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

Tradeshow marketing

“Up My Influence” Podcast Features TradeshowGuy

Not too long ago, Josh Elledge of Up My Influence reached out to me and asked if I’d be a guest on The Thoughtful Entrepreneur podcast. Sure, why not? Sounds like fun!

Take a listen:

Josh posted The Thoughtful Entrepreneur podcast complete with transcript here. Check out the main site here: Up My Influence.


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House (Free Report)

When Tradeshow Marketing Gets Overwhelming, Concentrate on Just a Few Things

Many people look to a yearly tradeshow as a single event, a one-time experience where everything is on the line. In a sense, it’s hard to argue against that viewpoint. So much is on the line. The booth rental space is expensive. It’s not cheap to get your exhibit there, or the travel costs for your booth staff.

And yes, there are a lot of moving parts. Making sure the new product samples are ready, appointments are set ahead of time, the booth staff is up to speed (or professionally trained), the lead generation and information-capture system is in place. And so on and so on.

It can get overwhelming. Which makes it easy to let a lot of things slip through the cracks. And when that happens, it’s easy to beat yourself up for not getting the results you wished for.

Let’s take another approach, especially if you’re a smaller company with limited resources and a limited number of people that can attend the show on behalf of the company.

Learn to do a few things very well!
Learn to do just a few things really, really well!

Let’s say you have as many as 14 things that are on your list, things that are important that they get done. But because you don’t have enough people to do all of them effectively, pick just a few, maybe two or three or four things and focus on those. Give a little attention to the remaining things but pick a few and make sure you do a bang-up job on them.

Maybe you choose to focus on one in-booth activity and the follow-up details on those interested in your products or services. Let everything else come in after that. Yes, spend a little time, but make sure you do those two main things as best as you can, every single time. If you focus on those two things, you can create an in-booth activity that succeeds more than you ever hoped for. And your attention to detail on the follow up, such as when/where/who/how/what will make sure that each and every post-show phone call or email or in-person follow up is exactly what the prospect expected. Wouldn’t that be something? Wouldn’t your booth staff like that? How about your sales staff?

And if you do more than one big show a year, carry that concentration on just a few things to each of the other smaller shows, and then measure your results. Once you have figured out how to do those few things with excellence, add another item or two, such as pre-show outreach or marketing or building a tradeshow-specific landing page or checking out the competition. Doesn’t matter.

Just don’t try to do it all at once, especially if your company doesn’t have the bandwidth. Focus on a few things and grow from there.

Why Don’t Tradeshows Work for All Exhibitors?

It’s a common refrain: tradeshows don’t work for me. They’re too expensive. I don’t get enough leads.

And unfortunately, it’s true for too many exhibitors. It’s easy to look at the exhibitor list of a show year after year and point to companies that give it a try once or twice never to return.

Look at the flip side, though: there are thousands of exhibitors that go back to the same few shows year after year, take home a stack of leads, create more business and firmly believe that tradeshows are the most powerful marketing tool they have at hand.

I know that’s true because I work with those kinds of exhibitors. Now, not every single exhibitor I’ve worked with is successful. Some have fallen off the wagon along the way. Others have shifted their marketing efforts. Some have taken a step back from tradeshows and reassessed their program, but eventually make it back bigger and better.

What’s the difference?

We could point to any number of things: their booth space is lousy and doesn’t have enough traffic; their booth is small and nondescript; their staff is bored (and boring) and so on. But it all boils down to just two things:

Having a good plan and being committed to that plan.

Plans are great. Everyone should have one. But what about having a bad plan? Bad plans do certainly exist. And having a bad plan is not a good thing.

Back to that “good plan” and “being committed” to the plan. A good plan can come from knowing your goals, your budget, your people; knowing the show and your competitors, and knowing what you really want out of the show. That good plan can be enhanced by having a well-trained booth staff, having a standout exhibit and having the most popular products in the show. But those last three things, the staff, exhibit and best products, are not completely necessary to have a good result. They’re important, sure, but they’re more like frosting on the cake. You gotta build a good cake first.

