Just got back from the Cannabis Collaborative Conference 6.0 at the Portland Expo Center last week, and put together a podcast-slash-video blog about the event. Got a chance to interview half a dozen exhibitors about what they see as big challenges and best opportunities in the cannabis industry.
Also be sure to check the photo album I put up from the show, and my most recent advance look at the show here.
Thanks to the following folks for allowing me to put them on video and add them to the show!
Tradeshow marketing is hard. It’s chaotic. Much of what happens in your booth at show is out of your hands, uncontrollable. I’ve talked to hundreds of exhibitors and consultants and experts over the years, yet they rarely, if ever, bring up one of the key elements that make tradeshow marketing so difficult.
And that’s the nuts and bolts of personal interaction with attendees. While attending shows is one thing, standing in the booth for hours over the course of two or three days is a different beast entirely.
You may have a plan: ask passersby specific questions (“What brings you to the show? Does your company use our product or service? If so, are you planning to make a purchase in the near future?” And so on…), make sure the conversation is completed properly with follow-ups, dates/times, content, etc. But when the show is underway, those plans often fall away and you end up having conversations that don’t regularly get to the point.
It happened with us at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference last week. Prior to the doors opening, my partner, Roger, and I talked about these questions and the information we were hoping to obtain from attendees. We were looking to qualify or disqualify those attendees based on those questions.
But our approach was lacking. It’s too easy to get into a conversation about something else because of a topic that the attendee brings up. Or once you start a conversation, someone else comes by and asks a question. Then you get distracted. We’re all human. We can’t make every interaction as good as we’d like.
As the hours slipped by, and we had lulls in the number of people walking our aisle, we’d chat about how we were trying to do the right thing, but it’s not always possible. The human element makes it impossible to get it right all the time, or even much of the time.
Having said all of that, there were a number of pleasant surprises: people who stopped and asked specifically what we did and then wanting to make sure we followed up; people who saw my books on the table and inquired about them, which was a great opportunity to start a more in-depth conversation; people who saw what we did and referred us to someone in their booth nearby to chat with about possibly doing something with them in the future.
In spite of all of the misfires with a lot of attendees, at the end of the show we both felt that a lot of good came out of our appearance. We counted over 40 contacts that we’ll be following up with shortly. Many of them could be seen as strong leads.
It’s so easy to see all of those poor interactions as a reflection of lack of preparation or skill, but I believe that’s not the case. It’s just the way it goes. Often. People are easily distracted. People have their own agendas. They are unpredictable. Not everything goes exactly as planned. But at the end of the day, if you came away with a good amount of leads that you can follow with, that’s a good thing. Don’t worry about the ones that got away. They might not have been that valuable anyway.
And frankly, in this business, we won’t really be able to come up with an ROI for months and months.
TradeshowGuy Exhibits just finished exhibiting with another 100+ exhibitors at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference at the Portland Expo Center. There were certainly a lot of growers and sellers of cannabis at the show (although products could not be sold at the show) displaying dozens of samples of cannabis. Our booth – #420 – was right next to Williams Canna Company, growers of high quality cannabis. They had about a dozen samples of cannabis on display in glass containers. While you couldn’t smoke it, you could certainly sniff it – and sniff we did.
I toured the show floor a number of times snapping photos, curious to see what kinds of exhibits were there and how companies presented themselves. Here are some of those:
Less than a week from the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland at the Expo Center. It’s next Wednesday and Thursday the 23rd and 24th of January. I’ve attended the show three times, and this is the first time as an exhibitor. I’m looking forward to it, but I don’t have a good sense of how well we’ll do at the show. I would bet a lot of exhibitors feel the same going into shows. There’s a significant amount of money on the line, and hopefully the ROI is positive, right?
I wanted to do some modest pre-show marketing, aimed at exhibitors, specifically at the show’s exhibitors. I made up a postcard, had a bunch printed up and sent about five dozen to exhibitors, those that I could track down mailing addresses. As an aside, do you notice that it’s hard to find some businesses online? Many don’t have websites, and many that have websites are coy about their locations. The only way to get in touch with many small businesses is to fill out an online form, click “submit” and hope someone actually reads it. Some time. And don’t get me started about making calls.
However, the five dozen postcards went out and only two came back as non-deliverable, so I took that as a good sign. The card invited exhibitors to drop by our booth to pick up a free copy of one of my books while supplies last. The goal? To find out if any exhibitors are planning to make changes in the next year, and to capture contact information and follow up in a timely manner. Sounds like a straightforward plan, right? I’ll let you know.
