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

Tradeshow marketing

Actual Conversations with Clients

Yes, these are actual conversations with clients. No, they are not from surreptitious recordings, but rather, from memory, which is probably not as accurate as I’d like. But nonetheless, these are the types of things our exhibiting clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits are asking about.

Client A:

“We need a 10×10 pop-up. Do you have a few options that you can show us with pricing?”

actual conversations with clients

This is an easy one. I popped over to our Exhibit Design Search and assembled a gallery of about 15 10×20 exhibits, with a price range of about $1,500 to about $6,000.

A week goes by.

“Here’s one we want. We need it in three weeks. Can you send art specs?”

Can do in both cases. Let her know. She placed the order and it was delivered a week ahead of schedule.

Client B:

“We’re going to expand our exhibit for the upcoming Natural Products Expo. Where do we start?”

“Best thing is to schedule a conference call with our designer, so we can get your input and ask questions.” We did. The call was fruitful and resulted in a handful of revised renderings of their booth, which was being expanded from a 10×20 to a 10×30.

“One more thing. We don’t want to have to set up the booth this time, since we’re expanding. We’re kind of at our limit for doing that with the 10×20. Can you help?”

“Of course, let me get you some options and pricing for review.”

They settled on the redesign and makeover of the exhibit, signed on board to have an I&D company take care of the setup and dismantle, which we coordinated. The show went off without a hitch, the owners and investors were pleased; they came home with more leads than they had expected.

Client C:

“Our carpet didn’t show up,” I was told by the I&D leader from the show floor. Exactly. Why not. I was in another hall on the show floor, so I hustled over to see first hand what was happening. This started a long and twisting tale of a missing carpet that had actually been delivered to the advance warehouse but failed to make it to the booth space.

“I’ll speak with show services,” I said.

I let the client know. “We have an issue. The carpet didn’t show up and we’re working to find a solution.”

“Well, crap.” It was probably not the exact word. “What now?”

“We’re working on it. We’ll figure something out!”

With a little help from our I&D rep, we were able to make the show come off with very little problem, although the carpet in question still has not turned up months later, and a claim is pending. Things do go wrong sometimes, and it’s really nobody’s fault. Stuff happens. What’s important is how you deal with it. In my experience it is always a team effort to track down replacement items, make do with what you have or any number of other things to pull off a good experience at the show. You gotta have a good team, and you gotta work with pros.

One more. Client D.

“We would like pricing on changing out graphics for our booth for an upcoming show,” said the client. “I’ll send the specs,” he said, which arrived shortly in an email. The show was less than two months away, so while there was indeed time to make the changes, but with that timeline it meant that no time could be wasted.

Got the pricing, sent it over. “Looks good! I’ll get artwork soon!” Knowing that I’m working with a good client that has consistently worked to upgrade their exhibit, I start the process to create a new job number and add in the potential project to the job tally. A few days go by.

“Looks like this project is on hold for the time being,” he writes. “We’ll get to it for another show soon. Keep you posted.”

Ooops! Make the changes, remove the new job number, took a breath. Don’t count your chickens, etc. Hate to get ahead of yourself. Just want to make sure the client is happy.


This is all very typical, I’m sure, to anyone who works in the industry. Upgrades, expansions, challenges, decisions made and then changed. Part of the great game we call tradeshows.

What conversations have you had with your exhibit house lately?

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, May 21, 2018: Camping/Travelogue

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.

8 Ways to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed in Your Tradeshow Marketing

Given that we know how many different balls you have to keep in the air, is it even possible to stop feeling overwhelmed when it comes to managing your tradeshow program?

That depends on how you personally deal with things that can come at you like a full-on firehose – we all deal with things a little differently – but let’s explore a few ways that might assist with your state of feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Plan your day. I don’t do that as often as I should, but when I create a list of todos prior to the start of the day – even the night before – I move through that list with ease and confidence. By taking some quiet time before the day really kicks into high crazy gear, you’ll have a much better handle on the tasks at hand.
  2. Prioritize. Yes, we get pulled every which way by calls, emails, bosses, meetings, customers and clients and more. This can definitely add stress to your day. Priorities should be made weeks or months ahead of time so that you know your overall, important goals, and use them as a template to figure out your daily priorities.
  3. Use technology to your advantage. Today’s technology gives us more flexibility than any of our forebears, but only if you use it correctly. Embrace the use of technology and use it where it makes sense (working from home or remotely, anyone?), and avoid getting sucked into another 30 minutes of social media bait-and-response.

