What is an earworm? Basically, it’s song or melody that gets
stuck in your head and you have a hard time unsticking it. It goes around and around
and won’t go away.
It happens to me all the time. I must have fifty songs
bounce around my head on any given day. Some stick for a few moments, others
for up to an hour.
Why not come up with a short list of good songs to get stuck
in your head that make sense for your next tradeshow appearance?
Let’s start with Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”
It’s catchy and gets to the point of any attendee’s message to an exhibitor: yeah, I’ve seen your stuff before, but what have you done for me lately? Plus it’s a classic mid-80s dance video, so there’s that.
Prince – Kiss
Another video from 1986. Popular year, perhaps? Maybe not an actual kiss, but certainly a metaphorical one. You want that connection that leads to becoming either a client or a supplier. And to do that, there’s a certain amount of closeness that must be done.
So why not a metaphorical kiss?
Rolling Stones – Get off My Cloud
Exhibiting at a tradeshow means sharing the stage with hundreds or even thousands of other exhibitors. But in YOUR booth, you’re the master. No other brands allowed. So yeah, get off my cloud, two’s a crowd!
Beatles – Come Together
Now that we’re in the Sixties for a few moments, how about we ask The Beatles for a song? Come Together is certainly a great earworm, and oh-so-appropriate for a large gathering.
Billie Eilish – Bad Guy
Let’s jump up to the present for Billie Eilish and her mega-hit Bad Guy. Not only is it catchy as hell, but at every tradeshow there always seems to be a bad guy. Sometimes it’s the neighbor exhibitor that’s playing loud music in their booth or crowding out your visitors. Or some floor manager that is making it difficult to get your crates delivered to your booth in a timely maner. The good thing is, there are not that many bad guys at tradeshows. Most people are there to have a good time and be a good guy or gal.
Queen: We Will Rock You
Exactly what you’re looking to do at your next tradeshow: rock your visitors.
Back from Thanksgiving week, a nice few days away from work.
Sit down at the computer Monday morning.
Hundreds of emails piled up in my in-box. 785 to be precise. Lots of them with pitches on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I mean, a ton of pitches.
Delete them all: delete, delete, delete. Don’t bother to
read them. They do nothing for me.
On a few, I decide to unsubscribe. But that takes longer.
And with most of the newsletters I unsubscribe from, I feel like they keep
sending me stuff. So what’s a guy to do?
It’s obvious that none of those emails stood out. They did nothing for me (I think I said that already). I’m not looking for any Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, I have work to do. I’m not looking for Christmas presents for anyone, or to save money on things that I probably would not buy at any point. I’m busy and want to get these off of my to-do list as soon as possible, which means I’m scanning quickly and deleting almost everything once I determine it’s not a client, or a potential client.
I’m not their target market.
Email is one thing. Let’s move from email to other venues, such as retail, or online ads, or, hey, tradeshows!
When people walk by your retail store in a shopping mall, are you doing anything to stand out?
When you advertise online, what makes your ad stand out?
When people walk by your tradeshow booth, are you doing
anything to stand out in a crowd?
It’s easy to ignore and delete an email. It’s easy to walk by a retail store without stopping. It’s a piece of cake to ignore ads on your screen.
It’s pretty easy to walk by a tradeshow booth, too, unless something really outstanding is going on at the booth. Maybe it’s a unique booth. Maybe it’s a presentation that draws you in, entertains you and informs you of the company’s products and services. Maybe it’s a unique food sample. Could be anything.
Tradeshows have a distinct advantage over emails, and here’s
why: emails go out to people who have (supposedly) opted-in to a company’s
pitches. But over time, it’s not uncommon for that company – which is often
owned by another entity – to share that email address with another company, and
soon you’re getting pitches from (somewhat) related companies or products or
services. Has that happened to you? Happens all the time to me.
The difference that tradeshows have is that you have spent
handsomely to be at the show. But the show is targeted, the audience is
specialized. The people walking the show floor have also paid to be there, and
they are usually there for specific reasons, the main one being that they are
SHOPPING for something, and since you’re exhibiting there, chances are they’re
SHOPPING FOR SOMETHING YOU ARE SELLING.
