After the tradeshow, you get back home, unpack the bags, get a good night’s sleep (hopefully), show up at the office and are faced with the next step: the follow up.
For some, it’s drudgery. For others, it’s bittersweet: the show was fun, now the work begins.
Depending on how well you executed at the tradeshow, the follow up will either be fairly simple and straightforward, or a hot mess.
Let’s try to avoid the hot mess, okay?
During the tradeshow, when you’re talking to visitors, identifying them as prospects or not, and collecting vital information, you’re really preparing for the follow up. Whether it’s something you’re doing yourself or handing off to a sales team, that information should be clean and precise. Which means that you’ve created a unique set of data for each prospect: name, company and contact info, and any particulars about the follow up. It might mean that all you’ve got is a date of a phone call, an in-person meeting or sending them an email with additional information. It might mean that they’ve committed to a purchase and you’re following up to seal the deal and deliver the goods.
Whatever your methods at the tradeshow, the follow up will be much easier, no matter who is doing it, as long as all the pertinent information is there. If it’s a potential customer, grade the lead: cool, warm, hot, so the sales team will know who to follow up with first.
It’s not rocket science, but so many companies fail on this step. Deals are left unsigned. Phone calls are not returned. Emails end up in the dormant file.
Figure out how to execute on the tradeshow follow up and you’ll be banking more business.
This guest article on tradeshow marketing trends is courtesy of Sam Holzman of ZoomInfo.
Despite our increasingly digital world, in-person events such as tradeshows and professional events continue to rise in popularity. And, for good reason: 31% of marketers believe that events are the single most effective marketing channel, over digital advertising, content marketing and email marketing (source).
Tradeshows provide the unique opportunity for face-to-face interaction and can help marketers forge long-lasting relationships with customers and prospects. But, like any marketing tactic, tradeshow marketing is constantly evolving. And, event marketers continue to find new ways to deliver fresh and unique tradeshow experiences.
To maximize your tradeshow potential, it’s important to keep up with modern event marketing trends. For this reason, today’s blog post looks at some of the top tradeshow marketing trends in 2018. Let’s get into it!
1. Artificial intelligence.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence have become more prevalent throughout all marketing tactic– including tradeshows. AI refers to technology that can rapidly process large amounts of data and subsequently “learn” and make adjustments based on this data. AI can aid your tradeshow efforts in more ways than one. Here are a few examples:
Lead collection: AI can capture important information from attendees as they arrive at your tradeshow booth. AI fueled technology can help you organize and score tradeshow leads instantly so you don’t have to play catch-up after the event.
Personalized interaction: AI can rapidly process and analyze information so you can tailor your conversations with attendees to fit their needs. With instant insights about an attendee’s industry, company size, and more, you’ll be able to have more personalized, targeted interactions.
Generate buzz: AI won’t just help increase your efficiency at tradeshow – it will also gain the attention of attendees. When attendees see new and exciting technology, they are more likely to stop by and check out what you have to offer.
2. Creative booth designs.
More and more marketers have grown tired of traditional booth designs, and for good reason. In a crowded event hall filled with competing companies, it’s difficult to stand out with your tradeshow display– especially if your booth is indistinguishable from those on either side of it.
Fortunately, plenty of businesses have begun to think outside the box and build unique tradeshow booths. “Un-booths” is a term that’s gaining steam in 2018, as it refers to tradeshow booths that feature unconventional and interesting designs. For example, some marketers craft their booth as more of a “hangout”, complete with comfortable seating for attendees.
Remember, your booth doesn’t have to be over the top or expensive to stand out. It just needs to be creative and different.
3. Mobile event apps.
In recent years, event-specific mobile apps have become commonplace at most tradeshows and conferences. In fact, last year 86% of event planners said they would create a mobile app for their event (source)– and we only expect that number to rise.
A mobile app can dramatically improve attendee experience by providing an event guide, allowing them to schedule meetings, and offering polls and surveys to get their feedback in real-time.
If you’re still relying on business card collection and physical handouts to connect with potential buyers—you’re living in the past. Research the different mobile applications that can help you be more efficient and organized at each of your tradeshows.
