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


9 Tips to Put a Social Spin on Your Trade Show Marketing

The following is a guest post by Dennis Nixon, Sales Manager at Smash Hit Displays

In the days leading up to an exciting trade show attendees are likely tweeting about it, Facebooking about it, and blogging about it too. You’re likely doing the same as a trade show marketer, right? So take advantage of it! Integrating social media marketing into your trade show marketing before, during and after the main event can be the difference between having a successful trade show booth, and an unsuccessful one.

The world of social media and blogging can be quite an overwhelming one, but never fear. I’ve put together a list of 10 tips to help you put a social media spin on your trade show marketing efforts.

Twitter Search

Did you know: every single conversation on Twitter (except those from people who have private Twitter streams) can be searched via Twitter search?  Simply type in the name of the trade show you’ll have a booth at and you’ll quickly see others talking about the same event. Make sure to vary your keywords, and soon you’ll find a plethora of data to start prospecting prior to the event.

Twitter Lists

If you’re an avid tweeter than you likely know about Twitter lists. These can be a great way to compile a list of potential attendees, whom you can follow during the trade show. What will they be saying at the event? Where will they be having dinner or after-trade show events? Stay up to date. You don’t even have to actually ‘follow’ the users to put them in a list. AND you can keep the list private if you don’t want your competition finding all the users you spent time finding. In addition, don’t forget about the value of using Twitter for traffic, discussed in the recent post: “Are You using Twitter to Drive Traffic to Your Blog and Event?” on this blog.

Facebook Search

When you’re logged into Facebook you have access to their huge internal (and external for that matter) search engine. View all results for a specific term, people associated with that term, page associated with that term, groups, posts by everyone, posts by friends, etc… This can give you back results for many users going to the trade show, thinking about going, or just associated with it.

Facebook Groups and Pages

Using the search function detailed above, you can find groups and pages of prospects interested in the trade show you’re attending. This can be extremely helpful to start a conversation with prospects and tell them about your booth, where you’ll be located, and the fun stuff you’ll be giving away/doing at the event.

Use Flowtown

Have a prospects e-mail address but not sure if they are using social media? You HAVE to check out FlowTown. With this website you can upload your prospects e-mail addresses (before, during or after the event) and get information such as name, age, gender, occupation, location AND all the social networks that person is on.

Contests on Social Networks

Some trade show marketers suggest utilizing contests on social networks to help you spread the word about the trade show you’ll be at, in addition to getting a bit of notoriety and branding your business. Tell your fans and followers that you’ll be at the next big event, and the first five people to retweet or repost about it will get a prize when they show up to the event. There are so many ways you can spin a simple contest before and during the trade show, the possibilities are endless.


You’re likely using LinkedIn, heck millions are. But are you utilizing it to help with your trade show marketing? Tell your connections about your upcoming event, ask them to help you spread the word, or even connect with prospects after the event takes place. There’s so much you can do with LinkedIn, you just need to think outside the box.

LinkedIn Groups

If the event planner for the trade show you’re is good they’ll have set up a LinkedIn group. Use this opportunity to start connecting with prospects and chatting them up. Connect with others, help spread the word about the event, and afterward discuss what was learned or how it can apply to their future endeavors.

Blogger Outreach

Connecting with bloggers that are going to events is extremely important. They’re already tapping into the vein of your industry, so why not utilize their current reader base? Try securing a guest blogging spot, schmoozing them when they’re at the event, and staying in contact afterwards. You never know the types of connections you’ll be able to make over a few drinks.

If you still aren’t convinced that social media can work for you (or that others are using it), check out Tradeshow Insights post “Social Media and Tradeshow Marketing Results”, where respondents to a poll stated that a whopping 31% have already incorporated social media into their exhibit marketing!

Have you used social media in your trade show marketing before, during and after the event? What successes have you had with it?

About the Author: Dennis Nixon is the Sales Manager at Smash Hit Displays, a company providing trade show displays and booths to vendors throughout the United States.

