Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, October 7, 2019: Francis Friedman

The digital world has enveloped tradeshows as much as it has any other part of the marketing world. And who better to discuss that than author and marketing expert Francis Friedman, who gets into his recent book, The Modern Digital Tradeshow. Check out the show here:

Download a free copy of the Modern Digital Tradeshow here.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: Soundcloud.

Choosing the Best Furniture For Your Exhibit

This is a guest article by Ryan Farquharson – Co-founder & CEO of Expocart.

Planning an exhibition involves analyzing many factors at play which is challenging for exhibitors. Choosing the best furniture for your exhibition becomes stressful when you have to consider the theme of your stand, how to express your brand and your staff’s needs. Fortunately, at Expocart, we assist exhibitors in choosing the best furniture for their exhibitions without any struggle. Based on our many years of experience in the exhibition sector and outdoor exhibits, we have developed modern furniture designs for outdoor displays that increase your brand exposure and market your stand. Below are the top tips that you should consider when choosing furniture for your outdoor displays.

Consider Sensible Seating

Whether you will be using exhibit booths, pop out banners, or outdoor banner stands, exhibition is a hard work for your staff and team members coordinating the exhibition. Ensuring that your outdoor display includes ample seating for your team becomes essential. Seating spaces in outdoor displays can be used for tea breaks or turn-taking during the day. We recommend selecting couches that strike a balance between beauty and comfort. Do not prioritize function over form. Select couches that can be reconfigured after tea break for potential customers to lounge on while chatting to your team.

Stand Out of the Crowd Impeccably

The furniture you choose should reflect your brand perfectly from competitor displays. Select the best furniture that creates a strong impression to attract potential buyers in your stand. The furniture should be modern, trendy, and unique. All other accessories should be inviting, practical, easily accessible, and in pristine condition. The quality of the furniture you choose goes a long way to tell your potential customers and passers-by about your brand. Having furniture that will make your display look like it was set up on a shoestring budget is an early fail for your exhibition. In this case, there are cost-effective furniture that reflect your brands and can be customized to command attention even from your competitors. Budget for a few high-cost items to compliment your look and add glamour to your display stand.

Let Your Display Communicate a Theme

You should have a different theme for every exhibition event you attend. Displaying a specific theme makes your stand memorable even after the show is over. Whether your theme is classic, antique, natural, retro, or futuristic theme, choose furniture that compliments it perfectly. Select the furniture with the perfect color, finishing, branding, and decor that cohesively connects your theme to the potential buyers. Consider a uniform theme throughout the display stand to command attention.

Choose Furniture with Storage Spaces

Expocart understands that many exhibition venues lack practical storage spaces or units. Through our experience, it makes sense to seek furniture that has reasonable storage spaces. That not only facilitates smooth exhibitions activities, but also provide an ingeniously designed workable storage solutions. Items like brochures, stationery, gift bags, and extra stock should be stored discreetly and easily accessible when needed. Furniture should have storage spaces to ensure the exhibitor is not liable for any injuries and damages that could occur. Also, good quality furniture also protect your brand image by ensuring potential buyers are not agitated by any unsightly clutter in your stand. Lastly, the furniture should provide security for your valuables, like mobile phones and electronics.

Choose the Right Type of Displays

Choosing the right type of display depends on two factors; method of display desired, and whether you want visitors inside or outside your stand. Choose furniture that allows or blocks easy access to your tent. If you are selling from your exhibit booth, block passer-by’s access to your products by arranging your display tables around the outer edge. This allows you to move freely within your stand as you showcase your products. The furniture you choose should facilitate the desired display methods; light or intensive.

If you want to attract potential buyers inside your exhibit booth, consider using movable furniture or one that minimizes on space to host as many visitors as you can. Use furniture that makes visitors comfortable in your booth and creates a quick rapport for them to engage with your team and products. Ensure the height of the furniture keeps your products within the visitor’s reach without forcing them to crouch or stretch.

