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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Natural Products Expo West: Photo Collection

Just back from the Natural Products Expo West show, where some 3025 exhibitors had their wares on display. Interpretive Exhibits, where I’m the VP of Sales and Marketing, had eight various custom client booths on display, including Bob’s Red Mill, Nancy’s Yogurt, Natracare, Mountain Rose Herbs, Bi-O-Kleen, Hyland’s, gDiapers and Earth Mama Angel Baby.

Here are a few photos of those booths, as well as others and a few Twitterers I ran into:

Natural Products Expo West 2010

Skiing and Social Media Tradeshow Marketing (Seminar Coming!)

What does skiing have to do with using social media to market your tradeshow booth? Very little. Okay, it’s a biiiiig stretch! But nonetheless, earlier this week I managed to get up to Hoodoo Ski Bowl in central Oregon to do a little skiing…and daydreaming about using social media, Twitter and…well, you’ll just have to watch the video:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HshK8roKLrU

And yes, I am planning a live/local seminar (wow, I sound just like a local TV newscaster –Live, Local!) coming up on April 8 here in Salem, Oregon. Are you in the area? Can you come? Find out more by clicking here.

Early bird registration is still underway, which means you save $10. And IF you manage to read the fine print, you’ll see that you are actually getting my whole Social Media Tradeshow Marketing Bundle AND the live seminar…for ten bucks less than the current price of the bundle. Hmmm…is this a clever marketing ploy, or just plain stupidity?

Twittering at #ExpoWest

Follow Tradeshowguy on Twitter

A few quick observations on using Twitter at Expo West, the huge Natural Products show in Anaheim this past weekend:

1. A handful of companies are drawing people to their booths through Twitter. Many of them seemed to be amazed that it worked – but almost all that were using it were seeing results.

2. It seemed to me (again, anecdotal evidence) that the companies having the most success were small to medium-sized companies. I did talk to a few larger companies – those with at least 8 or 10 booth staffers and a larger island booth – but the response was, shall we say, a little less enthusiastic? “Yeah, I think we are – ask Jason over there, he’s doing some social media…I think.” When I talked with the Jason (not his real name): “Yeah, we’re using it. I mean, I’m doing some stuff online. Now and then…but it’s…uh…”

3. Before the show I gathered a list of just under 50 exhibitors who had posted their booth numbers and used the #expowest hashtag. I was able to meet ‘n’ greet most of them the first morning of the show. If there were other Tweeters they didn’t show up on Twitter with either their booth number or the #expowest hashtag. Without those, I couldn’t find them. Which meant most other people probably couldn’t either.

4. Some – but not all – were offering goodies for people that mentioned that they came to the booth because of a tweet. A free imprinted shopping bag, a larger product sample, etc.

5. Everyone that was actively involved with Tweeting among the smaller companies were absolutely enthusiastic when I mentioned I saw their booth number on Twitter. That enthusiasm for social media ran to other platforms: many had YouTube and/or Facebook pages as well.

Summing up: small companies can create consistent buzz using Twitter and other social media platforms if they have a dedicated social media staffer who ‘gets it’. Larger companies seem to struggle with what social media can do for them (although there certainly are exceptions – I’m just passing on observations from one tradeshow). It’s as if there are more layers of management and marketing and strategy and other roadbumps that appear to damper any enthusiasm that people within the company may have for using social media. For a larger company to succeed with social media, it’s my feeling they need to dedicate either a full-time person or – depending on their size – a small department to the task. Smaller companies can get away with using one person on a part or full-time basis for social media.

Natural Products Expo West: Natural Food Fest, Twitter-fest, ???

Waiting for the doors to the exhibit floor to open...

I’m heading south to LA (or as my friend Roger who lives north of downtown LA likes to refer to it: Hell-A) in a few hours to go to the Natural Products Expo West, held at the Anaheim Convention Center just across the street from Mickey and Minnie and Goofy and the others at Disneyland. Which is a great distraction if for some reason the Expo isn’t entertaining enough.

In the lead-up to Expo West, it was curious to see how the Twitter chatter has increased exponentially in the past 6 – 8 days. Three weeks ago I three the hashtag #expowest into the Twitter stream to see who might be going to the show…and barely got a bite.

But since late last week, the hashtag is showing up a few hundred times a day. I’ve compiled a list of 50 or so Twitterers (Tweeters?) who are exhibiting and plan to stop by and introduce myself.