Podcast: Matthew Selbie Interview

Matt Selbie of Oberon3 in Portland, Oregon is a recent Oregon transplant. The company’s business-enhancement product The Opiniator is less than a year old. After finding my blog, Matt reached out to introduce himself (great networking) and after a conversation or two I thought I should get him on the blog with a podcast. What is the Opiniator? How can you use it in your business? What can you do with it at tradeshows? Matt addresses all of these questions and more…including the origin of that decidedly non-Oregonian accent.

Check out The Opiniator website


What is Tradeshow Marketing?

(the following was previously published in the Salem Statesman-Journal):

The tradeshow is a unique marketing beast with a lot of tentacles and unless you control them they’ll end up controlling you.

But trade show marketing can be one of the most effective uses of your marketing dollar – IF you know what you’re doing. A recent report by Forrester Research showed the top 3 tactics marketers rely on were email at 87%, Public Relations at 77% and trade show marketing at 74%.

To begin with, when you exhibit at a trade show (not a consumer show, but a show specific to your industry), the audience consists largely of decision-makers who have PAID to attend. So they want to see what’s new, exciting or improved.

Second, trade show marketing is unique in that it’s one of the few places you can engage with a prospect one-on-one and find out what’s really important to them.

And third (I love this one!) a trade show is great for spying on the competition to see what’s new and upcoming with them.

Exhibiting at a tradeshow is more than just renting or buying a booth, setting it up and handing out brochures. The tradeshow environment is like nothing else; prospects should be qualified or disqualified quickly with a few pointed questions.

But it does work: less than three months after launching a new 10’ x 20’ custom booth at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, Portland’s gDiapers (now former) National Sales Director Mike Internicola said, “Our business has doubled since Expo.”

Mountain Rose Herbs at Expo West
Mountain Rose Herbs at Expo West

Mountain Rose Herbs of Eugene has seen double-digit growth for the past several years. Operations Manager Shawn Donnille says it’s due to ‘brilliant marketing’ and the fact that they are hitting several markets that can use their product. Trade show marketing has been a major piece of their marketing strategy for years.

Interactivity is a big draw. By bringing people into your booth you have an opportunity to engage them one-on-one. Usually a few questions are sufficient to qualify or disqualify them as potential customers.

Your entire staff should onboard see the entire trade show marketing picture, from the company’s show objectives to the pre- and post-show efforts to the nuts and bolts of what questions you’re going to ask visitors to qualify them. Once they see that, it’s easier for them to understand their role and buy into the company’s show objectives.

7 Ways to Use Surveys at Tradeshow

What do you think?

When exhibiting at a tradeshow, you’re there to make sales, brand your business, brand your product, schmooze with industry partners, scout out competitors and okay, do a little partying (perhaps).

Are you using the time to do some specific research by using surveys? No? Too bad, it’s a great way to uncover useful information that you may not find elsewhere at ten times the price.

Since you’re already there at the tradeshow, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity. Here are seven ways you can use surveys at tradeshows to bring home more than just some sales and the memory of a great after-hours party.

1. Product comparison: put your product up against a top competitor, much like the old cola wars taste-tests. Take the labels off of your brand and a competitor’s (if you dare), and put them up against each other side by side. If the results come back in your favor, issue a press release, tweet it out.

2. Quickie 2 or 3-question survey: easy to put together and easy for your visitors to take 15 seconds to answer. You can hold a clipboard and pencil, and ask visitors if they can spare just 15 seconds to answer three questions. Be specific and don’t go past that time. Ask the questions, and then finish with a “Would you like to learn more about our product?” and if they say yes, direct them to an associate. If they say no, thank them for their valuable time and release ’em back to the wild.

3. More in-depth survey: offer this only to people that have indicated a willingness to learn more about your products or services. If they seem like good prospects, ask if they mind if you can take just three minutes with them. The survey should be handed to them either in the form of a piece of paper on a clipboard or a laptop. Either way, invite them to leave their name and contact information at the end so you can follow up with the more interested folks.