Lastly, choose the correct number of furniture for your outdoor display. Less is more! That’s our slogan. Having too much furniture will make your stand look cramped and uninviting, relaying a feeling of sensory overload.


Ryan is the Co-founder and CEO at ExpoCart which is the one-stop shop marketplace for products and services for exhibitions and events. Through our intuitive platform, we make it easy for companies to hire and purchase everything they need for their exhibitions in just a few simple clicks for venues across the UK. With hundreds of products available, we aggregate products from a network of the UK’s leading event and exhibition suppliers.

I Was a Tradeshow Marketing Skeptic

I first got into the tradeshow industry as a fluke. I’d spent over 25 years behind a radio microphone, barely aware that such a thing as tradeshows existed. Sure, I went to local home and garden shows now and then, or the state fair where vendors put up cluttered 10’ booths to hawk their goods. But the idea of a large tradeshow industry with thousands of regional and national shows drawing tens of thousands of visitors was foreign to me.

I was between jobs, as they say, when I got hired as VP of Sales and Marketing. “You have good people skills; we can teach you the rest.” It was a small company. When it came to the idea of spending a large amount of money to set up a custom tradeshow exhibit to promote your business, well, I didn’t get it. Could it work? Sure. Would it? I was doubtful.

First Client: Kettle Foods

The original Kettle Foods 20×20

But I forged ahead. My first client happened to be a local company where I had a connection: Kettle Foods. We designed and built a 20×20 custom exhibit that they used for several years at Natural Products Expo West. They gave away a ton of potato chip samples, got great responses and told me that the new exhibit went over extremely well.

Kettle Foods lead to a referral to Nancy’s Yogurt, which lead to several other clients over the next few years. But I was still unsure of how effective the whole idea was. And while I was getting good responses from clients, to me it appeared only anecdotal. When I looked closer, I was seeing exhibitors meeting partners and clients, giving away samples, launching new products and feeling pretty good about it. But were they really getting good results?

Bob’s Red Mill

The original Bob’s Red Mill 20×20

Then came Bob’s Red Mill. When I first met their marketing team, they had a smaller in-line exhibit that was mainly an off-the-shelf modular exhibit with fabric walls. Typical of the time, around 2005. We designed a custom 20×20 exhibit that they liked, and they were off and running. Shortly after that, I saw Bob Moore, the iconic Bob of Bob’s Red Mill, quoted in a Business Journal article saying that without tradeshow marketing they could not reach certain markets. By regularly exhibiting at tradeshows and meeting new distributors and partners, they were able to expand their markets, which helped grow their company beyond just the northwest part of the country.

When My Eyes Opened

That’s when I finally got it. Tradeshow marketing was helping our clients reach markets they could not otherwise reach. By investing in tradeshow marketing and setting up a nice functional and attractive exhibit that fit their brand at a national show, companies were expanding their markets and selling well beyond their original footprint. Which is why the conversation with clients and potential clients often looks at that angle.

Several clients have also told me that the very fact of having a larger and more effective custom exhibit that fits their brand is bringing them a two-to-four-times increase in their leads at each show. Two to four times! They’re telling me it’s just because of the new exhibit, but I suspect that the act of getting a new exhibit tends to focus the rest of the effort and the marketing team. They instinctively know that investing in a new exhibit property means putting a lot on the line, and the additional effort and focus on making that investment worthwhile adds to the overall success. The new exhibit is key, but the sense of urgency and commitment pushes the team to greater heights.

Why Companies Fail, and Why They Succeed

There are so many moving parts in tradeshow marketing, it’s easy to let a few of the critical pieces fall from your clutch. That’s one of the reasons I wrote two books about tradeshow marketing: to help exhibitors better understand the tasks at hand. I’ve spoken with many exhibitors who have essentially given up. They’ve spent a ton of money and have nothing to show for it. I can see why they’re skeptical of the process and the outcome.