The show is a great experience; this will be my 8th time. The first time you walk in that exhibit hall you’re overwhelmed and whatever plan you thought you had becomes secondary to all of the sights, smells, tastes and wonderful wacky people and exhibits that make up the Natural Products Expo West. This is where thousands of exhibitors meet with tens of thousands of attendees. Distributors, producers, retailers, manufacturers and all of the supporting vendors and folks who make the natural products industry go.

Yes, it’s quite a scene.

The first year I went I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Ziggy Marley (one of my faves) was the singer at the annual free show for attendees. This year its his little brother Julian Marley.

If You Go: What do you like to do at the show? Who do you like to connect with? What products are you looking for? Are you selling or buying? Is the show getting old and jaded because you’ve been coming for twenty years? Or does it feel fresh and vibrant? I’d love to hear any comments…!

Earth Mama Angel Baby
Earth Mama Angel Baby back wall

The company I work for, Interpretive Exhibits, has about eight booths set-up at the show. No, not OUR booths…booths that we designed and fabricated for other clients, including Bob’s Red Mill (booth 2546), Mountain Rose Herbs (2820), Nancy’s Yogurt(2780B), Natracare (3516), Hyland’s Homeopathic (1352), Bi-O-Kleen (3957), gDiapers (3358), and Earth Mama Angel Baby (4120). We also have a handful of other clients that are using booths we sold, but didn’t design and fabricate.

One notable exception this year in our line-up is the 20’x30′ booth we built for Kettle Foods in ’02. After the original owners sold the company a few years ago, the new owners took a closer look at all marketing expenditures and decided that the amount of money going in to tradeshow marketing was not giving them the return they desired. That and the fact that their image is so entrenched in the marketplace. So they’re looking for other ways to market with those sames dollars. And interestingly enough, they’ll have a new owner on board (as soon as the deal with Diamond Foods is approved) which could put them in a different direction all together.

So…Tweet-up? The details are in the right hand column of this blog – if you’re at the show and can make it, by all means, do! I’d love to meet you!

Podcast: Mike O’Neil Interview

Author Mike O’Neil recently sat down with me and discussed a wide range of topics, from LinkedIn and Facebook to Meetup.com and Twitter and how those various social media platforms can be used to promote events.

During this excerpt, Mike discussed the differences between using Facebook and LinkedIn to promote events, and talked about how Twitter’s huge ‘people’ stream means you have to be more engaged to get people to respond to your event promotion tweets.

The complete 40-minute conversation is included as a bonus download in the recently-released Social Media – Tradeshow Marketing Bundle now available here: http://budurl.com/smbundle.

Mike’s book is great: “Rock the World With Your Online Presence” – a book that specifically shows you how to create a rockin’ LinkedIn profile.

A Keen Tale of Customer Service

I first learned about Keen Shoes in mid-2008. I had just made a new friend Karrie and noticed she was wearing these pretty cool shoe that were half-sandals and half-regular shoes with a protective toe – more than an average sandal but with air circulation like a sandal. She bragged about how comfortable they were, how she could wear them hiking or in the water or for daily wandering around and they were always comfortable and versatile.

In November of that year Karrie and I were bouncing through the aisles and racks at REI in northwest Portland. I saw a pair of Keens on sale and decided to try ’em on. After wearing them around the store for fifteen minutes I was sold. Over the next several months they got a lot of wear. And comments.

I was standing in line at a grocery store and a guy looks at my feet and said “My Keens are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn.”

“Mine, too!” I agreed.

His were a different style, one I had never seen before. But damn nice.

Before I get to the Keen customer service tale, let me tell you about my encounter with the Keen crew in person.

In July of 2009 I attended the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City. In the prep and run-up to the show I noticed that Keen was exhibiting there. I made a note to try and contact their tradeshow manager Dave. After all, I am in the tradeshow sales end of things and wanted to at least make a connection. Keep in mind that in the tradeshow industry, the sales cycle is very long: 5 – 7 years, as long or longer than the sales cycles for car-buying for most people. Companies don’t buy a new custom tradeshow booth (which is my task to try and sell) every year – maybe every five years, maybe every seven. Some companies I’ve worked with haven’t purchased a new tradeshow booth for almost twenty years. And they buy from people they like and know. So my goal with meeting the tradeshow manager at Keen was just to introduce myself and ask a few questions and see what might eventually unfold.

