Natural Products Expo West was postponed and/or cancelled a couple of days before floor doors were to open. I happened to be sitting on the airplane headed to LA for the show when I got the news.
This week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee podcast/vlog is more or less a travelogue of the 6 days I spent in LA and surrounding area, along with a few comments about Natural Products Expo West. I worked with clients to make sure they had return shipping handled and connected with several old friends and relatives.
Take a look/listen:
Show Notes: I mentioned a handful of folks that I encountered during the week.
Hiett Ives is a four-decade veteran of the tradeshow industry. He publishes a weekly newsletter on language that is short and fun to read. Hiett also helps companies gather more leads at tradeshows with his company Show Dynamics.
Check out our conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:
Back in the dark ages of technology and social media, say
2008 or so, I read many prognosticators who predicted that tradeshows would
disappear. Or become shells of themselves, simply because everyone was going
digital. I remember seeing online ‘virtual tradeshows’ where you could navigate
from booth to booth and see what companies were hawking.
Except that virtual tradeshows never really got going so
much. And the real thing is doing just fine, thank you very much.
Why? My hunch is that it’s because people are face-to-face.
In real time. In real life. Instead of interacting online over Skype or virtual
Don’t get me wrong: there is a time and place for
interacting online, for social media, for Skype or Zoom.
But tradeshows are here to stay and they’re growing.
A recent (July 2019) post from Marketing Charts indicates that tradeshows have not only proven to be effective across all stages of the buyer’s journey, the channel has a projected annual compound growth rate of 4.3% through 2023.
The article shares other key points, including that tradeshows are the second largest and fastest-growing source of B2B growth. The B2B tradeshow market is expected to be a $15.7 Billion market in 2019, moving up to $18.5 Billion by 2023.
Yes, tradeshows as a method of marketing are critical to a
company’s success. The money spent on tradeshows often will take up as much as
a third of a company’s marketing spend.
There are lot of reasons that companies are successful at
tradeshow marketing (as well as many reasons they’re not successful!), but to my
mind it all comes down to the face-to-face aspect.
Back from Thanksgiving week, a nice few days away from work.
Sit down at the computer Monday morning.
Hundreds of emails piled up in my in-box. 785 to be precise. Lots of them with pitches on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I mean, a ton of pitches.
Delete them all: delete, delete, delete. Don’t bother to
read them. They do nothing for me.
On a few, I decide to unsubscribe. But that takes longer.
And with most of the newsletters I unsubscribe from, I feel like they keep
sending me stuff. So what’s a guy to do?
It’s obvious that none of those emails stood out. They did nothing for me (I think I said that already). I’m not looking for any Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, I have work to do. I’m not looking for Christmas presents for anyone, or to save money on things that I probably would not buy at any point. I’m busy and want to get these off of my to-do list as soon as possible, which means I’m scanning quickly and deleting almost everything once I determine it’s not a client, or a potential client.
I’m not their target market.
Email is one thing. Let’s move from email to other venues, such as retail, or online ads, or, hey, tradeshows!
When people walk by your retail store in a shopping mall, are you doing anything to stand out?
When you advertise online, what makes your ad stand out?
When people walk by your tradeshow booth, are you doing
anything to stand out in a crowd?
It’s easy to ignore and delete an email. It’s easy to walk by a retail store without stopping. It’s a piece of cake to ignore ads on your screen.
It’s pretty easy to walk by a tradeshow booth, too, unless something really outstanding is going on at the booth. Maybe it’s a unique booth. Maybe it’s a presentation that draws you in, entertains you and informs you of the company’s products and services. Maybe it’s a unique food sample. Could be anything.
Tradeshows have a distinct advantage over emails, and here’s
why: emails go out to people who have (supposedly) opted-in to a company’s
pitches. But over time, it’s not uncommon for that company – which is often
owned by another entity – to share that email address with another company, and
soon you’re getting pitches from (somewhat) related companies or products or
services. Has that happened to you? Happens all the time to me.
The difference that tradeshows have is that you have spent
handsomely to be at the show. But the show is targeted, the audience is
specialized. The people walking the show floor have also paid to be there, and
they are usually there for specific reasons, the main one being that they are
SHOPPING for something, and since you’re exhibiting there, chances are they’re
SHOPPING FOR SOMETHING YOU ARE SELLING.
Still, you have to stand out in a crowd. Tradeshows have a
lot of competition. Your biggest and best competitors are doing all they can to
make their best pitch to the same people you’re pitching. That’s the name of
Which means that whatever you do, it had better be good. It
had better be worth your time and money.
It had better be something that stands out in a crowd.
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:
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.
