When it comes to tradeshow exhibiting, is it wrong thing to think, “Well, there’s always next time!”?
Maybe your most recent tradeshow didn’t go as well as it could have. You didn’t meet all the people you had hoped to and didn’t bring home as many leads as you were thinking you should have. Your staff’s interactions with visitors weren’t as good as they could have been.
In other words, you’re thinking that it may have been a waste of time.
If you think that, spend some time to identify WHY it might have been a waste of time.
Was it the wrong show? Maybe your expectations of the show itself were unrealistic. The show organizers might not have been as clear as you’d have liked on the state of the show. They could have assumed more people would show up, but the audience just wasn’t there.
Was it the wrong audience? Each show has a specific audience. If the audience isn’t a good fit for your products or services, it could be that you didn’t assess the show well enough.
Was your booth staff lacking in training? A well-trained booth staff can lift you above mediocre or average expectations. After all, they’re the front line in your interactions with the attendees. If the staff hasn’t been properly trained on that interaction, your results will reflect that.
Were your products or services either “blah” or not properly represented in your market? Your competition may have similar products and services, but if you staff was not fully engaged and the presentation of your products was indistinct, or fuzzy, or unclear, you won’t catch attendees’ eyes. Was your exhibit not up to the task? An old or poorly designed exhibit might save you money to ship and set up, and put off another capital investment, but if it doesn’t look good, or have the functional elements that you need to properly execute your tradeshow, it’ll cost you money in the long run, not save you money.
On the other hand, if you’re saying “Well, there’s always
another tradeshow” and you’re at least modestly pleased with the results, take
a hard look at what worked and what didn’t. Maybe your booth staff was good but
could be better. That’s a pretty easy fix.
Or maybe your exhibit is decent, and only needs a few minor
upgrades to make it really good. Another easy fix.
Other things to look at: pre-show marketing, post-show follow-up, cutting costs for shipping or logistics, and so on. Individually, they may not have a big impact, but executing each element better than last time can have a cumulative impact that’s hard to ignore.
At the end of the show, when everybody has had a chance to
review from their perspective what worked and what didn’t, and why, do a debrief.
But don’t wait too long – do it the first or second day you’re back in the
office. That will give a little time for reflection from all participants, but
not so much time that they’ll forget important feedback.
Based on what comes out of that debrief, make decisions that will better prepare you for the next show. Because there’s always another tradeshow.
You might think that when I mention “tradeshow awareness” that I’m thinking of how you make visitors aware of your tradeshow booth, so you can draw people in. Sure, that’s important, but that’s not what I’m getting at here.
Let’s look at the other side: the awareness you as a tradeshow exhibitor has. What do I mean?
There are a number of things that, if you’re aware of, can help increase your success.
Let’s give an example that’s not related to tradeshows. For example, let’s say you want to lose 10 or 15 pounds. Not an unreasonable goal, right? But how does awareness come into play and how does it affect your efforts to lose that weight?
The most obvious way is to be aware of how much we’re eating and how much we’re exercising. And thankfully in today’s digital world, there are a lot of apps that can help you be more aware. One app I’ve used, Lose It!, lets you track calorie consumption, water consumption, and your daily exercise habits. After using it for over a year, not only did I lose the 15-20 pounds I was aiming for, but I realized that the very fact of being aware of my calorie intake and my exercise habits was a big contributor to the success of reaching my goal.
When you eat a cookie, let’s say, if you want to track the calories, you have to know how many calories it contains. Which means you have to look it up. If it’s a package of store-bought cookies, as opposed to home-cooked, the calories per cookie are listed on the package. If a cookie is 150 calories, log it when you eat it.
Same with breakfast, lunch, dinner and any other snacks you have. Once you’ve inputted your data (age, weight, sex, goals, etc.) the app calculates a daily calorie regimen. Stay under the daily allowance, and you’re likely to see your weight slowly drop. Go over the allowance consistently, and you won’t! Easy enough, right?
