Preparing for a tradeshow takes time and effort, which you may already know if you’ve participated in a tradeshow in the past. That being said, it helps to have a checklist on hand to make sure you get everything just right before the big day.
Below we’ve outlined the ultimate tradeshow booth checklist for you to use before your next show to boost your efficiency and marketing ROI.
Research the exhibitor space and show beforehand.
Do you know where your booth is located at the event? If you have the opportunity to pick your spot, think about selecting an area near the entrance where you can meet and greet people as soon as they walk in. Once you have your booth location nailed down, don’t forget to promote it. Advertising your presence at the event can drive more foot traffic.
Plan out your booth ahead of time.
You and your team should have a good idea of what type of graphics you will be using and how the space will be set up before the event. Will you have a custom exhibit or table top with a table cover? Will you have a booth backdrop? What about signage? These are all factors you’ll want to consider beforehand.
In addition, don’t forget about your marketing collateral. Your marketing team should have informational materials to give out to those who come by your booth and want to learn more about your products and services. After deciding on the right pieces, feature pamphlets prominently in literature stands or on tabletops so potential customers can easily grab them.
Engage in pre-show promotion.
Emails, social media, and direct mail are all ways you can drive traffic to your booth when the big day comes. Think about creating a marketing campaign centered around the trade show to raise awareness of your presence at the event before it officially kicks off. You can also often promote your presence with the organizers of the show itself whether that be via email or an advertisement in the conference agenda.
Come up with a plan to drive traffic to your booth.
Think about creating a giveaway program to encourage attendees to stop by your booth. Consider a raffle where you give away a prize on display at the actual event. An acrylic locked box can be used to hold the prize safely until it’s time to award it to the raffle winner.
You may also want to use tradeshow banners to drive traffic to your booth. If you want to go the extra mile, think about hosting a small event at your booth, such as a coffee hour, for networking with people who stop by your area. Finally, don’t forget about offering freebies to those who come by your booth. Marketing materials, such as branded pens and keychains, can help you stick out in the mind of booth visitors long after they drop by your stand.
Create a plan for collecting leads.
Will your team have lead scanners or will you be simply collecting business cards? These are questions you’ll want to have answered before the big day. Think about using a tablet to collect attendee information with a form that connects directly to your CRM system to streamline the lead collection process. Tablet stands and holders can be beneficial at your booth for this reason.
While planning a tradeshow does require a certain amount of flexibility, having this checklist on hand can give you the best chance at making the most of your marketing opportunity. Follow these tips and you’re sure to be off to a good start for your next show.
Marla Bracco is the content marketing manager for shopPOPdisplays where she focuses on content strategy and search engine marketing, designed to help the organization shape their web content around digital marketing objectives and priorities.
Publicity Expert Joan Stewart – known as the Publicity Hound – joins TradeshowGuy Tim Patterson to talk about how to get publicity at a tradeshow: before, during and after. Keep a notepad handy – there are a lot of great ideas that you can put to use!
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the main goal of all tradeshow marketing is to grow your business, right? Yes, you’re right. But that’s a general and somewhat vague-sounding goal, so it’s worth breaking it down a bit more.
The main goals for exhibiting typically fall under these categories:
Most everything you can do, whether it’s pre-show marketing, in-booth activities, or post-show follow-up, helps support these three main goals.
To support your Branding efforts, consider the following goals:
Easily recognizable exhibit that captures your brand. How do you measure this? One way would be to survey visitors as they pass through the booth to gauge their feelings on the exhibit.
A trained booth staff that knows and understands your show goals and how to properly interact with your booth visitors. This isn’t something that is easily measurable, but investing in your booth staff by hiring a professional trainer is an expense that can be measured – and I’m confident you’ll see an improvement in critical metrics as a results.
Samples given away – if a lot of people want your stuff, that’s a good indicator. Easy enough to measure.
Social media engagement. Did you get good response from the photos and videos you posted from the show floor (as well as before and after the show)? Compare post count and engagement from show to show.
When it comes to Lead Generation, the following metrics and activities can contribute to the overall success:
Making sure that your lead has concrete contact information and specific follow up details. Count leads and track trends from show to show.
Tracking the overall visitor count. Yes, this is hard to do, but with technology it’s becoming easier. By knowing the percentage of visitors that convert to leads, you have valuable information that can be used at subsequent shows.