If you’re heading to the show, come see us in booth #420 at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland at the Expo Center!
From celebrity promoters to next-level artificial reality adventures, trade shows are becoming less about selling and more about experiencing. And that’s by design, as trade show trends shift with culture at large. Today, there are two big trends influencing the marketplace: 1. Consumers, especially millennials, are becoming more minimalist. 2. Simultaneously, consumers are shifting their spending away from goods and more towards experience-related services, says management consulting firm McKinsey.
Because trade show trends mirror what’s going on in the rest of the marketplace, the best event marketers are those who are totally tuned in to the buyer’s needs right now. To create effective trade show displays in 2019, you have to very closely understand what buyers want, what they expect and what will entice them to stop and take notice of your booth in a sea of competitors. Here are some of the ones we’ll be able to bank on this year.
It’s All About Immersion: Trade Show Experiences
The basic booth and table will no longer do. In today’s sales landscape, marketers need to stand out by creating displays that quite literally draw visitors in. The goal is to achieve effective narrative marketing by removing the consumer (not literally, of course) from the convention center and taking him or her on an exciting journey that elicits emotion. This can be done in many distinct ways, but some of the best are the ones listed below.
Artificial Reality—Companies in the tech space have been incorporating augmented and virtual reality components into their event displays for a couple of years now, but things are starting to really ramp up in this space. Experts are already predicting that AR will overtake booths at the world’s biggest tech trade show, CES 2019, with displays highlighting new AR products (especially non-wearable AR, like smart mirrors) and also helping to sell non-AR products using interactive, immersive demos and presentations. Experiential Design—Experiential design, though broad, vaguely refers to the art of creating spaces that provide some sort of experience. Often, this means taking a small corner of a convention center and transforming it into a totally different place entirely, like a store, a playground, an art gallery or a hotel room. For example, logistics giant FedEx recently showed up at the China International Import Expo with a giant airplane mock-up at the center of their display, while other big-name brands have developed full-blown store experiences at this year’s retail conventions. Multi-Sensory Experiences—In addition to the brightly colored backgrounds and banners that please the eyes, the coolest new displays have begun to incorporate elements that appeal to all other senses as well. Visitors will be able to jump into full-blown tactile, auditory and gastronomic experiences at this year’s trade shows, with big sounds, sights, smells and flavors to experience. Designers are also beginning to invite show-goers into exhibitor’s spaces to play and explore, with instruments, toys, seating areas and gadgets to try. Everything Brand-New—The 2019 Global Consumer Trends report published by the market research company Mintel gives us some fascinating new info on the latest consumer behaviors. The report showed that consumers are more adventurous than ever—they love to travel alone, experience new places and order foods they haven’t tried before. At trade shows and in other marketing sectors, we can expect to see an uptick in the new, fascinating, unusual and intriguing.
Appealing to the Consumer: Getting Crafty
To understand trade show trends, you have to understand what your audience wants. Most buyers at industry events are professionals with purchasing power (in fact, 81 percent of those who attend have some kind of buying authority), but they are also consumers who get giddy at the thought of fun, new experiences. You can bet that you’ll forge a positive brand image when you go for some of the ideas below. Shareable Elements—It doesn’t matter where they go, consumers look for “shareable” spaces and experiences that would contribute to nicely encapsulated social media posts. In 2019, we can expect to see many more booths creating special “photo ops” for show-goers to share to social media. This is great news for the marketer, as it offers more opportunity for building brand recognition and creating a positive presence across social. Special Guests and Performances—Take a look at some of the biggest conventions and trade shows for 2019 and you’ll see a lineup peppered with celebs. Last year, we saw big-name celebs like Tina Fey, Jamie Foxx and Spike Lee gracing the stages of big industry events, and this year’s no different. Look out for actors, musicians, change-makers and entrepreneurs beefing up the speaking agendas of the biggest conferences in tech, music and marketing. Everything Ethical—Again, trade show trends tend to mirror what’s going on in the greater consumer economy. Now more than ever, buyers care about patronizing eco-friendly, responsible and ethical businesses and will quickly alienate the ones who are less focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). We’ll certainly see more brands in 2019 highlighting their CSR efforts in the trade show market, including through more eco-friendly displays and demos. All Things Personal—The personalization train hasn’t slowed yet. In fact, it’s primed to pick up some speed this year. As you probably know, buyers are gravitating to more personalized products and experiences across all industries, and this should be applied to trade show marketing, too. We can expect to see the most success coming from booths that create a personal experience by offering one-on-one staffing and personal engagements.
