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

Client Relations

Online Customer Service: a Personal Experience

Okay, it’s only happened a couple of times to me, but they were both significant, so they’re worth recounting.

When I moved last year, Comcast said the best way to transfer service to my new house was to just take all the equipment to the new location and give ‘em a call when the hook-up was complete and they’d just turn the switch and voila! we’d have service!

Well, generally speaking, that happened, except for one thing. I have online voice mail access, and no matter what I was doing, or who or how often I was calling, or who was at the other end of the line, they couldn’t make my voice mail appear online. It worked fine on the phone, but I was used to checking it online. For whatever reason, Comcast insists on creating a whole new account when you move and transferring everything over, which was one of the main reasons the voice mail wouldn’t transfer seamlessly.

After several calls in 8 weeks and several promises that it would happen, in my frustration I tweeted:


  @Comcastwill responded right away and connected me with a tech who solved the problem within 24 hours:  


In another instance, my company was  having an ongoing discussion over disagreements in a contract with Cision after we had leased Radian6 to use for social media research for a client. It seemed no matter how we responded or whom we responded to, it was as if no one was listening. The emails, phone calls and letters we sent were ignored. When we did get a communication from Cision, it was always a new person with no knowledge of any previous communication, and the conversation had to start all over from the beginning. We even sent the CEO a registered letter hoping to at least get someone’s attention, but to no avail.

Finally I posted this on Twitter:

Within a couple of days (it wasn’t immediate), I heard back from someone at Cision asking for a phone number so they could contact me. I gave it to them, and was contacted by someone that was actually interested in helping us resolve the issue. It took a few weeks and some back and forth, but it was resolved to our satisfaction.

It really shouldn’t surprise me, but customer service is very active on Twitter. Is it because companies are dedicating resources to tracking online conversations, or manning the Twitter accounts? Are they afraid of having a negative experience go viral, which has happened too many times to count? Is it just smart business? Or is it something else?

Whatever the impetus, I like that there is often a quick way to get someone’s attention and get issues resolved.

Expo West 2013 Re-Cap

(Warning: self-promotional blog post. Not recommended more than once or twice a year…)

It was my 11th year at Expo West as a representative of a company that provides exhibit booths for exhibitors.

First: 11 years? Kidding, right?

Bob's Red Mill - Expo West 2013

No. The first booth client I had way back in 2003 was Kettle Foods of Salem, Oregon, which lead to doing a booth for Nancy’s Yogurt / Springfield Dairy, Natracare, Hyland’s Homeopathic, gDiapers and many others.

Besides having to basically eat your way through the day with the glut of food samples, I spent time meeting exhibitors and making connections.

And making sure that my new projects were working.

The two new booths my company, Communication One Exhibits had this year were from Bob’s Red Mill and gDiapers. The Bob’s Red Mill was a custom 30’ x 30’ booth, designed by Greg Garrett Designs of Vancouver and fabricated by Classic Exhibits. It was a stunner and was definitely well-received by the company – including Bob Moore, who called it ‘impressive’ – and show visitors. The exhibit had three structures – a main company info-display area, a product display area and – in a new move for Bob’s Red Mill – a food sampling station. The main structure was capped with a 4’ cupola high atop a structure that echoed their mill store in Milwaukie, Oregon. Either end of the main structure had 52” video screens that continuously showed informative videos.

Bob has a great way of making an entrance. Bring along a Dixieland band! Check out the video from Day One:



The other booth was at the other end of the scale. gDiapers, of Portland, Oregon, is a company that offers reusable diaper covers with disposable inserts. Years ago, when I was VP of Sales and Marketing for Interpretive Exhibits, we designed and constructed a 20’ in-line booth for gDiapers that had plenty of display space, slat wall and a fabric banner across the top. As their clientele needs evolved, so did the company’s desire for a simpler display that was easier to set up. So with the help of Portland’s Boothster, we designed and built a 10’ inline booth that had a small display area and a large 10’ fabric back wall, along with cardboard chairs and cardboard tube-constructed counter with wrap-around graphic. The booth looked great and gDiapers loved it!

Yes, I blog about social media and tradeshow and event marketing, but my company Communication One Exhibits has a ton of great capabilities to design and fabricate tradeshow booths to suit any need.

Let me now step off of my soapbox…thank you verry much for your time!

Top Ten Benefits of Blogging

So you hear that blogging is a good idea, but you’re stuck on how to start the whole process. After all, there are a lot of questions you have around blogging.

F’rinstance: It’s time-consuming, so how do you justify the extra time to make it happen? If you’re just starting, you’re thinking it’s probably difficult with a steep learning curve. Not to mention – WHAT should you blog about? What topics are worthwhile? Where will ideas come from?

I understand – I’ve been there. In fact, when it comes to finding topics, I’m there every single day!

While there are hundreds of reasons to blog (and probably as many NOT to blog), I thought I’d share the top ten reasons why I like blogging.

