Selling anything, whether in a clothing store, a car dealer showroom, or a tradeshow, means in some sense you have to understand your buyer. You must have empathy for what they’re going through or the sale will be much more difficult.
When you put yourself in the shoes of your potential buyer, you feel what they feel. You understand what they understand. You know what problems they are facing. You know what it would feel like to have a solution to the problem that your product or service would provide. You must know what makes them feel good, what makes them feel hurt.
Your marketing strategy should include efforts to understand those potential clients or customers. Ask yourself these questions:
Do you really understand how they feel prior to learning about your product or service?
What is the perspective of your customer in regard to your product or service?
How do your prospects view the world?
What challenges do they face?
How do they view companies such as yours?
There are other related questions that will come up, but the goal is to see the world from their perspective as best as you can. The more you’re able to do this – and the better you’re able to communicate that understanding back to them – the higher your chances of converting them from a prospect to a client.
A recap of Natural Products Expo West from an official blogger’s point of view. Nicky Omohundro is a blogger and runs a website called Little Family Adventure, and we spoke about Expo West on this episode of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee.
I spent a lot of time as a youth on the baseball diamond and the basketball court. One coach always stressed the importance of GAME DAY. Put on your game face! Be ready for the big game! In other words, bring even more focus and attitude to the game. When you are done practicing, and you’re facing an opponent, it counts. It’s Game Day.
You could say the same thing about just about anything. But when it comes to tradeshows, bringing your Game Face and knowing that you’re competing with some very challenging companies means it’s you vs. the rest of the hall. Your competitors are (assumedly) going to bring their game faces. Simple: they want to talk to all the people they can. They want to talk to all the people you want to talk to.
So even though it’s a friendly event, the competition is toe-to-toe, and if you want to come out on top, that means bring your game face as soon as the clock starts.
Booth staffers should know their products and services. They should know how to engage an attendee in a meaningful fashion. If a visitor turns out to be a genuine lead, they should know how to capture all of the pertinent information that is required at that step, and how that information will be sent back to the sales team.
Your exhibit should be clean. Even if it means hiring the show services cleaners to vacuum the booth space every morning and take the trash away. Personal items should be out of site. If at all possible, don’t store things behind your exhibit. Some people will see the clutter and even though they understand the reason for it, it does reflect on their overall impression.
The first thing a visitor sees is your exhibit. The second thing they see is a person standing in the booth space. What they see from that person is critical to how they will respond. If the person is ready and wearing their tradeshow game face, the visitor will engage at a higher rate and be more responsive to the staffer. If the staffer is standing there looking bored, or staring at his phone, or worst of all, eating, the visitor will likely keep on moving. And there goes your lead. Simply because someone in your booth was not ready to be in the game. In a sports situation, if the coach puts someone into the game and they’re not ready, points will be scored against them. Or they’ll fail to respond when they should. It’s an easy way to let your competition beat you.
You don’t want to let the competition beat you because you’re not wearing your game face, do you? If they beat you, it should be fair and square: because they had a product or service that better suited the visitor. But if they beat you because you’re not mentally in the game, that’s an easy way to give up points. And the game.
So yeah, put on your game face at all times in the booth!
Babies – lots of babies – along with young kids, the occasional dog, lots of mascots/costumes, and a few weirdly dressed people. Typical Expo West!
Saturday night – Day Three of Expo West – was spent hanging out with Oregon Business folks at their annual soiree at McCormick and Schmicks, and later, producing Monday Morning’s vlog/podcast. Now let me see if I can manage a recap of the final two days of Expo West.
Dozens of people I spoke with agreed that the show was somewhere between amazing and fantastic, or perhaps crazy-busy and overwhelming. Just saw the press release this morning from New Hope which showed that there were over 85,000 attendees, and 3,521 exhibiting companies, including more than 600 first-time exhibitors.
I mentioned in my vlog/podcast that I was impressed by the great detail that exhibit designers go to to capture a brand’s essence. I also got into a conversation with one booth staffer about the wild colors that are everywhere in the show. “Can you imagine what this show would be like without all of those colors?” he asked. Agreed. Bright and bold colors everywhere.
There were also a lot of BIG hanging signs, from 40’x40’ aluminum structures/fabric graphics to wooden panels and what looked like carved wooden signs. Does anybody look up these days at shows?
There were a lot of clever interactive things going on at booths, offering people an opportunity to walk into the booth space and do something. It’s always a great way to capture attention. I counted at least a dozen “selfie” stations, with some including a circular light where you can take a selfie where you’re fully and evenly lit, and some stations where they’ll take a photo and then email it to you. One of the most fascinating and eye-catching interactives was a Rube Goldberg contraption in the KIND Snacks booth, showing how KIND snacks are made from start to finish.
