Less than a week from the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland at the Expo Center. It’s next Wednesday and Thursday the 23rd and 24th of January. I’ve attended the show three times, and this is the first time as an exhibitor. I’m looking forward to it, but I don’t have a good sense of how well we’ll do at the show. I would bet a lot of exhibitors feel the same going into shows. There’s a significant amount of money on the line, and hopefully the ROI is positive, right?
I wanted to do some modest pre-show marketing, aimed at exhibitors, specifically at the show’s exhibitors. I made up a postcard, had a bunch printed up and sent about five dozen to exhibitors, those that I could track down mailing addresses. As an aside, do you notice that it’s hard to find some businesses online? Many don’t have websites, and many that have websites are coy about their locations. The only way to get in touch with many small businesses is to fill out an online form, click “submit” and hope someone actually reads it. Some time. And don’t get me started about making calls.
However, the five dozen postcards went out and only two came back as non-deliverable, so I took that as a good sign. The card invited exhibitors to drop by our booth to pick up a free copy of one of my books while supplies last. The goal? To find out if any exhibitors are planning to make changes in the next year, and to capture contact information and follow up in a timely manner. Sounds like a straightforward plan, right? I’ll let you know.
If you’re heading to the show, come see us in booth #420 at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland at the Expo Center!
From celebrity promoters to next-level artificial reality adventures, trade shows are becoming less about selling and more about experiencing. And that’s by design, as trade show trends shift with culture at large. Today, there are two big trends influencing the marketplace: 1. Consumers, especially millennials, are becoming more minimalist. 2. Simultaneously, consumers are shifting their spending away from goods and more towards experience-related services, says management consulting firm McKinsey.
Because trade show trends mirror what’s going on in the rest of the marketplace, the best event marketers are those who are totally tuned in to the buyer’s needs right now. To create effective trade show displays in 2019, you have to very closely understand what buyers want, what they expect and what will entice them to stop and take notice of your booth in a sea of competitors. Here are some of the ones we’ll be able to bank on this year.
It’s All About Immersion: Trade Show Experiences
The basic booth and table will no longer do. In today’s sales landscape, marketers need to stand out by creating displays that quite literally draw visitors in. The goal is to achieve effective narrative marketing by removing the consumer (not literally, of course) from the convention center and taking him or her on an exciting journey that elicits emotion. This can be done in many distinct ways, but some of the best are the ones listed below.
Artificial Reality—Companies in the tech space have been incorporating augmented and virtual reality components into their event displays for a couple of years now, but things are starting to really ramp up in this space. Experts are already predicting that AR will overtake booths at the world’s biggest tech trade show, CES 2019, with displays highlighting new AR products (especially non-wearable AR, like smart mirrors) and also helping to sell non-AR products using interactive, immersive demos and presentations. Experiential Design—Experiential design, though broad, vaguely refers to the art of creating spaces that provide some sort of experience. Often, this means taking a small corner of a convention center and transforming it into a totally different place entirely, like a store, a playground, an art gallery or a hotel room. For example, logistics giant FedEx recently showed up at the China International Import Expo with a giant airplane mock-up at the center of their display, while other big-name brands have developed full-blown store experiences at this year’s retail conventions. Multi-Sensory Experiences—In addition to the brightly colored backgrounds and banners that please the eyes, the coolest new displays have begun to incorporate elements that appeal to all other senses as well. Visitors will be able to jump into full-blown tactile, auditory and gastronomic experiences at this year’s trade shows, with big sounds, sights, smells and flavors to experience. Designers are also beginning to invite show-goers into exhibitor’s spaces to play and explore, with instruments, toys, seating areas and gadgets to try. Everything Brand-New—The 2019 Global Consumer Trends report published by the market research company Mintel gives us some fascinating new info on the latest consumer behaviors. The report showed that consumers are more adventurous than ever—they love to travel alone, experience new places and order foods they haven’t tried before. At trade shows and in other marketing sectors, we can expect to see an uptick in the new, fascinating, unusual and intriguing.
