Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

Tradeshow marketing

Tradeshow Exhibit Specials and Lightning Deals

Looking to save money on a tradeshow exhibit? Of course you are! And chances are, throughout the course of the next year, you’ll have a want or need for something that shows up on our regularly updated pages on our Exhibit Design Search. Whether it’s an Exhibit Special or a Lightning Deal, it might be just what you’re looking for.

These are no “close-out” specials that are collecting dust in the warehouse. Nope, these are regular items – either custom or “off the shelf” – that typically sell for full retail price. But on occasion, we grab some of the items and put them into one or of the categories and drop the price.

For example, you might see a custom hybrid 10×20 exhibit that sells for around $30,000. But if it lands in the Lightning Deal, the price might drop ten percent to around $27,000. A $3,000 savings to your bottom line, just like that. Lightning Deals generally last a couple of weeks, so if you see something that is a great fit, grab it fast!

The Exhibit Specials, on the other hand, are more general savings that span a category, such as a specific style (Gravitee or Segue), or a type (light boxes or EcoSmart inlines). On occasion there might be discounts on discontinued models as well.

Saying all of this, it behooves you to visit these categories and return. That means returning to the Lightning Deals every couple of weeks, and visiting the Exhibit Specials every month or so. Even if you’re not currently looking for a new exhibit, you might find great deals on accessories such as lights, counters, shipping cases and so on.

Here’s where to find ’em:

Exhibit Specials

Lightning Deals


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Essential Tools & Tips for Your First Tradeshow Event

This is a guest article by Halle Summers of Fastenation.

If you are planning on attending or setting up a booth at a tradeshow for the first time, you probably already know how valuable these events are for growing a business. They offer numerous opportunities for increasing awareness of your brand, making sales, and networking with prospective customers and clients. While business is increasingly being conducted online, trade shows provide an opportunity for business owners and consumers to meet face to face, forge relationships, and learn about new products.

If you have ever attended a tradeshow, it should come as no surprise that exhibiting at one requires a lot of work and careful planning. It’s often necessary to start planning several months in advance to ensure that you have everything you need by the time the event makes its way into town. There is a massive amount of competition at these events, and, if you just show up and hope for the best, your booth will likely get lost and be overlooked by most attendees. If you are gearing up to be an exhibitor for the first time, here are a few essential tools and tips to ensure the success of your first trade show event.

Make Assembling an Eye-Catching Display Your Top Priority

The human attention span tends to be pretty short. When people are surrounded by all sorts of exciting things to see and do, it can be even shorter. This means that you only have a few seconds to capture the attention of event attendees and draw them into your booth. If your display isn’t eye-catching, a lot of people will likely pass by your booth without even stopping.

The good news is that assembling an eye-catching tradeshow display doesn’t have to be difficult. Use attention-grabbing images instead of words. Make use of bright (but appealing) colors. Have products on display. Make your booth feel welcoming. There are all sorts of things that you can do to put together an amazing display. When you’re packing up to head to the event, make sure you have the right tools and supplies for setting up your display. Things like gaffers tape and VELCRO® brand hook and loop tape are lifesavers when it comes to hanging banners, putting up signs, and assembling the various parts of trade show booths. Table skirting clips are great for trade shows, too, as are cable hangers. Trust us; few things are worse than showing up at a tradeshow with an awesome display but lacking the tools and supplies needed to set it up!

Prepare Your “A” Team

The people you have working at your booth can have a huge impact on how well the trade show goes for your business. There are a few different options when it comes to staffing. You can bring your own employees, or you can work with an event staffing agency. The downside to working with an agency, though, is that you will need to put a lot of effort into training your team and ensuring that they know all of the ins and outs of your business. When you have your own employees working the booth, they already have a lot of knowledge about your products and services.

Make sure that the team you assemble is made of people who are friendly, motivated, professional, and outgoing. You don’t want someone who is going to sulk behind the table and make zero effort to engage with attendees! Choose team members who work well together and complement each other’s knowledge and skills. Ensure that everyone is prepared to handle questions. Trade show attendees tend to have a lot of questions about businesses and their products and services. Every single person who is working the booth and acting as a representative of your company needs to be an expert on your product and business, and they need to be able to handle inquiries with confidence and ease.

If your business sells a product, your team needs to be prepared to give product demos, too. Tradeshow attendees want to be able to experience products for themselves before committing to buy, so doing product demos and allowing potential customers to try out your merchandise is a great way to build relationships and make sales. If your company provides a service, you should figure out a way to demonstrate that, too. Show event attendees what you do. Don’t just tell them about it.