There were many opportunities to tweet a hashtag with a photo for a chance to win something, so it was good to see the social media tie-in as well. Although, frankly, it almost seems run-of-the-mill, when six or seven years ago social media was all so new!
Another thing I noticed in booth fabrication was the use of see-through printed fabric. Everywhere I turned there was another example. See-through fabric is very useful in creating a barrier, but the see-through aspect gives you a view of what’s beyond it, without intruding on people that might be in a meeting room for example.
This was my sixteenth consecutive time I’ve attended Expo West in support of clients, for years, the halls have been set up in a specific configuration: foods, manufacturing, supplements, new products and more all have had their own areas. That didn’t change this year, but the layout changed – drastically – and it was interesting to see how the whole layout was essentially flopped from one end to the other. Lots of comments from people who weren’t sure how it worked, but from my view it worked just fine. Took a little getting used to.
Sunday – Day Four – started off much slower, in terms of visitors roaming the aisles. I was there at opening of ten o’clock, and the back reaches of the halls were lightly travelled. it didn’t take long for that to pick up. By late morning, it seemed almost as busy as previous days. It did give me a chance to speak to more people without feeling rushed. By 2:30 to 3 o’clock, exhibitors were offering all of their samples to attendees so they wouldn’t have to transport them back to HQ. And of course, some folks were pulling down banner stands and packing up suitcases by 3 o’clock. Ya ain’t s’posed to do that, but it happens anyway. Planes to catch.
And finally, I know of no other show where, frankly, you never need to eat a meal offsite for ate least three days. Virtually every company is sampling the goods, from sausage, bagels, bread, toast and eggs to energy bars, drinks, coffee, teas, juices and other goodies. It’s easy to consume a couple of thousand calories without even batting an eye. Even if you try to avoid eating much, you’ll end up taking bite-sized samples here and there.
And don’t get me started on the varieties of chocolates.
Seriously, you could compile a list of 50 tradeshow best practices and still add to the list. For the sake of brevity, let’s whittle it down to a reasonable number and see what we get.
Create your marketing plan based on the specific event where you’re going to set up your exhibit. Different audiences, different competitors, different goals will all help steer you to a marketing plan that fits the situation. One size does not fit all.
Your promotion item should be a natural fit with your product or service. Give away an embossed flash drive if you’re in the tech industry and want people to remember what you do. Give away a letter opener if you pitch direct marketing via mail. Things like that.
Try to have some activity in your booth space. People are drawn to movement, or things they can get personally involved with. And when you have lots of people playing with something in your booth that relates to your product, that crowd draws a crowd.
Prior to show floors opening, have a brief meeting with your staff. Remind them of the show goals, hand out kudos for work well done, and gently remind those who are perhaps coming up a bit short what they should work on.
Graphic messaging on your exhibit should be clear as a bell. The fewer the words, the more distinct your message. The message should be enhanced with an appropriate image that supports the message.
Follow up on leads in a timely manner. Your lead generation and follow up system should be something that you continually work to improve. Warm leads that are followed up on right after the show will produce more results than those that are weeks old.
Qualify and disqualify your visitors quickly. Unqualified visitors should be invited to refer a colleague and be politely disengaged. Qualified visitors earn more time to dig deeper into their needs, including the time frame they need the solution your product can solve, their contact information and an agreed-upon follow up schedule.
The power of a professional presenter cannot be understated. Some products and shows lend themselves more to presenters than others, but a good presenter will make it work in any situation and will bring in more leads than not using them. Caveat: if you hire a presenter, you must have a staff that understands and is prepared to deal with the additional leads generated. If not, most of the leads the presenter generates will slip away.
Tradeshows are a marathon. Be alert, but pace yourself so you can make it to the end of the last day still upright and able to fully engage with visitors.
Spring for carpet padding / wear comfortable shoes. You can never say this enough!
And a bonus number 11:
Spend more time on pre-show marketing that you think you should, or more than you’ve done in the past. It costs less and is easier to sell to current customers than it is to sell to new customers. Create a list of current customers, or those who have raised a hand by downloading a white paper, subscribing to a newsletter, or inquired about your services or products over the past year or so. Finally, check with show organizers to see if they can rent the attendee list to you prior to the show.
What do ya mean, reverse engineering tradeshow success? If you ask Wikipedia, you get this: “Reverse engineering, also called back engineering, is the processes of extracting knowledge or design information from a product and reproducing it or reproducing anything based on the extracted information.”
Or: disassemble something and analyze the components to see how it works.
Or make it simpler yet: start with the end in mind. Know what you want when all is said and done and then figure out what steps are required to get there.
