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

Event Marketing

Stranger in a Strange Land: the New World of Tradeshows

If you’re a fan of Robert Heinlein’s classic science fiction book “Stranger in a Strange Land,” you know the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who was born on Mars, raised by Martians, and comes to Earth in early adulthood. He ends up in a political power struggle and as the title suggests, he’s a little lost in the whole thing.

I sense that many people are feeling a similar way when it comes to returning to the tradeshow floor. Exhibit designers, builders and exhibitors are looking to the future when things will return to normal and they can get back to the action of exhibiting and all that entails.

Except…

This morning I see a post in a tradeshow group on Facebook that a client has canceled an appearance in an upcoming show in early August. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the resurgence of the delta variant of the virus and the continued resistance by a significant portion of the population to getting vaccinated.

Another commented that they also had a cancellation at the same show, and a second cancellation by another client at another show in October. Also due to uncertainty of the virus numbers.

But for some exhibitors who are looking at shows in late October, the assumption is that everything will be fine and they’re proceeding with plans for new exhibits. So they’re forging ahead on designs and are getting ready to put significant money down on new exhibits.

I get the sense that with all the players involved – organizers, exhibitors, attendees, designers, fabricators, labor and support services – no one is sure of which way to jump, and unfortunately we’ll all have to jump several times before we learn where we’re going to land.

In the TV show “Billions,” one of the questions that come up now and then is: “Are you certain?” And the response is meant to be “I am not uncertain.”

But I don’t think anyone has much certainty right now about the tradeshow world and when it might return to normal. Or even settle into a “new normal,” which will be different but at least predictable.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 19, 2021: Jim Wurm

As the tradeshow world returns to something resembling normal, it does so in fits and starts and a few bumps along the way. In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, Jim Wurm, Executive Director of the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association talks about those challenges:

Find the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Listen to Micky Dolenz’s new album “Dolenz Sings Nesmith” on Spotify.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 5, 2021: Andy Saks

One way to learn how tradeshows are progressing in this soon-to-come post-pandemic era is to walk the floor of a major show in Las Vegas and observe. If you can’t yet, the second-best thing is to talk to someone who did just that. And that’s what we’re doing on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. I spoke with Andy Saks of Spark Presentations, who walked the floor at last month’s World of Concrete to find out how a big tradeshow in Las Vegas dealt with the relaxed safety protocols:

Find Spark Presentations here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The last season of BOSCH on Prime Video.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, June 21, 2021: Quinn Zsido

Even though the pandemic is supposedly waning, events, conferences and tradeshows are still dealing with how to handle crowds in a pandemic era. Here comes Crowdpass, with a unique look at the situation and how they’re looking to handle it digitally. I caught up with Marketing Director Quinn Zsido to go over their approach:

Find CrowdPass here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: MacProVideo.com.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, June 7, 2021: Kenji Haroutunian

On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee (now published bi-weekly!), Kenji Haroutunian of the Big Gear Show joins me to chat about the outdoors world, the tradeshow world and much more. Great to reconnect with Kenji:

Check out the Big Gear Show here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: The new Crowded House album, Dreams Are Waiting.

Tradeshows Help Take New Brands to Store Shelves

In all the years I’ve been attending Natural Products Expo West (and Expo East a few times), one of the things that I see time and time again is the number of small unknown brands looking to get a toehold in the crowded natural foods industry, and then to see them a year or two or three down the line as they start to appear on local grocery store shelves. And then some of them become much bigger brands, and a small number are sold to larger companies. And it seems like suddenly (although it’s been a years-long effort) that the brand is ubiquitous.

And I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few of them: Bob’s Red Mill, which was a growing brand when we started to work together around 2006. They’re world-wide now and Bob’s iconic face has appeared on billions and billions of product packages. Or Kettle Chips, which was a well-known regional brand on their way to national and international status when they became my first client in 2002. Since then, they’ve been bought and sold at least two or three times (okay, at least four – I looked it up) and are currently part of the Campbell Soup Company as of March, 2018.

We started working with Schmidt’s Naturals five years ago. At the time they were an up-and-coming Portland brand started in a garage. In the handful of years we worked with them on tradeshow exhibiting, they went from that small company to being purchased by Unilever and are now, as they say, ubiquitous.

There are plenty of other examples of brands that made their first appearance at Natural Products Expo West (this is getting to sound like a commercial for the show, isn’t it?) that I see on grocery store shelves: Brazi Bites, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Castor and Pollux Pet Food, Boom Chicka Pop, Rule Breaker and more.

I have no doubt it’s not a straight line from the tradeshow floor to the grocery shelves, but I firmly believe that many of these brands would not be where they are now without the benefit of consistent tradeshow marketing.

Check out this gallery of photos including exhibits from the show floor and how those products appeared this week on grocery shelves of a local store.

When it Comes to Tradeshow Marketing, is Showing Up Enough?

You’ve heard it many times in the past several years: the most important thing is showing up. Be there consistently. Be there with your writings, your photographs, your content, your thoughts and leadership. Keep showing up.

On the flipside, I’ve also heard for years that if you’re going to exhibit at a tradeshow, you have to do more than just show up. You have to have a good plan or your time, money, and energy are wasted.

I think both viewpoints have some validity. So let’s break it down.

Years ago I worked with a client that had been attending the same tradeshow for years. They just kept showing up, handing out samples, gauging feedback, connecting with clients and colleagues. No reason not to, it was a good thing to do.

Then they got sold and the new owners had a more circumspect view of the marketing budget and decided to look at it from top to bottom. And that year, the slight shifting of the show dates of the big show they set up an exhibit at every year meant that two years of tradeshow marketing expense fell into one fiscal year.

Uh-oh. We’re spending that much on tradeshow marketing? Hang on! We gotta take a closer look at this.

So they pulled out of that year’s show and put the following year’s appearance on hold. The new owners had to look for their reason for being there. They found it: it was a great show for them, the benefits were worth more than the expense and they came back bigger and badder than ever.

But they had to lift the cover, so to speak, of why they kept showing up year after year. And they figured it out. And now they show up year after year.

Showing up is important. As David Newman of Do It Marketing put it recently:

Keep showing up for the people in your life.

For your clients, family, community, friends, prospects, colleagues…

Show up with empathy.

Show up with value.

Show up with caring.

Show up with help.

Show up with gratitude.

They.

Need.

You.

So yes, show up and exhibit at tradeshows, but do it with purpose. Know why you are showing up. Know what your goals and objectives are. Make sure your staff knows why you’re there.

And then have fun.

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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