Then when you exercise, such as take a bike ride or go for a walk, enter that data, and the app calculates the amount of calories you’ve burned. Which means you can either increase your calorie intake or not. You get a visual reminder of everything. It works great.
But the key is awareness. If you weren’t aware of how many calories that cookie contains, you might not care. But now that you’re aware, you realize that each and every bite you take adds to your calorie count. Given that an adult needs approximately 2000 calories a day to maintain an even weight, it’s easy to go over that amount if you don’t count calories. If you’re not AWARE.
How does awareness play into your tradeshow success? Same principle. If you’re not aware of certain things, you won’t be impacted. If you are aware, the simple fact of being aware can likely make a positive impact.
What to Be Aware Of
What things are important to be aware of on the tradeshow floor?
Traffic: I would wager that most people don’t count the number of visitors in the booth at any given tradeshow. They may have a sense that the visitor count in their booth goes up or down year over year, but without an actual count, it’s just a feeling, and not actual data. Imagine if you could know exactly, or within a reasonable number, how many people visit your booth per day, or per hour, or per show.
Engagement: this might be a metric that is a little harder to measure, but if you are aware of what a good engagement with a visitor is, and you work to create better engagement through staff training, demonstrations or sampling, you’ll have a good idea of what outcomes those engagements lead to. Remember, you can’t control the outcomes, but you can control the behaviors that lead to outcomes. If your lack of engagement with visitors keeps your lead generation and engagement low, figure out what it takes to increase visitor engagement.
Leads: lead count is important. But so is the quality of leads. If you collect 300 leads at a show, but haven’t graded them as to hot, warm or cool, your follow-up will not be as good. But if out of those 300 leads, you know that 75 are HOT and need to be called within two days of returning from the show, and that 155 are warm and should be followed up within three weeks, and that the final 70 are COOL and need only be put on a tickler file or an email-later list, then the follow-up is going to be more consistent and likely more fruitful.
Booth staff: if you have a booth staff that is trained on how to interact with visitors, and how to be more aware of who’s in the booth, your results can only improve. Booth staff training is one of the key factors to success. Do you have a booth staff that is aware of what they need to do, how they need to do it and, how to engage with visitors?
Competition: awareness of competition may seem secondary to your company’s immediate success at any given tradeshow. But look at it this way: you have a lot of competitors at a show. The more aware of who they are, how they present themselves, what products they have (what’s new and what’s not) and the way those products are branded, the more well-informed you’ll be about the state of your competition. In a sense it can be a bit of a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) from the floor of a tradeshow. If you’re good at gabbing, you can pick up all sorts of insights about competitors: personnel changes, strength of company, management moves, new products and so on. After all, every exhibitor is showing off their best and latest, and if you’re not aware of your competition, don’t you think its time you paid more attention?
Finally, awareness of how your actual exhibit looks compared to your competition. Gotta say it: everyone compares their exhibits to their neighbors and competitors. How does yours stack up? Is it normal, staid, complacent, expected? Or is it sparkling, engaging, new and different than others?
Awareness is critical to success in so many areas of our lives. Being aware of how things are working on a tradeshow floor is one of those things. Awareness will naturally help you make better decisions and as a result, show more success for your efforts.
As an exhibitor, we’re all looking for great results. But what if you get back to the office a few days after the show, and frankly don’t have a lot to show for it? The lead collection came up short, there weren’t that many “warm” or “hot” leads, and the boss is wondering why all of that money was committed to the show.
First, recognize that you can’t control results. The only things you control are your activities, your behavior, and your technique.
Let’s start with attitude. Books have been written about attitude. Suffice it to say that if you go into a complex tradeshow marketing program, a good attitude will help immensely.
Activities are all-important. From pre-show marketing, to having a good interaction with your visitors, to lead generation and post-show follow up, knowing what to do and when to do it is critical to your success.