Still, you have to stand out in a crowd. Tradeshows have a
lot of competition. Your biggest and best competitors are doing all they can to
make their best pitch to the same people you’re pitching. That’s the name of
Which means that whatever you do, it had better be good. It
had better be worth your time and money.
It had better be something that stands out in a crowd.
Many people look to a yearly tradeshow as a single event, a
one-time experience where everything is on the line. In a sense, it’s hard to
argue against that viewpoint. So much is on the line. The booth rental space is
expensive. It’s not cheap to get your exhibit there, or the travel costs for
your booth staff.
And yes, there are a lot of moving parts. Making sure the
new product samples are ready, appointments are set ahead of time, the booth
staff is up to speed (or professionally trained), the lead generation and information-capture
system is in place. And so on and so on.
It can get overwhelming. Which makes it easy to let a lot of
things slip through the cracks. And when that happens, it’s easy to beat yourself
up for not getting the results you wished for.
Let’s take another approach, especially if you’re a smaller company with limited resources and a limited number of people that can attend the show on behalf of the company.
Let’s say you have as many as 14 things that are on your list, things that are important that they get done. But because you don’t have enough people to do all of them effectively, pick just a few, maybe two or three or four things and focus on those. Give a little attention to the remaining things but pick a few and make sure you do a bang-up job on them.
Maybe you choose to focus on one in-booth activity and the
follow-up details on those interested in your products or services. Let
everything else come in after that. Yes, spend a little time, but make sure you
do those two main things as best as you can, every single time. If you focus on
those two things, you can create an in-booth activity that succeeds more than
you ever hoped for. And your attention to detail on the follow up, such as
when/where/who/how/what will make sure that each and every post-show phone call
or email or in-person follow up is exactly what the prospect expected. Wouldn’t
that be something? Wouldn’t your booth staff like that? How about your sales
And if you do more than one big show a year, carry that
concentration on just a few things to each of the other smaller shows, and then
measure your results. Once you have figured out how to do those few things with
excellence, add another item or two, such as pre-show outreach or marketing or
building a tradeshow-specific landing page or checking out the competition.
Just don’t try to do it all at once, especially if your company doesn’t have the bandwidth. Focus on a few things and grow from there.
This is a guest post by Ben Llewellyn of Ultimate Banners.
There’s no shortage of benefits that come with attending an exhibition, which is why it is something that a lot of event promoters and businesses do. However, that’s not to say that a successful exhibition is guaranteed without a level of planning and hard work. There are certain things that everyone should do before attending an exhibition, many of which first time event promoters don’t realise.
Things Everyone Should Do Before Their First Exhibition
There’s a lot to think about before attending your first exhibition, which can make the entire lead up stressful. It’s never a case of turning up and hoping for the best because organizing and planning is key. Here are ten things everyone should do before going to their first industry exhibition.
1. Invest in Branded Freebies – A lot of businesses make the mistake of trying to keep the cost of attending an exhibition as low as possible and though this does make sense, it is often beneficial to spend a little. After all, spending a little can often lead to you making more in the long run. Investing in branded freebies is a great way to impress potential customers and it reflects well on the business as a whole, as branded freebies are usually associated with successful brands. Giving someone a branded freebie, such as a pen or portable charger, is also an effective way to boost brand awareness. Once the event has finished, people are still going to remember who you are and the business name will be seen by more people.
2. Set Clear Goals – Before attending any exhibition, you should be sure on what your business goals are for the day. Think about whether you are aiming to sell a product, whether you are hoping to network with other businesses or whether you are simply trying to get the brand name out there. This is especially important before attending your first exhibition, as the entire day is likely to be busy and having a plan can keep you organized and on task. Make sure that your goals are realistic and that everyone is working towards the same thing.
3. Research Competitors – It’s hugely important to stand out at an exhibition, but this can be difficult when you have an abundance of competitors to contend with. Looking at competitors and seeing what they are doing is a good way to find out what works, what doesn’t and what you could do differently. Though you will want to stand out and should avoid copying them, you should always work to industry standards and showcase yourself in a similar way. If you are new to a specific industry, researching competitors is a great way to know what’s expected of you.