  4. stop feeling overwhelmed

    Work it out in chunks. Often tradeshow projects come at us in big chunks. Lots of shows, little time between some of them, major and minor changes that need to be addressed. And so on. Carve out the easiest chunk, do that, carve out another chunk, tackle that, and keep going with that idea of parceling out the various bits and pieces instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture and looming deadlines.

  5. Know the real deadlines. Tradeshows are closer than they appear in the calendar. The best way to not get overwhelmed by approaching deadlines is to complete a lot of tasks before you ever really need to. For example, one client I work with wants to upgrade their booth in a pretty major way for next year’s show. We could wait another six months to get started, and still have plenty of time. But we ended up scheduling the first planning meeting a mere two months after the show – ten months ahead of the upgrade’s debut – and will likely have it done months ahead of time. No sweat and everyone’s happy.
  6. Delegate. How much do you really need to do yourself vs. how much to you pass on to someone else? Certain tasks can easily be passed on to someone else. Just make sure you’re not adding to their state of being overwhelmed!
  7. Write it down. Some people work better with to-do lists in front of them. If that means you, writing things down will give you a visual reminder of what you’ve accomplished and what you have left to do today.
  8. Clear and concise communication. Whether you’re meeting in person, speaking on the phone, or communicating via email, be as clear and concise as you’re able. Before clicking “send,” read and re-read the email. Take out unnecessary words, edit like a high school English teacher, and then click. Before speaking, know what you’re going to say. Most of us spend time NOT listening but preparing to respond. If you paid more attention to what someone is really saying – and what they really mean – your response will be more thoughtful. And probably less knee-jerk.

What can you do to keep from being overwhelmed in your day to day tradeshow adventures?

How to Find Your First Tradeshow as an Exhibitor

how to find a tradeshow as an exhibitor

If you’re new to the world of tradeshow marketing, one of the most difficult challenges is this: how do you find a tradeshow that is a good fit? And by a good fit, does it have your target market, does it have buyers and decision makers, and will there be a lot of traffic there, even as a new exhibitor that is relegated to a lower-traffic area of the show floor?

The first thing to do is find out if your competitors are there. If your direct competitors have been going to a show for years, they must have a reason. It doesn’t hurt to call them up and pick their brains. Even competitors will tell you pros and cons of the shows they exhibit at. And if you’re a new company, they probably won’t think of you as a threatening competitor. Yet.

Ask partners, vendors and other industry-related companies about what shows they are aware of and how those shows are perceived in the industry.

Once you narrow down a few shows that have a lot of competitors, it’s always good advice to attend and walk the floor prior to committing as an exhibitor. Yes, most shows are annual, which means you’re putting off the decision for several more months, but by walking the floor, you can speak to exhibitors, chat with show organizers, pick the brains of attendees and get an overall feel for the veracity of the show. Once you decide to go, you have several months to determine how the next steps will unfold.

If you’re still trying to learn about all of the potential shows, take your mouse for a spin. There are many tradeshow databases online – just search for the term tradeshow database.

Here are a few of our favorites:


Grab our free report “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House” – click here!

Figuring Out Your Tradeshow Marketing Goals

You might think it’s easy enough to determine your tradeshow marketing goals. Just sell sell sell – increase your business and you’ve done the job, right? But in fact, it’s not be as cut and dried as you might think.

tradeshow marketing goals

Every show is different, and your goals may vary significantly from show to show. And some goals are very specific while some are broader.

Some common goals might include:

  • Generate leads
  • Make sales
  • Adding distributors
  • Reaching new markets
  • Launch a new product or service
  • Build brand awareness
  • Meet current customers, partners or distributors
  • Find new hires

All of these are laudable, and all are doable. But doing them all at the same show is probably asking a lot, unless you have a thorough plan and the personnel to execute the plan. Even if you’re going to attempt to check them all off at a single show, it’s better to prioritize.

You may know your goals going into a show, but it’s still a great exercise to sit down with your team, especially if you have new members, and identify and clarify those goals. Tradeshow marketing is a significant part of a company’s marketing budget and those dollars should be spent wisely.

During your discussion, break down the various parts of the goals, figure out what steps are needed element, and assign those pieces to team members. It may mean coming up with some premium giveaways for current customers to show them you care, to determining how many samples are needed for giveaway; from knowing what your competitors are doing to having a good preshow marketing outreach to get the right people to your booth for the right reason.

Brand building and tradeshow execution means brand consistency throughout your various platforms. Plug any holes and iron out any deficiencies.

Once you have your specific set of prioritized goals, communicate that to your team so they understand the show’s specific objectives and how they tie in with the company’s overall marketing strategy. Goal setting isn’t hard – it just takes some time and thought.

Finally keep in mind, a goal should follow the S.M.A.R.T. plan to be effective. In other words, Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and meet a Timeline.