Answer these questions:

  • What do you want out of the show? In other words, why are you there?
  • How are you going to know if you got what you wanted? How are you going to measure your results?
  • What are the steps you need to take to get what you want? What will it take to get exactly what you want?

Sometimes it takes a little brainstorming and communication with the various members of the team. Sometimes it means knowing what worked at your last show and knowing what didn’t work. Be honest. Sometimes you have to be brutally honest to say that having that crazy mascot uniform didn’t really work, or that having the general manager do the in-booth presentations didn’t draw that many people. There are lots of reasons why things don’t work and assessing and understanding those ideas will help you move forward.

Another way to look at it is to ask yourself: When I get back in the office the morning after the show and say, Man that was a great show! What does that mean to you?

It’s not the same for every company.

Once you’ve defined the main goal of your tradeshow appearance, break it up into pieces. If you want 300 leads over a three-day show, you’ll need 100 a day. If the show is open from 10 am to 5 pm, that’s 8 hours. You’ll need to average 12.5 leads per hour, or one about every five minutes. If you’re doing demos, for example, and you know that for every demo you do there are 15 people on average standing there, and three of them are good leads, that means you’ll need to do a demo about four times an hour. If, on the other hand, you get six leads for every demo, that means you only need two demos an hour. Or, you could try to double your projected leads by doing demos four times and hour.

Run the numbers. If you want to give away 1,000 product samples or sign up 200 people for lengthier demos in the next three months, you know what that will break down to by just doing the math.

If your goals are not so straightforward, you can still look at it from an angle that will help. Maybe you want to make solid connections with only three distributors that, if you can get them to carry your products, would double your company revenue in the next two years, figure out what organizations are the best and most likely candidates. Make whatever effort you need to set and confirm appointments at the show. Yes, tradeshow success is all in the numbers, and it’s all in the ability to show off your products and make sales. So do the math, do the outreach. But don’t forget that we’re all humans – you and your prospects – and there’s often not a straight line to success. Make allowances for that, learn from your missteps and do better the next time. That’s what it’s all about.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, November 11, 2019: Dominic Rubino

Business coach and business owner Dominic Rubino joins me today to discuss, among other things, an easy formula for difficult conversations. Check it out – it’s a good one:

Find Dominic here: BizStratPlan.com.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: The new Arkady Renko novel by Martin Cruz Smith, The Siberian Dilemma. It’s a good one.

7 Ways That Fiction Can Help Your Tradeshow Marketing

A good piece of fiction is surprisingly like a good tradeshow marketing effort. You don’t believe me? Let’s take a look. What happens when you read a good piece of fiction?

1. Create a unique world.

Fiction allows an author to create a world that exists only in one place: the reader’s mind. A good tradeshow exhibit and marketing plan creates a world that exists only in your booth. Whether it’s a unique display, a professional presentation or a one-of-a-kind activity, creating a unique world for your visitor is a good way to make sure they remember you. Having a great product that no one else offers is also a good way.

2. Create tension.

A good story has tension that pulls the reader further into the story. A good tradeshow exhibit can create a good kind of tension. Maybe it’s a compelling and challenging statement on their graphic, or maybe it’s a challenging question that makes you stop and want to know more. That tension creates a kind of desire to learn more.

3. Know who your story is for.

I like to read detective page-turners and mysteries. I don’t like to read romance novels or fantasy. A good tradeshow marketing plan knows exactly what audience is attracted to their type or product or service and they don’t try to bring in anyone that isn’t interested.

4. The main character in a story has a “super objective.” What’s yours?

I recently heard this concept about a character’s super objective. You may not actually see this super objective detailed in the story, but it drives the main character. Jack Reacher, for example, is compelled to do what he can to right the wrongs that he sees. Harry Bosch believes that ‘if anybody counts, everybody counts,’ when it comes to solving a murder. No one gets more or less attention simply because of their place in society.