Tradeshow marketing should be a part of an overall integrated marketing plan. They need good products or services, good branding, good customer service and everything else that communicates a positive message to their market. But I’ve seen evidence that many more exhibitors are doing the right things (or enough of the right things while still making mistakes) to make it worthwhile. Done right, a tradeshow is still the best place to reach a focused group of decision makers and influencers from companies that are in a position to make a buying decision. And done right, using digital assets such as videos and photographs after the show can “keep the show alive” long after the hall has closed.

My skepticism is gone because my understanding of the process has increased, and my experience at working with exhibitors has changed me enough to believe that tradeshow marketing can be an extremely effective way to reach markets that you would not otherwise be able to reach.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, September 30, 2019: Avoidance

Do you avoid things that you shouldn’t? Do you prefer to pretend that something coming up isn’t really important when it is? Avoidance is a challenge all of us face at some point. This week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee looks at avoidance.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING is the BBC Radio 2 Beatles program archive. They have been doing a lot of programs related to the Beatles over the week of the 50th anniversary of the release of Abbey Road. Check out the archive but don’t wait too long – these programs will only be up for 30 days.

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Are you one of those people that gets caught up in bright, new shiny objects? It’s easy to do. We’re all easily distracted.

When it comes to tradeshow success, are you guilty of doing the same? Getting caught up in bright and shiny objects instead of focusing on the prize?

Are you overdoing it with technology, for instance? Yes, technology has a place in tradeshows, more today than ever. At this year’s NAB Show, for example, the video walls were overwhelming. But was it worth it? Not up to me to make that judgment. For some, it might have been the best thing they could have done. For others, it might have been overkill.

Technology also shows up in the use of Virtual Reality in tradeshow booths, although I don’t see an overwhelming presence on the show floor. And the few times I’ve personally experienced VR in a booth, it left me underwhelmed. Does that mean you shouldn’t yes VR? No, what it means is that if you decide to invest in the equipment and a VR experience, make it the best you can. Show your stuff. Tell a great story. Knock people out.

What about swag and other giveaways? Yes, giveaways have their time and place, and I have worked with some astute and insightful promotional products companies. But when I get emails from promotional product companies showing off all of their new swag, I can’t help but think “what’s the point?” Many of the new items don’t seem to be a fit for tradeshows or other branded giveaway opportunities. That’s not to say that you should stick with imprinted pens, printed pads and letter openers. Find the middle ground. Make a judgment about what works best and go with that.

And do you really need the newest, brightest, best tradeshow exhibit that money can buy? Probably not. If you decide to do that, great! All of us tradeshow salespeople and fabricators will applaud! But it’s probably not necessary. A good basic tradeshow exhibit that is built for your specific needs – nothing more, nothing less – means you’re saving money for other ancillary marketing efforts, like pre-show mailers, post-show follow-up, social media engagement and more.

The glitter that catches your eyes could be the best thing, the right thing for you. But before you commit the dollars, ask yourself if it’s going to effectively communicate a message, show off your products, reach the right people and bring in results. Once you’ve determined that, you’re on the right track.


Are You Doing These Things at Your Tradeshow?

Tradeshows are crazy, chaotic and have more moving parts than a Rube Goldberg machine. What, you’re too young to remember Rube Goldberg? Not to worry, I’ll make this as easy as possible.

Basically, there are a lot of moving parts just keeping the machine going. Shipping the exhibit, booking travel, getting the exhibit set up and dismantled, making graphic and other exhibit changes prior to the show. Pre-show marketing. Lead generation. Post-show follow-up. And on and on.

But when you think about it, a tradeshow is a great opportunity to do other things. After all, you have a very specific audience: a focused group of decision makers and influencers that are likely interested in what you’re pitching. Take advantage of that opportunity.

Test things. Do a survey.

How?

Lots of different ways. Let’s start with an easy way: do a survey. What one or two pieces of information would you like to uncover regarding your product? What are the biggest challenges your prospects face regularly?

You can do a survey in a few different ways. First, you can simply create a three or four question survey relating to the situation you’re addressing. Print them up and have one of your staffers simply engage with visitors and ask them to participate. Make it easy by telling them it’ll only take a moment or two. Make it worth their while by offering a bit of swag.