4. Virtual reality.
It’s no secret that virtual reality is one of the fastest-growing trends in marketing. Virtual reality provides an immersive, multi-sensory experience through which attendees can observe your products or presentations. VR can combine visuals, sound and other elements to captivate your booth visitors and take them out of the event and into the world of your products and services.
While VR may seem like a complex technology, it has become more accessible over recent years and will continue to be a staple at tradeshows in 2018 and beyond.
5. Social media engagement.
In the past, marketers used social media to post updates about their booths for their followers who aren’t in attendance. Now, there are a ton of creative ways you can leverage social media engagement to improve the experience for both attendees and your audience at home.
One example is branded Snapchat filters, which attendees can use to take fun photographs and share them on their own accounts. And, live video streaming on Facebook and Instagram can bring followers to your event even if they are unable to attend in person.
6. Cohesive campaign themes.
Your tradeshow booth is an extension of your brand – so it’s important to tie the theme of your booth to your overall marketing strategy. More companies are creating unique themes that align with their other marketing campaigns. When you offer one cohesive message to your attendees across all channels – including tradeshows – you will strengthen your brand and offer a more cohesive experience both at the event and in your other marketing initiatives.
And there you have it, six of the biggest tradeshow marketing trends in 2018. If you have already implemented some of these strategies, you’ve likely seen firsthand how effective they can be at improving your tradeshow performance. If not, we hope this list has provided you with some ideas to take your next tradeshow to the next level!
About the Author: Sam Holzman is the Content Marketing Specialist at ZoomInfo where he writes for their B2B blog. ZoomInfo is a leading business information database that helps organizations accelerate growth and profitability. Sam regularly covers topics related to sales, marketing, and recruiting, and likes to write about sports and travel in his free time.
No guest on this week’s vlog/podcast – but a look into some of my best bosses, and a deeper look, thanks to Kevin Daum at Inc.com, on what it takes to be a really great boss. Maybe even an amazing boss!
Since we made the decision to exhibit at a regional cannabis show in January, the PortlandCannabis Collaborative Conference at the Portland Expo Center, we’ve been tossing around a lot of ideas on how to approach it. Thought it might be fun to share some notes about what is crossing our minds regarding the show.
First, the Cannabis Collaborative Conference is a relatively small gathering. Around 125 – 130 exhibitors will set up shop for a few days, January 22 – 24, 2019. There will be two days of conferences, breakfasts, lunches and networking. And of course, exhibiting! In discussions with Mary Lou Burton, the organizer, it was apparent that a number of companies that are not directly involved in the cannabis industry exhibit at the show. There are companies involved in banking, insurance, legal, energy reduction, marketing and more. Given that the show is pretty popular, and the industry is growing, we felt it was a good fit to invest in exhibiting at the show as a potential supporting marketing partner of companies in the cannabis industry that do tradeshows.
Now that the decision has been made, what to do?
As any tradeshow planner knows, it all revolves around budget. From booth space, to travel, from the exhibit itself to giveaways and more, budgets must be decided upon and hopefully adhered to.
At first blush, our budget for the show will be modest. Here are some thoughts on what we might do for our 10×10 space – #420. Yes, we’re in #420.
Exhibit: Lots of things to consider. After all, we have access to a lot of styles of exhibits, from pop-up graphic back walls that set up in seconds, to aluminum extrusion framed light boxes, to typical 10×10 exhibits (rental and purchase) to banner stands and more. The first thing that comes to mind is to do a big back drop (maybe even a light box with fabric graphic) with a large striking image, company name, maybe a few bullet points. I’ll work with a professional designer for this – I ain’t a designer.
Giveaways: of course, I have a couple of books that I’ll either giveaway or sell on the cheap. The organizers have said I can sell the books at my booth (some shows direct sales are not allowed, so I checked). We might also come up with some branded swag. If we can find an item that really makes sense for the show that is a good giveaway, we may do that.