5. There’s always an objection (or a hurdle).

Know your prospect’s objections. Any novel where the protagonist has no hardships or obstacles is a boring novel. Expect your potential clients to have tough questions. If they do, it shows they’re interested and want to know more. Identify the most common objectives and make sure your booth staffers know how to answer those questions.

6. Keep the page turning.

Have you ever gotten part way through a book and just decided that you couldn’t finish it? Maybe it was boring. Maybe it wasn’t your type of book. Maybe you bogged down in too many unrelated bunny trails and lost the main story. In a tradeshow booth, show your attendees enough compelling evidence – the storyline, as it were – to stay until they learn enough to know if they’re going to buy from you or not. Depending on your product, this might mean that you’re giving in-booth demonstrations or training sessions, or your professional presenter is sharing enough information in a lively and engaging manner that compels the visitor to want to find out more.

7. Deliver the goods: make it a great ending.

Every novel has a wrap up where you find out what happened to the character, the storyline. It’s the payoff. Does your product or service make that same delivery? Are they the great payoff, the great ending that your prospect is looking for?

Yes, I think fiction can be a good inspiration for tradeshow marketing. By using the various elements contained in a good novel, you can create a template for showing your visitors all of the best of your products or services in a compelling and intriguing manner.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, November 4, 2019: Seth Kramer

Seth Kramer has been doing tradeshow and corporate magic presentations for decades, so he knows a thing or two about how it works. In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, he share some of his experiences and hands out a tip or two:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Science Fiction from the Golden Era (and beyond!).

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 28, 2019: Sam Smith

The biggest challenge of tradeshow marketing, it seems, is to draw attendees to your booth. There are hundreds of ways to do that. On today’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, Sam Smith of Social Point joins me to discuss the many ways his company has devised to get people to stop at booths and stay engaged.

Here’s where to find Sam and Social Point.

This week’s one good thing: the legal cannabis industry.

Put Your Tradeshow Plan in a Box

You’ve heard the phrase “think outside the box.” But in the tradeshow world, sometimes it makes more sense to think inside the box.
In many cases, it does make sense to think outside the box. Which means, generally, to do things you don’t normally do. Turn it upside down. Work backwards. Do something random.

But tradeshows have so much riding on them that the more you have a plan and the better you stick to it – with minor deviations as warranted – that it pays to stay inside the box.

Make the plan. Execute the plan. Stay inside the box.

While you’re making the plan, many weeks or even months before the tradeshow, that might be the time to think outside the box. What can you do that’s different? What your competitors aren’t doing? What might be an activity in your booth that attracts people? What kind of different ways you can think of to promote your appearance?

During the brainstorming and planning phase, come up with as many different and unusual approaches you can think of that might help you stand out. But vet them. Test them. Make sure they are practical and can be executed as flawlessly as possible. Then, once you have something in place, iron out the rough spots and prepare it for the show.

And once the show starts, don’t stray from the script unless there’s agreement among the principals that it’s a good move. Otherwise, work the plan, take notes on how it went, and make adjustments for the next show.

Thinking outside the box isn’t a bad idea, in fact in many cases it’s a great idea. Just know when and where to do it. The tradeshow floor where thousands of visitors are passing by, where competitors are putting up their best, is not the place to wing it.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 14, 2019: Small Business Sales

What’s it like to compete with bigger companies in the tradeshow marketing world? It might not be exactly what you think. In this week’s podcast-slash-vlog, I take a look at what has worked and what hasn’t for this small company over the past few years:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Prime Video’s Goliath, starring Billy Bob Thornton.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 7, 2019: Francis Friedman

The digital world has enveloped tradeshows as much as it has any other part of the marketing world. And who better to discuss that than author and marketing expert Francis Friedman, who gets into his recent book, The Modern Digital Tradeshow. Check out the show here:

Download a free copy of the Modern Digital Tradeshow here.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: Soundcloud.

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