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.
I got an email the other day from someone whose newsletter I had just subscribed to, and in the introduction email there was a link to the top 5 most read blog posts on her blog. That’s when an idea light lit up over my head and gave me an idea for a blog post (as a blogger, you’re always looking for ideas, right?).
Next thing you know I was pawing through my Google Analytics account to find out what were the most-viewed posts on this blog. These are the ones that floated to the top, for whatever reason. It’s all organic. I don’t advertise, but I do share links now and then on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. On occasion there might be a link here from Pinterest. Or another blog.
This blog is aging. It’s over ten years old, having been launched in November, 2008. There are almost 1000 posts.
One more note: the analytics breakdown shows the front page as “most-viewed” and a couple of pages (not posts) showed up in the top ten as well, including the Contact Me page and the We Accept Blog Submissions page. But beyond that, here are the top ten blog posts since the beginning of the blog (in traditional countdown order):
Number Ten: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Exhibit RFPs. I created a one-page sheet on what should go into an Exhibit RFP (Request for Proposal), and posted it on Cheatography.com, a site for thousands of cheat sheets. Kind of fun. They regularly sent me emails telling me how many times it was downloaded (500! 1000! 1500!). Not sure how accurate that is, but obviously it’s been seen by a lot of people. From September 2017.
Number Seven: How to Build a Tradeshow-Specific Landing Page.Inspired by Portland’s Digimarc, it’s a look at the steps you can use to put together an online site specifically to interact with potential tradeshow booth visitors. From December 2017.
Aaaaand, at Number ONE: SWOT Analysis for Tradeshows. It still surprises me that this post gets a whopping 3.95% of all of the traffic on the site. At the time I wrote it I had been spending a fair amount of time with a friend who was going through school to get his degree in marketing, and one thing that we discussed in depth was the SWOT Analysis. S=Strengths; W=Weaknesses; O=Opportunities; T=Threats. It’s a great exercise to work through in regards to your tradeshow marketing appearances. Check it out. It’s from February 2015.
The tradeshow’s over. It was a success! You made a lot of
contacts that you’re ready to follow up with, and hopefully that will lead to
new clients down the road.
Then you realize that out of the thousands of show
attendees, only a small percentage of them actually stopped by your booth, or
if they did, they didn’t spend as much time as they might have liked because,
well, the other few thousand exhibitors.
Bring them a post-show webinar to show them what they
I’ve detailed the idea of using a pre-show webinar to outline the various products and people that would be in your booth as a means of engaging and inviting people to stop by.
But what about post-show? Hopefully, you have a lot of photos and video from the show. And of course, lots of information about how your new products were received by your booth visitors. While the photos and video aren’t critical, they might come in handy. And as far as information, one place to start might be to address some of the questions that came up about your products at the show.
Assemble all of those into a webinar and promote that to your
email list, and throughout your social media channels.
This just happened to me. The NAB Show ended almost two
months ago, and today I got an email from one of the exhibitors that invited me
to one of two webinar sessions this week. The objective of the webinar? To give
attendees a chance to go over the details of the new software products they
launched at the show. Brilliant. And why not?
Hosting a post-show webinar is an effective way to do three
Remind attendees about your appearance at the show. It puts your company back to a ‘top-of-mind’ position if only for a moment.
Reminds attendees that you launched new products.
Gives them an opportunity to take a more relaxed look at the product, and if the webinar is designed properly, gives them a chance to ask questions.
Calculating your tradeshow ROI is pretty straightforward.
Know how much you spent to do the show. Know how much you made off the show. Do
There are any number of ways to increase the ROI, but it mainly
comes down to controlling the main two numbers as much as you can: how much you
spend and how much you make.
have been written about how to put on a great tradeshow exhibit, train your booth
staff, use social media to beckon attendees and more. But for the purposes of
this article let’s focus on keeping your costs down.
Let’s start with booking your space. By booking early, show organizers will give you a discount. So book
early. Book the booth space. Book the electricity, rental carpet, internet,
cleaning, whatever. Several months before the event, check the show website and
put critical dates in to your calendar. By knowing when the various services
are to be booked to get the early discount, you can save a substantial amount
Bring your own.
Exhibiting pros know that when you’re onsite, some of the most expensive things
are the cheap things that you should have in your tradeshow
survival kit. Extension cords, scissors, felt pens, business cards, phone
chargers, extra cables, and so on.
