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

Budgeting

Webinars from Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association

One of the lesser seen but more important parts of your exhibiting experience is the help provided by labor that sets up your exhibit, work with audio and video setup, transportation, carpet/flooring and furniture. And you may (or may not) be surprised to learn that there’s an industry association that works on behalf of the more than 200 member companies that represent more than 12,500 fulltime tradeshow professionals and more than 50,000 part-time workers.

As with all companies in the events, tradeshows and conference industry, the EACA members have been dramatically affected by the pandemic, which cancelled or postponed hundreds if not thousands of tradeshows. The EACA, to work their way through the pandemic, has continued to hold regular virtual meetings and webinars for members, which are available on their website.

Executive Director Jim Wurm was on a recent industry call that I attended, and he mentioned that several webinars on their website might be worth a look. I took a look and found several that might be of interest to those in the tradeshow world.

Webinars about cash flow, internet advertising, the PPP program and lobbying efforts on behalf of the industry, scaling your business, employee engagement, and more. You can search for “webinar” on any page and you get something like this.

If you’re an exhibitor, several of these archived webinars may be of interest to you – check them out!

Will Time Away from Tradeshows Change Our Marketing Approach?

Now that most companies haven’t exhibited at a major show in the US for nine months or so, where does that leave their marketing efforts? I’ve heard some companies badly miss shows because that’s where a large portion of their lead generation came from and without that they’re struggling to generate as many solid leads. Some companies have shifted to other marketing outlets and been at least moderately successful, and I suppose some companies have even determined that they don’t really need tradeshows.

It’s my impression that there’s always been a bit of perception from many management and sales staff that tradeshows are a grind, a big waste of money and time. That they only attend because their competition is there but if they could they’d bail on exhibiting or even attending shows.

Meanwhile, tradeshow managers are buried in details of exhibiting and logistics and new product launches and are-there-enough-samples and so on.

By the time bigger shows return, it’s likely that at least a year will have passed for many exhibitors since their last appearance at a national or international show, and the question is undoubtedly being asked: are tradeshows still even that important?

That question can only be answered by each company individually based on their own goals, budget and personnel.

Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels

One result might be that companies will exhibit at fewer shows. If that’s the case, the focus on the shows should be to make sure that exhibiting is worth their time. Maybe you’ll have the same budget but with fewer shows, you can concentrate on those select handful of shows and make sure you carefully and completely execute all of the tradeshow marketing steps from A to Z to ensure great results.

Another consequence of the coming post-COVID world may mean smaller budgets, which means downsizing your exhibit, or renting an exhibit save a few dollars. Or taking fewer people to shows.

One other change that I believe will be a result of no tradeshows for a year or so: the psychological effect on both exhibitors and attendees. How will we feel, for instance, about shaking hands with people we meet, or hugging old friends that we haven’t seen for a year or two or three? How will food companies hand out samples so that everyone who is picking up a tasty sample is comfortable with it? Will we really feel okay flying across the country to attend a show, stuck in an airplane for hours with strangers? Some will be okay; others may have high levels of anxiety. It’s likely that aisles will be wider, giving more separation between booths and giving attendees more space to keep people at a distant.

Things will change, things are already changing.

I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Tradeshow Exhibit Customization Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

When I first speak with a new client about what they want in a new tradeshow exhibit, it usually comes down to one of two approaches. Either they want to start from scratch, in a sense, and have a good idea of the potential layout and scope of the exhibit, and they have a budget number in mind. Or, and this is the other extreme, they want to pick out a kit from our catalog and make do, mainly to save budget dollars.

There’s nothing wrong with either approach. Every company has a different agenda when it comes to a new exhibit.

The former approach means everything is custom from the git-go. A designer is brought in, conversations are had about brand attributes and guidelines, and the designer is basically turned loose. These are typically the bigger budget projects where, from the start, the designer is encouraged to cut loose, to try several approaches and show a number of structures with different traffic flow patterns, demo areas, meeting areas and so on. From that, the client decides on one (or two) that work best for them, and the design is refined until it’s ready.

The other approach, where the client is typically working with a more limited budget, starts with a kit from our Exhibit Design Search at TradeshowBuy.com. More often than not, the client believes that the kit as shown in the renderings is the final design.

