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

Tradeshow marketing

How Personal is Your Tradeshow Exhibit?

What kind of question is that, anyway? How personal is your tradeshow exhibit? An exhibit should be the best representation of a brand, which is aimed at a broad market. Isn’t that correct? If that’s the case, it has to have the right graphics with the right messaging. Any images should be chosen to reflect the best your product and brand have to offer. And if all that is true – and I suppose it is – how can your exhibit be personal?

Selling is Personal

Except…selling today is personal. People want to know that you care about them. The challenge is that people don’t really care about your product or service. When it comes to your products, they care about themselves, and themselves only. How do your products or services affect them – personally? The messaging should relate to what they’re going through. As we slowly move back to the tradeshow world with exhibits and face-to-face meetings and larger gatherings, every person is going to have a slightly – or perhaps significantly – different perception of what they need or want. And they’ll have some level of anxiety or distress or challenge in moving forward.

So how do you help them…now? How does your product or service help them…now? What do they need…now?

Your challenge isn’t that you don’t know how to present your products or services. No, your challenge is that you need to understand what’s going on in the mind of your customers and prospects. And the only way to learn that is to ask. In a sense, your tradeshow exhibit should be an invitation to join them. An invitation to walk into their space. Make them feel safe and wanted. There are a million ways to do that. I’m do designer, but I do know how I feel when I walk into a space that welcomes me. With people around that want to see me, and not just to sell me something, but to understand where I’m coming from. And frankly, that’s kind of rare. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee, or a warm smile. Maybe it’s an image that they can relate to that doesn’t look like it’s been chosen out of a stock photo library. Or if it has, it resonates with them.

What makes people buy?

When they finally get to a place where they feel understood. Where they feel you “get” them. Where they feel comfortable and wanted. It’s a bit like belonging to a tribe, but it’s more than that. And less.

It’s personal. What is it your customer wants?

Be creative in how you interact with people. Be creative in how you uncover what’s important to your clients. Learn from them. Then design your next tradeshow exhibit based on what you learned.

It’s not going to be easy. But it’ll be worth it.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee: August 10, 2020: Kevin Carty – TogetherAgain Expo

On July 24th, a relatively small tradeshow-industry event took place in Orlando, Florida. It was an attempt to show the world how tradeshows, events and conferences can successfully work in today’s pandemic-affected world. Kevin Carty of Classic Exhibits attended – and the company exhibited – and shares his take on how it all went.

Also referenced in this episode: Brad Kleiner of Grounded by Cedar Root. Check his website, and a previous episode where I chatted with him about sales training, leadership coaching, and one-on-one coaching and more.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The NBA is back! Go Blazers!

A Wrap Up of B2B Pandemic Survival Skills

A few recent newsletters that have popped up in my inbox have gotten me to thinking about B2B in the age of a pandemic. The tradeshow world is virtually shut down. Conferences aren’t happening. Events are 99.9% gone. Many of the writers behind these newsletters offer insightful observations about how business is now being done: what’s changing and what’s not.

I’ve compiled several of these thoughts and added a few of my own.

Embracing Digital

“Zoom Fatigue” has become a meme. But connecting via digital is about the only way to connect. Yes, you can pick up the phone – and I do – but a video call is more personal. Of course, there’s an extra step involved: you have to agree on a time and schedule the call and send the link. But taking those steps evinces a commitment to the meeting you might not have otherwise had.

Email: staying in touch is a little harder in this day and age. Many of the contacts I have are either working from home or have been laid off. Others are in the office only part time and their presence at work is not a given. Every company is dealing with the situation in their own way, and if an email isn’t answered in the time it typically would be, try a phone call.

Short videos

Beyond Zoom, email, and phone calls, create short videos that address challenges a typical customer might have. A recent Orbit Media Studios post examined what happened when they added video to their content strategy. It’s led me to create short videos every week to see if they get attention.

Bottom line on Digital

Be present online more than you ever have been before.

Know your priorities.

What’s important for your company? For you? For your employees? I spoke with a handful of distilleries in Oregon this week to see if they were making hand sanitizer, as many of them did at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many had made the product and were still making it but it was not a priority. A handful of them, though realized that there was a market there and it was going to be there awhile and were actually ramping up production. Others felt it was not their core business and they would rather be known for their high-quality distilled products.

Understand your customer’s priorities

Every customer is going through something different. Find out from as many as possible what their biggest challenges are. Segment them. And if you can help them, do it. Some might need to wait another month or two or three.

Find and form valuable partnerships

Partnerships can take you places you couldn’t go on your own. Manufacturers, builders, factories, processing plants. Keep an open mind to what the possibilities are and ask good questions. You might uncover an opportunity that you had no idea existed a few months ago.

Communicate clearly to everyone

It boils down to listening twice as much as you talk. Find out what’s important to other management members, employees, team members, clientele, prospects. But make sure to let them know what’s important to you as well. We’re all in this together, and communication will be the key.

Remove friction whenever possible

Just like forming a new habit, the easier it is, the more likely you’ll form that habit. It’s like saying to yourself that you’ll put on your running shoes each morning and run around the block. There’s not much friction in putting on your shoes. Once you have the shoes on, it’s easy to go around the block. After you do that a few times, it’ll be easier to run a half mile. Then a mile. Then two, five and so on. By reducing the friction to get anything done, both for you and your clients, the easier it will be to get bigger things done. Start small where there is little friction.