One of the newsletters I read regularly is Electric Impulse, a monthly newsletter from Electric Impulse Communications. I interviewed Leslie Unger, President of Electric Impulse Communications, in March of 2018. In this week’s newsletter, a comment of hers jumped out at me that made me immediately think of the tradeshow world:
The art is in hiding the art and you as the audience don’t see the work behind the curtain.
Leslie Ungar, Electric Impulse Communications
Tradeshows are about presenting your company’s BEST. You
leave almost nothing to chance. An exhibit is carefully planned down to the
last detail. The newest and best products are launched at tradeshows. Booth
staff are either put through formal training or are at least given guidelines
on how to interact with visitors and gather contact information for follow up.
Multiple meetings are held, phone conference calls are scheduled, all to make
sure that the graphics have the right messaging, the right images; to make sure
that the exhibit colors and materials are right for the brand; to ensure that
flooring or hanging signs fit the overall branding scheme.
A lot of damn work goes on behind the curtains.
But visitors don’t see behind the curtains. They don’t see
the months of work that went into the exhibit design and fabrication. They
don’t see the planning that went into handling logistics such as shipping and
installation/dismantle of the exhibit. They don’t see the chaos of the tradeshow
floor during setup and dismantle. They don’t see the challenges that a company
went through to put on their best face, to put their best foot forward at each
and every tradeshow.
Think of it. Each and every tradeshow is like the Land of
Oz. Behind the curtain is the Wizard (or group of Wizards), pulling the levers,
manipulating information and ideas, maneuvering pieces from one place to
another. All done to give each and every visitor an experience or impression
that leaves them with a positive feeling about the company. The best exhibitors
are those that go beyond that, though, and leave their visitors feeling more
than positive. They leave them with a memorable experience that relates
directly to their product. For example, a software demonstration that gives
visitors the empowerment and possibilities that they just didn’t see before,
and now they are leaving feeling creative and inspired. Or a product that they
know they can put to immediate use that will save money and time, freeing up
both resources for other important tasks.
Storytelling in a tradeshow exhibit is an art, a highly developed one. The challenge for each tradeshow exhibitor is to tell their best story with the people and skills on hand. And then to improve on it the next time around.
Wait a minute, how do you mean “mean”? As in average? As in
Nope, as in “very skillful or effective” in a more informal
sense: “she’s a mean bowler!”
But when it comes to having a clean and mean booth at a
tradeshow, how might that work? Let’s explore.
Skillful and effective can certainly come in to play with your tradeshow presence. Your booth staff should be well-trained and know how to ask the right questions and collect valid and helpful answers.
Your exhibit itself should be clean. Having a small carpet sweeper or dust buster can help keep the floors clean. Garbage cans should be emptied regularly, especially if you’re at a show where a lot of samples are handed out, leaving behind a trail of debris.
Hiding things: most exhibits have counters or closets where personal items and extraneous items are kept. Often brochures or other needed items can be stored under a skirted table. In any event, keeping those extras out of sight helps to keep your booth mean and clean.
No food or beverages in the booth space. Yes, if you’re sampling foods, then it’s okay. But your staff shouldn’t be eating or drinking in the booth space. Psychology shows that often visitors will turn and go the other way if they encounter a staffer eating in the booth. It’s not inviting at all.
Have enough staff for the show. It’s a fine line: having too few or having too many staffers. Knowing the right amount and being able to effectively schedule the staff so that there’s always the right amount of staff comes from experience.
Knowing who the staff are: does this mean they all have readily identifiable badges or color-coded clothing? I’ve been in booths where it was impossible to know who part of the team was. In other booths, all of the staffers were wearing the same color shirt or wearing a shirt that was plainly branded with the company name.
Keep your exhibit and booth presence clean and mean for an edge over your competitors.
Wear colorful branded clothing. Whether it’s a staff
of two or three, or twenty, having colorful branded clothing will immediately
let visitors know who’s working the booth and who’s a guest. Bright colors
attract, so put your logo on the front and an enticing message on the back. And
to change things up from day to day, create a different colored set with a different
message for each day of the show, and make sure your crew coordinates. Bright colors,
especially if they’re tied into your brand work well: yellow, red, orange, blue,
Setup a giant prop and invite people to take a photo.
Could be anything: a mascot, a giant purse, a full-size model of one of your
products (if it’s small, for instance); something that stops people in their
tracks. I’ve seen mascot, angels, musicians, giant hanging props, exhibits made
from bicycle frames and more. They all had one thing in common: they begged to
have their picture taken.
Once that photo has been taken, invite the visitor to spread
the word on social media and include the show hashtag to make sure the post
gets seen. Offer prizes to people that photo and share online.
Give something away and offer an incentive to wear it.
