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


Is Foursquare the Next Killer App for Tradeshow Marketing?

The year: 2016

The scene: a busy tradeshow floor in Chicago


The situation: almost half of the exhibitors at the show are welcoming visitors to the show, who are ‘checking in’ via Foursquare (or some similar app – who’s to know what will survive that long). After then check in at the booth, they’re rewarded with a couple of spiffs. Maybe a free download just for show visitors, a store discount, or a chance to win something cool. Maybe they get a free one-on-one with the CEO. Doesn’t matter, could be anything of value. By checking in, they also automatically are asked if they want to opt-in to receiving special offers via text message or old-fashioned e-mail.

When visitors check the stats in Foursquare they see that hundreds of visitors have also checked in at the booth, as well as many others. There’s a thriving online community of people who are also connecting face-to-face thanks to location-based-marketing apps. It could be Facebook, could be Foursquare or any other of the LBS (location based services) apps that are thriving in the new, increasingly connected world. With the deep personal profiling that has grown in the past few years, it’s easy to connect with people who are interested in the same things, or have certain characteristics in common, such as location, similar job titles, or even off-job interests like golf or skiing. Meetings are arranged either by users or companies who have an interest in bringing these small groups together. Kind of like a Tweetup on steroids.

The scene is not that far from reality. Location based marketing is exploding. Mobile marketing is right behind. Some people are already starting to use the mobile and GPS tools to great effect. Sarah Perez writes on Read Write Web that the key to success for your location-base app is to find a way to reward people for their activities. So what’s your reward?

Indeed. Give something of value to a group of people that are hungry for that item and you’ve started opening the door to a new client-customer relationship.

While Lopez refers to a recent study by Forrester Research that shows ‘only 4% of U.S. online adults have ever used location-based apps such as these, and only 1% out of those that use them do so more than once per week’ – just think back to the middle part of the last decade where people were just getting excited about podcasting and blogging, both of which are now well established. Web 2.0 was the new buzz. Since 2005, the incredible growth of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has been the focus of countless media spotlights.

The world is going mobile, and GPS-related services and location-based marketing is poised to take off big time. There’s huge potential there for the masses. And even now, as the Forrester research points out, the current small group of users of Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, MyTown, Brightkite are all very influential. People look to them for opinions and leadership. Friend ask what they’re up to and who’d they buy from.

It may not be the time to jump into location-based marketing quite yet for a tradeshow, but if you did you would not be too far ahead of anyone.

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photo credit: abulhussain

Just Ask for What You Want!

Life lessons are sometimes slow to present themselves. It wasn’t until I hit my 40s that the idea of ‘ask for what you want’ really came true for me. Now I do it all the time. Well, when I think of it and when it makes sense.

But it is amazing what you can get if you ask. Now I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to tie this to tradeshow marketing, but I bet it can be applied somewhere. Perhaps to a vendor, a client, a potential customer…somebody. If you want something, just ask!

For instance, I’m a Comcast cable subscriber. I’ve heard that many people through the years have not been happy with the service. Truthfully, it’s always been great for me. The few issues I’ve had have been handled promptly and courteously.

I got started with Comcast when I signed up one of those service bundles. You know the kind: they package internet, cable and phone service and give you a sweet deal so you’ll buy all of them. And of course it’s a limited offer; the price will go up after a year.

So I bought it knowing that the price would go up after a year (this was several years ago, by the way). At the end of the year I got the latest bill in the mail – which showed the increased pricing – and I decided to give them a call, since the price was going to go up about $30 a month.

“Hi, I’m a customer of about a year and I notice that the price for my bundled service expires. I’m actually shopping around and am interested in what you can do for me.”

“Hang on a minute, let me check.”

I wait for a moment before the service rep comes back. “I see that you’ve been paying your bills on time every month and that you’re currently paying X for the bundle. I can give you the current bundle price. It’s not the same as it was when you signed on, but it will still save you $20 a month. How does that sound?”

“Great! Thanks!”

Another example:

One of the credit cards I’ve had for several years hit me with an annual fee earlier this year. I hear that’s happened to a lot of people since the new rules went into effect. So I got on the horn to the service rep and asked if they’d mind waiving the fee. I told them if they didn’t I’d probably cancel the card. The balance at that point was $0 and it wasn’t a card I used a lot. Made sense to ask them if they’d drop the fee.

