A ‘road-tripping’ version of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, where I gather at the campground with old friends, hoist a few, pick some tunes, stare at the night stars, and smell the juniper and sage of the Oregon high desert. Totally off the grid for almost 72 hours with absolutely “NO SERVICE!” Good stuff.
As for the ONE GOOD THING? Hitting the road, doing a little camping – it’s a VACATION, no matter how long.
Of course, we always want to make sure our tradeshow best practices are out on display for everyone at all times. But as Steve Miller says, “Perfection is your enemy.”
And…we’re only human. That means you’ll find that your booth staff will sometimes be eating in the booth, or on their phone when people are walking by. Or they’ll fail to direct a visitor to the person with the right answer for the question. Or maybe you realize that your pre-show marketing efforts were lame this time around. Or your post-show follow up really left something to be desired.
Sometimes your graphics will be scuffed or torn. Perhaps your flooring is ripped and mended. All of these are irritating, aren’t they, because you want to always have the best presentation at all times. But perfection is not attainable.
So, keep moving forward. If one of your staffers is sitting in the back of the booth with hands in pockets, put on a smile and ask them to move to the aisle where they can be helpful. And vow to schedule a trainer who can teach staffers better habits. If your hanging sign or large graphics look great but are outdated because some minor branding thing changed, take a photo and plan to get together with management to find the dollars to make upgrades.
There are times that you’ll come up short. There may even be times you consider your tradeshow efforts a failure.
Improvement doesn’t happen all at once. But keeping tradeshow best practices in mind every time you’re involved in setting up the booth, planning upgrades, scheduling your booth staff and related show logistics, you will see improvement. But chances are you won’t see perfection.
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?
Over the years I’ve suggested that companies create a tradeshow-specific landing page for each appearance they make at a show. But frankly, I don’t see too many of them.
But I recently ran across a tradeshow-specific landing page from Digimarc that caught my eye. Digimarc is a Portland-based company that helps clientele with product identification, labels, barcodes and the like.
Digimarc has a tradeshow-specific landing page for their upcoming appearance at NRF 2018 at the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center.
Let’s take a look at their landing page and see what they are doing right.
In the first screenshot, Digimarc starts off by everyone that they’re going to be at the NRF 2018. They mention their booth number and invite visitors to check out their store.
Next shot: you’re invited to dig a little deeper to learn about increasing operational efficiencies and more, and again mentioning the booth number. Right below that are a pair of buttons inviting you to schedule a visit with them at their booth, and offering an NRF Registration and Discount Code, reinforcing the notion that not only do they want to you stop by their booth, they want to make it easy:
In the third screenshot, Digimarc offers a chance to learn even more specific knowledge, with buttons to get better labels, implement easy checkout and engage consumers now.
Finally, there is an offer to get a personalized language booth tour – when you click through, the options are to get a tour in Japanese or German – making it easier for those international visitors to make a connection with the company. Then there’s a Lyft voucher and (still to come) an NRF Survival Guide. It’s all capped off with an invitation to follow them on social media to continue the show connection.
Everything is clearly marked, easily understood and very specific. The only quibble I have is that the date and location of the show (NYC in January) are not on the page. But you might argue that anyone going to the show already knows that information, and this tradeshow-specific landing page from Digimarc is being shared with people who are already aware.
In any event, Digimarc did a great job with this.
My question is: why aren’t you doing this with your upcoming tradeshow appearance?
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:
Have you checked out Quora? I think I heard about it a couple of years ago and may have even answered a question or two along the way. If you’re not sure what Quora , check out the Wikipedia description:
“Quora is a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. Its publisher, Quora, Inc., is based in Mountain View, California. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users’ answers.”
And yes, there are questions and answers about almost anything. Including tradeshows. Let’s have a little fun and share some of the best Q’s and A’s about tradeshows and tradeshow marketing:
What should I know before attending my first tradeshow? An author in the industry, David Spark, jumps in with one of the deepest answers I’ve seen on Quora. It includes videos and deep explanations. Yeah, it’s kind of a self-serving pitch for his services and his book, but it hits the mark in all ways.