Finally, what technique do you apply to your behaviors? Does your booth staff know how to properly interact with visitors? Do they know how to as
k questions, when to shut up and when to disengage?
All of your behaviors are subject to being done properly or not. And there is no end to determining what is proper and what works and discarding what does not work. Books have been written about techniques, attitude and behavior, so there’s much more to discover than what you’ll see in this brief post.
But back to results: if you are not getting the tradeshow results that you are hoping for, the three areas to examine are those that are most important to your success: attitude, behavior and technique.
Thanks to Sandler Sales for the tip. Full disclosure: I spent a year in a Sandler Sales Training Program, and this is just a tip of the iceberg.
I’ve been in the tradeshow industry for almost 20 years, and it seems like we’re moving into what may be the Golden Age of Tradeshow Marketing. Usually when you think of the “Golden Age,” you’re thinking of that long-forgotten past. A time of fun, peace and prosperity and good times. Us older folks might think of the Golden Age of Rock and Roll, for example, as the time when Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly were making music and leading the music charts. Or maybe we think of the Sixties as the Golden Age of Rock and Roll, when the Beatles led the British Invasion and with the help of bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Yardbirds and The Searchers dominated the music charts for years.
What about movies? Was the Golden Age the days of great movie stars such as Clark Gable, Dorothy Lamour, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Greta Garbo and others lit up the big screen?
Or is the Golden Age something that might be happening today, and we won’t realize it for decades to come?
Tradeshow marketing may, in fact, be moving into something of a Golden Age. Look at what’s happened in the past decade or so: an influx of a variety of new products and technologies that is impacting the bottom line and exhibiting capabilities and impact in unforeseen ways.
Fabric graphics, for example, have pretty much taken over the tradeshow floor. Sure, you could see fabric graphics ten years ago, but they weren’t much to look at. The printing quality was suspect, and the fabrics were not all that great. But technology has improved fabric printing by leaps and bounds, and the same has happened to the fabric that is used for printing.
And what about light boxes or back lit fabrics? Just a decade ago salesmen would come through our door pitching the next generation of LED lights, which were definitely impressive. But the past ten years have seen a drastic drop in the cost of LED lights, and a sharp uptick in the quality of the lights.
And what about social media? Fifteen years ago, social media frankly didn’t exist. Online promotions were barebones at best. Email marketing was fairly well established, but preshow marketing stuck mainly to traditional channels such as direct mail and advertising. But now, any company that doesn’t engage in using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and add on some elements of their outreach via YouTube and LinkedIn is increasingly rare. All of those social media channels have matured greatly and can be used to drive traffic and move people around a tradeshow floor.
Video is also part of the renaissance of tradeshow marketing which contributes to the idea that we’re experiencing a Golden Age. More and more exhibits show off one or more video monitors, and you’ll increasingly see video walls, which grabs visitors’ eyeballs with a visual impact that was previously unobtainable, or only at an ungodly price. Video production has also come down drastically in price and obtaining great footage to go with your video messaging at a lower cost means more exhibitors can show off a lot more of their brand for less. Drones, for one example, have given anyone the ability to drop in aerial footage into their brand videos for a few dollars, instead of the thousands of dollars it used to cost. Most brand videos I see at tradeshows have at least some drone footage, and I suspect that most people don’t even give it a second thought (I do – drone footage is freaking cool, man!).
Add to all of that the coming-of-age of Virtual Reality, which will open doors to creative people getting involved to do more fantastic VR for tradeshows. The VR I’ve seen so far has been disappointing, as were the first few VR games and programs I’ve seen. But lately the bar has been raised, and the quality and creativity will come up.
What about data tracking and electronic product showcases, such as ShowcaseXD? This and similar programs will not only allow exhibitors to show off products in an easy format, the data that comes out of these systems proves to be extremely useful to companies. Didn’t have anything as sophisticated as that only a decade ago.
Automated email has been around for perhaps a couple of decades, but that also gets more and more sophisticated, and combined with a data entry, product catalog or context on a tablet, marketers can send out detailed, personalized responses based on visitors’ interests.
