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

February 2018

10 Tradeshow Best Practices

Seriously, you could compile a list of 50 tradeshow best practices and still add to the list. For the sake of brevity, let’s whittle it down to a reasonable number and see what we get.

  1. Create your marketing plan based on the specific event where you’re going to set up your exhibit. Different audiences, different competitors, different goals will all help steer you to a marketing plan that fits the situation. One size does not fit all.
  2. Your promotion item should be a natural fit with your product or service. Give away an embossed flash drive if you’re in the tech industry and want people to remember what you do. Give away a letter opener if you pitch direct marketing via mail. Things like that.
  3. Try to have some activity in your booth space. People are drawn to movement, or things they can get personally involved with. And when you have lots of people playing with something in your booth that relates to your product, that crowd draws a crowd.
  4. Prior to show floors opening, have a brief meeting with your staff. Remind them of the show goals, hand out kudos for work well done, and gently remind those who are perhaps coming up a bit short what they should work on.
  5. Graphic messaging on your exhibit should be clear as a bell. The fewer the words, the more distinct your message. The message should be enhanced with an appropriate image that supports the message.
  6. tradeshow best practices

    Follow up on leads in a timely manner. Your lead generation and follow up system should be something that you continually work to improve. Warm leads that are followed up on right after the show will produce more results than those that are weeks old.

  7. Qualify and disqualify your visitors quickly. Unqualified visitors should be invited to refer a colleague and be politely disengaged. Qualified visitors earn more time to dig deeper into their needs, including the time frame they need the solution your product can solve, their contact information and an agreed-upon follow up schedule.
  8. The power of a professional presenter cannot be understated. Some products and shows lend themselves more to presenters than others, but a good presenter will make it work in any situation and will bring in more leads than not using them. Caveat: if you hire a presenter, you must have a staff that understands and is prepared to deal with the additional leads generated. If not, most of the leads the presenter generates will slip away.
  9. Tradeshows are a marathon. Be alert, but pace yourself so you can make it to the end of the last day still upright and able to fully engage with visitors.
  10. Spring for carpet padding / wear comfortable shoes. You can never say this enough!

And a bonus number 11:

  • Spend more time on pre-show marketing than you think you should, or more than you’ve done in the past. It costs less and is easier to sell to current customers than it is to sell to new customers. Create a list of current customers, or those who have raised a hand by downloading a white paper, subscribing to a newsletter, or inquired about your services or products over the past year or so. Finally, check with show organizers to see if they can rent the attendee list to you prior to the show.

Who’s Got the Natural Products Expo West Pre-Game Jitters?

Natural Products Expo West has got to be the biggest natural products show in the world, amiright? Seventy-thousand or more attendees. Thirty-five hundred odd exhibitors. Thousands of new products that will appear on grocery shelves in the near future. It’s a smorgasbord of food, organics, body care products, supporting businesses and more. Frankly, it can be overwhelming.

natural products expo west pre-game jitters

This year – 2018 – will be my 16th straight time attending the show, assisting and attending to exhibiting clients such as Bob’s Red Mill, Schmidt’s Naturals, Wedderspoon, Dave’s Killer Bread, Hyland’s and more. In a decade and a half, I’ve seen the show continue to grow to supersize, although it was already very large when I first attended in 2003. I missed the days of the ‘mom and pop’ approach, but I do know people that were there for some of the early days.

How does one prepare for such a large show spread out over acres of exhibit space?

In my pre-game planning, I know for certain that I’ll be walking a LOT, so need comfortable shoes without a doubt. I know that I’ll probably be invited to a function or two. I’ll take a little time to visit a friend or two in the LA area. I also know that I’ll graze a lot while walking the show floor. So many exhibitors offer samples of excellent products – you can’t say no to everything! I do make a point every morning of tracking down the really good coffee (and there’s a lot!).

I’m not selling anything at the show. I meet people. Lots of people. I offer a copy of my book to some folks (my new one is still a month or so away, so it’ll go out sometime in April). I make notes on the style and size of the thousands of exhibits. I see what companies are expanding, which ones are downsizing. With over a decade and a half of seeing the show, it’s not hard to spot those types of exhibiting trends.

I take plenty of business cards, a few branded shirts, my trademark TradeshowGuy hat, and a list of exhibitors I plan to say hello to. I’m always with my trusty 2011 Macbook Pro, an iPhone, a mini iPad 2, and a couple of books, a yellow legal pad (although I rarely use it).