Plan to ship to the
advance warehouse. While this is generally a money-saving exercise, it’s
not always the case so you may have to do the math. But by shipping to the
advance warehouse you’ll often get discounted rates.
Ship only what you
need. Here’s where you may have to work with your exhibit house. Many
exhibits these days are designed and built to be reconfigured into more than
one size. But to make it effective, make sure you ship only what’s going to be
set up at the specific show. Your warehouse can help coordinate the proper
items. Nothing is more frustrating than setting up at a show knowing that
there’s an extra crate that got shipped and you won’t be using what’s inside.
Another note on shipping: be scrupulous about how to use the space in your
crates. Many times a client will ask us to build some extra compartments into
custom-jigged crates so they can ship extra products or samples.
Get rid of items in
storage you no longer use. Yes, it may be great to think that you’ll reuse
that exhibit from 2011 someday. But probably not. No reason to pay for storage
for something that you’ll never use again.
Print only the graphics you need. Tradeshow graphics have a short life. If they last more than one show, it’s because they’re generic or the marketing team is lazy. Or maybe there’s nothing new to promote. In any event, you can save money on graphics a number of ways. Plan on having some of your exhibit graphics designed to be reused for at least a few shows. To save more money, have banner stands or other graphics produced at the show’s city to save shipping costs.
This is a guest post by Kayleigh Alexander from Micro Startups.
So you’ve had a successful tradeshow, meeting lots of new potential customers and contacts and generated awareness and sales for your product or service.
But the work doesn’t stop there. The post-event period is crucial for capitalizing on your tradeshow success and promoting your next event.
Read on for five cool ideas for great post-event content that will grow your business and ramp up attendance for your next tradeshow.
Collate attendee quotes for some quick content
One great idea for some stellar post-event content is a
review piece by your attendees. During your tradeshow, you were probably laden
down with business cards, coffee plans, LinkedIn requests, and Twitter follows.
Consequently, you’ve got a huge bank of people to source
post-event reviews from. Reach out to your new contacts with a
personalized message and ask them how they found your event, what they took
away, what the most memorable point was, and so on.
Compile all these quotes into a single piece, crediting your attendee and linking out to their LinkedIn page or website. It’s quick content that serves as the perfect marketing piece for your next tradeshow.
Reach out to industry figures for their thoughts
As well as reaching out to your contacts and attendees, why
not reach out to notable industry figures for a post-event review too? These
influencers are respected in their field, and can provide insightful opinions
on your tradeshow.
When you contact these influencers, bear in mind that they
probably receive a lot of contact from their peers. Keep it professional and
If they’re happy to provide a quote, do the same as you did
with your attendees and ask for their insights, favorite exhibit, and any
actionable takeaways they can provide. Again, this makes for some valuable
post-event content that’s easy to collate.
The key here is immediacy. Don’t wait a week after the event to make this content — the sooner after the event, the better.
Offer your own post-event takeaways
Beyond reaching out to your attendees and industry
influencers for their thoughts, just as valuable are your own opinions. Break
down your tradeshow and describe how the day went, who attended, and what
attendees were able to take away.
A post-event review from your own perspective keeps your
tradeshow in the mind of your attendees. Invite comments from those who
attended your event and encourage them to respond with their own thanks and
And as well as providing some useful post-event content, this also helps those who weren’t able to attend your tradeshow see what they missed.
Check out search trend data to create targeted content
After your tradeshow, the chances are that your attendees
have a lot of questions. While many of them were asked during the event, plenty
of attendees will turn to Google afterwards for more information.
This gives you the perfect opportunity to create content
that addresses these questions, directing people to your blog after your
tradeshow to drive up engagement. Use search data trends to spot what your
attendees and customers are searching for online after your tradeshow.
For example, you might spot spikes in certain search terms related to a new product you demonstrated. Create content that goes into greater detail about this, and share it across your marketing channels. This addresses your attendees’ questions and keeps them engaged with your business.
Cascade tradeshow video across your marketing channels
Hopefully, you will have recorded plenty of video during
your tradeshow. Interviews with attendees, product demos, meet and greets,
talks and Q&As — these all make for strong post-event content that you can
If you used Instagram to promote your event on the day, it’s still possible to download it and reuse it across your website and email channels. Use the Repost For Instagram app to download the original clip from your social feed and cascade across the rest of your post-event marketing.