All of these – and more technologies that I’ve either missed or are in their infancy – are having a great impact on tradeshows and giving exhibitors the ability to maximize their dollars, create a bigger splash, take home more data and find an edge in a very competitive marketplace.
If not a new Golden Age of Tradeshow Marketing, at least a Renaissance or resurgence.
I’ve been doing tradeshow follow up on a couple of shows (three, actually, when I think about it) for the past several weeks. One of the questions I ask of the people I’m following up with is, “How is your follow up going?”
“Oh boy, I have a lot more to do. It seems to be never-ending,” said one person, who said he was about a third of the way through his list a month after the show.
Frankly, tradeshow follow up can be a bit of a slog. A grind. A long haul. But it’s got to be done!
But you’ll never know the full results of your tradeshow appearance or attendance until you complete the follow up. “Complete” follow up may be a misnomer; I suspect that most people never get through the complete list of people they are intending to follow up with.
But like a good Harry Bosch novel, it ain’t over until the last page, your follow up ain’t over until you’ve talked to the last person.
Given the difficulty of making all of those calls, and connecting with all of those people, here are (x) tips to help you get to the last page of the novel, er, uh, the end of your call list.
8 Tradeshow Follow Up Tips
Set aside a time to call. Most of us wear a lot of hats, and finding time to make those calls is hard, unless you plan for it. Budgeting for the time, blocking it out and committing to it, are the basic elements of making sure you at least get the first step done. Put it on your calendar, put in a reminder notification, and make it happen.
Block out everything else during this time. I find it works best to turn off the email program, and perhaps even shut the door to your office if you have one. If you’re in a more open office environment, make it clear to colleagues that you’re carving out this time and would like to have that time as uninterrupted as possible.
Know what you’re going to say. Having gone through a couple of sales seminars, and a year of sales training with Sandler Sales, I’ve come up with a script, or at least an opening line that easily and unthreateningly opens the door to a conversation. “Did I catch you at a bad time?” give the person on the other end a chance to say, “Yes. I’m just going into a meeting (or whatever),” and if that’s the case, you ask when a better time might be to catch them. If they say “No, this is a good time,” they’ve just give you permission to forge ahead. Once in the conversation…
Know your goal of the call. Are you trying to sell something that can be sold in one call? Are you looking to have a brief call and if there’s interest to move forward, schedule a second, more in-depth call later? Whatever your goal, don’t hang up until you’ve either determined there is no “there” there (no chance of a sale), or that you both agree on what the next step is and when.
Be consistent. Hell, be a pest. I am. I even tell people that I’m a pest, but a nice pest. The response I get when I say that is something like a laugh and then, “No, that’s okay – I really do need to talk to you – please keep trying to get me.” They admit that they’re hard to reach and they don’t always return calls. Understand that virtually everybody you talk to is probably overworked and they have a to-do list that’s longer than they’ll get to in the foreseeable future. But if they really are interested in what you are pitching, be consistent. Stay in their radar. Send an email if they can’t be reached via phone.
Be available at unusual times if you are really having a hard time connecting and have expressed a genuine interest in your product or service. Offer to take a call after hours, or before the office opens.
It’s not about you. Don’t take it personally. If you get rejected, it’s not because of you. A hundred different reasons may be affecting the prospect’s ability or interest to engage with you. Those reasons could be financial, personal, business. You really don’t know what they’re going through, so just move on. Sales follow up can be a bummer if you take it personally. But if you make a lot of calls and develop the prospects you have into genuine leads, you’ll have plenty to do.
Never give up. I’ve put certain prospects and even former clients on the back burner for years but have never completely given up on the idea of getting them as a client, or back as a client again. Things change. They always do. People move within a company; they move to other companies, a company’s goals and budget will change. Just because they said no once or twice doesn’t mean they’ll say it forever.