You can also set up a digital survey using an online portal such as Survey Monkey, assuming you have internet access. Make it easily accessible on an iPad or Surface tablet and either let them fill out the form or have one of your staffers just ask the questions and then input the answers.

Demonstrate Something.

Do a hands-on demo. Depending on your product or service, this may be easy, or it may be a challenge. I’ve seen great (and not-so-great) VR experiences at tradeshows. Another tool is a touchscreen video where the visitor chooses from a number of selections to see a video, view a sell sheet, learn how something is made, and so on. While hands-on demos do sound great, in a chaotic tradeshow, visitors often need a little urging and frankly, handholding. But if you can politely engage them, many are willing to give a few moments (ask them if they would like to charge their phone for a few minutes, for example). At this time you can relax and plan on taking a few minutes to have them go through a demo, answer a survey, watch a brief video or something else.

Invite them to do more

Another thing to have them do is ask them if they want to sign up for your newsletter.

Or follow you on social media.

And speaking of social media, that’s another good opportunity. If your booth is large enough, dedicate a small section of it to Instagramming. Invite people to snap a photo of themselves (or you offer to do it). Make it worth their while by offering a product sample, swag, or a chance to win something if they post using your company or show hashtag.

Grab some metrics

Count the visitors. I’m guessing that most companies don’t do this. They may have anecdotal evidence that day one had more visitors then day two or three. But they couldn’t tell you if this year was significantly better or only slightly busier. Or if the show was busier but your booth was not. But if you can dedicate someone to count the visitors as best as possible (have a handful of people trade off – and write it down at the end of each shift), even if the numbers are not 100% accurate, they’re better than just trying to guesstimate.

Tradeshows are a great place to pitch your wares, launch products and talk to buyers face to face. But they’re also a ripe opportunity to do a little market research, make stronger connections and test your suppositions.

Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, September 23, 2019: Laura Allen

Laura Allen is known as The Pitch Girl, and she teaches clients how to distill the essence of their business into a few concise sentences and confidently present that to potential clients. Laura was a fun interview on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:

Check out Laura at The Pitch Girl.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: the new Lisbeth Salander novel, The Girl Who Lived Twice.

ExhibitDay Launches Free Tradeshow Exhibit Management Tool

One of the big challenges for exhibitors is keeping track of everything: records, travel, budgets, exhibit pieces and more. Now there’s a new tool that looks to address many if not all of those issues.

ExhibitDay launches this week with three models: lite, professional and premium. Lite is free; the others are available on a monthly fee basis depending on the optimum number of users you would want to have access to the tool.

According to the press release, “ExhibitDay has been in Beta since January, 2019. During the Beta period, ExhibitDay worked closely with nearly 1,000 Beta testers across a diverse group of event teams consisting of Trade Show Coordinators, Event Managers, and Exhibitors in order to develop and test its service.”

The release details the various tools:

  1. Tracking and management of information about trade shows and exhibits.
  2. Tracking event attendees and their travel reservations.
  3. Management of booth reservations, booth services, and shipments.
  4. Tracking of event sponsorships, costs, and expenses.
  5. Event team collaboration via tasks and to-do lists.
  6. Coordination of event team schedules before, during, and after each trade show.
  7. Synchronization of events, tasks, and schedules with third-party calendaring apps such as Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, and Outlook.
  8. Event-specific and annual budgeting, fund allocation, ROI measurement, and engagement analytics.
  9. Customizations to the fields and data points tracked for each event.
  10. Granular access-control and robust user management tools.

Take a look at ExhibitDay here. And if you choose to use it, use the discount code TRADESHOWGUY and save a few bucks!


Moving Out of Your Tradeshow Exhibiting Comfort Zone

It’s comforting to stay in your comfort zone. We all know that. No matter what the circumstances. That’s why it’s your comfort zone! If you are more comfortable being a wallflower at social gatherings, it’s difficult to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. If your exercise routine is a daily mile walk, it’s a big step to train for a marathon.