Let’s take a look at one of the main purposes of tradeshow marketing: generating leads. Want 300 leads at the end of three days? You’ll need on average, 100 a day. If it’s a 7 hour-a-day show, you’ll want to generate just over 14 leads per hour, or about one ever four minutes. Give or take.
If, in your experience based on tracking numbers at a particular show, you know that about 1 in 5 booth visitors is a good candidate for your product of service. And out of those 20% of visitors, one-third are judged to be strong or “A” leads, worthy of following up on in the first few days after the show.
Given that, about 1 in 15 booth visitors is an “A” lead. Do the math, and you see you need 4,500 booth visitors, or 1,500 per day.
When you examine that number, do you think it’s realistic that you’ll see enough people at your booth to get a true, qualified lead ever four or five minutes? Is that assumption based on past experience, or is it just a wild guess?
Let’s take another perspective. If you know that there are going to be about 70,000 visitors to the show (it’s a pretty big show!), and you want just 300 leads in three days, you need about one out of every 233 visitors to stop by and do your thing to qualify them.
That’s one way to reverse engineer the math.
Now it gets a little more difficult. How do you reverse engineer tradeshow success on other things, such as your exhibit, your people, your giveaways?
As far as your exhibit, if you need to accommodate 1500 visitors a day, that’s about 200 an hour. If you need about 5 minutes with each visitor to determine if they’re a qualified lead, that’s 1000 minutes. That means a total of 16 2/3 hours of actual time during each hour of the show. Rough math means you need about 20 people in your booth to be there for each hour. Which (doing the math again), you’ll need a sizeable booth space to accommodate 40 people at any given time.
If that’s not reasonable given your budget and space, you’ll want to spend time examining your overall realistic expectations for how many leads you’ll generate during the show.
Of course, real life doesn’t work just like the math we just walked through. Some visitors are disqualified instantly. Some people will take longer to qualify, especially when it comes to your follow up.
My advice? If you haven’t done so, set a baseline at your next show. Do your best to count booth visitors, track leads daily if not hourly, and add everything up once the show is over. Do it for each different show to see how they compare. Then when the same shows roll around next year, you have a starting point. Put practices into place that allow you to better engage visitors, create pre-show marketing strategies that bring more targeted folks to your booth, and make sure that your post-show follow-up system is solid.
Reverse engineering tradeshow success may be an odd way to look at how you get from Point A to Point B, but it’s as good as any, and better than many.
Your tradeshow exhibit may look great. It may function well. But once the show is underway, you find yourself always ducking into a storage room to grab some paperwork or literature or end up answering the same question over and over again. Or showing a demo on a laptop when you keep thinking it should be on a monitor because people are looking over your shoulder.
It could be your tradeshow exhibit might need a little add-on that will add an element that either functions, spruces it up, or shows visitors just a little more than what you had originally been thinking. Let’s look at a handful of add-ons for under five hundred bucks.
iPad or Surface stand. Putting a table at the front of your exhibit often is an unspoken invitation for visitors to engage. These could be free-standing, or attachments that mount on an existing table or counter.
Literature stand. Instead of stacking sales sheets on a counter where they’ll always get messed up or keeping them inside a counter where you’re always reaching for them, put out a literature stand. A literature stand could also be free-standing, or it could attach to an exhibit you already have.
Easel. Easels are cool. And they’re old-school. But a well-placed easel can show off a larger poster-size graphic in a slightly different way.
TV Monitor. It seems that most exhibits have a monitor of some sort, whether free-standing or mounted on a wall. Monitors up to about 50” can be had for under $500.
Table throws. Maybe it’s just a small exhibit, or you’ve got a small table in the midst of a larger exhibit. In either case, adding a custom printed table throw is an easy call.
Turn a table in to a charging table with an add-on charging kit. Probably won’t work on any table, but if it fits your table, it’s a great little feature that your visitors will thank you for!
Banner Stands. Banner stands are an easy add-on and it’s easy to find one that’ll fit your budget of under $500.
Drawing a tradeshow crowd is the boiled-down essence of the reason for exhibiting at a tradeshow. With hundreds or thousands of competing tradeshow exhibits, every single one of them wants to find a way to draw the biggest crowds throughout the tradeshow. Having a crowd – and knowing what to do with it – is the best path to success in your tradeshow marketing endeavors.
Given that, let’s take a look at ways you can spend a little money and draw a crowd.
Hire a pro. Professional presenters know what they’re doing. They will put together a short presentation designed specifically to not only draw a crowd but inform and educate the crowd about your product or service.
Have an exhibit that is visually appealing and feels comfortable to walk into. Many exhibits look great but feel intimidating and will turn people away. Does your exhibit invite visitors to come in?