One way is to print up a few hundred t-shirts or hats with your logo along with
a fun message and tell people that if they put it on right there, they can also
take home another gift. And tell them if you catch them wearing it at an
after-hours show (be specific as to which one), you’ll be giving away $50 bills
to random shirt wearers. This type of promotion gets others involved and spreads
the word about your booth and products throughout the show.
Have a unique exhibit that begs to be seen. Sounds
straightforward, but to break out of the cookie-cutter mold, it takes a
designer that’s willing to create something unique and wild and a company that’s
willing to spend to make it a reality.
Give visitors something to DO. Interactivity goes a
long way. At the NAB Show, there were several exhibitors that gave visitors a
chance to learn new software by joining them for a free class. Not only are you
drawing interested people in, you’re keeping them involved for up to an hour
and showing them exactly how the product works.
Contests. Give people a chance to win something by
guessing the number of beans in a jar, answering a quiz, spinning a wheel or
something else increases the chance you’ll get visitors to stop at your booth.
Make sure to engage them in a brief conversation to uncover their needs regarding
Famous mugs. Lots of companies hire famous (or at
least semi-well known) people to be a part of the show. Authors, speakers, sports
stars, actors, and so on can all draw a crowd. Authors in particular, if they’re
in your industry, can be a good draw if they have a new book out. I’ve seen
dozens of people in line to pick up a free copy of a new book and get it signed
by the author (and snap a selfie!), and I’ve waited in line to get a prop soft baseball
signed by Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.
Comment wall. I see these more and more. Ask a bold question
or make a bold statement and invite people to chime in with their thoughts on a
wall. Invite people to snap a photo of what they wrote and share it on social
media (make sure the wall is branded and has the show hashtag on it).
Bring media production to your booth. Know someone
that is a podcaster in the industry? Invite them to record a few episodes of
their show in your booth, and make sure to provide some good guests for them,
whether it’s people from your company, or others. The simple act of recording a
show in your booth will make a lot of people stop. That’s a good time for your
staff to engage those visitors politely to find out if they’re prospects.
If someone in your company has written a book, offer free copies of the book along with free printed photos with visitors and the author. This has worked great for years for Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill, one of our long-time clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits. Every time they exhibit at the bigger expos, Bob spends time signing books and posing for photos while a photographer takes photos and has them printed up in a few moments for the visitor.
There are literally countless ways to draw crowds to your
booth. It all boils down to creativity and execution. What can you do to
improve the traffic at your next show?
What is tension in a business sense, or to be more precise, in
a marketing sense?
Briefly, it’s the concept of conflict. It’s the process of
creating a situation where a visitor can’t immediately reconcile one concept
Think Coke vs. Pepsi.
Nike vs. Adidas
One brand vs. another is one source of tension.
And understand, tension is not fear. You could say it’s the
opposite. Remember in high school when you were attracted to another person and
the tension that was created around it. You wanted to be with that person, but since
the very thought of expressing your feelings created tension, it made you,
well, tense! But in a good way, because you really did want to get to know that
person and spend time.
Another would be telling a story, but not giving away the
end. Maybe harder to do in the chaos and quick turnover of a tradeshow, but I’ve
seen it done. At the National Association of Broadcaster Show this year in Las
Vegas, Adobe (and many others) had huge classes going on teaching their new
software. That is a great story to tell: those that use the software want to
know how things have changed and how they can use it, so they sign up for a
free class to learn the story of the software and its changes. I’ve seen larger
exhibits steer visitors through a maze where you don’t know what you’re getting
into until you’ve seen the maze all the way through.
How do you tell the story of your product or service? By
What is it?
How does it work?
When can I get it?
What does it taste like?
When will it be available?
Where can I get it?
What does it cost?
The price of something is a story in and of itself. Are you
positioning your product against another similar product by offering it at a
lower price? What tension does that create? What if you price it much higher
than your competition? How does that affect the tension people feel?
Is your product something more or less “off the shelf?” In
other words, do you simply manufacture it and put it on a shelf? In that case,
price is a point of tension. Deciding to like the product or not is pretty straightforward
and deciding to spend the money may come down to the perceived value.
But what if what you offer is customized? That means the
customer has a number of choices to make, such as in the case of creating a new
tradeshow exhibit. And having to make a lot of decisions can freak out some
people, either in a good way or a bad way. Ideas can come pouring forth from some
people. From other people, having to come up with a lot of ideas may mean they
Many people are looking for something quick and easy. They
want a “push-button” solution to their problems. That’s why “turnkey” solutions
are often presented for more complex situations. Which is why customized
products create tension and demand a lengthier decision process.
By creating tension in a good way, you’re making your product or service attractive to people. What tension can you create with your tradeshow marketing and story-telling?