standard kits or modular exhibit properties and you’re ready for a custom-design-and-build, maybe it is time to move along.
Is there a change in your management? Often, changes in vendors come about because someone new in management has made the decision, or given heavy influence, to using a vendor that he or she has worked with in the past. It could be because they have a good working relationship, or they’re good friends with someone at the other exhibit house. In any event, changes in key positions at a company can lead to changes in vendors.
Are you shopping around? Often, changes come because a new, large project is in the offing and the marketing team wants to have a handful of exhibit houses compete for the job, so a Request for Proposal or RFP is released to a few select companies. May the best company win!
How successful has your overall exhibiting program been – and how crucial to that success has your current vendor been? I’ve seen some clients I’ve worked with grow significantly during my association with them. Our part – design and fabrication of the booth – may be a small part of their tradeshow marketing program, but it’s a key element. And since it works well, from their point of view, there’s no reason to change. Why fix what isn’t broken?
Do you get along with all the key players? No matter what you’re buying or contracting for, if the project or ongoing business association demands a lot of interaction, it’s critical that everybody has a good working relationship. If not, things get uncomfortable quick. Getting along with someone and having good communication when issues arise means more than almost anything else.
Does your current exhibit house struggle to fill your needs? Are they a good fit? This may be one of those ‘you can’t see it because it’s behind the scenes’ situations, but if you sense that the vendor is stretched thin to meet your needs, they may not be a good fit. For example, at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, there’s no way we could handle a NIKE. It’d just be too much for us, even though having the contract would be a feather in our cap. You know, something to brag about to Mom. Our ‘wheelhouse,’ if we have one, is designing and fabricating smaller exhibits, from 10x10s to small islands, along with coordination of logistics when desired. Your exhibit house should know their capabilities and tell you if what you’re looking for isn’t a good fit for them.
Finally, when it comes to fit, are you lost in the crowd? Smaller exhibitors may work with large exhibit houses, but in some cases, your small 10×10 project may be such a small project for a company that is used to building those large custom islands, that your teeny-tiny inline exhibit is not all that important to them. And if your project doesn’t feel important, you don’t feel important to them.
There’s no definitive answer to the question of when you should leave your current exhibit vendor. If you’ve been with your current vendor, it may take a significant change in your needs or changes in key positions to get to that point. In any event, there are hundreds of exhibit providers ready to assist you if you’re ready to make a change.
Another list! Would any of these interactive things help to draw a crowd to your tradeshow booth?
Create a small box with a lock. Have a bin full of keys – only one of the keys opens the box. Each person that comes by your booth can try a key or two. Once the key has been tried, it goes into the discard bin. As the keys (say, a couple of hundred) slowly go down to just a few, more and more people will keep trying to get the thing to open. Once the prize box has been opened the winner gets a prize, and another prize is inserted in the box and you start all over again.
Create a large-than-life size front page newspaper mockup. Out of some solid substrate, like sintra. Have a hole cut in it so that people can stand behind it and get their picture taken for posting on social media. Invite people to sign up for a newsletter or something else for a chance to win some cool stuff, or just give them some swag if they post the photo on their social media accounts.
Make a big Jenga set, only have each block relate to a specific question or topic that relates to your product or industry. Once someone pulls a block, you can talk about the topic, answer the question, and find out of the visitor has any questions about the topic.
Bean bag games such as bean bag toss, or bean bag Tic-Tac-Toe.
Give away LED flashing pins with your logo. Tell the visitor that a ‘secret shopper’ is going to be walking around the tradeshow floor giving away swag to people wearing the flashy things.
Use tradeshow special printed flooring that gives visitors opportunities to photograph themselves standing there. How about a spot with footprints and some clever graphic and text including a hashtag phrase?
Exhibiting at a tradeshow is a great way to show off your wares, but it’s also an excellent way to uncover things about your tradeshow competitors. Let’s take a look at a half-dozen things you can find out.
Exhibit presence. Of course, the most obvious thing. You can tell at a glance what they want people to see and feel when they set up a booth. But look closer: is it bigger than last year? Is it newer? Have they made changes, or are they using the same old exhibit? Are they growing in their exhibit presence or are they downsizing?
Products/Services: Naturally, this would be the second-most-obvious thing. Are they hawking something new, or does it all look like familiar products with nothing new?