Sure, millions of people head off to tradeshows worldwide every year, but are they really tradeshow prep experts? Are they ready, I mean really ready for the tradeshow? Let’s take a look at what the average tradeshow manager should be doing to show they’re truly a tradeshow prep expert.
You plan a whole year in advance. Yes, the show is over, but did you already book next year’s space and check to see if you could upgrade to a better space?
You reach out to your exhibit house at least 3 – 4 months ahead of the show if you have minor graphic upgrades on your schedule. Reach out 6 months in advance if you’re planning to create a new exhibit or are anticipating major upgrades to your current booth. Sure, the exhibit house can turn around graphic upgrades in just a short time, but the further in advance you are of the delivery date, the better for all parties concerned.
You know what messaging you’re going to send to your potential booth visitors at least a few months prior to the show. Some folks will get emails, some may get a nice snail mail package, others will get a personal phone call. This means prioritizing your prospects and doing your best to set appointments with the hot prospects and getting warm and cool leads to at least come by the booth for a chat.
You’ve downloaded or otherwise saved the show manual or information at least a couple of months prior to the show, and know what it takes to coordinate shipping, I&D and other logistics.
You have your housing booked the day it opens or shortly thereafter. Depending on the show, the housing can go quickly.
You book your flights and rental car about 6 weeks out. I’m told that this is the optimum time for best pricing for book flights. If you book a car, this is also a good time to do that.
You’ve coordinated with other parts of the company to make sure you have products and/or services ready for launch prior to the show.
You have shift schedules prepped and distributed at least a week ahead of time.
If your booth staff is wearing special colored and branded clothing, it’s been ordered at least a couple of months prior to the show.
You know exactly what you’re going to wear at least a week before the show – and it’s packed a day or two ahead of time.
You especially know what shoes you’re going to wear!
Okay, you may have more – but if you’re doing all of this and more, you’re definitely a tradeshow prep expert!
As a company owner, salesman and project manager for TradeshowGuy Exhibits, I get tradeshow marketing questions. Hoobooy, I get a lot of questions. I thought it might be fun to answer a handful of the most common questions I get.
Our shipping costs are sky-high. How can we bring these costs down?Many questions are about costs, so it’s a good place to start. Certainly, if something is heavy it’s going to cost a lot to ship. Wood panels are heavy, and many older exhibits have a lot of wood pieces. It also adds up in drayage costs at the show. Some clients like the image that wood gives them, so they bite the bullet and build the cost of shipping into their exhibiting program. Others that want to bring the shipping costs down look at lighter materials, such as silicon-edge fabric graphic panels (SEG) that give a great look but don’t have the weight and heft of wooden or other types of panels.
How can we increase our ROI?It seems that tradeshow marketing is hit and miss. Yes, investing in tradeshow marketing can be expensive, but done right, it can be a boon and open doors to markets that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise reach. Sometimes it comes down to exhibiting at the right shows. It often means putting more time, energy and resources into pre-show marketing, booth staff training and a booth that accurately represents your brand (among others). There are a lot of moving parts and if you let a few of those parts go unattended to, it can contribute to your failure. I spoke with a former exhibitor recently who said the last time they exhibited was years ago and it was a bust. When we spent a few minute dissecting it, we come to the conclusion that as a small local business, one of their biggest challenges was finding a local show that could provide a large enough audience of potential customers. Without deeper digging, it was impossible to know in that brief call, but we both felt that we identified one of their most important challenges: getting in from of the right audience.
How do we work with a designer? We’ve never done that before. Often I end up working with exhibitors who are in a sense moving out of their comfort zone. Before now, they have purchased exhibits from a source that just shows them a catalog of pre-made items. Nothing wrong with that, there are hundreds and hundreds of modular exhibits and accessories that are more or less ‘off-the-shelf’ that will do a great job for you. But exhibitors will often reach the point where they have the budget and desire to move into something custom. Working with a designer is straightforward – but you have to choose a designer that knows how to design in 3D. Graphic designers typically won’t have the skill to do so. However, trained 3D exhibit designers know how to design exhibits that take into account all of your functional needs: storage space, display space, foot traffic flow, graphic layout and so much more. A typically-trained graphic designer won’t have the skill that a 3D designer does. As for working with a designer, it’s typical to have a long conversation, either in person, or on a conference call, with the company stakeholders so that all needs are discussed. At that point the designer will create a mockup or two for review and once comments are in, changes are made until the final design is agreed upon.