Do consistent pre-show marketing. Letting people know what to expect at your show is one of the keys to getting people to make a special trip to your exhibit.
Leverage your social media activity. Make sure that all posts include the show hashtag and your booth number.
Have a famous person in your exhibit. No, you can’t hire the Brad Pitts, George Clooneys or Jennifer Lawrences, but you can hire an author or speaker that is well-known in your industry to draw a crowd.
Have a well-trained and fun booth staff.
Offer food. Yes, at a food show, you won’t stand out that much. But at a non-food show, it can help draw a crowd. One exhibitor I saw years ago at a tech show made smoothies for visitors. Since it took a minute or two for each smoothie to be made, the staff had plenty of time to chat with folks in the smoothie line to determine if they were prospects or not.
Offer a unique giveaway. Promotional items are a dime a dozen, but if you are offering something useful and cool, word will get around.
And remember – once you have drawn a crowd, be sure you know what to do with them!
A tradeshow floor sales call is something a little different than a typical sales call. Okay, it’s a lot different. Let’s compare.
With a typical call, whether in person or on the phone, a sales person will research the prospect, sometimes to the point of reviewing their LinkedIn Profile, the company, the possibility of doing business, their needs in regard to the offered service or product and maybe more. Sometimes the sales person just has an inkling that the target prospect may have a need for the product or service and they just make a call with little more to go on, figuring they’ll either uncover a need or disqualify them and remove them from a prospect list. Either approach is valid and each sales person has their own system for making contact and determining potential.
On the tradeshow floor, a sales call is something different. Not altogether different, but it is different than a typical sales call. The floor is controlled chaos with hundreds of people near your exhibit, either walking by or stopping if your exhibit has done a good job of pitching a proper message.
Once the person stops, the conversation is usually faster-paced, with an eye on qualifying or disqualifying quickly. A prepared booth staffer will have a few questions at the ready, and use them to find out if the visitor is a prospect. If they are, the next questions will determine if they’re in the market currently (or soon), if they make the buying decision and if they have the money to spend. As Richard Erschik put in in a recent interview, the five questions a staffer should have at hand are:
Do you currently use our product?
Are you considering the purchase of a product such as ours?
If so, when?
Do you make the buying decision?
Do you have the money to spend?
In a more typical sales call, where the sales person is either on the phone or in their office, the conversation is a more nuanced approach, covering agreements on the amount of time agreed upon, the agreement that if there is no need for the product that the prospect will be honest about that, and if there is a need, the two parties will agree on the specifics of the next step.
During a tradeshow floor sales call, the timing is quicker – mainly you cut to the chase. If the visitor is prospect, determine the next step. If not, politely disengage and move on to the next person.
A tradeshow floor sales call may take place dozen, maybe a hundred or more times during a day, as opposed to just a few calls in person on location, or on the phone.
Knowing what to expect and being prepared will give you a distinct advantage over your competitors who are at the show without a concise plan.
Over the years I’ve suggested that companies create a tradeshow-specific landing page for each appearance they make at a show. But frankly, I don’t see too many of them.
But I recently ran across a tradeshow-specific landing page from Digimarc that caught my eye. Digimarc is a Portland-based company that helps clientele with product identification, labels, barcodes and the like.
Digimarc has a tradeshow-specific landing page for their upcoming appearance at NRF 2018 at the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center.
Let’s take a look at their landing page and see what they are doing right.
In the first screenshot, Digimarc starts off by everyone that they’re going to be at the NRF 2018. They mention their booth number and invite visitors to check out their store.
Next shot: you’re invited to dig a little deeper to learn about increasing operational efficiencies and more, and again mentioning the booth number. Right below that are a pair of buttons inviting you to schedule a visit with them at their booth, and offering an NRF Registration and Discount Code, reinforcing the notion that not only do they want to you stop by their booth, they want to make it easy:
In the third screenshot, Digimarc offers a chance to learn even more specific knowledge, with buttons to get better labels, implement easy checkout and engage consumers now.
Finally, there is an offer to get a personalized language booth tour – when you click through, the options are to get a tour in Japanese or German – making it easier for those international visitors to make a connection with the company. Then there’s a Lyft voucher and (still to come) an NRF Survival Guide. It’s all capped off with an invitation to follow them on social media to continue the show connection.
Everything is clearly marked, easily understood and very specific. The only quibble I have is that the date and location of the show (NYC in January) are not on the page. But you might argue that anyone going to the show already knows that information, and this tradeshow-specific landing page from Digimarc is being shared with people who are already aware.
In any event, Digimarc did a great job with this.
My question is: why aren’t you doing this with your upcoming tradeshow appearance?