Appealing to the Consumer: Getting Crafty
To understand trade show trends, you have to understand what your audience wants. Most buyers at industry events are professionals with purchasing power (in fact, 81 percent of those who attend have some kind of buying authority), but they are also consumers who get giddy at the thought of fun, new experiences. You can bet that you’ll forge a positive brand image when you go for some of the ideas below. Shareable Elements—It doesn’t matter where they go, consumers look for “shareable” spaces and experiences that would contribute to nicely encapsulated social media posts. In 2019, we can expect to see many more booths creating special “photo ops” for show-goers to share to social media. This is great news for the marketer, as it offers more opportunity for building brand recognition and creating a positive presence across social. Special Guests and Performances—Take a look at some of the biggest conventions and trade shows for 2019 and you’ll see a lineup peppered with celebs. Last year, we saw big-name celebs like Tina Fey, Jamie Foxx and Spike Lee gracing the stages of big industry events, and this year’s no different. Look out for actors, musicians, change-makers and entrepreneurs beefing up the speaking agendas of the biggest conferences in tech, music and marketing. Everything Ethical—Again, trade show trends tend to mirror what’s going on in the greater consumer economy. Now more than ever, buyers care about patronizing eco-friendly, responsible and ethical businesses and will quickly alienate the ones who are less focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). We’ll certainly see more brands in 2019 highlighting their CSR efforts in the trade show market, including through more eco-friendly displays and demos. All Things Personal—The personalization train hasn’t slowed yet. In fact, it’s primed to pick up some speed this year. As you probably know, buyers are gravitating to more personalized products and experiences across all industries, and this should be applied to trade show marketing, too. We can expect to see the most success coming from booths that create a personal experience by offering one-on-one staffing and personal engagements.
Paying Attention to the Consumer Market
As you can see, the most important thing about trend-spotting in the trade show world is trend-spotting in the world. If you can identify some of the key drivers of the greater market, and you can implement them into your trade show display strategy, you’ll be well on your way to a hefty return on investment from your event marketing efforts.
Most companies we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits work
with one exhibit house for several years, and the urge to change doesn’t come
around much. Maybe you’ve been comfortable or years, but something changes.
Could be minor, could be major. But it does happen. People change, goals
change, situations change. Changing vendors can be challenging and pose a set
of challenges. Lots of people are uncomfortable with change and prefer to stick
with something even though it’s a good idea to at least look around.
When doing your evaluation, look at all options. One option
might mean staying with your current vendor. But when evaluating, make one list
with those that are considered competent service providers and those that might
be looked at as critical partners.
What reasons might you have – valid reasons – for shopping
around for another exhibit house? Let’s take a look at some things that might
Your needs and goals have
changed. It may be that you’re working with an exhibit house that excels in
smaller exhibits, such as inline modular booths, but you want something custom.
Turns out that your current vendor may be able to do what you want, but it’s a
stretch. Or perhaps you want more, such as a coordinated tradeshow marketing
strategy with planning and execution, and all your current vendor does is
design and fabricate exhibits.
Their designers aren’t
thinking out of the box like you’d like. Exhibits can get really wild and
weird, believe me. I’m sure you’ve seen them! But if the exhibit house you
currently work with has a group of in-house designers that seem to stick with
the tried-and-true, and never really show you something wacky, it might be time
to find another designer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to move on from
the same fabricator, it may just mean bringing in an outside designer.
Communication. Do you hear from your exhibit house only when you reach out
to them for something? Or do they stay in communication frequently even though
a show is not currently pending?
Problems with Delivery.
In the tradeshow world, deadlines run the show. Does your exhibit house meet
deadlines without breaking a sweat, or do you feel that they’re struggling –
which means you’re anxious much of the time? The most reliable vendors can hit
a bump in the road on occasion, but if that happens do they communicate that to
you? Or is the failure to deliver consistently a trend in the wrong direction?
They take you for
granted. Big exhibit houses are equipped to handle everything from small
in-lines to gigantic island booths that spill out of a show’s floor, it seems.
If you’re one of their small customers, it may be that they just assume you’re
well-taken care of without really checking. Sometimes a lack of communication
tells you that they have other priorities.
Poor Service. If
a company really wants and values your business, you’ll see it in their service.
There shouldn’t be invoice errors, lack of attention to detail, slow response
The person that’s
handled your account has moved on. The new person doesn’t really “get” you.
It may mean that you have to work to get to know them better. But as the
account manager, that falls more heavily on them to retain the business than it
does on you.
This could be anything (politics, religion, brusqueness, and so on). It may not
mean it’s time to move on. It may just mean you need to deal with another
person at the company.
Pricing. Not only
what is the price, but what are you getting for the money? Some vendors are
great at providing a basic service at a good price. Others may be more skilled
with more resources who can creatively collaborate, but that may come at a cost
you’re not quite ready for. An unexpected price increase may also spur a change.
Price increase happen, everyone does it over time. But if a price increase is
coming on things that you normally purchase from your exhibit house (graphics,
labor for repairs and upgrades, etc.) and you aren’t informed ahead of time,
that is not good business.
not as big a deal if you’re not actually working for a company, when it would
be a really big deal. But sometimes that culture doesn’t transfer well and if
it makes everyone uncomfortable and awkward, it might be time to move on.
There are a lot of reasons that companies are not a good
fit. And there’s no wrong answers. There are a lot of exhibit houses out there
vying for your business. We hate to turn business down, but it happens because for
whatever reason, it’s not a good fit.