4. Prepare and Plan Their Exhibition Space – Attending an exhibition can be stressful, especially when you are doing so for the first time. However, planning ahead can help massively. Consider what you will need for your exhibition space and allow adequate time to source everything before the big day. You will also want to make sure you have reserved the space, allowed enough time to set everything up and have advertising materials printed ahead of time.
5. Design Fantastic Artwork – With so many competitors at an exhibition, it’s important that you make a statement and stand out. There are a few different ways to do this, but starting with designing fantastic artwork is key. It’s important for banners and advertising materials to stand out from the rest, which is why standard or generic banner artwork isn’t good enough. There’s a lot of help out there and pull up banners ten signs they are working | ultimatebanners.co has a lot of advice on creating designs that work. Artwork should grab attention, create intrigue and provide information.
6. Allow Enough Time for Banner Printing – The turnaround for banner printed is extremely quick, which means that last minute orders aren’t usually a problem. However, it’s always best to avoid leaving it to the last minute if possible. When you leave banner printing to the last minute, you’re not leaving any room for error or delays. This could mean that you are left without the banner needed for an exhibition and no way to solve the problem. Reduce the stress of your banner printing by organising everything the moment you have the artwork. It’s better to be ready too early, than too late.
7. Spread the Word About Attendance – Once you know that you are attending an exhibition and have confirmed everything, spread the word and let everyone know. You could have existing customers attending the same event, in which case they can look out for you. There could be people there who have heard about the business and want to know more, in which case an exhibition is a great opportunity for them to do so. It’s also helpful for other businesses to know that you will be there, as they may be interested in networking.
8. Think About First Impressions – There is no doubt going to be a lot of people attending any exhibition, so it’s important to think about first impressions before going as making a good first impression is key. This includes ensuring that your display looks great, that staff know what to say to passersby and that you are ready to answer any complicated questions. You should aim to appear friendly, professional and knowledgeable about the industry. Though an individual may not take you up on a service or product then and there, you will want them to have a position opinion of you for future reference.
9. Get Staff On Board – A lot of hard work and energy goes into attending an exhibition, which is why getting other staff members on board is key. Not only does this allow for work to be delegated, but it reduces stress throughout the day. Rather than one or two people attempting to do everything, a large team provides more free time for networking and building a relationship with potential customers.
Ben Llewellyn is co-founder of Ultimate Banners in Birmingham (United Kingdom). Ben loves cycling and everything tech. He works as a designer and developer working with clients in the exhibition advertising and digital services sector. Find Ben on LinkedIn.
It’s a common refrain: tradeshows don’t work for me. They’re too expensive. I don’t get enough leads.
And unfortunately, it’s true for too many exhibitors. It’s easy to look at the exhibitor list of a show year after year and point to companies that give it a try once or twice never to return.
Look at the flip side, though: there are thousands of exhibitors that go back to the same few shows year after year, take home a stack of leads, create more business and firmly believe that tradeshows are the most powerful marketing tool they have at hand.
I know that’s true because I work with those kinds of exhibitors.
Now, not every single exhibitor I’ve worked with is successful. Some have
fallen off the wagon along the way. Others have shifted their marketing
efforts. Some have taken a step back from tradeshows and reassessed their
program, but eventually make it back bigger and better.
What’s the difference?
We could point to any number of things: their booth space is
lousy and doesn’t have enough traffic; their booth is small and nondescript;
their staff is bored (and boring) and so on. But it all boils down to just two
Having a good plan and being committed to that plan.
Plans are great. Everyone should have one. But what about
having a bad plan? Bad plans do certainly exist. And having a bad plan is not a
Back to that “good plan” and “being committed” to the plan. A
good plan can come from knowing your goals, your budget, your people; knowing
the show and your competitors, and knowing what you really want out of the
show. That good plan can be enhanced by having a well-trained booth staff,
having a standout exhibit and having the most popular products in the show. But
those last three things, the staff, exhibit and best products, are not
completely necessary to have a good result. They’re important, sure, but they’re
more like frosting on the cake. You gotta build a good cake first.