3. “Live” visual feature or product comparison: set up a graphic and interactive exhibit that asks visitors to make a choice between various possible features or products you may be offering in the near future. Tell them that this research is part of the evaluation process your company is doing. Whether you’re showing 2 or 5 or 9 choices, make the graphics easy to understand and the choices easy to make (hopefully!). Have baskets or jars set up so that visitors can drop something (tennis balls, marbles, etc.) into a jar that echoes their sentiment. Over time each jar will slowly fill up with the choices. By doing this you are giving a visual accounting of how the ‘voting’ or surveying is going.

4. Brand effectiveness: depending on your company and brand, you may want to survey your visitors on how they perceive your brand in comparison to your competitors. While this may take a little more thought to set up, the survey can yield some very worthwhile results in how you are perceived in the marketplace.

5. Measure effectiveness of pre-event marketing: if you do extensive pre-event marketing within your industry in trade magazines or other media, you can survey the effectiveness. If you do a lot of social media promotion you can also judge its effectiveness. Set up a survey that asks visitors IF they heard of you, WHERE they heard of you and if the MESSAGE they saw inspired them to visit your booth (or if they just stumbled across it…).

6. Get input for future events: take some time to ask visitors what impacted them the most at the show. The feedback can be used to help craft your booth, marketing, graphics and promotional slant for the following year’s show.

7. Get feedback on a new product: if you have a product that’s been on the market a short time, the survey can be used to get feedback on how that product is perceived, used or consumed by visitors.

Take a few moments and ask yourself ‘what can I learn from all of those thousands of tradeshow visitors that will help the company?’ Then come up with a great way to elicit that information via a survey. Feel free to share any ideas you may have in the comment section!

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photo credit: bisgovuk

Stepping UP: Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone

Comfort level a concern

Most clients I work with on new booth projects are on the verge of moving out of their comfort zone. Why? Because they’re moving from simple pop-up type exhibits to full custom designed and fabricated booths, or at least some elements.

That means they’re stepping into dealing with a larger plan that involves shipping, storage, drayage, show labor and more. It’s not as easy as shipping a small booth case with a few graphics. Now you’re dealing with common carrier shipping lines, larger storage spaces, and coordinating a set-up staff that you may have little communication with or control over.

Don’t worry, it’s a common feeling! And from my vantage point, all the folks I work with are more than happy to have made the change, no matter how uncomfortable it may have been. They have a nicer, larger booth that proudly shows off their brand. Clients rave about the new booth and everyone goes home happier.

Even though the corporation is moving from small to large in their tradeshow presence, it’s the actual people that do it. Is there anyone in the company that’s experienced that move before? Much like a young sports team moving into the playoffs for the first time, having a few veterans around who have ‘been there, done that’ will help to ease the transition.

As in any endeavor, moving out of your comfort zone takes courage, thoughtfulness, planning and finally action. The more information you are able to detail before making the move, the less hassle you’ll run into along the way.

So you’ve taken on the challenge: you’re moving up and dealing with all that stuff – show labor, crate shipping, drayage, etc.  The simple fact that you are taking on the challenge as a company and human beings is significant: it takes you through the process. Now having been through the process once or twice, what used to be beyond your comfort zone becomes the new norm – the new comfort zone again.

Which means you’ll look to moving up even further in the not-too-distant future, right?

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photo credit: p_x_g

Are You Genuinely Green?

Guest Post by Marcia Yudkin

Are you enthusiastic about preserving Earth?  If you want to highlight this commitment as part of your business pitch, be aware that cynicism lurks in the minds of many customers.

To show that you’re not just pretending to jump on today’s green wagon, incorporate as many as possible of these factors into your marketing copy, suggested in the new book Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green by Shel Horowitz and Jay Conrad Levinson.

1. Hard facts (what you’ve done), not commitments (what you say you’ll do).

2. Substantiation for your claims – for example, back up the statement that your operations are carbon-neutral.

3. Third-party green certifications, with links that show what they mean.

4. Non-promotional material that helps readers understand the issues on which you’re taking action.

5. Advice for readers on how they too can follow suit.

6. Transparency and truthfulness. Don’t attempt to hide elements that go against your overall stance.

Your reward: The trust of those who share your convictions, respect from those who haven’t yet seen the light, and joyfulness in your conscience.