PreShow Marketing: the organizers gave me a list of some 2500 people that attended the last show. While it might be helpful to reach out to them via email, our interest is more in the exhibitors – they’re our target market. We might do a couple of email blasts to the group to let them know we’re there and what we do. Email is cheap. Direct mail is probably not a great option, mainly due to the cost. But, even if the attendees aren’t exhibitors, many of them are retail shop owners and are potential customers for other items we can supply. Since I’m active on social media – and especially with the booth number 420 – you can expect that we’ll have a lot of fun both before and during the show promoting both the show and our booth space.
During the show: one thought is to make the rounds at the other exhibits at the very outset of the show opening and invite them to come to booth 420 to pick up a free copy of my book while they last. Once they’re there, we’d be ready to capture their information for follow up. And I think it’s always a good idea to have some sort of thing to do – some interactive element – which bears more thought.
At this writing the show is still 182 days away – half a year. And most of these thoughts and notes on what we’ll do is just that – incomplete ideas. Still, I always tell clients that when a show is a half a year away, THAT is the time to be slowly creating the ideas, talking with team members and getting the juices flowing so that as time goes by they will coalesce and become more concrete until they become a plan that can be executed.
Stay tuned! And if you’re planning to be in Portland in mid-January of next year, put this show on your calendar and come see us!
How does business credit work compared to personal credit? In this fun and informative podcast, I sit down with credit expert Gerri Detweiler, Education Director for Nav, which provides business owners with simple tools to build strong business credit and financially healthy companies. Check it out:
What can you do to make your small company look bigger than it really is? And why would you want to do that? Perhaps you like the idea of being a small company, positioning yourself as a boutique company that specializes in working with a very specific type of client. A client that can afford to pay a little more for the personal service that you, as a small company, can provide.
Can They Find You?
Perhaps maybe the question isn’t that you should look bigger, but to make sure that the right companies are able to find you. It used to be that a prospective client would start to judge you on the size of your brick-and-mortar store. Then they’d gauge your ability to handle their needs. Sometimes a small neighborhood hardware store with personal service will serve a customer better than a big box store.
Back to the original question: how can you look bigger than you really are? And a secondary question: how do you attract the right customers?
Perception is everything, especially in a first interaction or first notice of a potential customer. What are they looking for and what do they find? I’m guessing that 98% of your potential client’s first interactions will be online, even they’ve gotten a referral. They’ll plug a search term in and click GO. They’ll look through the first 5 or 6 results, click one and spend a few seconds eyeing your website, if you were lucky enough to show up in the top half-dozen search results. If they have a name of your company, they’ll search directly for you.
One way to appear bigger – to show that you have a larger reach than companies bigger than you – is to blog. Consistently. Hundreds of people come on the TradeshowGuy Blog every month through random searches. The most popular are the ones that might surprise you. For instance, one of the most-viewed pages so far this year has to do with how a SWOT Analysis applies to tradeshows. Yeah, really. And over half of the companies that find that blog post are not from the USA. Another interesting factoid.
With over 700 posts in the past 9+ years, the search engines have archived them all, so random tradeshow-related searches will find them.
There are that many posts because years ago I made a commitment to post regularly and write about as many tradeshow-related topics as I could think of. The goal was to just do it (because I like writing and publishing) and see what benefits might accrue.
What about the page views of the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee vlog/podcast? While individual podcast posts aren’t in the top ten most pages, the category search of podcasts is in the top five most-viewed. Which tells me that while a specific podcast might not get a lot of views, people are searching the category to see what’s been posted recently. That tells me the podcast is gaining a little traction. Which also tells me that the time investment is worth it. Not only that, but each interview helps build relationships with those people, most (but not all) of which are in the tradeshow industry.
Someone asked me once if blogging, podcasting, publishing a weekly newsletter, posting videos on YouTube channel and spending time on social media actually gets me business. In other words, they’re asking if they should make the time and energy commitment to see if it gets them business? There is not a simply answer to that question. Let’s look at where business comes from. In 2016, 2/3 of our business at TradeshowGuy Exhibits came from people that found us online. In 2017, it was less than ten percent. In 2018, there’s not much to show on the bottom line (yet) as a direct consequence of people finding the blog and then contacting us to make a purchase or to inquire about a project. But when I do communication with people, either through cold calling, prospecting with people I know, or via email, when I bring up the blog or send a link to a pertinent blog post, the feedback is always positive. Especially when they see the depth of article on the blog with the number and types of posts (video, audio, photographic, lists, etc.).
