What is an earworm? Basically, it’s song or melody that gets
stuck in your head and you have a hard time unsticking it. It goes around and around
and won’t go away.
It happens to me all the time. I must have fifty songs
bounce around my head on any given day. Some stick for a few moments, others
for up to an hour.
Why not come up with a short list of good songs to get stuck
in your head that make sense for your next tradeshow appearance?
Let’s start with Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”
It’s catchy and gets to the point of any attendee’s message to an exhibitor: yeah, I’ve seen your stuff before, but what have you done for me lately? Plus it’s a classic mid-80s dance video, so there’s that.
Prince – Kiss
Another video from 1986. Popular year, perhaps? Maybe not an actual kiss, but certainly a metaphorical one. You want that connection that leads to becoming either a client or a supplier. And to do that, there’s a certain amount of closeness that must be done.
So why not a metaphorical kiss?
Rolling Stones – Get off My Cloud
Exhibiting at a tradeshow means sharing the stage with hundreds or even thousands of other exhibitors. But in YOUR booth, you’re the master. No other brands allowed. So yeah, get off my cloud, two’s a crowd!
Beatles – Come Together
Now that we’re in the Sixties for a few moments, how about we ask The Beatles for a song? Come Together is certainly a great earworm, and oh-so-appropriate for a large gathering.
Billie Eilish – Bad Guy
Let’s jump up to the present for Billie Eilish and her mega-hit Bad Guy. Not only is it catchy as hell, but at every tradeshow there always seems to be a bad guy. Sometimes it’s the neighbor exhibitor that’s playing loud music in their booth or crowding out your visitors. Or some floor manager that is making it difficult to get your crates delivered to your booth in a timely maner. The good thing is, there are not that many bad guys at tradeshows. Most people are there to have a good time and be a good guy or gal.
Queen: We Will Rock You
Exactly what you’re looking to do at your next tradeshow: rock your visitors.
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.
Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to do something. You might be surprised to know that it’s harder than it sounds. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee podcast/vlog, I dig into the concept of giving yourself permission to do – or not to do – creative things in your life.
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.
Yes, there are a lot of books about tradeshows. In fact, I wrote two of them. Many – actually, most – are good investments. A candid, experienced author can walk any exhibitor through the briar patch of tradeshows, which can often ensnare the inexperienced exhibitor. Actually, tradeshows can ensnare the experienced exhibitor, too. It happens all the time. Just check out the Plan B column in the monthly Exhibitor Magazine, which is full of real tales of exhibitors having to MacGuyver their way through the crazy, deadline-heavy world of tradeshow exhibiting.
Mel White, the VP Marketing/Business Development at Classic Exhibits, has always been a prolific and entertaining writer. His blog posts enliven the pages at Classic Exhibits.com, and his insight into tradeshow marketing comes from years of experience. (Full disclosure: Mel was instrumental in going through both of my books with a fine tooth comb to make them much better than where they started, and encouraging me at every step).
And now Mel has released a book available as both a Kindle download and as paperback, What’s So Funny About Trade Shows? A Humorous Guide to Effective Trade Show Marketing. Brilliantly illustrated by Meredith Lagerman, the book touches on a lot of the elements that make his blog posts entertaining and educational: zombies, Sasquatch, dumb stuff people do at tradeshows, why your booth staff kinda sucks and much more. And, of course it’s highly entertaining while making sure to impart great tips and tricks along the way.
As an introduction to tradeshow marketing, or as a refresher if you’ve been exhibiting for years, What’s So Funny About Trade Shows? is a great addition to any marketing library. Highly recommended!
When you put out a new podcast/vlog every week, frankly, it’s hard to keep up. Makes sense. That’s a lot of content to devour, and it’s easy to let things slip by.
But 2019 has given me a lot of great guests, and chances are you may have missed some of the really good ones (and there are many!). So here’s a random list of 10 guests I hosted on TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee this year that you might have missed. And even if you didn’t miss them, they could be worth another listen:
January 8: BJ Enright of Tradeshow Logic discusses the groundbreaking NAB Show Cares program that looks to address hefty drayage and material handling fees at the National Association of Broadcasters show.
March 25: Dave Scott, long time Portland on-air radio fixture, gets into the podcast game with his Embrace the Change podcast.
May 13: Phil Gorski discusses 3D Virtual Tour Technology and how it can affect tradeshow marketers.
April 8: Tom Beardof Eco-Systems Sustainable Displays talks sustainability in the exhibit world. This vlog/podcast made more timely by the recent announcement that Classic Exhibits and Eco-Systems are merging.
June 17: Danny Orleans. Magic on the tradeshow floor is always an attractor. Danny, Chief Magic Operator at Corporate Magic Ltd talks about how he works magic into a presentation.
June 3: David Newman of Do It Marketing talks, as you might expect, marketing. I have to admit that I like to read his emails, which come about once a day. Really short, but a good mix of very usable info and pitches.
July 22: Howard Berg. Fascinating, fast-paced learning. Howard was a gas.
July 15: Ken Newman of Magnet Productions. Ken travels the world doing his professional presentations for tradeshow clients. He is also a big presence in the Blanket the Homeless effort in the SF Bay area, and talks about both in this fun interview.
September 16: Jay Gilbert, a long time music industry executive has had his own company for years now. And while this is not much related to the tradeshow world, it’s a fascinating look at what it takes in the world of music promotion.
September 23: Laura Allen, The Pitch Girl, helps distill the essence of your pitch down to a simply formula. Very useful in so many situations!
There are many more of course – just search for TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee – or browse the archives at your leisure.
It’s said, by people in the know, that everyone should have a platform. What exactly is a platform? And do you need one? Do you need more than one? In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I take a short look at platforms:
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.
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
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.
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.