Sales Success comes from the follow up and the tracking of the total amount of sales achieved as a direct result of a show. Here’s where it gets a little dicey. Some tradeshow leads will pay off immediately, others in the medium-term and some in the long-term. If you can attribute a sale in March of 2019, for example to a show you did in July of 2016, add the profit earned from that sale to the Return on Investment from your July 2016 show. You probably won’t automatically know this information, especially if your company is a fairly large business and goes to several shows in a year. But by tagging the prospect as someone that first came into your sales funnel at that specific July 2016 show, no matter how many follow up steps it took, if they become a new client and you can attribute the income from them to a specific show, make sure to do so.
Many exhibitors crave ideas on how to attract more visitors to their tradeshow booth. They want an attraction that makes their booth irresistible for attendees walking down the aisle.
Do you want to drive booth traffic, too? Here are 5 proven ideas you can consider:
Rather than make all their purchases over the Internet, buyers continue to go to trade shows because it allows them to see and touch real products in person. Leverage this strong advantage by demonstrating your products in your booth. Show how your product solves real problems. Have a presenter constantly demonstrating your product, and even invite attendees to try your product themselves. Just be sure to have your booth staff trained to perform the demo smoothly, especially if it’s a new product.
Games & Contests
Attendees love to play trade show games. They can have fun, win prizes, compete with colleagues, and even learn something about your products during the game. Trade show games can be selected to fit your audience and booth size. They can be designed to include your company branding and logo. You can host games that are digital or old-school analog style. Games rejuvenate attendees drained from tromping down too many aisles, so they’re ready to talk shop with you again.
When a simple giveaway isn’t enough, exhibitors are upping their game by hosting experiences in their booth. Experiences are best when they are immersive, personalized activities that emotionally connect buyers to your brand story. They engage the senses and are hands-on. Experiences that attract visitors to your trade show booth require space and staging, which means planning your exhibit design in conjunction with your activity.
Trade shows continue to remain relevant and grow in part because exhibitors have integrated technology into their exhibits. Tech-dependent attendees are never without their smart phones, tablet computers, and the Internet, so exhibitors include tech to match attendees’ higher expectations. What content works best on all that technology? Exhibitors start by showing their websites or PowerPoint presentations. Some graduate to videos or apps made just for the show. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are sought by exhibitors with the largest budgets and longer planning timelines.
Some exhibitors choose to put the “show” back into trade shows by hiring entertainers in their booth. They may be magicians, artists, dancers, celebrity lookalikes – any kind of performer that will attract visitors to your booth. The best entertainers will customize their performance to blend in your product messages.
With hundreds of exhibitors at the average show, you need an edge to get attendees to stop by. When you choose any of these 5 ideas to attract visitors to your booth, you’ll make your space, and thus your company, more interesting. Not only will attendees will be more engaged, but your booth staffers will also have more fun, too.
Samuel J. Smith is a thought leader, researcher, speaker and award-winning innovator on event technology. In 2011, BizBash Magazine added Sam to its annual innovators list. Since then, Sam has won awards from Exhibitor Magazine, IBTM World, RSVP MN, International Live Events Association and MPI for innovation in event technology. You can read more from Sam at http://www.socialpoint.io and reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Reimer is an author and entrepreneur which means we had a lot to chat about on this week’s edition of the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. Our main two points of conversation include his book Happywork and the new device charger he’s just released with the name of Boosa.
I can recall two recent ones at a marketing conference that really stand out.
The first was a full on lounge with free coffee and breakfast, ample seating, and newspapers. It was a genius idea because it flowed so naturally from the event floor. I sat down and didn’t want to leave after a long day. I remember that.
The other one was an AWS exhibit by Amazon. Amazon not only dominated the floor with their main exhibit, but they had a second one with a full on classroom. Yes, this counts as an exhibit, and it was packed the brim the whole show.
Which exhibits do I not remember? Practically everything else.
The truth is, if you’re not one of the top displays at a show, you’re not going to be remembered months later.
Of course more goes into it than just the cosmetic design, but that’s where it begins. You can’t make your awesome connection with attendees, you can’t do the demos, and you can’t collect leads if you can’t even get people to pay attention.
This is especially true for up and coming businesses that don’t have the name to draw a crowd on it’s own.
Between scheduling staff, arranging flights, planning material for the show, and everything else, the trade show exhibit usually ends up being just good enough.
Let’s break out of that together. Starting now.
Joe is the marketing director of Coastal Creative – a San Diego-based design and printing company. He’s always on the look out for the next great marketing strategy – both online and offline. His favorite trade show tip is to make connections with celebrities in your industry that are hard to get ahold of online. Check out the original graphic here.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, no doubt you’d like to have great clients. Wouldn’t we all? Which isn’t to say that any of my clients are not good clients – they are. In fact, most are great clients.
So what does it take to be a great client?
Before I address that, let me say that people I know have been known to fire clients.
Excuse me? Fire a client? Why would you do that?
A friend of mine ran a small business doing voiceovers. At one point several years ago one of his clients happened to be nearly half of his business, so he felt obligated to keep working with them because they brought in a significant amount of money. But the downside of that was that the client also brought the most headaches: late payments, lack of communication, downright verbal abuse at times.
Which made it hard to continue to do good work for them. One day he fired his client. “I can’t work with you anymore. Please find someone else. I quit.”
As you might imagine, the client was shocked. But had no choice. They were no longer a client.
Which freed up my friend, both timewise and having to deal with someone so bad. It didn’t take long to replace the business, either.
We should all have nothing but great clients, but I’m sure it’s no surprise that it doesn’t always work that way.
Here’s my shortlist of how to be a good client:
Good communication: this is the most important item of all. Be responsive to questions. Give clear answers. When you have to ask a question, make it as clear as possible. Respond in a timely manner. Whether discussing details of an exhibit design or working out upgrades to graphics or finalizing shipping, clear communication in both directions makes everyone much more satisfied with the final result.
Be aware of all deadlines: Understanding deadlines goes both ways. The exhibit house knows how long it takes to design, fabricate and ship an exhibit. They should clearly communicate that to the client how long items take, and give out reasonable deadlines for graphic submission, shipping dates and so on. The client should take responsibility to adhere to the deadlines and communicate to the exhibit house any challenges they face along the way.
No mutual mystification: back to communication. If a question doesn’t get asked it won’t get answered. This goes both ways. Share everything in detail.
Clearly Understood Expectations Regarding Money: When entering into an arrangement with an exhibit house, one item that should be understood from the beginning is how the project will be paid for. This starts with the exhibit house but must be reciprocated by the client. Most exhibit houses are flexible (we are) which means that whatever terms are worked out will be to the satisfaction of both parties. If a significant down payment is expected within a certain amount of time, that should be clearly communicated to the client. If that agreement is reached, the expectation is that it will be adhered to. Having to chase money is one of the worst parts of anyone’s job. As a service provider, you hate to be put in the position of doing that, and as a client, you hate to be reminded that it’s time to pay the invoice.
Sharing Good and Bad News: I once had a boss that told me, “I want to hear good news as soon as possible. I want to hear bad news sooner than that.” No matter what the bad news, let your exhibit house know immediately so they can respond. It could be anything (and anything can and does happen in the tradeshow world), but it can’t be dealt with until the bad news is passed along in detail. As exhibit house managers, we don’t like to get bad news, no matter who’s fault it is, but it would be worse to NOT get the bad news and have the client internalize it and hold a grudge. As for good news, if you had a great experience at a show and the exhibit (and anything else coordinated by your exhibit house) was a big part of your success, make sure you share that with them. In fact, you might offer to write a testimonial or make a referral.
Finally, Be Friendly: The best clients are those that become friends. Even if you don’t see them frequently, having a client that looks forward to seeing you, and vice versa, makes it all that much better. Talking about kids, sports, vacations and more helps build the relationship from a client/service provider to an actual friendship. And makes it harder to move elsewhere.
Being a great client goes hand in hand with a being a great exhibit house, working with an organization that understands your needs and not only meets but surpasses them.
Once you have that, it’s a lot easier to be a great client.
What do you get out of volunteerism? What is important to you, important enough that you would donate your time, energy and skill to an endeavor? This week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee muses on volunteerism.
It almost seems dumb to suggest that you should be proactive in your tradeshow booth, but with the number of relaxed and frankly lazy exhibitors I’ve seen over the years, it’s not so dumb.
I’ve seen exhibitors standing behind a table in their booth on the phone, eating lunch, talking with co-workers and more. They’re doing anything but paying attention to attendees.
And that’s just dumb. Keep in mind that tradeshows are a focused marketing opportunity where hundreds or thousands of potential clients or customers are going by your booth space. Also keep in mind these attendees are qualified: they’re in the upper-reaches of the decision-making echelon of the companies that decide to attend the show. You know, the show where your company has spent thousands of dollars to connect with those very decision-makers.
So when I see booth staff ignoring passers-by, I think “they’re letting money just walk on by. Don’t they get it?”
On the other hand, being proactive in your tradeshow booth isn’t hard. It might be slightly harder than standing there gazing idly as potential clients walk but, but not by much.
Instead, your booth staff should have a plan. They should be trained. They should understand the reason they’re there. They should know how to engage attendees in an upbeat positive way.
As our old pal Andy Saks says, you must find a good way to break the ice. Once you do that, you have control over a brief conversation. During that conversation, you’re proactively working to qualify or disqualify the attendee. Once you do that, you dig a little deeper to find out a handful of items. Start with a collection question such as “how did you get started in this industry?” It’s an innocuous question, but it gets people talking. They you proactively peel the onion by uncovering what problems they may have with their current product or service-provider.
Finally, once you’ve gathered sufficient information, close with a confirmation question to verify that you indeed understand the visitor’s situation and move on to setting up the next step before disengaging them.
Or take our old friend Richard Erschik’s approach. There are five questions you should get answered to know if the visitor is qualified:
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 both cases, the goal is to proactively find out if the person standing in your booth can be turned into a customer.
If you’re proactive about how to engage with tradeshow visitors, this approach can be extremely effective in uncovering leads, identifying their problems, moving them from a prospect to a customer.
Sitting on a chair eating a sandwich just won’t cut it!
“Write a book!” they said, so I did. Two, in fact. Here’s the short version of how it unfolded.
As a kid I thought the best job ever was to be a Beatle. The second-best job would be a comic book artist. But the third-best job? Being an author. A novelist! Reading those great science fiction novels by Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and others, I dreamed of creating a life in the stars (on paper). I tried my hand at a number of stories but was never satisfied. So with my love of music I gravitated to a job that was more fun: being a radio announcer.
After 26+ years of radio, I arrived in the tradeshow world. I wanted to do something to differentiate myself that involved my love of writing and creativity (which I never really gave up). Hence, I blogged. Quite a bit, in fact. This blog, the TradeshowGuy Blog, published its first article in November of 2008. Ten years!
Along the way I published a pretty popular e-book called “101 Rules of Tradeshow Marketing” which was downloaded over 5000 times (I obsessed about the stats back then – I don’t obsess on stats any more).
The First Book
But a real book? One that you could hold in your hand and give away or sell? That seemed like a big challenge. My thought was to write a book to use as a heavy business card that thudded when it hit someone’s desk. To differentiate myself from others. To be, well, an author!
In 2010 I started. And fizzled. Tried again a year or two later. That fizzled as well. Long-term focus on this goal was difficult with lots of distractions.
But in early 2015 I started again with renewed focus determination, and was not willing to take no for an answer. After about six months I came up with a first draft. I reached out to Mel White at Classic Exhibits, who has been very supportive of me and my business over the years. He offered to go over the manuscript and offer his comments. This was critical to keeping the project moving forward.
In the meantime, I’d been reviewing a number of self-publishing platforms and kept seeing and hearing about CreateSpace, which was by then an arm of Amazon. It seemed easy-peasy to be able to submit a manuscript in almost any shape and by choosing a specific package you could have yet another editor or two or three do their magic. CreateSpace also handles the registration of an ISBN number, and since they are owned by Amazon, the seamlessness of having your book appear on Amazon for sale as both a print-on-demand paperback or Kindle download. CreateSpace also wrote marketing copy based on your outline.
Based mostly on budget, I picked one of their mid-range packages which meant they would have two editors look at it. One would do “line editing,” which is where a professional editor helps “strengthen your manuscript’s content with one round of feedback and connections to structure, plot, characterization, dialogue, and tone from a reader’s point of view.” Then a copyeditor goes over the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, picking it apart grammatically and with an eye to classic punctuation and editing standards: “includes an average of 10-15 typographical, spelling, and punctuation revisions per page that your readers will notice – but your word-processing software won’t.”
The whole process of editing was eye-opening, and a learning experience. I disagreed with a few of the suggestions made but kept most of what the pros advised. I figured the best thing was to humbly submit to the process and do what was necessary to make the manuscript better.
Something I really wanted in the book to break up the big blocks of text was a series of cute black and white line drawings that supported and enhances the “fun and educational” feel of the book I was going for. I looked first on Fiverr.com but didn’t find any style of drawing that I liked that much. Eventually I landed at Thumbtack.com, asked for some examples and ended up choosing an artist named Jesse Stark. His drawings were exactly what I had envisioned, and his price was reasonable and fair.
Now for the cover. Not being a graphic designer, but wanting to at least give it a try, I mocked up a handful of potential covers. I didn’t really like any of them (did I mention I’m not trained in graphic design?), and asked Jesse if he would be interested in doing a cover. He was, and after some discussion, came back with a mockup. I wasn’t crazy about it, and thought it needed a photo of a tradeshow floor that showed dozens of booths from a high vantage point. I finally tracked down a photo I had taken at Expo East in the early 2000s from that angle, and had him use that to complete the cover. (Side note: Jesse also designed the TradeshowGuy silhouette that I use in the company logo).
As you might imagine, the hardest thing to do when assembling all of the pieces of a book project is what to name the damn book? I rejected a handful, but only debated a few over the nearly year-long project:
Deconstructing Tradeshows: 14 Steps to Tradeshow Mastery
Create a KickA$$ Tradeshow Experience: 14 Steps to Tradeshow Success
The book made it to Amazon on late October 2015, and I officially launched it the next month with a video series, a flurry of press releases and some giveaways. My view on publishing a book, though, wasn’t to sell as many copies as I could. It was to have something that no other tradeshow project manager had: a book.
The book was mentioned in some local business publications, and I’ve showed it off at networking meetings (who else has their own book?!), but the most notable mention came when Exhibitor Magazine published a multi-page article on the book and me. As one LinkedIn colleague said, “It doesn’t get any better than that!” So true.
The Second Book
Time passes. After the initial excitement of having a book to promote and giveaway fades, thoughts turn to what to do as a follow-up. It’s been said that one of the best ways to sell and promote your first book is to write a second book. But what would that second book be when I felt I put all I knew into the first book. And I knew I wanted a second book to follow up the first one.
It took a while, but I came to settle on the idea of taking the dozens and dozens of list blog posts I’d written for the blog. It took some time assembling all of the posts – many covered similar topics and had to be combined and edited – but once that was accomplished, I reached out to Mel again for help.
This book didn’t write itself, but since the content had already been created it was a matter of grouping the lists into specific topics was the main task. And of course I wanted the same illustrator so I emailed Jesse to see if he was interested. He said yes, so we moved forward.
The second book, still untitled, was a lower budgeted affair. I enlisted Mel again, and he also had his English professor wife, Mary Christine Delea, go through it as well. Once their two edits were done, I uploaded to CreateSpace, agreed on the more modest single line edit requested before going to print.
Now…what to title the book of lists? I had a couple of lists that referenced zombies, and one that referenced superheroes, so I played around with them for awhile:
Quirky Interactive Activities, Exhibiting Zombies, and Tradeshow Superheroes: A By-The-Numbers Guide on How to Take Advantage of the Most Effective Marketing Vehicle the World Has Ever Seen (I think this won a record of some sort for longest proposed title!)
Exhibiting Zombies, Tradeshow Superheroes and Quirky In-Booth Activities:
A List Manual on How to Take Advantage of the Most Effective Marketing Vehicle the World Has Ever Seen
Exhibiting Zombies, Tradeshow Superheroes and Delighted Visitors:
Exhibiting Zombies, Tradeshow Superheroes and Elated Customers:
Exhibiting Zombies, Tradeshow Superheroes and Delighted Customers: etc…
For publicity, I did a little, including sending out copies of books to tradeshow publications and press releases to local business publications. I also spent a very modest amount of money on a Twitter book-promotion platform that promised tens of thousands of views of promotional tweets. Modest: less than a hundred bucks. Nothing came of it. Again, the point was to have another book to give to prospects to differentiate myself, and if a few copies sell, well, great!
Interestingly enough, sales have picked up in the past few months with no further promotion. Maybe having both books out there and easily found on Amazon is working!
If you have an idea for a book, should you self-publish, or should you pursue the traditional route through a publishing house? Both have their pros and cons, but to me having complete control over the look and feel of the books and getting a much higher royalty rate made sense for my approach. Yes, the distribution at this point is ONLY online, but to me that’s sufficient. I didn’t write to sell a trainload of books, I wrote to differentiate myself from other exhibit houses and project managers. And to that end, I feel I’ve succeeded.
Now my main thing is making sure that potential clients have a copy of one or both books. That, and thinking about what I might write for a third book in the next couple of years.