They checked my history (“you’re a long-time customer and we appreciate your business!”), and after a moment said they’d be glad to give me a one-time waiver on the fee. That saved me $39. If they try to hit me again next year with the feel, I’ll ask again to have them waive it. May not get it, but if I don’t ask it’s certain that I won’t.

One more example – this time I got a great deal by keeping my mouth shut. Sort of.

I was at the rental car kiosk in Anaheim a couple of years ago. I had reserved a compact car. They happened to be out of compact cars and told me they could upgrade me for a small fee. I politely said no because I’d been through this before and wanted to see what they were willing to do for me. In a sense I was silently asking to see what they could come up with instead of quickly agreeing to his first offer.

After a few minutes of poking around his computer, the agent said he could upgrade me for no extra charge to a Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible – one of the few cars they had available. Would that be okay?

Uh. Yeah. That’d work.

So I drove with the top down in a hot little sports car for four days in LA. My suitcase didn’t fit in the trunk but I was able to wedge it in the back seat area so I didn’t care – it was all good.

Point is: keep on asking. As a salesperson, keep on asking your customers for the business. If you’re setting up a tradeshow booth, ask the show services folks how they might upgrade your booth. Ask for a better space a few days before the show – perhaps someone has dropped out.

Ask to be upgraded to a suite at your hotel for no extra charge. Ask for a complimentary meal.

Ask. Ask. Ask!

You may not get it even if you ask.

You will definitely NOT get it if you DON’T ASK!


Different Drum

Do you march to the beat of a different drummer? Or do you fall in behind other exhibitors, advertisers and marketers lock-step, following the same marketing and exhibiting methods that have been used for years?

I first heard the phrase ‘march to the beat of a different drummer’ when I was a pre-teen – just about the time I started to learn to play drums in the school band. Just about the time I was recognizing rock drummers such as Dave Clark, Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts.

YES! I thought. I play to a different drummer! Even though I had no idea what it really meant. I just assumed that it was a cool to march to your own beat – whatever that beat was.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not always a good thing to march to your own beat. Some people do that and end out on the fringe, where no one wants to follow and the audience is sparse. As a marketer, you’re looking for the largest possible audience for your specific message.  For some products and companies, that market is in the millions. For others, it may be much smaller, in the hundreds or even dozens. Or less. Just depends.

Marching to the beat of a different drummer means to follow your instinct and gut as much as it means to follow the numbers or stick to a ‘tried-and-true’ path.  In the conclusion to ‘Walden’, Thoreau writes, “If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.”

The creators, inventors and marketers who marched to a different drum were also ones who changed the world. Look at the life stories of folks like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft, 3M’s Art Fry (who invented the Post-it note), Alexander Bain (fax machine – in the 1840s! – look it up) or one of many others who saw things differently.

At your next tradeshow, look around. Who is doing things differently? Is the wacky company that’s making a giant 7-foot-long shoe out of cardboard in their booth? Is it the company that chopped a VW bus in half to make a mini-micro bus to fit in their ten-foot booth? Is it the exhibitor that chopped and painted an industrial storage container and made it into a unique booth?

What grabs your attention? What draws crowds at events?

Now: what can you do in your tradeshow marketing efforts that show off your extraordinary beat to a different drum? And how can you do that in such a way that it gets people attention, invites them into your world, shows them that you are different in a good way, and yet doesn’t cross that imaginary line into fringe or bleeding edge?

And if you can do that, will you tell the rest of us how it’s done??

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photo credit: dominic bartolini

Five Social Media Tradeshow Marketing Posts You Might Have Missed


Totally Tweet.