Answer these questions:
What do you want out of the show? In other words, why are you there?
How are you going to know if you got what you wanted? How are you going to measure your results?
What are the steps you need to take to get what you want? What will it take to get exactly what you want?
Sometimes it takes a little brainstorming and communication
with the various members of the team. Sometimes it means knowing what worked at
your last show and knowing what didn’t work. Be honest. Sometimes you have to
be brutally honest to say that having that crazy mascot uniform didn’t really
work, or that having the general manager do the in-booth presentations didn’t
draw that many people. There are lots of reasons why things don’t work and
assessing and understanding those ideas will help you move forward.
Another way to look at it is to ask yourself: When I get
back in the office the morning after the show and say, Man that was a great
show! What does that mean to you?
It’s not the same for every company.
Once you’ve defined the main goal of your tradeshow appearance,
break it up into pieces. If you want 300 leads over a three-day show, you’ll
need 100 a day. If the show is open from 10 am to 5 pm, that’s 8 hours. You’ll
need to average 12.5 leads per hour, or one about every five minutes. If you’re
doing demos, for example, and you know that for every demo you do there are 15
people on average standing there, and three of them are good leads, that means
you’ll need to do a demo about four times an hour. If, on the other hand, you
get six leads for every demo, that means you only need two demos an hour. Or,
you could try to double your projected leads by doing demos four times and
Run the numbers. If you want to give away 1,000 product samples
or sign up 200 people for lengthier demos in the next three months, you know
what that will break down to by just doing the math.
If your goals are not so straightforward, you can still look at it from an angle that will help. Maybe you want to make solid connections with only three distributors that, if you can get them to carry your products, would double your company revenue in the next two years, figure out what organizations are the best and most likely candidates. Make whatever effort you need to set and confirm appointments at the show. Yes, tradeshow success is all in the numbers, and it’s all in the ability to show off your products and make sales. So do the math, do the outreach. But don’t forget that we’re all humans – you and your prospects – and there’s often not a straight line to success. Make allowances for that, learn from your missteps and do better the next time. That’s what it’s all about.
A good piece of fiction is surprisingly like a good
tradeshow marketing effort. You don’t believe me? Let’s take a look. What
happens when you read a good piece of fiction?
1. Create a unique world.
Fiction allows an author to create a world that exists only in one place: the reader’s mind. A good tradeshow exhibit and marketing plan creates a world that exists only in your booth. Whether it’s a unique display, a professional presentation or a one-of-a-kind activity, creating a unique world for your visitor is a good way to make sure they remember you. Having a great product that no one else offers is also a good way.
2. Create tension.
A good story has tension that pulls the reader further into the story. A good tradeshow exhibit can create a good kind of tension. Maybe it’s a compelling and challenging statement on their graphic, or maybe it’s a challenging question that makes you stop and want to know more. That tension creates a kind of desire to learn more.
3. Know who your story is for.
I like to read detective page-turners and mysteries. I don’t like to read romance novels or fantasy. A good tradeshow marketing plan knows exactly what audience is attracted to their type or product or service and they don’t try to bring in anyone that isn’t interested.
4. The main character in a story has a “super objective.” What’s yours?
I recently heard this concept about a character’s super objective. You may not actually see this super objective detailed in the story, but it drives the main character. Jack Reacher, for example, is compelled to do what he can to right the wrongs that he sees. Harry Bosch believes that ‘if anybody counts, everybody counts,’ when it comes to solving a murder. No one gets more or less attention simply because of their place in society.
5. There’s always an objection (or a hurdle).
Know your prospect’s objections. Any novel where the protagonist has no hardships or obstacles is a boring novel. Expect your potential clients to have tough questions. If they do, it shows they’re interested and want to know more. Identify the most common objectives and make sure your booth staffers know how to answer those questions.