Give Stuff Away When you set up a booth at a tradeshow, making money is probably one of your ultimate goals. That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t give away some freebies. For event attendees, free swag is one of the best parts about going to a trade show. People love free stuff, and they expect to get a lot of it at tradeshows. Promotional items, such as branded notebooks, pens, hats, tote bags, or water bottles, are always big hits. Any type of freebie works, though. You can draw a pretty big crowd by simply handing out some tasty fresh-baked cookies. Get creative and be generous. Doing so gets people talking about your booth and entices attendees to stop by.

Conclusion

Setting up a booth at a tradeshow offers numerous benefits for business owners. If you want to make the most of the event, though, you need to be prepared. Start planning several months in advance to ensure that you have time to order banners, tools, and other supplies, assemble your event team, and provide adequate training. The more you put into planning for your first trade show, the more you will likely get out of it.

When the big day arrives, stick to your game plan, and have fun! Exhibiting at a tradeshow requires a lot of hard work, but there is no reason why it can’t be enjoyable, too.


Halle Summers is a Marketing Coordinator for FASTENation Inc., a premier global manufacturer, technical converter, distributor, and designer of adhesive based fasteners and tapes. Halle enjoys sharing her unique perspective and knowledge through her blog writing. When she isn’t writing articles, she enjoys spending time in downtown Charleston, South Carolina and all the amazing food her hometown has to offer.

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Mindmapping Your Tradeshow Appearance

Sometimes it makes sense to visualize everything you are planning to do in your next tradeshow appearance. I thought it might fun to put the mindmapping to video and see how it went:


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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, August 26, 2019: Connecting the Dots

No doubt there are moments in your life where something happened that lead to something else quite unexpected. Taking a look back can you see how you might now be able to connect the dots?

TradeshowGuy Tim Patterson connects several dots in this episode of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: XMind Mind Mapping software.

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Remember Your First Tradeshow?

The first time you step into a booth space as an exhibitor can be a bit daunting. You may be part of a big team. You may be side-kicking it with just one other person. Or, I suppose, you could be doing it all on your own as a solopreneur.

Whatever the case, the trepidation is palpable. What if people think the exhibit is ugly? What if they ask a question I can’t answer? What if I don’t make any connections or sell anything and it’s a complete bust?

The first time I stood in a booth as an exhibitor after getting into the industry was in November 2003. I’d been in the industry for less than two years and was tasked with driving the rental truck with the 10×20 custom booth we’d made at Interpretive Exhibits to Reno and setting up the exhibit at the National Association for Interpretation annual conference.

It was scary and fun at the same time. I’d never navigated the unloading of a truck like that with all of the exhibit pieces, but with some advice from the shop guys who built it, I managed to get it unloaded and into the hall and get it set up.

The exhibit was a Tiki lounge-inspired exhibit, complete with a big Tiki god with glowing eyeballs, flaming mouth and vapors out of the top, like a volcano. It was designed to show potential clients the creativity our designers and builders could conjure up, and it went over well.

remembering your first tradeshow
The Tiki Lounge-inspired exhibit from Interpretive Exhibits

One of our designers flew down and joined me for the two days of the show.

When it came to actually be interacting with visitors, not much sticks out. I was still quite a way from figuring out what to do in the booth, so I tried to smile, answer questions and be a help as much as possible. Beyond that, not much comes to mind!

But it was my initiation into the world of tradeshow marketing. After I joined the company I’d sold a custom exhibits to local businesses, including Kettle Foods and Nancy’s Yogurt, but still had almost no clue as to what to say to people when I was actually in the booth.

Even with my lack of knowledge of what to do, I did know a few things. I knew why we were there, and I knew what we wanted to get out of it. We were exhibiting to connect with government organizations and non-profits that might eventually be looking for someone to design and build interpretive exhibits.

Our investment was minimal, and over time we might have actually gotten some business out of it. Frankly, I don’t remember because it wasn’t on my radar to track anything like that.

As the years went by and I participated in more shows, and helped clients do the same, it became clear that even if it’s your first show, there are a handful of things to keep in mind.

Know why you’re there. What is the goal? Is it to sell products or services? Is it to generate leads so a sales crew can follow up? Are you launching a new product?

Why are you there?