The show was an illuminating experience and yes I did meet a lot of people. But not Dave. I stopped by the booth several times, but he was in and out. One of the helpful staff pointed him out to me once, so I at least knew what he looked like. But I couldn’t catch up with him.

Keen’s presence at the show was extremely high-level: a creative booth built by Atmosphere of Salt Lake City using lots of recycled or recyclable materials; the promotions were engaging and creative and the staff always helpful.

I was sold on Keen and became a big fan, even if they might never become a customer. I must have told four or five dozen people about my Keen shoes and how much I loved ’em.

After the show and back in Salem (Keen’s HQ is just up the road in Portland, btw), I blogged about the show and mentioned Keen’s Hybrid Life promotion.

Next month – August – I was pulling on my Keens and the loop on my left foot – the one you stick your finger through to pull the shoe on – ripped.

I was aghast! The Keen shoe was not infallible! Here I thought they were perfect.

But no. Since I was a follower of Keen Shoes on Twitter I posted a Tweet about the loop tear:

Having heard of dozens of stories of how companies were using Twitter to respond to customer service request, I somehow assumed that I’d get a nice prompt reply.

Didn’t happen. My tweet vanished into the depths of cyberspace.

I forgot about it. Well, except when I was pulling on my Keens with the ripped loop!

Fast-forward to late December 2009. It finally dawned on me that I might get a response if I actually went to Keen’s website and contacted customer service. One of those palm-to-the-forehead moments. By now I felt there was nothing to lose: if there was any warranty it might cover a small repair, and if not – well, I tried.

In other words, I had pretty low expectations.

But I did get a quick response to my e-mail which outlined the Keen warranty. First, the claim had to have been made within a year of purchase.

At that point I didn’t even know the purchase date for sure, but thought it was more than a year back. Since the purchase was made on Karrie’s REI membership, I asked her if she could get that information – which she eventually did. And yes, it had been about 14 months since I purchased the Keens. So any claim at this point was moot.

But again – figuring I had nothing to lose – I tracked down the tweet I had send in August, took a quick screen shot of it (which included the date) and passed that back to Keen.

Shortly I received an e-mail which apologized for the lack of response to my earlier tweet. In fact, they had agreed that if I met the other warranty requirements (send photo, receipt, etc.) they would honor the warranty – because I had in fact contacted them – on Twitter – but they had failed to respond.

So I sent photos, copy of the email receipt from REI, etc. and waited.

No response for 2 – 3 weeks, so I sent another e-mail asking if they had received the photos and other documentation.

‘Yup’ came the reply, ‘your shoes are shipping in five days.’

Wow. Amazing, I thought, for them to go a little above and beyond what most companies would do and send me a replacement pair of shoes, even though my only initial communication was a single tweet.

Now that’s Customer Service.

Dave and I still haven’t met or talked even though I’ve tried a handful of times. But I’m sure we will and the first thing I’ll do is tell him that the company’s shoes are great but the Customer Service is even better.

Podcast: Steve Farnsworth Interview

Here’s a short but worthwhile segment of a much longer in-depth conversation with blogger and social media expert Steve Farnsworth on how to use YouTube to explode your traffic at tradeshows.

The complete 35-minute conversation is included as a bonus download in the recently-released Social Media – Tradeshow Marketing Bundle now available here (for a mighty good price, too!).

Give a listen and get a few cool ideas on how to use video to bring more people to your tradeshow booth. Get the bundle for the whole conversation and many more ideas.

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Find Steve Farnsworth online here:

Are Your Potential Customers Online? Duh.

I love these short statistic-packed videos that keep popping up and lay out the latest data on online consumption. And yes, we are a world of ‘net consumers. Watching videos (average of 182 a month!), blogging (53% of all websites are blogs!), sending emails, dealing with spam…it’s incredible how the numbers stack up.

Thought you’d like to take a look:

JESS3 / The State of The Internet from Jesse Thomas on Vimeo.

Slides from “Social Media-Tradeshow” Webinar

Yesterday’s webinar (Feb 17) on “How to Use Social Media to Close More Business at Tradeshows” was fun and well-received.  I thought I’d post the slides so you could get a glimpse of what we went over…of course the audio track and discussion would reveal a lot more – but take a look here:


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