Reprinted with permission from the Marketing Minute

Five Things to Teach Your Staff Before the Tradeshow

Tradeshow staff training is often seen as the ‘missing gap’ between coming away from a tradeshow with an assortment of grungy leads and a stack of well-defined leads.

But experience has shown that most companies spent little to no money actually training their staff to do the right things at a show to accomplish those goal-gathering leads.

So I thought it might be a good thing to jot down a list of five – just five, that’s all – things that you should teach your tradeshow staff before the next show.

1. Teach your staff which products and services will be highlighted at the show. If you have a larger booth, note on a floor map where the products/services will be handled or discussed with the visitors, along with who the subject matter experts might be for those items. In this way your staff can handle inquires and direct the visitor to the right area or find the right answer to those questions.

2. Teach your staff to quickly and efficiently qualify and disqualify visitors. If the visitor is NOT a prospect, the sooner your staff member disengages with them and moves on to the next visitor, the more efficient they’ll be at gathering leads. This means asking the right questions, noting the answers, and asking correct follow-up questions that determine the level of interest and who and how to follow up with that visitors.

3. Teach your staff how to properly process a lead. If you have a lead form, have them practice filling it out. If you are using a badge scanner at the show, practice on it before the show starts. If there are specific questions that need to be asked, have them rehearse the questions.

4. Inform your staff the overall objective(s), goals and reasons for being at the show. If they understand the ‘30,000 foot view’ of why the company is at this show, they’ll have a better grasp of why those goals are important.

5. Let your staff know how important they are to the success of the tradeshow. Explain why they were chosen to represent the company, that they are the ‘front lines’ and the face of the company. Anything they do will reflect on visitors’ impressions of the company. Little things go a long way. Small things like smiles and politeness standard for many companies…but when you remind your staff how important those things really are (and how noticeable if you forget), it’s more likely they’ll remember to wear a smile and be polite all the time.

Is there anything you teach your staff that is missing in this list?

Book Review: “Rock the World (With Your Online Presence)” – What it means to connect with a ‘super-connector’

When I connected with author Mike O’Neil a few weeks back he asked me to connect with him on LinkedIn. I soon learned that he does this with everybody.

“All right,” said Mike, “before you accept the inviation, go to your home page on LinkedIn. Now, click on ‘Contacts’ and then ‘Network Statistics.’ Look at what you’ve got in your connections list.”

I did. It looked like this:

“Now, go ahead and accept my invitation. Then wait a few moments and refresh your page.”

So I did. It looked like this:

Given that Mike has 27,000+ connections on LinkedIn, it was easy to see why my network statistics took a huge jump. Shortly after, I connected with Lori Ruff, Mike’s co-author on ‘Rock The World with Your Online Presence,’ a book dedicated solely to, uh, pimping out your LinkedIn profile.

Later that day I added a connection to Lori Ruff, co-author of the ‘Rock the World’ book:

I mean, really jazzing it up so that you can be FOUND and recognized for what you do and what you’re best at.

So now that I’ve read the book and am starting to implement a few of the ideas for the profile, I am seeing the network grow and seeing more people finding me. I get responses and e-mails to responses on questions posted at discussions, for instance.

In a sense, the book is too good. It has so much usable ideas in it geared directly toward improving your LinkedIn profile that it can be overwhelming. That was my first sense while reading the book. My second sense is that the amount of things I can do and people I can connect with just by making a knockout LinkedIn profile is amazing.

When you read the book, use it. Go over your profile with a fine-tooth comb and make the adjustments and revisions in your profile that Mike and Lori suggest. See what happens. My guess is you’ll start to see how LinkedIn can powerfully impact your online networking, whether for new business leads, job leads, or other networking connections.

Get the book. You’ll be glad you did:

Rock The World with your Online Presence: Your Ticket to a Multi-Platinum LinkedIn Profile (Volume 1)

Are You Using Twitter to Drive Traffic to Your Blog and Event?

Now that the first quarter of 2010 is officially in the books, I was curious how the viewership on this blog went. And since I can sometimes be a stats geek, I thought I’d post a few numbers.

With Google Analytics and a WordPress stats plug-in, I can access just about anything I want. But all I want to share is an insight (not a big one) that if a post link gets re-tweeted a few times, it’ll end up in my ‘top views.’