If you’re comfortable in your exhibiting approach to set up a couple of banner stands, and put a branded table throw over the show-provided table, it’s asking a lot to move to a custom exhibit. But many – most – of the clients I work with are doing just that.

For example, a few years ago when I met the great people at Schmidt’s Naturals, they sent me a photo of their current setup, which was a basic back wall and some banner stands. Nothing wrong with it. But they were a growing company and wanted a better look.

Schmidt’s Naturals before doing a custom booth

But doing more meant moving out of their comfort zone. And there are three specific ways in which they were moving out of their comfort zone.

One – the budget goes up. A great-looking custom exhibit will cost more. It’s an investment. That investment comes from a belief that it’s a worthwhile investment, that it will pay off with greater exposure. It’ll pay off with a better-defined brand. It’ll pay off with the ability to take that brand to a wider market and open up markets that were previously difficult to reach.

Two – a custom exhibit won’t ship as airplane luggage or via a UPS package. Nope, odds are that it will fit into a custom-jigged carpeted crate, which ships via a trucking company. And that will take logistic coordination that the company may not have much experience.

Schmidt’s moving up to a 10×20 in 2017

Three – having that custom exhibit usually means hiring a labor management company to setup and dismantle the exhibit. Frankly, the first year with Schmidt’s I joined in and four or five of us set up the 10×20 exhibit on our own. It took between three and four hours. We all learned how to do it, which would have made the next time around a little easier. But they decided to have the pros do it the next time around. So that meant hiring an I&D (installation and dismantle) crew to do the honors. Since we were working with Eagle Management at the time (and still are), we added the Schmidt’s Naturals exhibit to the list.

After a couple of shows, the “new” comfort zone is different from the “old” comfort zone. Many companies decide to take the logistic coordination in-house, others, like Schmidt’s and many of our other clients, have us handle the coordination. No wrong answers – each company does what’s best for their situation and desires.

Schmidt’s Naturals as a 10×40 in 2019 at Expo West

Moving out of a comfort zone is something I’ve seen in almost all of the clients I’ve worked with in the past several years, from Kettle Foods, Nancy’s Yogurt and Bob’s Red Mill 15+ years ago, to Wildbrine, Organixx, Hop Tea, Meduri Farms, Wedderspoon and others in the more recent past. They were all moving up from a smaller, easier to handle exhibit to one that needed more logistic management and was a bigger investment in their marketing. But the end result for all of them was increased presence and positive feedback, and for many of them a significant increase in leads generated.

Every exhibiting company will someday need to come to terms with the prospect of moving through their comfort zone, and having someone to help that process is invaluable.


tradeshow exhibit design search

Tradeshow Exhibit Specials and Lightning Deals

Looking to save money on a tradeshow exhibit? Of course you are! And chances are, throughout the course of the next year, you’ll have a want or need for something that shows up on our regularly updated pages on our Exhibit Design Search. Whether it’s an Exhibit Special or a Lightning Deal, it might be just what you’re looking for.

These are no “close-out” specials that are collecting dust in the warehouse. Nope, these are regular items – either custom or “off the shelf” – that typically sell for full retail price. But on occasion, we grab some of the items and put them into one or of the categories and drop the price.

For example, you might see a custom hybrid 10×20 exhibit that sells for around $30,000. But if it lands in the Lightning Deal, the price might drop ten percent to around $27,000. A $3,000 savings to your bottom line, just like that. Lightning Deals generally last a couple of weeks, so if you see something that is a great fit, grab it fast!

The Exhibit Specials, on the other hand, are more general savings that span a category, such as a specific style (Gravitee or Segue), or a type (light boxes or EcoSmart inlines). On occasion there might be discounts on discontinued models as well.

Saying all of this, it behooves you to visit these categories and return. That means returning to the Lightning Deals every couple of weeks, and visiting the Exhibit Specials every month or so. Even if you’re not currently looking for a new exhibit, you might find great deals on accessories such as lights, counters, shipping cases and so on.

Here’s where to find ’em:

Exhibit Specials

Lightning Deals


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