By Kipp Bodnar

A quick look at items such as:

  • Pongr/QR codes
  • Facebook SMS
  • Live Stream
  • Customer Interview
  • Live Tweeting

How To Use Social Media More Effectively In Trade Show Marketing

by Mark Armbrust

…including video clips from:

  • 24/7 Interactive – Will Burris
  • Virtual Partner – Tiffany Odutoye
  • Social Business Strategies – Nate Riggs
  • An OnScene Production – Eric Leslie

Trade Show Events Social Media Marketing Customer Interaction

timothymclain lists a number of tools you can use, including…

  • ScanLife
  • Foursquare
  • Gowalla
  • Tweetphoto
  • Facebook
  • Twitpro

3 Ways to Avoid Social Media Suicide On Or Off The Tradeshow Floor

by Susan Friedmann

A person suffers a near-fatal allergic reaction and tweets about it. Company responds with a solution. But the response was clumsy; the target tweeted more about the negativity…and it snowballed.

4 Tips For Using Social Media More Effectively at Trade Show Exhibits

By Chris A. Harmen

  • Use Technology Every Day
  • Live Audience Polling
  • Decide Which Social Media Site To Use
  • The Right Technology Tools

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photo credit: FindYourSearch

Are You Flirtin’ With Disaster?

Are you flirting with tradeshow disaster?

You may recall a little rockin’ song from the late 70’s by the Florida band Molly Hatchet called ‘Flirtin’ With Disaster’ – and when it came on the radio the other day it got me to thinking that in many areas of our life that’s exactly what we are doing!

Flirtin’ with Disaster!

So, are you baking up a Recipe for Disaster with your tradeshow marketing?

For instance, does your tradeshow planning look anything like this recipe?


4 medium bars of budget confusion

1/4 c. selfishness

1 tablespoon lackadaisical approach to planning

2 teaspoons bad booth design

7 pounds of inappropriate giveaways

3 oz. untrained booth staff (may be substituted with surly and/or disinterested staff)

4 tablespoons of planning brain freeze


Mix together for just a short time, spread unevenly on show floor and let percolate. For maximum results, feign interest in your visitors, discard most leads as ‘not for us’ and invent a story for the CEO as to why the show was unsuccessful.

Note: by using just a few of this recipe’s ingredients, you can still achieve a terrifically disappointing tradeshow experience!

Do Green Tradeshow Promotional Giveaways Exist?

Guest post by Heidi Thorne

Since I’m known on Twitter for having information on green marketing, my friend “Tradeshow Guy” Tim Patterson asked the question, “Are there items in the promotional giveaway world that are truly ‘green?’ And if not, that’s a story in itself!” It sure would be.

It really comes down to how do YOU define a “green” promotional product? Currently, defining what is green is all over the place. One can call a reusable bag or water bottle green because it would be reused several times and not immediately make its way to a landfill. For the most strict green marketers, a reusable item is a cop out. They might not be happy until the item has been made of plastic derived from organic non-food supply corn grown in the United States in a factory powered by sun or wind that is employee owned and gives 10 percent of its profits to charity.

Because it is so difficult to determine if a giveaway is green, some time back I developed the Green Promo Score Sheet which is available for free download at It helps you assess the “green-ness” of your giveaway based on over a dozen factors such as if it is reusable, recyclable, biodegradable, organic, fair trade, etc.

If you do decide to go down the green giveaway path, make sure that you select a giveaway that matches your objectives or purpose. For example, if your company is promoting that you are using alternative energy, don’t give away something that uses standard batteries! You might want to consider a flashlight that uses dynamo power (usually a crank which you turn to provide power) or solar.

When purchasing green promotional products, ask your supplier if he tell you what makes the item green or ecofriendly if specific claims are not made in the offer. Here is an example that I saw at an area business’ expo. They were giving out “natural” canvas tote bags to hold literature. Kudos for using a reusable product. But that may not have been the optimal choice for this event that was touting green products. Here’s why…

A lot of people think that if it’s cotton, it’s natural and therefore organic. Not so! Standard cotton production is not very environmentally friendly. It uses large amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and water. Organic cotton production uses non-GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds, manual or natural weeding, and water saving techniques.

Watch for vague words in product descriptions such as natural, ecofriendly, or green. These need to be defined.

The number of green tradeshow giveaway items available is increasing all the time. While labeling standards are still in a state of flux, it pays to find out why a product is green before you spend your green.

About the Author

Heidi Thorne is a promotional products and social media marketing consultant, specializing in ecofriendly, USA and union made products. A variety of more ecofriendly promotional products is available at her shopsite. For more information on how to green up your marketing, visit her blog at

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