Inside Game of Tradeshow Marketing Success

Is there an inside game of tradeshow marketing success? Hey, it could be just a catch phrase designed to get you read.

But let’s explore for a moment.

If you’re a baseball fan, you might be familiar with the phrase “inside baseball.” It’s a term used mostly in the United States, that refers to detailed knowledge about a subject that outsiders are usually not privy to. Deep knowledge about any subject down to the minutiae often means that unless you have spent years doing whatever it is, you are not going to understand a lot of the talk. Hence, “inside baseball.”

Even though the term was around since the 19th century, by the mid-1950s the term was being used outside of baseball, particularly it was used in politics. To use the term in another field, such as business, technology or science is not unusual.

In using the term as applied to tradeshow marketing, let’s think about what that means.

  • Knowledge. You have the knowledge of what it takes to go from Point A to Point Z with all of the twists and turns.
  • Discipline. Not only do you have the knowledge, you have the discipline that it takes in the event industry to organize all of those moving parts in a coherent and effective way.
  • Skill. Skill comes with doing something over and over again, learning what works and what doesn’t, ironing out the rough spots and then learning some more so that you know what to expect, you know how to deal with issues as they come up because – hey! – they’re not that much of a surprise.
  • Networking. The event industry – like most industries – is a people industry. People make it run. People know how things work. People ask for and offer help. And face it – the events / tradeshow / exhibiting industry is built on getting far-flung people together under one roof face-to-face to do business. Networking skills are at their highest level and their most useful in this industry.

Inside baseball means you know why a pitcher is throwing a curve ball when the count is 3 and 2. You know that between pitches, players and coaches communicate strategy by pulling on an earlobe, brushing their thigh or arm, and of course keeping an eye on the opposing team’s silent communication to try and suss out the essence of the message.

Inside tradeshow marketing has to do with, for example, knowing how to position your brand in the marketplace, how to talk to booth visitors, when to book travel and hotel rooms, what restaurants are the best near any given conference venue, how to take advantage of those three or four days when the exhibit is set up in a competitive marketplace where thousands of potential clients are roaming the aisles. Having the right graphics and messaging can mean the difference between 250 and 350 leads. Having a booth staff that knows how to ask the right questions of visitors can mean the difference between and ROI of 10% and 100%. It all makes a difference.

And if you’ve done this for years, you know what works and what doesn’t. You know what companies are putting up a great exhibit and have a fantastically enthusiastic and well-trained staff and which competitors are just showing up because they think they should.

If you know all of that stuff, you know inside baseball. In the tradeshow world.


Photo used by permission. By own work – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.  Creative Commons License.

 

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, April 2, 2018: Briana Belden

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:

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: SPRING!

TradeshowGuy Expo West 2018 Exhibit Awards

Welcome to the (perhaps) annual TradeshowGuy Expo West 2018 Exhibit Awards, where I totally (almost) at random, pick out a handful of the 3600+ exhibits at the Natural Products Expo West show and give them a little notoriety here on the TradeshowGuy Blog!

A couple of caveats: I’m not including any current clients of TradeshowGuy Exhibits – they’re already award winners in our book, and we don’t want this fun post to be biased towards, you know, clients! Besides, we’ve already posted photos of those exhibits.

So, let’s get started!

Best Big Brand Makeover: Kettle Foods

Kettle Foods started out as a small nut and chip maker in Salem, Oregon. In the past ten years or so the company has been bought and sold a handful of times and is currently operated as one of the major brands of the Snyder’s-Lance product suite. The island exhibit shows great color and ingenuity in piecing together many elements of the Kettle Brand.

Best Client-Made Exhibit: Stahlbush Farms

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with the good folks at Stahlbush Farms, near Corvallis, Oregon, for several years. But when it came time to do a new booth, it finally came down to having their own fabrication shop create it. It’s built using crates that double as counters, and everything fits neatly into a couple of crates. Nicely done!

Best Kitchen Sink Exhibit – DanoneWave

I think they used to be White Wave, but now it’s DanoneWave, still offering brands under the Silk, Dannon, Oikos, SoDelicious, Wallaby Organic and many others. I’ve always stopped by their booths over the years and chatted and tasted and this year was no exception. There’s a lot going on here: carts, hot air balloons, colorful images, detailed woodwork, a random vehicle or three – seriously, you can just walk around the thing for fifteen minutes taking it in!

Best Retro Motor Vehicle Use – Hansen’s

A cool psychedelically painted hippie van? Ff course! There are a lot of vehicles that show up in booth spaces at Expo West, but this one catches your eyes like no other.

