Trying to find some new and different posts the next time you’re on the road at a tradeshow? Try a few of these and see what you get:
Clients and Customers in Your Booth: Click a quick photo or if they’re up for it, videotape a brief testimonial.
Your Staff: You should make sure that you show off how much fun your staffers are having, even in the midst of a busy day. Nothing communicates your company’s brand more than your people having a good time.
Demos of Products: A series of stills, or a brief video works here.
Have a great exhibit? Show it off!
The Hall You’re In – Include Your Booth Number: Share your location at the beginning of each day (at least) so that people can find you.
Educational: Inform your audience how your product or service can help them. A picture with a useful description goes a long way.
Questions or a Short Quiz: People will respond to questions if they’re interesting and engaging.
Promotional: Give something away. Try offering a prize for show-goers to get them to come to your booth. And offer a prize for people watching from afar that can’t make it.
Dinner out with Client (or not): Okay, food photos are usually boring unless it’s really a stunning photo. But if you’re out with a client or friend, post a photo and include the hashtag.
Local Tourist Stops: Making a few side trips during your busy show? Snap photos and share.
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.
Hey, doesn’t everybody use Twitter? Okay, not everybody, but certainly a lot of folks do. It’s the go-to immediate social media platform to post quick-hitting comments, links and videos. You can track chatter about topics galore, and if you’re trying to keep up with social media interaction relating to a specific tradeshow, just plug in the show hashtag and you’re seeing dozens and dozens of tweets, photos and videos.
Frankly, it’s tough to find a tradeshow-related Twitter account that doesn’t commit one of the sins of tweeting: too much self-promotion, nothing but retweeting, or just ignoring the ability to personally relate by tweeting our photos or individual comments.
Let’s get highly subjective and track down a baker’s dozen of tradeshow and event-related Twitter accounts that you might take a look at:
So you wanna create social media buzz before the tradeshow but aren’t sure exactly how to pull it off? Of course there are dozens of strategies and tactics that will raise your profile above the average company, but not all will work in all situations and of course nothing is guaranteed. Your tweets and Instagram posts could be swept away by an unforeseen event or distraction that swoops up the eyeballs you were hoping to grab!
One of the most memorable methods was one I saw years ago when Griffin refurbished an old VW bus and drove across the country for a couple of weeks, tweeting and posting photos and videos all the way. By the time they drove the bus onto the tradeshow floor, hundreds of people were waiting for them. So you might consider how to play up your travel to the event. It might grab attention if it’s different than the norm. Anyone want to bounce from SF to LA on a pogostick wearing a branded shirt? Hey, just a thought!
So here are some more thoughts and ideas on how to create a little social media buzz prior to the show:
Know the show hashtag, so that everything you put out is trackable and findable by show followers, whether they follow your actual account or not.
If you have new products or services, create a teaser video or three and get them out onto your social media platforms.
Maybe you’re going to debut a new exhibit at the show. Work with your exhibit house to tease elements of the exhibit with photos prior to the show.
Consider creating a special landing page on your website just for the show. Let people make appointments, view more videos, learn about new products, get invited to parties, sign up for email or text notifications, whatever.
If you have a company CEO or other management member speaking at the show or being part of a panel, be sure to include that in any information you post. And if you’re sponsoring a specific event or area of the show, don’t forget that.
Got a contest or something else to draw people to your booth? Start promoting the contest online a week or so prior to the show. Any sooner and it becomes old quickly. Wait too long and you won’t reach as many people.
Create a special hashtag just for your company for just this show and invite people to post photos of themselves wearing your product using the hashtag. Draw several prize winners from among the photos during the show and give away a bunch of your products to both show attendees and those that weren’t able to attend.
By engaging with attendees prior to the show, you create social media buzz that increases the odds you’ll draw more people to your booth during the show. If you manage to come up with this year’s VW bus promotion that goes viral, you might even get a raise!
Planning on putting more focus on using Instagram at your next tradeshow or event? Congratulations. After all, it’s one of the most popular social media platforms out there with more than 400 million daily active users. But before you get started, do a little planning and it’ll be much easier to capture and post photos.
Use the Event Hashtag. This way people at the show will find your posts much more easily.
Go behind the scenes with photos. Show the exhibit set up, the show prep meeting, or the travel to the show. Build some excitement as you approach the show, and of course during and after.
Don’t focus exclusively on your products or services. The most boring Instagram accounts are those that do nothing but promote, promote, promote their own stuff. Sure a product placement is cool, but make sure you have faces, preferably happy and smiling. Show off your exhibit and the people that visit.
Use the Geotagging options. And don’t just stop there. Spend some time going through other photos from the same event and location: either comment or like those so you’re building engagement and followers.
Promote the event before, during and after. Show what you’re going to do, show your team doing it, and then once it’s over, show more photos of what you’ve done.
Promote a contest. Instagram contests do work – but be sure to post your rules for how it works, and how you choose a winner. And be sure to give away a relevant prize.
Share to other platforms. Yeah, it’s easy, but be clear about how you’re doing it. If you just click the buttons, you’ll likely get a link to your Instagram post instead of the actual image. So either share the images separately, sign up for an IFTTT account, link your two accounts, and add this recipe that will “tweet your Instagrams as native photos on Twitter.”
Share the event hashtag photos on a monitor in your booth. Yeah, you’ll probably need some smart nerdy tech guy to set this up, but it’s definitely doable.
Have a great time at the show – and share on Instagram!
The good folks over at Eventbrite offered to share their findings and infographic in how online talk and chatter can impact events. By analyzing tweets from over 60 events, they took the data into a special shake-n-bake room and came up with some useful findings. For instance, did you know that 50% of all online chatter about an event takes place prior to the event? Or that during the event, over a third of the tweets included a quote or a photo from the event?