  1. It gets me noticed. Three years ago, before I started Tradeshowguy Blog, it was hard to get anyone to notice anything I did in the tradeshow world. Now a lot of folks at least know who Tradeshow Guy is – it opens doors.
  2. Blogging helps me think. When I set out to write a post, I have to concentrate on the topic. I research, take notes and finesse the post until it’s presentable.
  3. It makes me a better writer. Not that I’m Hemingway, but I like writing, and the discipline of writing regularly helps make me better.
  4. Speaking of discipline…knowing that I’ve made the commitment to at least two or three posts a week keeps me always thinking and aware of possible topics, podcast interview subjects and more. Discipline is key to making that happen regularly. Being a blogger keeps me much more aware of the industry than I probably would be otherwise
  5. Networking. I’ve met a ton of people through the blog. Some have become good friends. Some I’ve steered business leads to. Others have sent me leads. Networking is a terrific reason to start a blog.
  6. More speaking gigs. I don’t do a ton of gigs, but the two biggest ones I’ve done in the past year (EDPA in Jacksonville last December and Event Marketing Summit last month in Chicago) came about as a direct result of the blog. And of course, I’m always looking for more!
  7. Uncovering a passion. It continually amazes me that I’ve found something I’m passionate enough to write about on a regular basis – social media and tradeshow marketing. If there is an aspect of your business that you’re passionate about, blogging is a great way to share that passion.
  8. More business. People ask ‘do you make money from your blog? What’s your ROI?’ I have made money from my blog, but not in the way I anticipated. I’ve sold info-products, text ads and banner ads. I’ve had business inquiries. I have made money consulting (not much!). I don’t dwell on it, but I do feel like there is a big upside ahead.
  9. It’s now part of my identity. I have two blogs that I maintain regularly, and both have become a part of who I am. What do you do? Among other things…I blog.
  10. It’s damn fun. Seriously, I like it when there’s a new post out and I can let people know via Twitter and Facebook. When I get comments, I’m always curious to see the reaction. New blog posts are cool/fun, and when the blog looks to be a little stale, like day-old bagels, it’s pretty easy to polish off a new post and start over again.

Blogging can be a great way to position your company (and yourself), tell people about your upcoming tradeshow appearances, discuss new ideas and products in your industry, build client relations and a whole lot more.

In short, in my opinion, blogging is well worth your time.


You’re So Vain, You Probably Think Your Blog is About You

Do you have a blog? What is is about?

With a nod to Carly Simon’s Number One Hit “You’re So Vain” back in ’72 (aahh..the good ol’ days!), if your blog is about you and your company, you’re missing the boat. By a long shot.

At first blush, you’d think the purpose of a blog would be to tell the world about yourself and your company. After all, isn’t that what you see on other company blogs? A raft of press releases, horn-tooting and ‘wow, look at us!’ crap.

Who wants to read that? Do you?

If this blog was all about ME (Tim Patterson, @tradeshowguy, Interpretive Exhibits), how would that help you? How would it solve your everyday problems of trying to market to your target audience at tradeshows, events and conferences?

It wouldn’t. Because what WE/ME are going through likely is not what YOU are going through. Oh, sure, we might find a few areas of common ground, but if all I did on this blog was toot my horn, you wouldn’t bother to come back. Not to say you should NEVER toot your own horn, just be aware of not over-doing it. Your blog is about your readers, not you. When researching a recent presentation on blogging, I looked for exhibit company blogs just to see what they were blogging about. MOST of them were self-congratulatory and PR-laden. In other words, boring and bland.

And the goal of a blog is to get people to come back.

You do that by offering information, insight, and (hopefully) solutions to issues and problems your audience is facing.

If your audience, for instance, is marketing at a tradeshow and want to use QR Codes or set up a SCVNGR smart-phone game, you’d want to find a blog that’s explored that.

If your readers chime in on a problem that you’re written about, it’s a good sign that they’re interested. Write more about that topic. Do some research, talk to experts, compile evidence. Show what works and what doesn’t.

For example, I was interested in QR Codes, so I contacted a company that used them. Found out a bunch, read a lot, spent time figuring out how they work. And blogged about it a few times.

As a result, some poor misguided fools now think I’m a QR Code expert! HA! Well, that’s they’re problem. Just this week I’ve been interviewed by two people who saw me as an expert source on QR Codes for tradeshow marketing, thanks to a recent blog post.

Last week, I was contacted by two companies that asked if they could re-publish my QR Code blog posts and QR Code Tradeshow Marketing Guide.

All because saw a hot topic that the readers of this blog were interested in, did a little research, made some personal observations and blogged about it. And as a result, I’ve gathered a lot of information about QR Codes. Perhaps I’m at least a pseudo-expert.

So if all you’re writing about on your company’s blog is your latest widget, or how the CEO got an award, or how you have a new shiny facility…face it, your audience doesn’t care.

Unless it’s about them.