Speaking of video, I’ve had a YouTube channel for almost a decade. In the beginning I had no idea what I was doing other than creating a few how-to videos and tradeshow advice and posting them. It wasn’t regular and not many of them were viewed more than a few dozen times. Although the first ever post has over a thousand view. In a sense, that’s still the case, although I do create a video version of my podcast and post it there as another way to get the content out there.
And that’s what all of that is about: creating content. Always. It’s not easy, but having done it for years, it’s not that hard, either. I just make time to do it.
Does the blog make TradeshowGuy Exhibits look bigger? In a sense, yes. So does the weekly podcast/vlog and the newsletter. It puts more and more materials out there online where searchers can find us.
Exhibit Design Search
Frankly, so does the Exhibit Design Search, which is a branded search tool that looks just like it’s part of our lineup of websites. EDS is the work of our main design and fabrication partner, Classic Exhibits, and we use it all the time. When we send some ideas from EDS to potential clients the reaction is often “Wow! I had no idea you could do all of that!” Aligning yourself with a company that offers such a great tool definitely makes us look bigger.
I’d add that using solid sales techniques, creating and executing a plan is part of the process of making TradeshowGuy Exhibits look or feel bigger than it might really be. I spent a year with Sandler Sales Training and picked up a ton of great ideas and techniques along with good strategy and a much better understanding of how buyers operate. Knowing how to approach people in a non-threatening way with an eye to understanding their needs has been valuable to the success we’ve had.
We also have a handful of other URLs that are used for various purposes. For example, TradeshowSuccessBook.com is a landing page that offers a free digital download of my first book in exchange for subscribing to my newsletter. TradeshowSuperheroes.com is a book-specific page solely for the purpose of promoting and sharing info on my second book. TradeshowExhibitBuyersKit.com is a landing page to promote a package of tools we put together aimed at potential exhibit buyers (as you might imagine!). And TradeshowGuyWebinars.com is a collection of webinars we’ve put on at TradeshowGuy Exhibits.
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you are probably aware that I’ve been active on social media from the very beginning. That happened because I like to play with new toys, and social media seemed like something fun to play with. I’ve bounced back and forth from Twitter to Pinterest, from YouTube to LinkedIn, to Instagram and Facebook and back. It’s a great to engage with people, share opinions, point to blog posts and podcasts, and to see what other people are up to. I’d rank the usefulness and effectiveness by putting Twitter on top, followed by YouTube, then LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. But that’s subject to change!
Making the Clients Look Good
Finally, what’s important to me is that when we deal with clients and prospects, we want them to know a couple of things: when you work with TradeshowGuy, you’re almost always working directly with the head of the company. And secondly, we want you to know that our success is tied directly to yours. If we make a company’s tradeshow manager look good to their boss by doing a great job, by providing an excellent service, by designing and fabricating an exhibit that gets extremely positive feedback, we’ve done our job. If we make you look good, we feel good. By standing tall when it comes to delivering great products and service, no matter our size, we look gigantic to our clients. It’s as simple as that.
When it comes to judging the time, effort and money involved in big tradeshow projects vs. small tradeshow projects, it may come as no surprise that small projects are often more involving than big projects.
Let’s take a look: let’s say a big project is either an island exhibit such as 20×30, or a longer inline exhibit such as a 10×30. A client has decided to move ahead with something that, to them at least, is large. If not large, then a very significant project and investment. The steps involved, once the decision to move forward, typically cover these areas:
Create and finalize the design
Create and finalize the graphics
Fabrication and walk-through of the exhibit
Crate and ship
Coordinate I&D (Installation and Dismantle)
Show off the new exhibit!