In this week’s vlog/podcast, I got a chance to learn quite a bit about something with which I’m not very familiar with: international tradeshow exhibiting. I’m guessing that a lot of us don’t get a chance for much exhibiting in Dubai, France, Spain, England, China or Japan or any of a number of countries. That’s why this week’s interview with exhibit designer and international tradeshow exhibiting expert Larry Kulchawik is such a treat. Loads of great information – and you should pick up his book if you do any international exhibiting. Check it out:
I got a chance to play a little with the new Classic Exhibits Gravitee “No Tools” Tradeshow Exhibit. Having a hands-on experience is better than reading about it. And if you can’t get a hands-on experience, you can at least see mine:
What about the type of graphics you might consider putting on Gravitee? Gravitee accepts both SEG Fabric and Direct Print Graphics, so take your pick.
When you think about it, there are several reasons why tradeshows work to reach new markets. And many reasons as to why they wouldn’t work for you.
Let’s start with why tradeshows work.
Tradeshows are organized for one very good reason: to bring buyers and sellers together under one roof for a short amount of time. It’s an extremely effective way to help both parties make connections. By setting up an exhibit at the right show – one that has hundreds or thousands of people or companies that are in the market for your product or service – you can save a ton of money when compared with trying to have face-to-face meetings with those same people at their company locations. Imagine meeting 100 people at a show over the course of three days. Then imagine the cost of traveling to 100 locations spread throughout the country (or state or world) and having the same meetings. Granted, a meeting in someone’s office is typically more relaxed than a meeting on the tradeshow floor. But other than the time and relaxation factors, it’s pretty much the same meeting! You’re determining if the prospect uses your product, is capable of making a purchase (they have the $$), and if they have the ability to make that decision for the company. It’s the same on the tradeshow floor.
Given all of that, tradeshows are the perfect structure for spreading the word about your product among a very large crowd that – again, if it’s the right show – are your target market. Naturally, you’re competing against companies that may be trying to sell virtually the same product or service to the same target market. That’s where the fun starts: how do you differentiate from them, how do you approach the prospect, how do you understand their needs, how do you make them look (and feel) good?
On the flip side, given the high cost and a multitude of variables that go into planning and executing a tradeshow appearance, a lot of exhibitors have come to the conclusion that tradeshow marketing doesn’t work. For them.
You could point to a number of reasons why it doesn’t work for them. They’re at the wrong show. With the wrong exhibit. In the wrong space. With a booth staff that isn’t properly trained. Going against competitors that are way ahead of them in experience, savvy, planning, and attitude. In fact, attitude, I would argue, is one of the keys to winning vs. losing at a tradeshow. But let’s take it a step further: let’s not even use the words “winning vs. losing” because that frames it as a competition. Yes, it is, in a sense. But if you consider all tradeshows as more than that – as a learning experience – take that experience and apply it to the next round. What worked? What didn’t? Why did something work, and why did something else not work? If that’s hard to figure out, it might mean you’re too close to it. Ask someone on the outside to take a look and give an objective perspective. Buy a book or two and learn how it’s done from people that have been there before.
Don’t give up. Keep plugging away. Keep trying. It can – and will – work for you, eventually.
Preparing for a tradeshow takes time and effort, which you may already know if you’ve participated in a tradeshow in the past. That being said, it helps to have a checklist on hand to make sure you get everything just right before the big day.
Below we’ve outlined the ultimate tradeshow booth checklist for you to use before your next show to boost your efficiency and marketing ROI.
Research the exhibitor space and show beforehand.
Do you know where your booth is located at the event? If you have the opportunity to pick your spot, think about selecting an area near the entrance where you can meet and greet people as soon as they walk in. Once you have your booth location nailed down, don’t forget to promote it. Advertising your presence at the event can drive more foot traffic.
Plan out your booth ahead of time.
You and your team should have a good idea of what type of graphics you will be using and how the space will be set up before the event. Will you have a custom exhibit or table top with a table cover? Will you have a booth backdrop? What about signage? These are all factors you’ll want to consider beforehand.
In addition, don’t forget about your marketing collateral. Your marketing team should have informational materials to give out to those who come by your booth and want to learn more about your products and services. After deciding on the right pieces, feature pamphlets prominently in literature stands or on tabletops so potential customers can easily grab them.
Engage in pre-show promotion.
Emails, social media, and direct mail are all ways you can drive traffic to your booth when the big day comes. Think about creating a marketing campaign centered around the trade show to raise awareness of your presence at the event before it officially kicks off. You can also often promote your presence with the organizers of the show itself whether that be via email or an advertisement in the conference agenda.
Come up with a plan to drive traffic to your booth.
Think about creating a giveaway program to encourage attendees to stop by your booth. Consider a raffle where you give away a prize on display at the actual event. An acrylic locked box can be used to hold the prize safely until it’s time to award it to the raffle winner.