Briana Belden, Brand Manager of Wedderspoon Manuka Honey, joins the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee for a discussion about how they approach tradeshow marketing: preshow outreach, what happens during the show, follow up, branding and more:
As an exhibitor, or someone who manages an exhibit program for a company, you have oodles of details to keep track of each and every show. This often means you don’t have time to stop and ponder the very act of exhibiting at a tradeshow. But sometimes taking time to do just such a thing is a good thing. These questions are not aimed at the logistics of your exhibit, but are pointer more towards the internal conversation you may have with yourself and how you and your staff approach the act of marketing while standing in a tradeshow booth with the intent of finding potential clients or customers.
Do you have any blind spots?
What are your hidden strengths?
Are you really focused on the things that are important?
When it comes to networking, do you push your comfort zone or do you play it safe?
How well do you take care of yourself during the few days of the show?
Does everybody on your booth staff know all of your products or services well enough to talk about them fluently?
Do you sometimes talk too much to visitors just to fill time instead of letting them talk?
Do you have three good questions to start a conversation centered on the needs your product or service fulfills?
What information do you need to determine if a visitor is a prospect or not?
Once you qualify a visitor, what precise information do you need from them to move forward?
Are you comfortable you’re doing all you can to maximize the company’s time on the tradeshow floor without doing too much and getting burned out?
Do you have a tested plan to gather all leads and get them back to the sales team in a timely manner?
I could go on and on, but the point is to have you examine your involvement in tradeshow marketing from a different perspective and see if you could find some areas to improve. What questions should you be asking yourself or your team?
Richard Erschik of TradeshowLeadstoSales.com joins me for a fun and very useful conversation about how to generate (and follow up with) great leads at your next tradeshow. What are the five questions you need to ask before you’ve identified a good lead? Watch or listen now:
Maybe these should be not-so-frequently-asked tradeshow questions. Or as we like to call them: NSFAQs. Because I don’t know if these questions ever get asked. But maybe they should.
What do I do when the exhibit doesn’t show up? Hmm. It comes down to having a plan B. Or being able to think quickly on your feet. Being resourceful. Being like MacGuyver! It might mean printing up a quickie banner at a local print shop, getting a couple of rental chairs and table, setting up a laptop with a slide show. Anything to show your guests. Yes, of course you’ll do your best to track down the exhibit and it MAY get to you in time. But if not…
Why do exhibitors do dumb things?
We’re only human. That’s why we left all but a half dozen business cards in the office. That’s why our eyes glaze over after a long day right when that big prospect comes up and asks a really good, engaging question. That’s why we can’t sleep in an uncomfortable hotel bed and we show up at the booth with eyelids and tail drooping. That’s why – when we do all of these things – we still suck it up, put on a smile and make the best of it.
Why did the company decide to invest in a HUUGE island booth but only provide three staffers? Or the flip version: why did the company cut corners with a small inline booth but have 15 people scheduled? Could be bad planning. What do you think?
When did your co-worker take that weird/ugly/goofy photo of you and decided to post on your company Twitter account with the show hashtag and now you’re getting lots of comments? When you weren’t looking. Are you going to get even?
Why am I standing next to a handful of booth staffers who think they need to keep checking their phones 85 times a day, eat a sandwich in the booth, and ask questions of visitors such as: “Can I help you?” Here’s one with an easy answer: they’re newbies and nobody bothered to tell them that tradeshows are a unique environment. It’s a sales environment, but atypical. You need to discern if your visitors would use your product, if they’re in need of it now or the not-too-distant future, who is the decision maker and do they have the budget? Once you know that, you have a qualified prospect and you can set a follow-up that both sides agree on.
We are awash in data, no matter what business we’re in. TradeshowGuy Tim Patterson talks with Oz du Soleil of ExcelOnFire (YouTube channel) about how to handle all of that data: how to make sure it’s clean, how to analyze it and much more.
ONE GOOD THING: For Oz, it’s cigars. For me, it’s the beginning of football season – college and pro!