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

Seth Godin

Applying the Modern Business Plan to Tradeshow Marketing

The ‘modern business plan’ was hatched on a blog post by Seth Godin. I was a recent enrollee in Godin’s The Marketing Seminar, where at one point we were referred to the post which breaks down the five elements of what he feels are the important parts of a modern business plan: truth, assertions, alternatives, people and money.

It’s also possible to apply that thinking to how you approach tradeshow marketing.

The truth of tradeshow marketing would be the facts and figures of the specific show(s) that you plan to participate in. How many people attend? What percentage of decision-makers and influencers are among the attendees? Who are the competitors/exhibitors?

Assertions might include your thoughts on what you believe you know that is not necessarily supported by data. What new products are you launching that might be similar to new products from competitors? What types of marketing tactics and strategies are those competitors using? This is where you state what you believe to be true, although you might not be able to prove it.

Alternatives: ­This is where you play the “what if” game. What if things go wrong? What is your plan B? What if you get lucky by meeting the exact prospect that you didn’t anticipate? What if your top salesperson is poached by a competitor? Hey, anything can happen. At least opening your mind to some of those possibilities gives you a chance to chew them over.

People: who are your best people and how can you best use them? Where are your weak spots and how can you improve with them? Do you need to acquire people to get your tradeshow department to run like a clock and not like a Rube Goldberg machine?

Finally, money: Budgeting, logistical costs, personnel costs. Return on investment, cost of samples. You know the drill. But are your numbers accurate? And did you run the calculations a year later after the show so that you actually know what your return on investment really is?

What is your Return on Objective? Thanks to the Exhibition Guy Stephan Murtagh!

There are any number of ways of looking at your business or marketing plan, but taking this approach helps to clarify several issues at once. Give it a try!

Tradeshow Marketing: What is it for?

Borrowing a riff from Seth Godin – “What is it for?” – is a good place to start when considering tradeshow marketing.

Not only “what is it for?” but the alternative approach of “why are YOU doing it?”

There are many ways to look at tradeshow marketing and using the “what is it for?” approach can be very helpful.

Is it for selling? Is it for launching new products? Is it for maintaining brand awareness in a crowded marketplace? Could it be for maintaining relationships with clients? What about showing off the speaking and knowledge abilities of your top managers by having them appear on a panel or give a keynote or breakout session?

There are no wrong answers, as long as it’s something that is valid and true. One that makes sense to you and your company. If you don’t know what it’s for, maybe you should start from scratch and figure that out.

7 Surefire Ways to Energize Social Media at Tradeshows – #2 – Don’t Publish Selfish Content

See previous posts in this series: The Basics and Look at What Others Are Doing.


The most common trap bloggers and social media content publishers fall into is the old ‘tell everybody everything’ trap. This misleading line of thinking leads them to publish blog posts that are self-centered and of little use to their intended audience. The kind of content I’m referring to could be press releases about company awards, self-congratulatory ‘look how cool we are’ posts and items that have no intent behind them to assist their readership in any way, shape or form.

At this point your blog or Facebook page becomes nearly unreadable and useless, except as an example of what NOT to do.

If your company is not blogging yet, here’s a roundup of ideas that may inspire you to start blogging soon.

So what do you do on your blog or Facebook pages?

Easy: identify and solve problems. If you haven’t already identified several issues that your product or service helps alleviate, use your Facebook page to ask questions, take surveys and keep your ear to the ground for those problems.

By solving problems – even if those problems don’t directly relate to your product or service – you’re positioning your company in a leadership role in the minds of those readers.

Beyond solving problems, move out in front of the pack by offering lead-edge thoughts on what’s going on in your industry. Anything that you can think of that’s worth sharing is worth publishing somewhere. Create videos, write blog posts, engage your readership online in as many ways as possible. Even short one-thought bursts such as those that Seth Godin comes up with may be useful to your readership.

To re-cap:

  • Don’t publish selfish content
  • Stay away from press releases
  • Solve problems
  • Be a thought-leader
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 photo credit: wonderferret

Marketing a Local Event with Social Media: A Case Study

Need to lift declining attendance at a regional or local tradeshow? You might take a tip or two from what Jill Harrison, the Manager of Public Relations and Image Development at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce did.

When I asked for stories in a HARO request last year, Jill chimed in with a great story on how they brought more people to the show – and kept the buzz going during the event for attendees and those that couldn’t be there in person. Let’s let her tell it:

Here at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, we use social media heavily for our twice annual tradeshow called SchmoozaPalooza. There are two main ways we use it: 1) to drive event attendance and 2) to update followers during the actual event.

Our event, called “Business After Hours”, had declining attendance. We decided to re-brand it (and call it SchmoozaPalooza) and spread the word in a new way – through social media. We set up profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, MySpace and Facebook. We started by attracting “friends” before we tried to sell or promote anything. We figured out what our followers were interested in, and informed them on a variety of events, not just about SchmoozaPalooza. This helped us build credibility. After a period of time, we began to promote SchmoozaPalooza. The closer to the event we got, the more we promoted it. By the time the event drew near, we had 102 followers on Twitter, 441 friends on Linkedin, 209 friends on Plaxo, 117 friends on MySpace, and 568 friends on Facebook.

During the actual event, we encouraged our attendees to “tweet” what they were doing, what was happening and what they thought. A large TV screen in the front and back of the event showed the scrolling “tweets” to passersby.

After the event when we did our evaluation, we saw that attendance had nearly quadrupled – from 200 to 725. Our revenue doubled. The best part is that we can utilize these friend groups in the future. Social media helped us reach a whole new audience.

Certainly using Social Media to draw more visitors to an event can be done – but it doesn’t happen over night and it does take planning and execution.

I like that Jill and her team had a plan and spent some time building credibility before they started to promote SchmoozaPalooza, then built on the promotions as they got closer. I disagree with Seth Godin’s take that putting up a tradeshow booth is an event and not a process. Getting people to your show or to your booth is an ongoing process that goes from show to show and builds on past experiences and promotions.

For your next tradeshow (whether you’re organizing the show or just putting up a booth at the show), take a hard look at Social Media and see what it can do for you. Learn from other experiences and look to create your own experiences. Then build on them.

What’s Important in 2010?


I am amazed that we are already ten years into the new century. Not such a new century any more, is it? But every day brings new and exciting things. 2009 was the year of Exploding Social Media. Everybody seems to be getting into it big time.

Companies are jumping on board before the train pulls out of the station. They don’t want to be left behind.

Technology keeps leap-frogging itself. iPhones, Google phones, Droid phones; 3D movies, downloadable movies, marketplace changes…

So what does 2010 and beyond bring?

Maybe the question should be: what matters now?

Blogger, author and thinker Seth Godin asked that question of a lot of his friends and acquaintances. He’s assembled a new free e-book called “What Matters Now.”

In it, some 70 people share one-page chapters (essays?) with a one-word title. It’s funny, endearing, inspiring and a gas to read. Pick up your free copy now. And let a friend know. Seth is hoping to get the book into the hands of five million people!


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