Attitude. Do the booth staffers smile and engage rapidly with passersby? Or do they sit in the back with their eyes on their phone or are they eating? Booth staffers often violate many rules of engagement at tradeshows without thinking, and it may mean that dozens of people keep walking instead of stopping to talk. Other companies exude a great spirit at all times – their staffers are wearing branded shirts, are doing activities designed to engage attendees and more. What’s the attitude of your competitors?
Management. Does the company send managers to assist in the booth? Or are they offsite taking meetings. You may not find this out without an inquiry or two, but you should be able to find out how involved management is in the show.
Job openings. Some companies will openly advertise job openings. Others will let you know if you make a discreet inquiry. Lots of openings usually mean the company is doing well. But it might also mean they have a lot of turnover.
No doubt you can uncover other things about your competitors if you keep your eyes and ears open. There’s probably a little gossip to be had if that’s your thing, along with changes in various departments that you might be interested in. Whatever the case, don’t let the opportunity to check out your tradeshow competitors pass you by!
Sure, millions of people head off to tradeshows worldwide every year, but are they really tradeshow prep experts? Are they ready, I mean really ready for the tradeshow? Let’s take a look at what the average tradeshow manager should be doing to show they’re truly a tradeshow prep expert.
You plan a whole year in advance. Yes, the show is over, but did you already book next year’s space and check to see if you could upgrade to a better space?
You reach out to your exhibit house at least 3 – 4 months ahead of the show if you have minor graphic upgrades on your schedule. Reach out 6 months in advance if you’re planning to create a new exhibit or are anticipating major upgrades to your current booth. Sure, the exhibit house can turn around graphic upgrades in just a short time, but the further in advance you are of the delivery date, the better for all parties concerned.
You know what messaging you’re going to send to your potential booth visitors at least a few months prior to the show. Some folks will get emails, some may get a nice snail mail package, others will get a personal phone call. This means prioritizing your prospects and doing your best to set appointments with the hot prospects and getting warm and cool leads to at least come by the booth for a chat.
You’ve downloaded or otherwise saved the show manual or information at least a couple of months prior to the show, and know what it takes to coordinate shipping, I&D and other logistics.
You have your housing booked the day it opens or shortly thereafter. Depending on the show, the housing can go quickly.
You book your flights and rental car about 6 weeks out. I’m told that this is the optimum time for best pricing for book flights. If you book a car, this is also a good time to do that.
You’ve coordinated with other parts of the company to make sure you have products and/or services ready for launch prior to the show.
You have shift schedules prepped and distributed at least a week ahead of time.
If your booth staff is wearing special colored and branded clothing, it’s been ordered at least a couple of months prior to the show.
You know exactly what you’re going to wear at least a week before the show – and it’s packed a day or two ahead of time.
You especially know what shoes you’re going to wear!
Okay, you may have more – but if you’re doing all of this and more, you’re definitely a tradeshow prep expert!
As a company owner, salesman and project manager for TradeshowGuy Exhibits, I get tradeshow marketing questions. Hoobooy, I get a lot of questions. I thought it might be fun to answer a handful of the most common questions I get.
Our shipping costs are sky-high. How can we bring these costs down?Many questions are about costs, so it’s a good place to start. Certainly, if something is heavy it’s going to cost a lot to ship. Wood panels are heavy, and many older exhibits have a lot of wood pieces. It also adds up in drayage costs at the show. Some clients like the image that wood gives them, so they bite the bullet and build the cost of shipping into their exhibiting program. Others that want to bring the shipping costs down look at lighter materials, such as silicon-edge fabric graphic panels (SEG) that give a great look but don’t have the weight and heft of wooden or other types of panels.
How can we increase our ROI?It seems that tradeshow marketing is hit and miss. Yes, investing in tradeshow marketing can be expensive, but done right, it can be a boon and open doors to markets that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise reach. Sometimes it comes down to exhibiting at the right shows. It often means putting more time, energy and resources into pre-show marketing, booth staff training and a booth that accurately represents your brand (among others). There are a lot of moving parts and if you let a few of those parts go unattended to, it can contribute to your failure. I spoke with a former exhibitor recently who said the last time they exhibited was years ago and it was a bust. When we spent a few minute dissecting it, we come to the conclusion that as a small local business, one of their biggest challenges was finding a local show that could provide a large enough audience of potential customers. Without deeper digging, it was impossible to know in that brief call, but we both felt that we identified one of their most important challenges: getting in from of the right audience.