Invite interaction with a pop quiz
One piece of post-event content that is guaranteed to
delight your audience is a quiz. Quizzes are fun, engaging, and great for
creating discussion after an event.
Use a free quiz maker to create a quick test of your
attendees’ knowledge. Write questions that reveal more about your business,
product, or service. For example: “how many states did we expand into in 2018?”
or “what was the number one reason why customers used this product last year?”
— it’s up to you.
This doesn’t need to be particularly demanding — the
emphasis here is on fun rather than competition. You could even turn this into
a lead generation exercise, offering people the chance to win if they provide their
email address when they complete the quiz.
The period immediately after your tradeshow is ripe for boosting your business and marketing your next event. Use the ideas above to create a great post-tradeshow content strategy that will keep you going for time to come.
MicroStartups helps aspiring entrepreneurs achieve their dreams, however big or small. We love sharing the microbusiness message around the world.
I’m guilty of sometimes thinking that once a tradeshow is
over for the year, it’s over. For a long time. Until next year! But that’s not
really the case, no matter how much I’d like to be done!
As a tradeshow manager, or someone who attends or exhibits
at tradeshows on a regular basis, it’s easy to compartmentalize each show:
“Got another show in two months, but it’s a small regional one. I can wait another couple of weeks to make sure I get it all together in time.”
But now that the show is over, it’s a good time to start
planning – or at least thinking about – the next time you’ll exhibit at the
show. Look at your preparation time from how much of a splash you want to make,
how much “new” stuff you’ll implement in your exhibit, and of course, budget.
Budget drives everything. Almost.
If the biggest show of the year just ended, and you’re back
in the office, you have another 11.5 months before you pack up and head to the
airport again (and that doesn’t take into account another half-dozen smaller
shows that may keep you on the road).
Relax for a Few Moments
Give yourself time to breath. There’s still follow-up and record-keeping to be done from the last show. File and share data such as photos, visitor comments, leads, etc. with the proper people. Go over the metrics you collected, identify important information that will help you make decisions for next year’s show. Whatever you chose to document, make sure it’s archived and available for your team to review, digest and understand. As they say, if you didn’t write it down or document it, it didn’t happen.
What’s New Next Year?
But before too much time passes, look at the show from a new
angle: if you’re going to do something new, exciting and impactful (and why
wouldn’t you?), you need time to brainstorm, plan, research, talk with partners
such as exhibit houses, tech and AV vendors and more.
Most of your time will go into planning and design. Once the
plan is set, the implementation starts. Depending on your plan, that could mean
working with a designer or exhibit house to create a new exhibit from scratch,
or it could mean adding some unique element to your current booth (like we did
with our client Bob’s Red Mill when they wanted a 42” touchscreen with several
videos that visitors can pull up with a touch of a finger).
During the planning phase, you might be addressing the
launch of new products, new branding, redefining your objectives and goals, and
identifying how you’ll communicate your messaging, capture new leads and so on.
It’s a long process, and you should give it the time it deserves.
Many companies approach a new exhibit project as just that: a new exhibit and nothing more. Which means they don’t give all of the other items enough time and space. The exhibit is not a standalone item; it’s integral to everything else that your company is doing for the show. New products require proper display space, adequate space for graphics, and perhaps space to sample or demo them.
If you have a social media marketing director, make sure you bring her into the mix during the process. They can pass along photos and videos from the recent show and use them to build interest in next year’s show. During the lead-up to next year’s show, focus on building interest in the event, building interest in your appearance at the event, and finally on building interest in the products or services you’ll debut or feature. Yes, this deserves a much longer discussion, but don’t let this element slip away. Make sure, as a tradeshow manager, that you’re involved in the discussions on how this will unfold.
Booth Staff Training
This subject could be the topic of a complete book (maybe I’ll make this my next book!), but suffice it to say at this point that, all other things being equal, a well-trained dynamite booth staff will perform head and shoulders above a staff that isn’t properly trained. Your staff should be outgoing without being pushy, engaging without being trite. Know what questions work and what don’t. Always have a smile. Don’t take rejection personally. If you haven’t trained your booth for a while, consider how good of an investment it can be.
Get Everyone On Board
Before undertaking a new large project, make sure you are communicating properly with all of the various entities: management, marketing team, sales team, production team, outside vendors and partners. They should all be aware of the project from the beginning and what their potential part in the dance might be. Communicate often and do it well. It’s hard to over-state the importance of your ability to communicate!
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.