These are all certainly important and can be somewhat time-consuming. But from my experience, companies doing larger exhibits are often quite experienced at this process. They know the steps and know what to anticipate and when. There are questions that come up along the way, but they know what they want. They have a solid idea for the design, or if not, know what functional aspects of their new exhibit are critical to a successful show. There is a certain amount of nitpicking along the way, as there should be, to get everything right. But most questions are answered quickly, and the process moves on.
In smaller projects such as a 10×10, or a handful of banner stands, or graphic back walls, or even renting an exhibit, you’d the process would be quicker, easier. In many cases, yes. But not always. Sometimes the client is focused more on the budget because they are working with fewer dollars, and the amount of examining each step in minute detail becomes all-important. Or there may be someone involved that isn’t as experienced that has been tasked with the project. Which means that more questions often come up. Nothing wrong with that – it’s a good opportunity for a learning experience.
So which is more work – a big tradeshow project or a small tradeshow project? There’s no straightforward answer. Some big projects are much more work (for both the exhibit house and the client) than a small project. And some small projects eat up a lot of time and energy that is surprising for something that is so small. While big projects are, frankly, preferred, simply because one big project can be worth five or ten small projects, the small ones are very worthwhile, even the ones that consume more than their fair share of time and energy. Small projects handled with care and attention to detail shows the client that you care about them, not just the money. And these are often the clients that end up staying with you for the bigger projects that come up as their company grows. But from our perspective, small projects are worth it because it’s the glue that holds everything together. It shows you why you’re in business. It communicates to the customer that they’re not just a number – they’re a real, living, breathing company with real humans that want – and need – assistance in a world they’re struggling a bit with.
Another Monday, another TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee! This time, I sit down with Entrepreneur and Profitability Consultant Thor Conklin. We discuss a number of things, including micro-commitments, execution killers and how he move forward after losing a third of his team on 9/11. Thor also hosts the Peak Performers Podcast.
If there’s one business lesson I’ve taken to heart in the past forty years, it’s this: do the work. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to find shortcuts along the way, during my 26 years in radio and my subsequent 16 years in the tradeshow industry. Shortcuts are attractive. They dangle an easy solution to you. One that makes you believe that there is an easy solution to a complex, challenging problem.
But shortcuts rarely work. Sure, there are many ways to cut time off of tasks. Many ways to revise and improve a system so that you can get more done. But shortcuts? I have yet to see a good shortcut that really accomplishes something effective.
Last week I saw a post on Instagram from an acquaintance that is building a guitar. I got to thinking about what it takes to build a guitar, so I headed over to YouTube and watched a couple of videos on guitar-building. Not that I’d ever really build a guitar – that would be cool, though, and who knows, I might! – but I was curious about the process.
The point is: there are no short cuts to building a good guitar from scratch. You have to not only know what you’re doing, but you have to be pretty good at the steps. A beginner could look over the shoulder of a pro and follow the steps to a T, but the guitar probably wouldn’t be as good as the pro’s. As Seth Godin observed in a recent podcast, don’t worry about the end result. Instead, focus on the craft of being able to do the work – do the steps. Learn to be a good carpenter. Learn what it takes to measure and cut wood. Learn how to shape wood. How to paint. How to install electronics.
It’s the same in any endeavor. One of my main focuses in my daily business life is sales and marketing. From the time I started in this industry in 2002, I was tasked with bringing in more business, which is typically a combination of sales and marketing. I tried so many different things over the years: emailing, direct mail, advertising, cold calling, going to shows, you name it. There is no short cut. There is no Magic Button to create new clients, to make more sales. In time I resigned myself to the tasks needed to bring in more sales and concentrated on them. During a year of sales training with Sandler, I learned to not worry about the outcomes, to not worry about the results. Learn the steps, learn the techniques, and the results will take care of themselves. In other words, learn to do the work. Better yet, learn how to correctly do the work. If you do the work incorrectly, you’re still doing the work, but your results will not be what they will be if you do it correctly.
I’m a big believer in lifelong learning, so I always keep my radar up for better ways of doing things. Also – and this comes from experience – my BS detector has gotten better over the years. I used to follow every shiny object (looking for another shortcut!), but now it’s pretty easy to know what’s BS and what is good, solid information worth paying attention to.