For starters, the two most re-tweeted posts came in as the most viewed (as you might expect):

23 Pre-Show Marketing Promotions, Tactics and Ideas and Twittering at #ExpoWest. They were each viewed around 100 times in the past three months. Maybe not much if you’re Google, but for a li’l ol’ niche-oriented B2B blog, I’m pretty happy with those numbers (the three listing above the two most-viewed posts are pages, not posts).

top posts on TradeshowGuy Blog first Q 2010

In the past seven days, two other highly re-tweeted posts have been moving up the viewership list:

27 Un-Boring Things to do At Your Next Tradeshow and How to Find the Right Tradeshow for Your Company. Both were posted this week and thanks to the Twitterverse re-tweeting them a number of times, the readership climbed quickly. I suspect the ‘list’ approach for the ’27’ post had a lot to do with getting the re-tweets; that the the subject of ‘un-boring’…both of which serve to create interest and draw listeners, both done by design.

top posts on TradeshowGuy Blog last 7 days

If you’re a blogger, you should be using these tools to drive traffic. After all, if you write a post, you want people to read it, don’t you?

One thing I do is use so that I can schedule tweets ahead of time; this gives me a chance to post the link 6 – 8 times. Each time it picks up another tweeter who re-tweets it, sending more readers to the post.

I think there is a limit to scheduling tweets though, and I’m not sure where to draw the line. I’ve seen people post links and have them scheduled to go out hourly for several days. Yeah, spammy, I know. But with what I feel is a good post I would like to maximize readership. And the great thing about Twitter is that your community will tell you what’s good – what hits their buttons – and what is not.

One more item: back in February I did an online webinar on ‘Using Social Media to Close More Biz at Tradeshows’ and used nothing but social media and e-mail to drive traffic to the sign-up page. When all was said and done I had a lot of support from the tradeshow community (see screenshot of a handful of re-tweets below), and over the nearly three weeks leading up to the webinar it was interesting to see the numbers:

  • 880 click-throughs to the sign-up page
  • 125 sign-ups for the free webinar
  • 58 attendees

Given that my budget was literally zero – just an investment of time and the ability to use the social media tools – I was more than pleased with the outcome.

Social Media-Tradeshow Webinar RT's

If I wanted to use traditional media to drive traffic (direct mail, postcards, radio, print, etc.) it would have been a huge undertaking and would have taken months to get everthing set up and implemented. And it would have cost thousands of dollars. With social media all it took was a YouTube and Twitter account, a Facebook page and the ability to create video promos and write posts about it….and the time to make it happen.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m sold on social media for its cost-effectiveness and ability to spread useful information to a lot of interested people quickly. And get them to take action.

How to Find the Right Tradeshow for Your Company

If you’re new to tradeshow marketing, how do you find a tradeshow that’s appropriate for your company? After all, you don’t want to invest a wheelbarrow full of cash and find out that your target market doesn’t come to the show.

Not that you’d do that…but you’d be surprised what decisions are made in the world of business based on hearsay or minimal information.

Best bet is to ask a lot of questions.

Start with your clients. Find out what shows they attend. Then go online and check your competitors. Most businesses these days have an ‘event’ section in their website which usually lists the tradeshows they exhibit at. Also check also with manufacturers and distributors in your industry.

Next, search online. One good resource I have always steered people to is (‘The Ultimate Event Resource). You can search shows by state, country, industry and date. Go to the show’s website and review the information with an eye to determining if this is a show that your target market is likely to attend.

The next thing to ask yourself is: ‘what is my objective for this show?’ Your goal of launching a product may indicate a different show than your goal of creating a great media buzz for your company. Determine your

Topo Wall

Once you’ve compiled a list, target the top 2 – 3 shows and make plans to visit them as an attendee in the coming year. By attending before you invest in exhibiting, you’ll get a good feel for which show(s) make the most sense for you. Besides, attending a show as a guest is a lot cheaper way to find out if it’s the right show than to show up with a booth, your staff and thousands of dollars of product – and wonder why your target market isn’t there.

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photo credit: Incase Designs

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