That rarely happens. Once the conversation starts, the questions begin. Can we add a counter? What about shelves? We need shelves. And something to sit at. And that panel isn’t big enough, what if we made it bigger.

The answers are yes, yes, and yes. Kits get customized, almost all the time. With new clients, there is a bit of a learning curve, but once they realize that even if they start with a kit, that doesn’t mean they’re stuck with everything that’s show. Kits are good starting points to get what clients really want, which is most often a customized version.

A good thing to keep in mind when starting from scratch, especially if your budget is pointing you in the direction of a kit. That kit can be revised, reduced or enlarged in size, configured to fit in more than one final setup (10×10, 10×20, 10×30 for example). Accessories can be added, freestanding graphics or tables can become a part. And those additions don’t have to be out of the catalog, either. Often a client will have custom-built tables that include their logo and additional lighting effects to make them stand out.

If you’re shopping for a new exhibit in 2021 and your budget is pointing you towards something out of a catalog, starting with a kit makes sense. But you don’t have to (and probably won’t) stay there.


End of Year Price Drops

The tradeshow and event industry has been gasping for air for months and months. Exhibitors are putting off investing in new exhibits while wondering if they’re even going to appear at any shows in 2021.

In steps Classic Exhibits, our main exhibit manufacturer, with a little help: a price drop on safety dividers and rental! Not to mention, a trio of eco-friendly sustainable exhibits: a 10×10, a 10×20 and a 2020 island. Let’s take a look. Click to enlarge. Find the links below to download the PDFs.


Exhibitor Magazine Tracks COVID-19 Impact

Exhibitor Magazine has been doing a superb job of keeping their fingers on the pulse of the tradeshow industry. Since the pandemic essentially closed down the industry in March, they’ve done numerous surveys of exhibitors and exhibit industry suppliers. They recently had another webinar where Editor Travis Stanton went over the results of their latest survey, taken of over 1000 respondents. This is the fourth such survey they’ve done, and it took place in mid-November. If you’re an exhibitor or in the exhibit industry and haven’t reviewed the results, it’s worth a look. Both the webinar and the resultant White Paper have been posted on their website. Check for links below.

A few top-line results from their executive summary shows the deep and wide impact the pandemic has had on the industry as a whole:

When asked how long it would take to get back business full bore if the restrictions were lifted today, a majority of the survey respondents said it would take about three months.

An image from the full White Paper (c) Exhibitor Media Group.

Many exhibitors are waiting longer to commit to appearing at shows; roughly a third are waiting until the final four months before a show to make a commitment.

Over two-thirds of exhibitors say that their exhibiting budgets have been cut; more than half of those are at least 50-percent budget reductions.

Virtual event participation is up: Over two-thirds over those surveyed say they have participated in virtual events.

Finally, the Exhibitor editorial staff is making a prediction that live tradeshows and events will slowly come back to life during the first half of next year, but that it will be at least until the first or second quarter of 2022 before we’ll see anything we can call “normal.”

Here’s a link to the replay. And here’s a link to the white paper with the full results.

Check out their full on-demand video library here.

Find Improvement at the Edges

Sure, we’d all like to make big changes. Swoop in, push all the old stuff aside, and institute something NEW and DASHING and DAZZLING and TERRIFIC, something that impresses the hell out of customers, the media, and especially your boss. Because if your boss is impressed, he’ll remember you and you might be in line for a promotion, which means a raise and so on and so forth.

Sounds great! Except that making big changes, making that one BIG CHANGE that gets all of that attention, isn’t easy. You have to start from scratch, tear everything down and do something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. And if you change everything, you’d better have a damn good reason. First off, it’ll cost more. Probably a lot more. It has to be a big bold idea. How many of those have you had lately? And you have to get buy-in from the right people, and especially the people who control the purse strings.

There’s a better way, and it doesn’t cost as much. It doesn’t require big bold ideas. It doesn’t change everyone’s job that’s involved in the initiative.

Make improvements at the edges. Opportunity lies in the margins. Find a way to bring ten percent more visitors to your booth. Generate another five or ten percent leads by adding a small interactive element to your booth. Move your booth space closer to the main entrance of a big show once you’ve accumulated enough points and time in the show to warrant it. Take a survey of half of your visitors to uncover what they really think of your new products or services, adding just a little new information to your product development.