Know how to capture data and what data you need. When generating leads, know exactly what information you need. Obviously, you need an individual’s name, company and contact info. Beyond that, what’s important about the follow up: is it a phone meeting, or in person? Do they need you to send information prior to the meeting? When is the meeting and is it scheduled on their calendar?

What’s your role? Every person at a tradeshow is there for a reason. Why are you there? Know your role, whether it’s to assist with other people, hand out samples, or coordinate logistics. A first-timer may not be tasked with a ton of things, but obviously that can change from business to business.

How does the tradeshow fit into the company’s overall marketing strategy? While this may not be critical in the big picture, if the front-line staffers on the show floor have a good understanding of the overall company marketing scheme, knowing how the tradeshow fits in that scheme will help.

You’ll only have one first tradeshow as an exhibitor, no matter your role. After that, you’re no longer a newbie. But if your first one has yet to come, go into it knowing that you’ll survive. Heck, you might even learn a few things and have fun. Once it’s over, take a quick little assessment. Speak to your manager and ask what they thought. Debrief a little. Take the feedback and apply it to your next show and voila’, you’re on your way!

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Tradeshow Makeover Invites me as Podcast Guest

Alice Heiman and Dianna Geairn of Tradeshow Makeover recently invited me to join them on their podcast to talk about, what a surprise, tradeshow marketing! Great fun, engaging conversation. Take a look and check out Tradeshow Makeover, too!

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Applying the Modern Business Plan to Tradeshow Marketing

The ‘modern business plan’ was hatched on a blog post by Seth Godin. I was a recent enrollee in Godin’s The Marketing Seminar, where at one point we were referred to the post which breaks down the five elements of what he feels are the important parts of a modern business plan: truth, assertions, alternatives, people and money.

It’s also possible to apply that thinking to how you approach tradeshow marketing.

The truth of tradeshow marketing would be the facts and figures of the specific show(s) that you plan to participate in. How many people attend? What percentage of decision-makers and influencers are among the attendees? Who are the competitors/exhibitors?

Assertions might include your thoughts on what you believe you know that is not necessarily supported by data. What new products are you launching that might be similar to new products from competitors? What types of marketing tactics and strategies are those competitors using? This is where you state what you believe to be true, although you might not be able to prove it.

Alternatives: ­This is where you play the “what if” game. What if things go wrong? What is your plan B? What if you get lucky by meeting the exact prospect that you didn’t anticipate? What if your top salesperson is poached by a competitor? Hey, anything can happen. At least opening your mind to some of those possibilities gives you a chance to chew them over.

People: who are your best people and how can you best use them? Where are your weak spots and how can you improve with them? Do you need to acquire people to get your tradeshow department to run like a clock and not like a Rube Goldberg machine?

Finally, money: Budgeting, logistical costs, personnel costs. Return on investment, cost of samples. You know the drill. But are your numbers accurate? And did you run the calculations a year later after the show so that you actually know what your return on investment really is?

What is your Return on Objective? Thanks to the Exhibition Guy Stephan Murtagh!

There are any number of ways of looking at your business or marketing plan, but taking this approach helps to clarify several issues at once. Give it a try!

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 8, 2019: Experience

Do you have ten years of experience? Or do you have one year of experience ten times? Or does it even matter, because you’re learning and growing regardless?

This week on TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee I take a look at experience from a number of angles.

Here’s the review of the Rolling Stones July 3rd concert I reference in the podcast (it’s a great one!).

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: outdoor hiking in the summer.

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Tradeshow Marketing: What is it for?

Borrowing a riff from Seth Godin – “What is it for?” – is a good place to start when considering tradeshow marketing.

Not only “what is it for?” but the alternative approach of “why are YOU doing it?”

There are many ways to look at tradeshow marketing and using the “what is it for?” approach can be very helpful.

Is it for selling? Is it for launching new products? Is it for maintaining brand awareness in a crowded marketplace? Could it be for maintaining relationships with clients? What about showing off the speaking and knowledge abilities of your top managers by having them appear on a panel or give a keynote or breakout session?

There are no wrong answers, as long as it’s something that is valid and true. One that makes sense to you and your company. If you don’t know what it’s for, maybe you should start from scratch and figure that out.

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Notes from Working with Potential Tradeshow Exhibit Clients

Not every company where there’s a sales conversation turns into a tradeshow exhibit client. In fact, it’s probably a fairly low percentage. However, each encounter has its own distinct flavor and outcome. And of course, learning experience.

