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

January 2010

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.

Podcast: Andy Saks Interview

Andy Saks is the ‘Chief Sparkler’ of Spark Presentations in the Boston area – and a big proponent of using Bubble Tweets to draw attention to his online antics. Andy’s also a great presenter and trainer, and spends a fair amount of his time working for clients at tradeshows. Andy sat down for an interview recently to discuss all of that, and more.


View Andy’s BubbleTweet’s here…

Shout Out to Bob’s Red Mill for Winning the Golden Spurtle

If that headline mystified you – because you don’t know what the heck a ‘spurtle’ is – you’re not alone.

For starters, a spurtle is is a Scottish kitchen tool that dates back to the fifteenth century. The ‘Golden Spurtle’ is awarded each year in Scotland to someone who cooks some darn fine porridge in the World Porridge Making Championship, in Carrbridge, Inverness-shire, Scotland, on ‘World Porridge Day’. As the website states, “The title of World Porridge Making Champion is awarded to the chef deemed to have made the best traditional porridge using oatmeal, water and salt.”

From what I can gather from talking to the folks at Bob’s Red Mill, the competition, which is put on by the Scots, is usually (if not always) won by a Scot.

Not this year. In October of 2009, Matt Cox of Bob’s Red Mill (an Interpretive Exhibits client), claimed the title and the Golden Spurtle. The follow six-minute film of the event is a bit of a kick.

Our congratulations to Matt and Bob’s Red Mill! Our big question is: you are going back to defend your title, aren’t you, Matt?

Core-Apps demo of “Follow Me” at NAMM

In October Jay Tokosch appeared on our podcast to discuss “Follow Me,” an iPhone app that is customizable for tradeshows to help direct you to various booths, locate yourself, and generally help your whole tradeshow experience.

Jay just sent me a note with a link to a YouTube video that Core-Apps just tossed up that demos the app. This quick video definitely shows how cool the app is.


Listen to the podcast with Jay here.

Creative Marketing in Tough Times

This article was originally published by the Statesman-Journal in mid-2008 and has been slightly updated.

Reaching your target market gets a little harder when your marketing budget is tapped by the recession. Even though the recession is ‘officially’ over (ask those looking for work if they think that’s true), you’re no doubt still challenged by tighter marketing budgets and other constraints.

So how do you get noticed in a busy marketing world with less of a marketing budget?

Brainstorm a little. Put on your thinking cap and see how you might adapt the following ideas to your product or service:

Picket Your Business: If your location is in a visible area, grab a dozen friends, make some signs and picket your business with signs that read “Company X is too nice!” or “Too good to be true!” or “Customer Service that’s Out of this World!” Who knows, maybe it’ll be a slow news day and a local news photographer will happen by (might not be a bad idea to alert them).

Business Cards are Like Confetti: Next time you get cards printed, double your order. Now find some complementary but not competitive businesses, and leave a stack of 25 on their counter in exchange for doing the same. Then drop by the library, go to the business book section, and leave a card in the books that relate specifically to your business or expertise. Slip them into magazines when you are waiting for an appointment with your doctor or dentist.

Pay it Forward: At the movies (or toll bridge or ball game or…) pay for the next customer and make sure the cashier gives your business card to the person. No guarantee the person will become a client but it can certainly get them talking. Okay, leave two business cards.

On-Hold Messaging: When people call your businesses and are put on hold while they wait for their party, they’re a captive audience. Now’s the perfect time to let them know about your company and any seasonal or timely specials you have going on. If you’re not doing this, it’s a missed opportunity – and it’s a low budget ploy to get in your customers’ ears. And yes, I do on-hold messaging!

Partnerships: The right partnership can double your business – as well as that of your new partner. Find a business whose clients can benefit from your service and chances are their clients will benefit from you. For instance: wedding planner + photographer; web designer + search engine specialist; house painters + window replacement.

Client Appreciation and Recognition: put on a barbecue at a local park or even a big back yard. Make sure your clients bring at least one or two business friends. Have a short ceremony handing out certificates, small prizes – anything to give recognition and appreciation to those that support you.

Offer Free Services: If you have a business that’s targeting the general population such as a restaurant, coffee shop, flower shop, etc., offer samples (free meal, drinks, roses) to other business folks. The key is to target people that see a lot of customers in a day and have an opportunity to talk to their clients at length. Think hair stylists and barbers. Who wouldn’t love to talk about a great freebie they just got, especially if it’s nearby?