Best Photo Op – Enjoy Life

Enjoy Life has seen their exhibit grow significantly in the last few years, from a small inline to a dominating island. This year they showed of a pseudo-underwater photo alley that invited people to shoot and share. Yes, there were a lot of photo ops throughout the show, but this made the biggest impression.

Best Rustic Exhibit – Kodiak Cakes

Kodiak Cakes of Park City, Utah, also had a great photo op section of their booth space, but I felt that the rest of the exhibit was more impressive. Beyond the photo op section was a forest, a lookout-like building and a wall of photos of booth visitors. A fun-loving and lively crew, too, passing out samples like crazy.

Best Simple Yet Powerful Statement Exhibit – Kashi

Last year, Kashi caught eyes with a simple statement with no brand ambassadors, no sampling – just a simple statement to support farmers in their transition to organic farming. This year they made a similar statement with a slightly modified exhibit. Powerful stuff.

Best Split Exhibit – Aqua Carpatica

Downstairs in the busy ballroom at Expo West, it’s a little hard to stand out. But Aqua Carpatica of Romania booked two 10×20 spaces across the aisle from each other and dominated the space with a spare, almost ascetic approach to pitch the cleanliness of their water. It was capped by a giant video screen, around 8 x 12 feet, and some tables and chairs – but not much else. Very attention-getting!

Best Tribute to a Fallen Comrade – Clif Bar

I met John Anthony over a decade ago when Kettle Foods was a client, and John worked for them. A fun and engaging guy to talk to, he moved to Clif Bar, Nature’s Path, UNFI and CLIF’s White Road Investments. I was having lunch with an old Kettle Foods friend a few months prior to Expo West and mentioned that I’d run into John at the 2017 show. He said he’d heard that John had died unexpectedly in the fall of 2017. Clif Bar did a nice job in their tribute:

All right – on that note, we’ll wrap up this year’s TradeshowGuy Expo West Exhibit Awards. Hope you enjoyed. Sorry if we missed your booth – but hey, there were over 3,600 exhibitors this year. Maybe next year!

Check last year’s awards here.

The Ultimate Tradeshow Marketing Playlist

Music moves you, and so should the Ultimate Tradeshow Marketing Playlist. Yes, your list will look different from mine, I have no doubt. But take this list as a starting point in creating an ultimate tradeshow marketing playlist that will keep you moving and motivate you do have an awesome show next time.

And, yes, I’m old school:

“Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer. Your tradeshow booth is going to showing all of the hottest stuff you can muster, because you know that the only way to compete against your competitors is to have even hotter stuff.

“Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant. Walk down any aisle at any tradeshow and you’ll wish you had sunglasses. Back lit graphics, light boxes, halogen lights, overhead lights. It’s all electric.

“Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive. This was also Elvis’s mantra. Wherever it came from, it means you’re there to do some business, to meet and greet potential clients and customers. To take care of business! Check out Keith Moon introducing the band:

“Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet. Most every show I’ve been at has some action in the ballroom. Probably not the kind of action described in this classic tune, but how many other songs about ballrooms are you going to find? Big hair, big collars, men wearing makeup…what more could you ask from a mid-70s video?

“Make Me Smile” by Chicago. Any transaction in any situation goes better when you can make the other person smile.

“My Poor Brain” by the Foo Fighters. After three days of fielding questions, walking the floor and getting sore feet, setting up and dismantling exhibits, you’ll probably relate to this song.

“On the Road Again” by – take your pick – Canned Heat (my preference) or Willie Nelson. The great traveling songs.

“Come Together” by the Beatles. Couldn’t let the ultimate tradeshow marketing playlist get by without something by the Fab Four. Tradeshows, events and conferences are all about coming together for a common cause.

“Show Biz Kids” by Steely Dan. No, we’re not in the movie-making industry, but tradeshows are a lot about showing off the goods. It’s a Show. It’s Biz. And deep down, we’re Kids.

“Take It Easy” by the Eagles. When you’re stressed for a hundred reasons, and you need to take a break. Just take a deep breath and take it easy.

“Over and Over” by the Dave Clark Five. Once you get in the groove of doing tradeshows, this song will have more meaning for you. Do it over and over again!

“Magic” by any number of artists. We all try to create a little magic in our tradeshow booths. There’s an oldie called “Magic” by Pilot. Olivia Newton-John did a song of the same name. So did The Cars. And then there’s “Magical Mystery Tour” by the Beatles. And so on. All good stuff to inspire you to work your magic!

Let’s finish off this baker’s dozen list with “Jammin’” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. A tradeshow is chaotic, energetic, noisy, wild. And half the time you’re making things up as you go to accommodate the various questions and situations that come your way. So you are JAMMIN’!

What would you add to the list?

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