No matter what company you’re trying to sell to, it’s impossible to be a fit for everyone. In fact, that’s what I tell prospects: “Let’s talk about what you are hoping to do to see if we’re a fit.” That way, the pressure is taken off. So many buyers are uncomfortable with reaching out to tradeshow companies or any company where the purchase is fairly large and time-consuming because of the pressure they think will come to them.

Let’s examine some of the interactions more closely and find some takeaways:

Example One:

I reconnected with a company that was familiar with while attending a tradeshow and started chatting. We knew each other from a previous design request in past years, and although we didn’t get the business then, they were ready to upgrade. This time it was for a larger exhibit, and even though they were comfortable working with their current provider they felt it was worth talking to a few others. Since we had a connection and had previously shown them our design work, we were asked to respond.

Respond we did. A budget range was set, an exhibit was designed based on their stated functional objectives and submitted prior to their deadline. The final pricing was presented in a range depending on options (type of graphics, backlit panels, custom vs. catalog counters, etc.). And while the overall price range started in their proposed budget range, it did run above that figure once all the options were chosen.

Towards the end of their decision date, we were politely told that their current vendor had won the business. Why? They had essentially the same design, but a significantly lower price.

Takeaway: Price speaks loudly. It’s easy to look at this from a number of angles. Price speaks loudly, often more loudly than the overall design and, the quality of workmanship and materials. Without knowing exactly what the current vendor is proposing, it’s impossible to know what materials would be used, what the design is, or how it’s built. But it’s not hard to take a look the next time it’s set up at a show.

Example Two:

This company was also a company I met at a tradeshow, and once they found out what I did, they expressed interest in upgrading to a new exhibit (this business usually has a long sales cycle, especially for new custom builds!). The conversation, which picked up and died down off and on for nearly eight months, finally led to a decision to proceed with us. That’s when the fun started!

I like it when clients ask question. The more the merrier. That wasn’t always the way, though. I had to learn that questions from clients (and prospects) are good. This client asked more questions than any other I’ve had before or since. Details, details, details! More questions about details than any other I’ve had. And frankly, they were asking questions about elements of products that I was unfamiliar with, so that lead to a lot of back and forth with producers, subcontractors and other vendors. At one point, they apologized for asking so many questions, but frankly, I didn’t mind. Not only did they get the exhibit they really wanted, they learned a lot along the way. As did I! You can’t ask too many questions about something you’re buying, especially when tens of thousands of dollars are involved.

Takeaway: Questions are good. You can never ask too many questions. It demonstrates interest and engagement.

Example Three:

Hands-Off Client. Some clients see the big picture and don’t get bogged down in details, except the ones that are important to them. Here’s an example of a company that we met with a few years ago, pitched them on a project that included a design for a 10×20 that met their budget. We were told they were also reviewing at least one other exhibit house, but the design struck gold and we ended up with the business. Since then, they’ve been very active in upgrading and expanding, but when it comes to the back and forth in creating new designs, there are very few questions, unlike our previous example. Typically, they’ll have their ducks lined up with 2D design concepts and proposed changes and are ready to move forward. As long as they have graphic dimensions, design details are left up to us. They chime in with comments suggesting modest changes, but otherwise it’s more of a “30,000-foot level” approach. Nothing wrong with this approach, just as there is nothing wrong with asking countless questions. As long as it works for the client, it works for us.

Takeaway: Trust. When a client that knows your work is at that level of engagement and stays mostly hands-off, it shows there is a great deal of trust involved.

Example Four:

We were contacted by a company that ran across our company website and asked if we were interested in responding to an RFP for a 30×30 custom booth at a tech show the following year. While there are pros and cons to responding to RFPs, we decided to proceed. The communication with this potential client was almost clinical, and I felt as if we were a million miles away. It was hard to get specific answers to questions. Everything was going to a committee at the end anyway. But we submitted a design and price that fit their price range to a T. As indicated in their decision process, the top three qualifiers would be required to present either at the company’s HQ in the Bay Area or via the web. Given the contact’s lack of genuine engagement during our design process and creating the RFP where we peppered them with questions regarding various aspects of the RFP, it was no surprise that we didn’t make the final cut. I still wonder why they were so interested in having us submit.

Takeaway: Trust your gut. From the beginning, this felt like we were a third wheel. The company probably needed to have a certain amount of RFP responses, most likely arbitrary, which lead to at least one or more exhibit providers submitting responses without a ghost’s chance of actually getting the work. But that’s the way the business world often works.

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