Acknowledge that it’s not business as usual

The final piece. We all know that, but many of us are acting as if it’s still 2019. Are you? It’s not. We’re in the future to stay. And it’s a different world. It’s not business as usual.


Here are some of the resources that helped inspire this collection:

Chief Marketer: How B2B Marketers are Embracing Digital During the Pandemic.

Marketing Profs: 5 B2B Marketing Strategies for Pandemic Survival and Beyond, by Mike Seiman.

Orbit Media: Adding Video to Your Content Strategy: The Impact to Traffic and Rankings, by Andy Crestodina


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 20, 2020: Kevin Carty

What’s it like to be a tradeshow exhibit manufacturer in the age of a COVID-19 pandemic? Turns out there are a number of creative things that can be done with exhibit building blocks. Kevin Carty of Classic Exhibits joins me on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee to discuss the world of exhibits:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder.” The sixth and final season is now available on Netflix.

Playing What If: Real World vs. Imaginary World

We can get caught up in an imaginary world pretty easily. Just try following the stock market as it bounces and bounces. And bounces. See your IRA value go UP. See it go down. Yes, it’s real money, and yes, you are hoping it does well, but until you decide to actually pull the money out and put it to use, such as retirement, it’s not real. It’s just numbers on a screen or monthly statement. No matter how much your Tesla holdings have increased, until you sell and put the cash into a bank account, it’s a (mostly) imaginary world.

Same in the world of tradeshows. You can dream and plan and work towards your next show, but in these days of COVID-19, the actual date might not set. Your flight tickets are not purchased. Your hotels are not reserved. Your booth space may not be finalized. Your booth graphics will change, but until you know exactly what products you’ll be promoting at the show, it’s hard to plan much without knowing when the show take place. Or if it’ll take place.

What if?

What to do?

You can play ‘what if?’ There’s nothing wrong with a game of what if. It’s how ideas are brought forth. How they’re measured and assessed. Discarded or amended. Set aside for the future.

What if the show doesn’t happen until 2022? What if everything changes and suddenly, we have to have a new exhibit ready in three months? Playing what if doesn’t take much time, and it doesn’t commit you to anything. But it does allow you and your team to look at the various paths ahead that may or may not open up. It allows you to look at multiple contingencies. Yes, you may already be doing this, but try doing it and expanding the horizon. Try to imagine things that before may have been unimagineable.

We’re living in unprecedented times. Today you may be busier than you’ve been in months. But tomorrow you may have time to play a game of what if.

“Normal” May Never Return to the Tradeshow Floor

In speaking with industry veterans, consultants and experts, I’m starting to get the feeling that normal may not return for a long time, if ever, on the tradeshow floor.

First, let’s admit that the tradeshow world is a continuously evolving entity, and that what’s normal in one year may look a little odd just a year or two later.

Social media exploded over a couple of years. Now it’s common for companies to post photos and videos of their tradeshow experiences on social media. In fact, it’s just one of many ways that exhibitors leverage online presence.

In 2019 at NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), an experiment was under way to shift how exhibitors understood and paid for show labor and drayage. For all we know, that might have been the start of a new way of looking at tradeshow logistic costs and how they are calculated. Time will tell.

Now with social distancing appearing to be the norm for the foreseeable future, some show locations may insist (as might the exhibitors and attendees) that new protocols come into play, such as temperature checks, masks, distancing, limited attendance, greater space between booths, wider aisles. All of this will put pressure on profits and incomes; with fewer people and fewer exhibitors, it’ll be harder to show a profit.

And it’ll also put pressure on marketers, those creative types that are competing for attention along with every other exhibitor. Just showing up, setting up your exhibit, doing a few in-booth activities and giveaways, like many exhibitors have been doing for years, simply won’t cut it. In a recent interview with Marlys Arnold of Exhibit Marketer’s Café, she observed that disruptors will be the ones who get noticed. She also said that with shows coming back and audience attendance down, it’s likely that the quality of the visitors will increase. They’ll absolutely want to be there because it’s important. There’ll a higher percentage of buyers than in the past. And one other change that Marlys felt was important is that pre-show marketing will be even more critical than before.

Virtual tradeshows have blossomed in the past few months. Keynotes, break-out sessions, exhibitor presentations and more are taking the place, at least temporarily, of physical shows. And most observers I’ve talked to seem to believe that the virtual aspects of shows will stick around, even when we’re back to the physical world.

But here in the interim, marketers and tradeshow industry companies have time on their hands – time that is likely being used to adapt, learn new skills and reinvent themselves. With COVID-19 still coursing through the world, physical tradeshows will come back in fits and starts. Some observers have said that “normal” business may not be back until 2022 or 2023. We hope that is not the case. Sooner is better than later, because many people’s livelihoods are on the line.

© Copyright 2016 | Oregon Blue Rock, LLC
Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

Call 800-654-6946 for Prompt Service
Copyrighted.com Registered & Protected <br />
QA4E-AZFW-VWIR-5NYJ