Last fall I put out the book “Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level.” I’ve done several promotions around it, given away a bunch of copies, and use it as my main calling card.
But I’ve never done a webinar on the book. Until now. Check it out:
Prior to your next tradeshow, it behooves you to spend some time doing a little pre-show marketing reaching out to potential attendees and prospects. Even if a potential client is not going to the show doesn’t mean that you should not communicate with them. She could be interested in your products or services, but just can’t make this particular show.
Here, in no particular order, are several ways to reach out to prospect prior to the show:
Email: easy, cheap. All you have to do is sit down at your keyboard and tell people why you’re going to be at the show and what the benefits of coming by your booth might be.
Direct mail: sending a postcard or other direct mail piece is definitely a way that stands out. Or course, the cost is more than sending out a simple email. Costs for sending direct mail start at about a buck a person (printing plus postage) and go up depending on what you’re sending. And then there’s the cost of creating the direct mail piece, which will usually involve a small team crafting the message, the subject, the layout and the coordination of the production and delivery.
Telephone call: ah! the personal touch. Nothing beats the personal touch. Much more time-consuming, but if you target a select group of potential and current clients to let them know what’s going on at the booth during the show, it can pay off dividends.
Social media: more of a general ‘spray and pray’ approach, but you can build a little buzz with clever and creative use of social media.
PR and Media: the use of public relations and media tends to get overlooked, but the act of sending a press release about your show appearance to industry media or pertinent local or regional media can help get your name out there.
What to include in your outreach?
The who, what, when, where, how and why of your appearance. The standard journalism approach: make sure people know where to find you, when and where the show takes place, your booth number, perhaps even a description and photo of your booth. Got a video from last year? It makes a great way to bring the show to life, especially if it’s a client testimonial. Share photos on social media and include them in a press release. Photos also are well-received in emails and direct pieces, and make them easier to read.
And finally, give them the reason WHY they should come to your booth. Perhaps its a new product launch, or a new facet of a current product. Or a way to get a sweet deal only at the show. Or a special time to meet the CEO or other company wag. In any event, pre-show marketing can take many forms – and it’s work, but it’s all part of the process of making your tradeshow a success!
Twitter is a great source for a lot of things: breaking news, rants and raves, tracking of stories and trends. So nearly every day I’ll spend a few moments to see what’s being offered in the #tradeshow world.
It’s a mix of blatant self-promotion, informative articles and out-of-the-box posts that make ya just scratch your head.
And then, without naming names, I came across blatant pitches to rent a monitor, buy a booth, check out designs and more. Nothing wrong with that, unless it’s all you do with your Twitter account. I wouldn’t name names because they know who they are. I’m sure I’ve done it, too. But that’s not all I do.
And as for those goofy off the wall posts? Naah, not so much. The #tradeshow world is not populated by too many goofy people. We all take this stuff seriously. Even me. Sometimes.
Check out the #tradeshow hashtag tracking on Twitter now and then. Along with #eventprofs. Another good one from the event world.
This week is the launch of my new book “Tradeshow Success: 14 Proven Steps to Take Your Tradeshow Marketing to the Next Level.” I’m doing a lot of the normal launch things an author would do: sending copies to industry media and bloggers, along with industry colleagues. Creating a list of clients and potential clients that I’d like to get the book into. And much more!
Beyond that, I’ve created a series of 14 videos, with each one relating to one of the chapters in the book. Those videos are appearing, about one a day, at my YouTube Tradeshow Marketingchannel. Check ’em out!
You can also read the book for free here at TradeshowSuccessBook.com. You’ll be asked to opt-in to a mailing list (which, if you gotta, you can always unsubscribe from).
What do you get in the book? As mentioned in the subtitle, I’ve detailed 14 steps that are critical to tradeshow success. Not every successful tradeshow marketer uses all of these steps with utmost efficiency, but most of them make very good use of many of the steps.
So what are the steps?
Let’s take a look at the 14 Steps:
Step One: Going with or without a Map? Are you doing enough planning and organizing around your tradeshows?
Step Two: Dollars, Pounds, Euros: How Much Do You Really Need to Make This Work? A breakdown of the budgeting process for tradeshows and what it takes to budget for a new exhibit.
Step Three: Getting Ready for the Big Dance: Pre-show planning and marketing.
Step Four: Did You Come to the Right Dance? Just make sure that your target market is at the show you’re going to dump all of that money into.
Step Five: Home is Where the Booth Is: Booth design essentials, including function, traffic flow, graphics and more.
Step Six: Is Your Frontline Team Up to Snuff? Booth staff training!
Step Seven: What Do I Do With All of These People in the Booth? Now that you’ve drawn a crowd, what do you do with them?
Step Eight: Tweeting, Posting and Instagramming Like a King or Queen: Putting social media to work for you in a creative way.
Step Nine: Who’s Keeping Track of Those Damn Tweets? Someone needs to create videos, blog posts, tweets, etc. Here’s a great look at some online content ideas.
Step Ten: Got a Stack of Leads: Now What? Lead generation and follow up.
Step Eleven: Becoming the Zen Master of Stats and Records: Record-keeping is the secret sauce to tracking your success.
Step Twelve: Stirring the Public Relations and Media Pot: Working with industry media.
Step Thirteen: Do QR Codes Still Kill Kittens? And Other Tech Questions: A quick examination of technology in tradeshows.
Step Fourteen: Out Of Your Nest: Time to Fly! Your call to action!
Want to grab your own copy? Use the links above to own your own. Or if you want the digital version (PDF download), try this: