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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There’s Always a Tradeoff

When I first got into the exhibit industry in the early ‘00s, the company I was hired by, Interpretive Exhibits in Salem, was heavily involved in an exhibit for the Army Corps of Engineers. It was a permanent installation (still there) at The Dalles Dam in The Dalles, Oregon. The theme of the exhibit was “Tradeoffs” and it addresses the various parties involved in the needs and desires of the Columbia River. For every group that had in interest in utilizing the Columbia River as a resource, there was a tradeoff

of sorts. Sports fishermen, Native Americans and their fishing rights, shipping and transportation, recreation and so on – there were all sorts of groups that wanted something out of the river. The exhibit went into detail to explain each group’s interests and how they had to compromise, in a sense, to get a lot (but not all) of what they wanted.

That concept – the tradeoff – comes up in my mind frequently, and it can be applied to virtually anything that you are involved in.

Apply it to the tradeshow world: if you are willing to spend the money on a larger exhibit, the tradeoff is often that you must also be willing to hire a crew to setup and dismantle the exhibit, and you must be willing to pay more for shipping.

If you want an exhibit that can quickly be setup by one or two people, the tradeoff is that you must be willing to settle for a very simple design with limited bells and whistles and perhaps a lesser impact than something more complex.

If you want to have a professional presenter in your booth space pitching attendees several times an hour, the tradeoff is that not only do you need to invest in hiring that presenter, but you’ll need to make sure you have enough staff on hand to engage as many of those attendees as possible before they slip away.

It seems like we’re always giving up one thing to get another. We don’t live in a world where we have it all. Or a world where we have nothing at all.

We live in a world where we’re always calculating a tradeoff that works best for us.

Pebble Beach concours d’elegance: Event Marketing Recap

I spent about a week in Monterey with an old friend recently to attend a couple of events: The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at the WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway and the Pebble Beach concours d’elegance. In a sense, both events are about as far away from tradeshows that you can get. But as event marketing goes, they’re at the top of their games.

Consider this: according to the website, “the competition attracts 15,000 affluent aficionados who pay a minimum of $325 for general admission.” And this: “Entrants often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire a car, hundreds of thousands to restore it, and tens of thousands more to transport it to Pebble Beach to compete for our top award. Come day of show, the cars pulling onto the eighteenth fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links often have a total estimated value of half a billion dollars.”

So, yeah, the one-percenters, basically. And of course, there are a lot of other vintage car enthusiasts who like the show and the spectacle who are not in that top echelon (that would include me, just to be clear!).

Just driving around the area over the week gives you an opportunity to see hundreds of exotic and high-end cars that are just out cruising: Porches, McLarens, Teslas, Ferraris, Maseratis, Rolls-Royces, and a few that are simply unrecognizable or unique one-of-a-kinds.

This is a prime market ripe for pitching high-end products. There are numerous car auctions, one of which set a record over the weekend for selling a car at auction for a record $48.4 million. In case you’re wondering, it was a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO.

Car manufacturers spend a ton to show off their newest models. Infiniti, for instance, sets up a large temporary building just above the festivities on the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach. During the runup to the event, they offer visitors a chance to drive new models for a couple of miles. Other car makers over the year have included Jeep, Cadillac, Chrysler, Tesla and many others. In fact, the first I ever heard of a Tesla was in 2008 when they introduced their roadster at the event. In 2016, Tesla was offering a chance to drive their new Model X (which I did).

Ferrari brought several dozen vintage autos and displayed them on the fairway of hole number one.

There were nine Tucker automobiles at the show, along with a handful of Chinese cars and a collection from the Raj of India.

Concept cars encircle the main putting green in front of the pro shop, where we’ve seen everything over the years from an electric VW bus, to McLarens, Rolls-Royces, Porches, Lincolns, Maseratis, Hennesseys, Genesis’ and many more – too many to count. Just a bunch of glorious eye candy for car fans.

Every year there is a raffle during the event, where up to four brand new model cars are given away. Former Tonight Show host Jay Leno has done the honors for years, telling the same jokes year after year.

Some 1200 media members cover the event, with about a quarter of them from outside the United States.

But at the bottom line, the event is a fundraiser for several dozen charities in the area. Over the years the they event has generated millions of dollars that goes to help area children. This year the event raised $1.8 million which will be distributed by the Pebble Beach Company Foundation to 85 local charities.

Check out the gallery below. I’m sure I’ll be back next year. It’s already on my calendar.

Why You Can’t Order a Tradeshow Exhibit Online

Who says you can’t order a tradeshow exhibit online? I’ve seen a ton of sites that claim it’s easy. Just find the exhibit you want, upload the graphics, submit your credit card and voila’ – you have an exhibit coming your way!

VK-1971 10' inline rent or purchase
VK-1971 10′ inline rent or purchase

The challenge with that plan is that if it works, it only works for smaller “off-the-shelf” items, such as banner stands and pop-up back walls.

When you order online, your choices are limited. You don’t know the quality of the products you’re getting. You don’t (usually) know where they were made. You don’t often know if you’re getting setup instructions in a language you can understand.

Instead, what is more likely – and a better result for both buyers and sellers – is when you find something online that you are interested in purchasing, that interest spurs a conversation. At TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve sold a lot of exhibits to people that we haven’t met in person until finally meeting at a show. And we’ve sold to companies without ever meeting them. In a sense, they are buying, and we are selling, online.

But a true sale is only started online. For a buyer to get exactly what they want for a custom tradeshow exhibit, a number of questions have to be answered (see our 7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House). Often there are conversations with a 3D exhibit designer. Maybe you’ll talk with a project manager. You’ll cover items such as how is it packed? how is it shipped? do you need to hire someone to setup the exhibit? and many more.

If you browse our Exhibit Design Search, you’ll see a BUY button. Go ahead, take a look. When you click the BUY button, you’re taken to a page that, once you fill out and click “send” starts a conversation. It takes more than a click to buy an exhibit.

So, yes, you can buy something online that is somewhat of an exhibit. But if you want a true exhibit, a custom exhibit, talk to your exhibit house.

NEW Gravitee One-Step Modular Lightbox

At TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Classic Exhibits, one of the premier exhibit manufacturers in the country. Over the years, e’ve collaborated with them for a number of great custom builds, including the terrific 30×40 Bob’s Red Mill exhibit that still wows ’em at Natural Products Expo East and Expo West.

But just because they can build great custom designs doesn’t mean that they are not dedicating their creative energies to coming up with new things, like the Gravitee Modular System that doesn’t need any tools. None. Zip. Nada.

Their newest Gravitee creation is the One-Step Lightbox. the Gravitee lightbox attaches to other panels using no tools and no loose part connection. It’ll be available in both curved and flat options. There will be standard sizes, but yes, it’s something that you can customize to various sizes. Let’s take a look at Classic Exhibits’ video introduction, hosted by Kevin Carty:

For more information on Gravitee, click here. To find out more specifically about the Gravitee light box, and it’s soon-to-be announced release dates and pricing, fill out the forms on our contact page and we’ll get back to you!

Tradeshow Marketing is a Competition

When you’re ramping up your tradeshow marketing machine for the next show, do you think of it as a competition? Or is it merely a chance to make your pitch to hundreds or thousands of visitors, almost as if you’re in a vacuum.

Methinks there is more than one way to view tradeshow marketing. Let’s look at two views in particular:

tradeshow marketing competition

First, it’s a unique marketing event where you’re setting up shop in a situation where the organizers have done their best to bring as many members of your target market to view products and services under one roof. You are showing off new products that are being launched. You are showing off your brand with graphics, 3D exhibit construction and your well-trained booth staff. For the people that stop by at your booth, you do your best to engage, interact and determine if they are prospective customers. If they are, you work to find out their pain points, explain how your products and services can help them. If not, you politely disengage, perhaps asking if they are able to refer any colleagues your way.

Second, it’s a competition. You are setting up shop in a situation where dozens, maybe a hundred or more, direct competitors are doing the same thing you are: showing off products and services, representing their brands, and trying to make a deal with the very people you’re trying to make a deal with.

Yes, tradeshow marketing is a competition, and generally it’s a friendly competition. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your best: you should. But if you keep in mind that you’re not only there to engage visitors, you’re also there with hundreds, sometimes thousands of companies are competing directly with you.

What does it take to get an edge? There are dozens of ways. From the size and look and feel of your exhibit to your actual products, to the skill of your booth staff and many other ways where you’re working to get an edge.

As in any competition, you may win some, you may lose some. You may win with some people, you may lose with others. You may beat some competitors and you may lose to some other competitors.

From that perspective, to me the best you can do is to observe and learn, see what works and what doesn’t, and do your best to be better next time.

Because with tradeshow marketing competition, there’s always a next time.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, August 20, 2018: Vacations!

On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I plunge headfirst into a cold and bracing look at vacations, and how they can no only recharge your batteries, but can increase a company’s productivity – by making you leave for a week or three every year!

 

Also, be sure to listen for the Tradeshow Tip of the Week.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING: the Pebble Beach concours d’elegance.

Determination

Determination. Perseverance. Dedication. Focus.

Planning. Strategy. Tactics. Action.

Articulate. Explain. Observe.

Reframe. Review. Rest.

Creation. Discussion. Examination. Collaboration.

Research. Plan. Test. Compete. Dissect.

Uncertainty. Resoluteness. Conviction. Courage.

determination

Decision. Self-confidence. Energy. Willpower. Fortitude.

Principle. Purpose. Composure. Direction.

Measure. Aspire. Brainstorm. Dream.

Ambition. Desire. Probity. Teamwork.

Finesse. Coax. Emphasize. Differentiate.

Credentials. Communication. Specialization. Exceptional.

Context. Simplify. Spirit. Emulation.

Modify. Professionalism. Friendliness. Sincerity.

Values. Meaning. Abilities. Creativity.

Positioning. Marketing. Advertising. Branding.

Memorable. Unforgettable. Separate. Unique.

Quality. Knowable. Meaningful. Service.

Learn. Study. Digest. Regurgitate.

Laugh. Breathe. Relax. Sleep.

One. Two. Three. Four.

Let’s. Do. It. Again!

Top 5 Challenges Facing Tradeshow Managers

Not every tradeshow manager faces the same challenges. Some are overwhelmed by being understaffed. Others have a boatload of shows to deal with and it seems as if there is never a breather.

But in the work I’ve done over the years with tradeshow managers, the same handful of issues keep coming up as being significant challenges:

tradeshow manager challenges

Logistics: there are a lot of moving parts in tradeshow marketing. Shipping and I&D (installation and dismantle) make up a big part of those logistics. Add to that shipping product samples, getting everyone scheduled for the show and the booking a convenient hotel and many other bits and pieces and handling the logistics of tradeshow marketing is often outsourced. That’s one reason why at TradeshowGuy Exhibits we are taking on more and more logistic coordination for clients.

Exhibit Brand Management: keeping the booth updated from show to show. New product launches, new services and more means that the exhibit needs to be updated for upcoming shows to reflect that. It’s common, but the timeline sneaks up on people. In a sense, the challenge here is coordination between graphic designers, production facilities and making sure all items get done prior to the booth crates being shipped out.

Company Growth: Many companies we work with are doing very well. But that means moving from small pop-up type exhibits to more complicated exhibits with light boxes, custom counters and more – all of which ship in larger crates and would be set up by hired EAC’s (Exhibitor Approved Contractors). All of this change means that the person handling the shift is moving out of their comfort zone. They face a lot of choices around whether to hire installers, how to package the exhibit for shipping (crates vs. a handful of plastic molded cases, for example), and more.

Getting Good Results: Exhibitors who don’t get good results complain that tradeshows are a waste of time and money. Yet other exhibitors at the same show rave about how great the show was, how many new leads they made and new contacts they came away with, and how many sales were closed. So what’s the difference? Frankly, many exhibitors don’t prepare or execute well. Tradeshow marketing is not rocket science, but with all of the moving parts it’s easy to let a few items slip through the cracks. And those missing items can make all the difference between success and failure.

Budget: It costs a lot of money to exhibit at tradeshows. For companies that do tradeshows, the amount invested in tradeshow marketing is about a third of their overall marketing budget. Making all of their tradeshow dollars stretch as far as possible is an ongoing challenge faced by all companies. For a long list of ways to cut costs at tradeshows, check out this webinar.

Other challenges include booth staff training, record-keeping, keeping track of your competition and other items, but if you can keep these few items under control, you’re doing better than a lot of your fellow exhibitors!

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, August 13, 2018: Bill Lampton

On this week’s podcast/vlog, I catch up with Bill Lampton, Ph. D. I’ve been reading his great newsletter, Winning Words and Ways, for years. So when I asked him to join me for TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I was honored that he accepted. We had a great conversation on the importance of good communication skills in the business and personal world:

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Bon: The Last Highway by Jesse Fink.

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