Paying Attention to the Consumer Market
As you can see, the most important thing about trend-spotting in the trade show world is trend-spotting in the world. If you can identify some of the key drivers of the greater market, and you can implement them into your trade show display strategy, you’ll be well on your way to a hefty return on investment from your event marketing efforts.
Why do so many companies come up short with their tradeshow marketing plans? Often it’s in the execution. They have good plans, good people and a solid product or service to market. But their overall idea of how tradeshow marketing should be approached and executed isn’t strong enough.
With that, I sat down with Dianna Geairn and Alice Heiman of Tradeshow Makeover, a recently-formed company, to dig deep into how companies might want to consider approaching their overall tradeshow marketing program:
Dianna and Alice have graciously offered to share a couple of items that you, as a tradeshow marketing manager or small exhibiting company, may find helpful:
To most people I work with in the tradeshow industry, teamwork is the key to success. But many tradeshow marketing managers are saddled with the idea that if it’s going to get done, there’s only one person that can do it. The tradeshow manager.
Therefore, it becomes hard to delegate. Hard to give up control. They may not be a control freak, but they’re close enough to where it prevents the work of a good team from being as good as it could be.
You see this on sports teams. My sport, from when I was a kid, was basketball. When you are in control of the ball, a tendency for young players is to hold on to it until they good a good shot. Not all people, of course. There are always members on the team who don’t want the responsibility, so they pass the ball at the first opportunity. Often, the pass is the wrong move. It’s to the wrong person. It’s for the wrong reason. They might have even had an open shot but didn’t take it because they didn’t have confidence that they’d make it.
Great teamwork doesn’t happen overnight. But the longer you work with a team, the more you understand each team member’s strengths and weaknesses.
One person may be great at record-keeping. Another may be great at outreach to clients and customers. Another may have an easy time reaching members of the media to persuade them to feature the company in their publication. Yet another may have an intuitive sense of how to design graphics so that they attract the right people.
Every team is different. And teams are fluid. Even a team that’s been together for years can find things changing over time. And when new members arrive or when members leave, things get even more fluid.
But a good manager of the team recognizes how to best delegate tasks to different people for maximum results. A good manager of a team knows their own limitations and realizes that, no, they can’t really do it all.
They need a good team to do it all. And teams can always improve.
Is that a crazy question – are you motivated by fear or love when it comes to tradeshow marketing? After all, it’s just business, right? And setting up an exhibit at a tradeshow is just a basic business decision.
But no matter if it’s a personal or a business situation, both fear and love can come into play. Among both clients and among people I meet at tradeshows, love plays a part because, let’s face it, lots of people love tradeshows! They love the noise, chaos, meeting loads of people, selling, setting up a sharp-looking exhibit and so on. But they also fear things. Like not meeting deadlines, spending too much money, not getting a good ROI, being in a poor location, having lack of control over the outcome.
I got to thinking about all of this because TradeshowGuy Exhibits will be exhibiting at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference later this month in Portland with about another 100 exhibitors. It’s a modest regional show that draws mostly Oregon-based companies, but it does attract some out-of-state exhibitors. As most exhibitors, we’re putting money, time and energy on the line. And we don’t know if we’ll get out of it what we really want. Which is to generate more business and leads, and to get a good return on investment.
Which means I’m motivated by both love and fear. Love of this business and getting out and mixing it up with people face-to-face. Fear of having our expectations come up short due to things beyond our control.
What IS within our control are the many steps that we can take prior to the show to generate some traffic at our booth; the actual exhibit; and of course, how we interact with people. Just this week I sent out dozens of post cards to exhibitors inviting them to come by the booth to pick up a copy of one of my books. And once they do, we’ll engage them in a conversation to determine if they’re a potential client by going through the various questions a good exhibitor should do.
Regardless of your motivation – love or fear – the one thing you can control is your activity. Know what your plan is, know how to execute it, and most of all, if the plan isn’t working, be prepared to make adjustments.
NAB Show Cares is seen in the tradeshow industry as a groundbreaking program designed to assist exhibitors to have a better sense of exhibiting costs, and to keep those costs down. BJ Enright of Tradeshow Logic discusses the program, how it came about, its current status and what the future might hold.