How do we work with a designer? We’ve never done that before. Often I end up working with exhibitors who are in a sense moving out of their comfort zone. Before now, they have purchased exhibits from a source that just shows them a catalog of pre-made items. Nothing wrong with that, there are hundreds and hundreds of modular exhibits and accessories that are more or less ‘off-the-shelf’ that will do a great job for you. But exhibitors will often reach the point where they have the budget and desire to move into something custom. Working with a designer is straightforward – but you have to choose a designer that knows how to design in 3D. Graphic designers typically won’t have the skill to do so. However, trained 3D exhibit designers know how to design exhibits that take into account all of your functional needs: storage space, display space, foot traffic flow, graphic layout and so much more. A typically-trained graphic designer won’t have the skill that a 3D designer does. As for working with a designer, it’s typical to have a long conversation, either in person, or on a conference call, with the company stakeholders so that all needs are discussed. At that point the designer will create a mockup or two for review and once comments are in, changes are made until the final design is agreed upon.
I need a new exhibit. Should I prepare and issue an RFP (Request for Proposal)? It depends. There’s no definitive answer on this one. An RFP does a couple of things: it helps clarify your exhibit needs by forcing you to articulate all of your needs, budget, timeline and so on. Putting it all in black and white is a great exercise whether you’re putting out an RFP or not. If you don’t have an exhibit house in mind, issuing an RFP allows you to vet a handful (probably 4 – 6) companies, and make them jump through some hoops to make their case, and perhaps even do mock designs for you. On the other hand, if you have been working with an exhibit house that has done you well – has created great exhibits for you in the past, has been an effective partner for years – then no doubt you’re in good shape staying with them.
How much does it cost?It’s a question people don’t really like to ask, but usually end up blurting it out. Some items come with a set price, like the off-the-shelf catalog items, but if they’re shopping for a custom exhibit, there is no obvious answer. In my younger salesperson days, I’d answer the question with “well, what’s your budget?” but that’s not really a good answer. The better response I believe, is to ask them how they come up with a budget from their end. What is their process for determining how much they are willing to invest? There are industry standards – which are pretty accurate, and a good starting place – but the client has to work through a number of internal issues unique to come up with a realistic budget for their project. A final thought on this: if their internal discussion gives them a number that isn’t realistic for their expectations, a reputable exhibit house will tell them so.
How quick can you get it done? Or: how long will this take? This question often comes from an exhibitor who hasn’t paid close enough attention to the calendar and are now scrambling to get something in place. A recent exhibitor asked me – months (almost a year) ahead of their need and asked “how long does the process usually take?” The question was about designing and fabricating an island booth from scratch. I silently gave him kudos for asking the question up front (and not waiting until a month or two before the show), then told him my answer: for an island exhibit, we’d love to have 3-4 months at minimum. Six months is better. But we’ve turned around island exhibits in 5 or 6 weeks IF the client has a really strong idea of what they want and all that’s need for design is for the designer to create the rendering and confirm that the look and feel and dimensions are accurate – and then we’re off to the races.
Certainly there are other questions I hear, but in reflecting the past year or two, these seem to be what come up the most-asked tradeshow marketing questions. What questions do YOU have about exhibit creation or tradeshow marketing?
In spite of a few minor technical glitches, Gwen Hill of Exhibit Force and I had a fun conversation that touched on a lot of problems that exhibitors and exhibit managers face: namely, dealing with the heavy-duty record-keeping, communication and collaboration requirements of an exhibit program. It’s a great look at the various ways that Exhibit Force is positioned to help thousands of exhibitors in their management programs.
ONE GOOD THING: Air conditioning! It’s summer. It’s hot.
For years, here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve teamed up with great partners for various tradeshow display products: exhibit designers and producers, display products manufacturers, I&D labor teams and more. For example, our Exhibit Design Search website provided by Classic Exhibits is the standard-bearer of the branded exhibit search tool. We also work with the good folks at Orbus, a company that provides a wider range selection of exhibit graphics and accessories that tend to fall into a lower price category. They have an unbranded site of exhibits and accessories here.
Now we have another partner to show off. Creative Banner offers hundreds of products through our branded website here.
You’ll find banner stands and displays, accessories, banners and flags for indoors and outdoors, floor displays, retractable banners, signage, table covers, table top displays, event tents and total show packages. After working with them quietly for a couple of years and being impressed with their product quality and quick turnaround time, as well as flexibility on customizing some items, we decided it was time to have them fire up a branded site for us. So click on through to the other side: TradeshowGuy Exhibits – Tradeshow City USA and take a look! Let us know what you think!