I need a new exhibit. Should I prepare and issue an RFP (Request for Proposal)? It depends. There’s no definitive answer on this one. An RFP does a couple of things: it helps clarify your exhibit needs by forcing you to articulate all of your needs, budget, timeline and so on. Putting it all in black and white is a great exercise whether you’re putting out an RFP or not. If you don’t have an exhibit house in mind, issuing an RFP allows you to vet a handful (probably 4 – 6) companies, and make them jump through some hoops to make their case, and perhaps even do mock designs for you. On the other hand, if you have been working with an exhibit house that has done you well – has created great exhibits for you in the past, has been an effective partner for years – then no doubt you’re in good shape staying with them.
How much does it cost?It’s a question people don’t really like to ask, but usually end up blurting it out. Some items come with a set price, like the off-the-shelf catalog items, but if they’re shopping for a custom exhibit, there is no obvious answer. In my younger salesperson days, I’d answer the question with “well, what’s your budget?” but that’s not really a good answer. The better response I believe, is to ask them how they come up with a budget from their end. What is their process for determining how much they are willing to invest? There are industry standards – which are pretty accurate, and a good starting place – but the client has to work through a number of internal issues unique to come up with a realistic budget for their project. A final thought on this: if their internal discussion gives them a number that isn’t realistic for their expectations, a reputable exhibit house will tell them so.
How quick can you get it done? Or: how long will this take? This question often comes from an exhibitor who hasn’t paid close enough attention to the calendar and are now scrambling to get something in place. A recent exhibitor asked me – months (almost a year) ahead of their need and asked “how long does the process usually take?” The question was about designing and fabricating an island booth from scratch. I silently gave him kudos for asking the question up front (and not waiting until a month or two before the show), then told him my answer: for an island exhibit, we’d love to have 3-4 months at minimum. Six months is better. But we’ve turned around island exhibits in 5 or 6 weeks IF the client has a really strong idea of what they want and all that’s need for design is for the designer to create the rendering and confirm that the look and feel and dimensions are accurate – and then we’re off to the races.
Certainly there are other questions I hear, but in reflecting the past year or two, these seem to be what come up the most-asked tradeshow marketing questions. What questions do YOU have about exhibit creation or tradeshow marketing?
When it comes to achieving tradeshow success, actual time spent at the tradeshow gets all the attention – so where does that leave pre-show marketing? Out in the cold, of course.
So bring pre-show marketing out of the cold and into the daylight.
The two questions to address are simple: what is my pre-show outreach, and who do I reach out to?
The ideal scenario of pre-show outreach is built on multiple touches: email, snail mail (postcards are good and cost-effective), and social media. Each of these could be broken down a bit more. Mailings could include more than just a postcard: if you have some high-value prospects in mind, send something a little more special and high-end that whets their appetite and gets them to your booth. Social media can include tweets and Facebook posts about your new products and services, or industry-famous guests at your booth. You can also create videos to promote your appearance at the show and share those as well.
So who gets the communication? The first channel to address would be your in-house list of clients, prospects and those that have inquired over the years. They know who you are and even if they’re not planning on going to the tradeshow, your invitation may help them change their mind. At the very least, they’ll know you’re exhibiting, which shows them you care enough about your company and brand to put it out there for all to see.
The second channel is to use a list provided by show organizers. But don’t just assume you can import the information into a spreadsheet and do a mail-merge and click send or print. No, you should go over the list to weed out competitors and non-prospects so they aren’t on the receiving end of your pitch.
It sounds easy – and in theory, it is. But pre-show marketing takes time and attention to detail. Create a plan that includes a timeline for each item, and then create the content and promotional material that will go out. Once execution of the plan is underway, track results as best as possible, and of course do your best to track the names and companies that actually responded and showed up to your exhibit.