There are a lot of little things you can do on the margins to make a notable improvement that doesn’t cost a lot, take much time, or strain the system (and your brain). Yet little changes can still have a strong positive impact on the bottom line.


Shows Are Coming Back Slowly. But Will Exhibitors Return?

This past week I’ve reached out to a couple of dozen former clients and prospects that have all exhibited for years at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim. The show is usually in early March. You may recall that it was canceled on March 2nd this year, just a couple of days before it was supposed to open, just as the pandemic caused hundreds of exhibitors to pull out.

I happened to be sitting on a plane on the tarmac in Portland heading for the show that day when I saw the email from show organizers saying they were pulling the plug.

So what about next year? The show had originally been scheduled for early March again, but a few weeks ago it was pushed back to late May – a two and a half month delay, after a year in which it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Will it happen? Obviously, organizers hope so. But who the heck really knows?

To get a sense of what exhibitors were thinking, I reached out to a couple dozen of them. The answers were varied, as you might imagine.

One said they’d signed up, but with the caveat that they could pull out and get their deposit back within a certain time frame. Another handful said they’re still in the wait-and-see mode, as final decisions are needed until sometime in January. I did hear from a pair of long-time exhibitors who said they would definitely NOT be there. In fact, one said they had decided to participate in NO shows through 2021.

Fits and starts. That’s what the tradeshow industry seems to be right now, working in fits and starts. And I suspect that will hold for all of 2021.


10 Reasons to Change Tradeshow Exhibit Houses: Video:

Hiring an exhibit house is a big task. It’s a commitment to a business relationship that, ideally, you’d like to keep in place for years. But everything must come to an end, and there may come a time when it makes sense to consider changing exhibit houses. Here’s my quick video that looks at ten situations that may warrant that consideration:


16 Things You Can Do in a Virtual Tradeshow Exhibit

The use of virtual tradeshow exhibits may not be exploding, although my sense is that it is increasing. Some big tradeshows have gone completely virtual for the next year or so, maybe longer, depending on the depth and breadth of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Which leaves exhibitors in a bit of a quandary: what to do about virtual exhibits. Should you invest in one? Should you just wait out the pandemic and hope you can get back to live tradeshows in the next six to twelve months?

And if you are seriously considering a virtual exhibit, it’s important to consider all of the various things you can do in the exhibit. I’ve seen a few virtual exhibits lately, and there is a wide variety in the approach. Some exhibitors have chosen the simple, let’s-keep-the-cost-down approach. Others have tried to throw everything in but the kitchen sink.

As an aside, one exhibit maker I spoke with recently said that a recent client of theirs did a virtual exhibit and found that at the virtual tradeshow, they experienced a 700% increase in leads for a fraction of the cost of appearing at a live show. My eyes opened at that stat, and while it’s impressive, it’s likely not going to be a common experience for every virtual exhibitor. But it does demonstrate that there is a lot of potential in virtual tradeshows if you plan ane execute well.

Having said that, there are a number of ways to get engagement at virtual tradeshows. The first is crucial: make sure that potential visitors know about your virtual tradeshow exhibit so that they are prepared, put it on their calendar, and have expectations.

The second is to build the expectations and prepare for them by putting specific things in your virtual tradeshow booth that visitors want. Things they’ll respond to, interact with, and share with others.

From that starting point, the question remains: what should be in your virtual exhibit? There are many answers, and your company’s specific needs should help frame the answer. Here are a lot of the things, perhaps not all, that could go into your exhibit. Keep in mind that each piece will add to your overall cost, much like a 3D real world exhibit, and that each piece of content, such as videos or white papers or PDF reports, all will take time and money to create. Before finalizing your plan, create a budget based on all of the pieces you think are necessary to make your virtual tradeshow booth a success.

Here are a number of things you can and should consider:

  1. Product Demos
  2. A place to collect visitor’s contact information
  3. Download Center (PDFs, coupons, sales sheets, special reports, etc.)
  4. Archived video
  5. Live stream video
  6. Live chat
  7. Booth tour
  8. Schedule a meeting
  9. Learn about your company
  10. Learn about new products
  11. Give people the ability to share things on social media
  12. Steer people to your social media outlets
  13. Leave an audio or video message

No doubt if you put your mind to it, you can come up with more. What am I missing?


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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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