Check out the Blogging 101 Webinar here



Tradeshow Collaboration Marketing

How can you work with a partner at a tradeshow? What can collaboration do to cut your tradeshow marketing costs and help spread your company’s name around a bit more?

While there are some benefits to be gained by working with partners in any endeavor, there are trade-offs to consider as well.

Share a Booth

Let’s say you’re a small company that struggles to come up with money for booth space and exhibit rental. If this is the case you might consider contacting a company that, while not a direct competitor, is at least in your industry and would benefit from exhibiting at the same show.

Mosaic, 20 Feb 2005

By renting the booth space together, you’re splitting the cost of both the space and the exhibit. Of course, you only get half a booth. Depending on your offerings, however, that might be a good fit and a good way to get your name out into the marketplace.

Another benefit comes when staffing the booth. By paring down the booth size and splitting with a partner, you need less people overall. While you would obviously want to have your side of the booth staffed, in some shows and situations one benefit would be to spell the other guy while he’s on a break.

Promote Each Other’s Products

Here’s a promotion that I’ve seen done successfully. Find another 4 or 5 exhibitors that are complementary to your company – but not direct competitors – and create a traffic-generation promotion. Create a map of the show floor highlighing the five participating booths, print it on bright paper, give each booth a stamp. Offer prizes from each exhibitor to be drawn from all maps that are stamped by all exhibitors and submitted. This encourages more traffic to each booth. Of course it’s up to you to take advantage of the additional traffic with your own offerings.

Social Media Pumping

Whether you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you can easily work out a similar promotion. However, instead of doing it on-site, do it online. Each vendor sets up a series of tweets via to drive traffic to their own – and their collaborator’s – booth. By doing this, you’re taking advantage of each other’s community, exposing all of the separate exhibitor’s online communities to all of the others.

Team Up To Impress

If you have a partner company that you work well with, float the idea of doing a ‘team dinner/party’ to expose each of the company’s to the other’s community. Company A invites a dozen or so clients, Company B does the same. The two companies split the tab. Everybody gets to know everyone else. Imagine if you could ramp this up to three, four or five companies.


With all of the various companies that exhibit at any given show, how can you leverage the event to help your company and assist another company for the greater good? Can you come up with a single product together? Can you combine two products for a single offering? A real estate company might team with a home staging company to offer a special deal at a show. A software designer might team with one of his clients to create a custom version of the software for a larger, different market.

There’s really no end to the amount of ways that you can collaborate with other exhibitors to bring both (or all) of you more business.

Get on your thinkin’ cap!

Creative Commons License

photo credit: Genista

What is a ‘Thank You!’ Worth?

Tradeshow marketing is about the sale. You may take a meandering path to get there, but at the end that’s you want: the sale. The path may involve direct mail to get your prospect to the show. It might mean inviting your market to come see a new product launch. Could be that you’re offering an incentive to her to stop by your booth.

Whatever approach you take, you’re engaging in building a relationship with that person. In some cases ‘relationship’ may be too strong a word, but in most cases it applies. You want the prospect to feel good about coming into contact with your company. You want them to get a lift from using your product. You’d like to invoke a positive reaction when they see your tradeshow booth.

All of this comes together to build a market of people that respond: they purchase products, they engage, they spread the word.

And with all of that engagement on a large scale the small things can have the most personal impact.

Take a birthday card, for example.

I don’t know where companies get the information, but every year when my birthday rolls around, I get cards. They come from real estate agents, mortgage brokers, auto dealers, car dealers. Of course I’m glad to get them, but they don’t mean as much as the hand-written card I get from a good friend. The business-birthday cards are mostly cranked out by an automated system. Yes, some of them have a brief hand-written note. But I know they’re still trying to do one thing: get me to come buy something: “Remember me! I’m still here! Wanna new car? Need a new house?”

It’s all a sales pitch, built around the birthday card.

I like to do something a little different. When I get to know my clients I make sure I get their birthday and stick that info into my SendOutCards database (disclosure: I’m a SendOutCards affiliate). Then when their birthday rolls around I get a reminder when I log on to the SOC site. I can jot a personal note and – here’s the neat thing – stick a gift card into the card.

Most often I’ll put a $10 Starbucks coffee card in because it’s a great pick-me-up to the recipient without overdoing it. Who doesn’t want to spend $10 at Starbucks?

Now you may think I’m pitching SendOutCards, but if you think that’s all I’m doing, you’re missing the point. It doesn’t matter how you make the connection – only that you make it. What really makes MY day is when I make THEIR day. When someone opens up a birthday card from me and is surprised – first by the card, second by the gift card – and they let me know by e-mail, phone or maybe a simple posting on Facebook – it totally makes my day.

Not only have I made their day, I’ve solidified myself in their mind as someone who is separating myself from other suppliers and salesmen.

Getting a wow ‘Thank You!’ under these circumstances demonstrates a deepening of the relationship.

What are you doing to deepen your relationship? Are you saying thank you? And are doing anything that elicits an enthusiastic ‘Thank You!’ from your clients?

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