6. Keep the page turning.
Have you ever gotten part way through a book and just decided that you couldn’t finish it? Maybe it was boring. Maybe it wasn’t your type of book. Maybe you bogged down in too many unrelated bunny trails and lost the main story. In a tradeshow booth, show your attendees enough compelling evidence – the storyline, as it were – to stay until they learn enough to know if they’re going to buy from you or not. Depending on your product, this might mean that you’re giving in-booth demonstrations or training sessions, or your professional presenter is sharing enough information in a lively and engaging manner that compels the visitor to want to find out more.
7. Deliver the goods: make it a great ending.
Every novel has a wrap up where you find out what happened to the character, the storyline. It’s the payoff. Does your product or service make that same delivery? Are they the great payoff, the great ending that your prospect is looking for?
Yes, I think fiction can be a good inspiration for tradeshow marketing. By using the various elements contained in a good novel, you can create a template for showing your visitors all of the best of your products or services in a compelling and intriguing manner.
I’m no expert on exhibit design or figuring out the
potential customers for a specific product – let’s leave that to the people who
have a lot of experience in that area and it’s not me – but I’ve picked up a
few things along the way by talking to a lot of experts.
One thing that seems clear is that if you know who your
audience is, what kind of products they buy, what kinds of stores they like to
shop at, and why they buy your products, all of that information can be assimilated
in a synergistic way to help determine the look and feel of your tradeshow
exhibit so that your potential customers feel a familiarity; they feel at home
when they see your exhibit.
What do I mean by that? Let’s say you’ve determined that the
people who buy your products the most are a specific type of person: maybe they
shop at Target a lot, but also like Bed, Bath and Beyond. Or they like Applebee’s
but not Pizza Hut. They like Urban outfitters and J. Crew but not The Gap. And
so on. The more information you can distill about your products’ appeal – and who
is buying those products from you, the more you have to help design your tradeshow
Let’s say, for example, that your products attract people who
shop at Whole Foods for groceries. If you are selling a food product, it
probably makes sense to incorporate some design elements that are popular at
Whole Foods into your exhibit design. Not to copy the design, but to echo the
design elements. Do they use recycled wood? Do they use a pastel color on
counters or product shelves? Then consider incorporating those elements in the exhibit
Exhibit designers have the experience and the skill to not
only create a three-dimensional model complete with floor plans, traffic flows,
height restrictions and sensibilities, but they know how to take those colors
and patterns and textures and incorporate them into product displays, greeting
counters, light boxes and flooring patterns.
If done right, your potential customer will take one look at
your exhibit and even if they’re not familiar with your brand (yet), they will
feel at home because you’ve done your homework and created an exhibit that
understands them and what they like.
You just need to know who your ideal customer is and what
brands or stores they’re already comfortable shopping at.
Smaller, regional or city home shows are where local residents
go to see the latest in roofing, home repair and improvement, HVAC,
landscaping, and more. It’s not uncommon for exhibitors at these smaller shows
to lack experience in exhibiting that their national show exhibiting brethren
might have. If you are going to set something up at a home show, how do you
attract the attention of attendees? Let’s look at a few different ways.
First, have an outstanding exhibit. This can be done in many ways. I’ve seen, for example, exhibits that are unique and custom. They were possibly designed and assembled by the company’s work crew using a little creativity and a lot of ability, and they reflect the company’s brand and personality. Sometimes they’re done by an exhibit house, but not necessarily. By presenting yourself with something that’s attractive to look at and delivers a strong message, you’re ahead of the game. Examples: companies that sell leaf gutter blockers who have a small room sample showing their gutter blockers with water running down the roof with leaves caught on top of the leaf guards. Also, a landscaper that decks out their entire space with rock, sod, waterfalls, small creek bridges or whatever. It’s time-consuming, yes, but it catches people’s eyes.
Second: Have a well-prepared booth staff. Make sure they understand the goal: gather more leads, capture their contact info for follow up. They need to know the basics: no talking on their phones in the booth, no eating in the booth, no sitting on a chair. The do’s and don’ts also include offering a smile to visitors, asking pertinent questions (are you looking to improve your landscaping? etc.) and being present with visitors when the ask questions. Tell people thanks for coming by, even if they didn’t show much interest.
Three: have something for visitors to DO. Interactivity keeps visitors in your booth and if it’s really good they’ll stick around long enough for you have a good Q&A. You see a lot of spinning wheels where people can win a prize, and while I’m not a big fan of these because virtually everybody that wants to win something stops, and they’re not all potential customers. But they do get people stop long enough so you can ask them a few questions. Other things you can have them do: find something quirky about your business, or even get a life size cutout of a famous figure like Frank Sinatra or Elvis and put up a backdrop with your company name and the show hashtag and invite people to snap photos and post on social media for a chance to win something. It gets people involved and helps promote your booth number. Another idea: have a really big Jenga set, where each block has a question that relates to your business, and when they pull it out, give them a chance to win by correctly answering the question. Give away LED flasher buttons with your logo and booth number and tell them a secret shopper is wandering the hall and if they spot you with the button you could win something. Another way to promote your booth away from your booth space. One more: custom printed flooring that invites people to take their picture with the floor (another variation of the social media back drop/life size figure).
Four: Make sure that you give your visitors what they want. And what is that? They want to see what’s new. They want to speak to someone who knows their stuff. They want to be treated like a friend and with respect. A warm smile goes a long way. They don’t want their time to be wasted.
Five: Have your booth staffers stand out by wearing unusual or different clothing. Could be that all of your staffers at an HVAC booth don tuxedos. Or everybody wears colorful branded t-shirts. Purple one day, orange the next, red the next, and so on.
Six: Have a magic word of the day (or hour). Put up a sign on the front counter that everyone can see. If someone says the magic word, they win a prize. It’ll intrigue people enough so that they stop and start a conversation. Have a few ready-made hints for what the magic word might be.
Seven: Put on a small white board and invite people to write a short Haiku (a short three-line unrhymed verse of five, seven and five syllables. Have a few examples for starters. Give away prizes.
Eight: Shoot a commercial at the show. Invite visitors that are customers to record a short testimonial. Interview one of the managers and ask her how things work.
Nine: Conduct a survey. Make it very simple, maybe two or three questions. Ask people to fill in the answers. If they want a chance to win, give them a space to put in their name and phone number or email address, but don’t require it for the survey. Find out what people really think about some of the things you do.
Ten: Make sure your graphic messaging is very simple. One of the keys to delivering a good message is to make it easy to understand. On tradeshow back wall, use no more than seven words. Put the more complicated stuff in a handout or a download.
No doubt you can think of more. What comes to mind?
The biggest challenge of tradeshow marketing, it seems, is to draw attendees to your booth. There are hundreds of ways to do that. On today’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, Sam Smith of Social Point joins me to discuss the many ways his company has devised to get people to stop at booths and stay engaged.
You’ve heard the phrase “think outside the box.” But in the
tradeshow world, sometimes it makes more sense to think inside the box.
In many cases, it does make sense to think outside the box. Which means, generally,
to do things you don’t normally do. Turn it upside down. Work backwards. Do
But tradeshows have so much riding on them that the more you
have a plan and the better you stick to it – with minor deviations as warranted
– that it pays to stay inside the box.
Make the plan. Execute the plan. Stay inside the box.
While you’re making the plan, many weeks or even months
before the tradeshow, that might be the time to think outside the box. What can
you do that’s different? What your competitors aren’t doing? What might be an
activity in your booth that attracts people? What kind of different ways you
can think of to promote your appearance?
During the brainstorming and planning phase, come up with as
many different and unusual approaches you can think of that might help you
stand out. But vet them. Test them. Make sure they are practical and can be
executed as flawlessly as possible. Then, once you have something in place, iron
out the rough spots and prepare it for the show.
And once the show starts, don’t stray from the script unless
there’s agreement among the principals that it’s a good move. Otherwise, work
the plan, take notes on how it went, and make adjustments for the next show.
Thinking outside the box isn’t a bad idea, in fact in many cases it’s a great idea. Just know when and where to do it. The tradeshow floor where thousands of visitors are passing by, where competitors are putting up their best, is not the place to wing it.