Free E-Book: Write a short e-book that answers all the troubling questions your clients have and offer it on your website. If you can compile enough information, use the free version as an enticement for a longer in-depth e-book that you can charge for.

Blog Targeting: Got a lively blog that relates to your business or expertise? You should! If not, get one. If you do, strike up a deal with local internet cafes to make your blog the home page in exchange for free advertising on your blog.

Twitter: If you’re not aware of Twittering, think of it as short blog bursts that are instantly delivered to ‘followers.’ Learn who the leaders in your industry are and follow their Twitters (‘tweets?’) and let people know that you’re tweeting, too. If you blog chances are there is a tool that integrates your blog with Twitter so all your posts are sent out as a ‘tweet…’ Whatever your approach, Twitter is being used by more and more business people to pass on news, product comments, industry chatter and more.

Guest Blogging: Find a popular blog that relates to your industry, get familiar with its content and type of readers, and offer to send a free article for them to post. The article should offer useful information or unique insight into an industry situation or product problem. The more useful it is, the more likely you’ll be asked back – and other bloggers will take note, too. Make sure to include a ‘resource’ box with info on you and a link back to your website.

Articles: Write short informative articles relating to your product or service and distribute them via sites such as,, or Why give it away free? The more times your articles are read, the more chances you have to get a click back. When you consider how long articles can stay posted online, a single popular article can refer thousands back to your site.

Regardless of your budget or product or service, with some thought and creativity you can find a way to get in the face of (and perhaps under the skin) your most desired customers. Brainstorm a little, adapt some of these ideas and watch your bottom line.

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photo credit: Skeggzatori

Pro-Active Networking for 2010

Late last year during the Christmas holiday break, while I was lazing away days in front of bowl games eating popcorn with my son, playing video games and getting in a day or two of steep incline slope meditation (that’s skiing to you), I made a decision to become a proactive networker in 2010. As in – let’s be a conscious networker every day and see what happens.

I didn’t want to set expectations for the networking, such as how much business I could create out of the networking (which meant I would be pushing people to buy something). I wanted to set some measurement points for things I can do and control. I can set a goal of reaching out to one new person a day, every business day (and even on weekends if I felt like it), by talking to or reaching out via e-mail to someone with a specific reason (not sales).

So I am going into 2010 with this approach: reach out consistently and frequently and see what happens.

just another meetup

Early in the year it’s interesting to see what’s happened already. One thing I’m promoting locally is the Salem Business Network, a local online business-networking and referral site that I run. My plan is to talk to a few hundred people about it this year and get them signed up for a free listing which will likely get them listed on the front page of major search engines. Again, I just want to see where all that networking and relationship-building leads.

If the networking is only online, I look for opportunities to take it offline. If they’re local, that means an invitation to coffee and conversation. If they’re not local, it’s an invitation to a phone conversation.

For the first week of the year I talked to about a half-dozen folks that were somewhat lukewarm to the idea of joining another networking group (perhaps I wasn’t explaining the benefit clearly enough for them to understand), but did sign up a handful. Then yesterday I connected with a web designer here locally that was absolutely intrigued by the site because he could see the underlying architecture and said “Wow, this is impressive! Even to me!” Funny how you get re-inspired when you run across someone who ‘gets’ what you’re trying to do.

I’ve also reached out to a couple of ‘friends of friends’ on Facebook that intrigued me enough with comments and e-mails so I felt it was the right thing to do to find a phone number and make the call. It’s led to a handful of great conversations.

So what takes place in the conversation? I have two or three questions I ask:

First, if they’re in business – which almost all are – I want to know who is their ideal client? I ask them to describe that person or company. If I know anyone that fits that description I’ll make an introduction.

Second, I ask if they mind if I add them to my newsletter list as a way of keeping in touch. I also get complete contact information, such as Twitter and Facebook, and ask if they’re on LinkedIn. Hey, if you’re going to networking, you had better take it online if it’s not already there.

Third, I offer to help them with anything in the tradeshow arena. Not a heavy-handed sell – just an invitation to call me if a situation comes up where they or their clients need semething to do with tradeshow marketing. I find that a ‘light touch’ for the sales end of what I do works: it’s inviting while not being pushy. Plus, it’s congruent with the purpose of my call: to network – not to sell.

The things I am getting out of ProActive Networking so far: turning those tweets and avatar photos into real human beings; and fostering more connections between all the people I know.

Chances are I’ll follow up these conversations with a quick card from my SendOutCards account to solidify the connection and maybe impress them, too.

But what do I really get out of it? I get to know more people and I have found over the last seven years of being in exhibit sales I love getting to know people and to help them get what they want. If I can do that effectively, then I can get what I want.

QUESTIONS for you: What are you doing to network this year? Are you trying new things, new ways to reach people? Are you consciously and consistently looking to find new people? I’d love to see your comments!

Disclosure: I’m an affiliate of SendOutCards, the coolest ever online card-sending service. Try it out here. I also work with to assist people to start their own online city-based business networks that looks just like Salem Business Network. If you want to find out how to start your own local online networking site, contact me.

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photo credit: tarale

Using Facebook at an Event: A Case Study

Need more sign-ups on your Facebook page? Take a tip from this case study of, an online study community aimed at high school and college students. Marketing Associate and blogger Carleigh McKenna contacted us after a HARO request for stories on how companies are using social media in conjunction with events.

Here’s how kick-started their Facebook page:

At a “Boston Back to School Party” last year, hosted a booth at CollegeFest crammed with several computer stations. They encouraged students to log in to their Facebook pages to check updates. While logged in, they asked the students to join their Facebook page.

To entice as many students as possible to sign up, they dangled a $1500 prize to be given to a member of the new Facebook page at random after the CollegeFest was complete. Since they had just created the page and went into the event with zero members, they explained the odds were pretty good.

As Carleigh put it: “Not only did we take a Fan Page from 0 members (it launched the day before CollegeFest) to almost 1,000—which has allowed us the credibility of an established page as we attract more members– we also got more information than a simple e-mail address alone will ever provide.”

Since CollegeFest, the Facebook Fan Page has continued to grow. As of last check they were at over 2000 fans.

Carleigh adds that students (and perhaps some parents) are active on the Facebook page; joining in a weekly brainteaser, checking out photos and posting status updates or questions.

Check out

Are Your Tradeshow Graphics Doing Their Job?

Lost in a sea of graphics?

Funny, you don’t think of tradeshow graphics as actually working. Like, doing a job. More like you just hire a designer to put a nice logo up with a spiffy enticing photo and perhaps a photo and call it good.

But if that’s all you do, you’re probably not getting your money’s worth.

Your graphics should be doing a JOB. A BIG job. The biggest in your booth.

First, your graphics should stop people in their tracks. Admittedly, in a crowded chaotic tradeshow floor, it’s asking a lot of those graphics to actually stop people.  But if you can get your graphics to at least slow someone down enough to see what your booth is all about, that’s probably enough. After all, most people at a show are there to learn and see what’s new and are actually looking to be engaged in show-stopping stuff.

How to get your graphics to stop someone or slow them down? A wild beautiful photo; a bold, engaging statement; a challenging question.

Next, your graphics should qualify and disqualify show attendees as much as possible. If your graphic is inviting EVERYBODY to your booth chances are a lot of those people are NOT potential clients or customers. But if you ask the right question and show the right photo, illustration or graphic, the visitor can quickly deduce if your product or service works for them. They’re qualified or disqualified before they even enter the booth. Job well done.

Finally, your graphics should appear in a hierarchy of most important to least important. You’ve seen all of those expensive overhead hanging banners? They almost always are of a recognizable logo or brand. The overhead banner helps shout out your name from the rooftops. Literally. It helps people find your booth from halfway across the hall.

the hierarchy of graphics: overhead banner, tagline, video, greeting logo

So: top of the hierarchy: Your logo. Next: the important tagline or question that engages the mind and helps to qualify or disqualify.

Third: the sub-headline, which supports or complements the main headline. Often this appears as the last item – beyond three you’re getting into the kind of text and verbiage that most people won’t read unless they’re your absolute target market. Does this mean you shouldn’t include it? Of course you should – if you have room and it makes overall sense and is still engaging to your core target.

The fourth and final part of your graphic package in the hierarchy would be any supporting literature. In rare cases it might be a set of graphics with more detailed information, such as bullet points, that add to the overall description.

One additional piece which a lot of companies now add is the video element. Even though the video likely has a soundtrack, in most tradeshow environments the sound will either be ignored or lost in the ambient noise. It doesn’t mean that the soundtrack should be ignored or thought of as a throwaway piece of information, because it can be useful in other situations. It just means that as part of your overall tradeshow graphics package, the video should have strong images and an engaging storyline without having to rely on the soundtrack or narrator.

One final aside: it’s common for people to underestimate the cost of their graphic design and production, and because of that end up cutting corners.

If you really want your graphics to do the job they are capable of doing, be realistic about the budget and give them the impact they deserve.

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