I used to regard being on the road as a time to eat out at restaurants frequently – which I enjoy since it’s a rare event – but have found over time that’s a good way to add a few pounds over just a few days. So, it’s the occasional meal out and lots of snacks. Heck, with all of the samples on the floor at Expo, one meal a day is plenty.

In spite of all of the prep I do – and the ongoing work to help clients refurbish exhibits – it still feels like I’m caught unprepared in some sense, like there’s something left undone.

A few months prior to the show, say around December, I start to feel the show coming. It’s like hearing the echo of a faraway freight train that’s still ten miles away. As the weeks tick by, the whistle gets louder, and the train gets closer. You can’t stop it, you can’t ignore it, you have to welcome it. And I do.

Thanks to my trusty Fitbit, I know from past experience that I’ll walk six to eight miles each day, and I’ll get back to my Airbnb room with aching muscles, ready to chillax as much as I can.

One of the observations I’ve made over the years: people my age, while not rare at the show, are dwindling. It seems that a majority of the attendees and exhibit staff are in the 20 – 40 age bracket. It’s always interesting to chat with people who were born a generation later than me. I have kids about that age, so I understand they’re at a very different part in their lives. But it’s not hard to make connections. People are quite friendly at the show and are eager and willing to talk about their company and products.

Methinks my plan is sound: I’ll meet lots of exhibitors, snap photos and post on Instagram and Twitter (maybe the occasional video), check in on clients, say hello to previous clients and connections. It’s all a crazy wonderful wacky tasty sprint from start to finish that leaves me exhausted.

So, no, I wouldn’t say I have Natural Products Expo West Pre-Game Jitters. All in all, I love the show and look forward to going again. But I admit I let out a small sigh of relief when it’s in the rearview mirror.

 

Reverse Engineering Tradeshow Success

What do ya mean, reverse engineering tradeshow success? If you ask Wikipedia, you get this: “Reverse engineering, also called back engineering, is the processes of extracting knowledge or design information from a product and reproducing it or reproducing anything based on the extracted information.”

Or: disassemble something and analyze the components to see how it works.

Or make it simpler yet: start with the end in mind. Know what you want when all is said and done and then figure out what steps are required to get there.

reverse engineering tradeshow success

Let’s take a look at one of the main purposes of tradeshow marketing: generating leads. Want 300 leads at the end of three days? You’ll need on average, 100 a day. If it’s a 7 hour-a-day show, you’ll want to generate just over 14 leads per hour, or about one ever four minutes. Give or take.

If, in your experience based on tracking numbers at a particular show, you know that about 1 in 5 booth visitors is a good candidate for your product of service. And out of those 20% of visitors, one-third are judged to be strong or “A” leads, worthy of following up on in the first few days after the show.

Given that, about 1 in 15 booth visitors is an “A” lead. Do the math, and you see you need 4,500 booth visitors, or 1,500 per day.

When you examine that number, do you think it’s realistic that you’ll see enough people at your booth to get a true, qualified lead ever four or five minutes? Is that assumption based on past experience, or is it just a wild guess?

Let’s take another perspective. If you know that there are going to be about 70,000 visitors to the show (it’s a pretty big show!), and you want just 300 leads in three days, you need about one out of every 233 visitors to stop by and do your thing to qualify them.

That’s one way to reverse engineer the math.

Now it gets a little more difficult. How do you reverse engineer tradeshow success on other things, such as your exhibit, your people, your giveaways?

As far as your exhibit, if you need to accommodate 1500 visitors a day, that’s about 200 an hour. If you need about 5 minutes with each visitor to determine if they’re a qualified lead, that’s 1000 minutes. That means a total of 16 2/3 hours of actual time during each hour of the show. Rough math means you need about 20 people in your booth to be there for each hour. Which (doing the math again), you’ll need a sizeable booth space to accommodate 40 people at any given time.

If that’s not reasonable given your budget and space, you’ll want to spend time examining your overall realistic expectations for how many leads you’ll generate during the show.

Of course, real life doesn’t work just like the math we just walked through. Some visitors are disqualified instantly. Some people will take longer to qualify, especially when it comes to your follow up.

My advice? If you haven’t done so, set a baseline at your next show. Do your best to count booth visitors, track leads daily if not hourly, and add everything up once the show is over. Do it for each different show to see how they compare. Then when the same shows roll around next year, you have a starting point. Put practices into place that allow you to better engage visitors, create pre-show marketing strategies that bring more targeted folks to your booth, and make sure that your post-show follow-up system is solid.

Reverse engineering tradeshow success may be an odd way to look at how you get from Point A to Point B, but it’s as good as any, and better than many.

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