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

Marketing

Taking Time to Review Your Tradeshow Marketing Systems

The tradeshow, event and conference industries are not dead. It’s just sleeping. It’ll awaken at some point again and roar to life.

In the meantime, time on your hands. Maybe, maybe not. I certainly have time on my hands. And I have to bring in a little income.

So, I’m driving for Uber Eats and delivering food three to four hours a day. Not bad money, actually, for the time involved. My older son, who’s in his late 20s, had been working as a cook in an upscale restaurant which had to close when the coronavirus restrictions here in Oregon went into place. When we went skiing together a month ago, he told me that he’d been driving for Uber Eats a few hours before he went to work, and then a few hours after he got off in the evening. Now that the restaurant closed, he’s doing it eight hours a day, six or seven days a week. Likes being in his car (it’s new), listening to music, and bringing food to people.

I thought, I can do this. And making a few extra bucks (it’s actually pretty good pay) was enticing. It took a short while to get signed up and approved, and now I’m delivering food from restaurants to people a few hours a day. Sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner.

It gives me a lot of time to think. And listen to rock, or podcasts. But definitely time to think.

And I got to thinking about systems. What kind of systems does it take for an Uber driver (or Door Dash or Grub Hub or any of those companies) to get an offer to drive, accept it, pick up the food and deliver it in a timely manner while it’s still hot?

The driver needs:

  • A car
  • Smartphone with app
  • Address to pickup
  • Address to deliver

The smartphone has all of those items, other than the car, built in. GPS. Mapping. Internet connectivity.

The customer needs:

  • An app to order food from
  • An address for the driver to deliver it to
  • A way to pay (credit or debit card) they can use through the app

The restaurant needs:

  • A system that receives incoming orders and gets them to the kitchen in a timely manner
  • Ability to prepare food quickly and have it ready for pickup within a few moments

As I drive from a restaurant to a drop off point, it’s common to get another offer to pick up another order before the current one is delivered.

During my drives, I keep thinking what an intricate system this is. What an elaborate dance it is to transmit an offer to a driver that’s in the area, about to drop off one order, to deliver another order. As an Uber Eats driver, it’s all optional. Don’t want that one? Don’t take it.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

Then I get to thinking about the systems built around tradeshows and events. About what the show organizer needs. What the exhibitor needs. What the visitor needs.

Think about the systems that must be in place for all of that to work to a positive effect on a regular basis. Design and fabrication of tradeshow exhibits. Shipping, setup/dismantle logistics. Travel and lodging. Product development and production.

As a participant, you only can see and control what’s immediately in front of you. But as a tradeshow marketing manager, you can exert a lot of control over how your company exhibits. How your product is presented, how your company is represented by the exhibit and the booth staff. Who sets up the booth, who handles shipping and so on.

Now that the tradeshow and event industry is on hiatus, maybe it’s a good time to examine your systems that hold everything in place from your perspective and see what can be improved.

After all, while I don’t mind driving a few hours a day delivering food, I’d rather get back to the tradeshow world full time soon.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, April 6, 2020: Heather Haigler

While many of us are working from home, trying to juggle work schedules with kid demands and more, we are looking forward to a time when things return to at least semi-normal. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I chatted with Heather Haigler of Switch Four about their new tradeshow management software, WorkTrip – for the remainder of 2020 they are offering free access. Here’s the conversation we had about that and other things that were on our minds:

Links mentioned in the show:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: free streaming for the next few weeks on EPIX, thanks to XFinity, where you can find all of the James Bond movies!

Selling in the Time of No Tradeshows or Events

The social distancing guidelines put forth due to the COVID-19 pandemic has effectively shut off a majority of the economy, like turning off a spigot. It would be easier to line-item the businesses that are open than those that are closed: grocery stores, drive-through coffee shops and some business offices. Ten million in the US have filed for unemployment in the past two weeks.

Ten Million.

The impact of this on the nation, on the world, is unfathomable.

I know many people who are sitting at home most of the day, binging TV shows or reading books or even playing board games or sharing music online. Others are making use of the time to learn a new skill, to tackle that novel, to write music, to create.

Others don’t know what to do.

If you’re still working, whether from home or in the office, and you have to sell to keep things going in the company, what do you do? What approach do you take?

I subscribe to several sales newsletters and thought I’d share a few thoughts. Some came from the newsletters, others from just my own experience. But here we are in a time where it’s difficult to even find someone to talk to.

First, when you call, it makes sense to ask your contact what approach their company is making. Are they putting everything on hold for the time being, awaiting the end of the social distancing and figuring they’ll kick back into action when the pandemic is over? Or are they moving forward with business as usual, as much as they can?

If it’s the former, tell them, that, ‘yeah, it’s a crazy time, I get it,’ and ask if you can send a quick email with your contact information so that when we do get back to normal they can reach back out to you. If it’s the latter, move into your typical sales questions to uncover any needs they may currently have for what you’re offering.

Seems appropriate somehow… (click to play the album!)

Another part of the equation is what you’re selling. If you’re in the restaurant supply business, chances are that your potential buyers are not even open, unless they’re doing take-out or drive-thru only. If you’re selling Personal Protective Equipment for health workers, you probably can’t keep up with the demand. It all depends on the specific products or services you’re selling.

Most people probably fall somewhere in between those two extremes. Which means you’re going to have to find a strategy that keeps at least some business coming in.

With millions stuck at home, that means people are going online to shop, they’re connecting via video meetings (Zoom is being mentioned dozens of times a day in the mainstream press!), telephone and email.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What shape is the company website it? Does it need upgrading? Can you add new products, new services and new ways for people to connect?
  • Are your social media platforms being updated frequently? With so much time on their hands, everybody is on social media.
  • Can you offer a digital version of your services? Lots of people are taking this time to create online learning classes or other ways of sharing their information.
  • Can you connect with others regularly? Sure! Some people are starting up regular Zoom meetings just to have a face-to-face connection with others outside of their home.

Bottom line: be there for clients and prospects. Don’t stop doing outreach, however that looks for you. Don’t be pushy but if you continue to think you can offer something of value, something that your clients and prospects can really use, keep doing it.

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.


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