You may also want to use tradeshow banners to drive traffic to your booth. If you want to go the extra mile, think about hosting a small event at your booth, such as a coffee hour, for networking with people who stop by your area. Finally, don’t forget about offering freebies to those who come by your booth. Marketing materials, such as branded pens and keychains, can help you stick out in the mind of booth visitors long after they drop by your stand.
Create a plan for collecting leads.
Will your team have lead scanners or will you be simply collecting business cards? These are questions you’ll want to have answered before the big day. Think about using a tablet to collect attendee information with a form that connects directly to your CRM system to streamline the lead collection process. Tablet stands and holders can be beneficial at your booth for this reason.
While planning a tradeshow does require a certain amount of flexibility, having this checklist on hand can give you the best chance at making the most of your marketing opportunity. Follow these tips and you’re sure to be off to a good start for your next show.
Marla Bracco is the content marketing manager for shopPOPdisplays where she focuses on content strategy and search engine marketing, designed to help the organization shape their web content around digital marketing objectives and priorities.
I can recall two recent ones at a marketing conference that really stand out.
The first was a full on lounge with free coffee and breakfast, ample seating, and newspapers. It was a genius idea because it flowed so naturally from the event floor. I sat down and didn’t want to leave after a long day. I remember that.
The other one was an AWS exhibit by Amazon. Amazon not only dominated the floor with their main exhibit, but they had a second one with a full on classroom. Yes, this counts as an exhibit, and it was packed the brim the whole show.
Which exhibits do I not remember? Practically everything else.
The truth is, if you’re not one of the top displays at a show, you’re not going to be remembered months later.
Of course more goes into it than just the cosmetic design, but that’s where it begins. You can’t make your awesome connection with attendees, you can’t do the demos, and you can’t collect leads if you can’t even get people to pay attention.
This is especially true for up and coming businesses that don’t have the name to draw a crowd on it’s own.
Between scheduling staff, arranging flights, planning material for the show, and everything else, the trade show exhibit usually ends up being just good enough.
Let’s break out of that together. Starting now.
Joe is the marketing director of Coastal Creative – a San Diego-based design and printing company. He’s always on the look out for the next great marketing strategy – both online and offline. His favorite trade show tip is to make connections with celebrities in your industry that are hard to get ahold of online. Check out the original graphic here.
It almost seems dumb to suggest that you should be proactive in your tradeshow booth, but with the number of relaxed and frankly lazy exhibitors I’ve seen over the years, it’s not so dumb.
I’ve seen exhibitors standing behind a table in their booth on the phone, eating lunch, talking with co-workers and more. They’re doing anything but paying attention to attendees.
And that’s just dumb. Keep in mind that tradeshows are a focused marketing opportunity where hundreds or thousands of potential clients or customers are going by your booth space. Also keep in mind these attendees are qualified: they’re in the upper-reaches of the decision-making echelon of the companies that decide to attend the show. You know, the show where your company has spent thousands of dollars to connect with those very decision-makers.
So when I see booth staff ignoring passers-by, I think “they’re letting money just walk on by. Don’t they get it?”
On the other hand, being proactive in your tradeshow booth isn’t hard. It might be slightly harder than standing there gazing idly as potential clients walk but, but not by much.
Instead, your booth staff should have a plan. They should be trained. They should understand the reason they’re there. They should know how to engage attendees in an upbeat positive way.
As our old pal Andy Saks says, you must find a good way to break the ice. Once you do that, you have control over a brief conversation. During that conversation, you’re proactively working to qualify or disqualify the attendee. Once you do that, you dig a little deeper to find out a handful of items. Start with a collection question such as “how did you get started in this industry?” It’s an innocuous question, but it gets people talking. They you proactively peel the onion by uncovering what problems they may have with their current product or service-provider.
Finally, once you’ve gathered sufficient information, close with a confirmation question to verify that you indeed understand the visitor’s situation and move on to setting up the next step before disengaging them.
Or take our old friend Richard Erschik’s approach. There are five questions you should get answered to know if the visitor is qualified:
Do you currently use our product?
Are you considering the purchase of a product such as ours?
If so, when?
Do you make the buying decision?
Do you have the money to spend?
In both cases, the goal is to proactively find out if the person standing in your booth can be turned into a customer.
If you’re proactive about how to engage with tradeshow visitors, this approach can be extremely effective in uncovering leads, identifying their problems, moving them from a prospect to a customer.
Sitting on a chair eating a sandwich just won’t cut it!
TradeshowGuy Tim Patterson and Jim Shelman, General Manager of Classic Rental Solutions, tackle the topic of #tradeshow #exhibit rentals: how they’ve changed, how to customize and much more on this week’s edition of the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee.