If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Famous words, no doubt, and they certainly apply to any marketing endeavor you’re undertaking. If your goal is to simply appear at a tradeshow, you don’t have much of a roadmap. It might look something like this: rent a booth space, get an exhibit (doesn’t really matter what size or what it looks like); bring a few people from the office and talk to people that stumble across your booth.
Success! Of course, since you didn’t really have much of a plan, how could you fail?
On the other hand…
If you want to talk to bring home 300 leads, that requires a longer plan and a better road map. Setting a goal – any goal – immediately puts restrictions on your map. It forces you to go in a certain direction. And the good thing is that it makes you ask questions, such as:
How do we get enough people to our booth to collect 300 leads?
What kinds of leads do we want?
How do we qualify the leads?
What information do we want?
Do we need to do pre-show marketing to bring people to our booth? If so, what will that take?
How many people should we have in our booth?
How big of a booth do we need to support those people?
What will it cost to create that exhibit?
And so you. You get the idea. Sure, you can simply set up a booth, hand out a few brochures and samples and cross your fingers, but if you really want to bring home the bacon with a bagload of new prospects, it takes more than that.
It takes a roadmap that only you can put together, based only on what’s important to you.
If you want a little help, you could do worse than picking up my book Tradeshow Success. It’s got a pretty good roadmap planning guide, chapter by chapter.
But whatever you use, if you want to get somewhere, you need a map.
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.
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.
A quick scan of my Linked-In feed seems to confirm it: shows are returning to a lot of areas in the country. This morning I saw the news that Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said that Nevada would be “100% open” on June 1st. This is definitely good news for shows in Las Vegas. I also saw a story last week, speaking of Las Vegas, that Tesla’s Boring Company had completed the mile loop under the Las Vegas Convention Center. Not really related to Vegas opening up, but cool nonetheless.
So yes, no doubt shows are slowly coming back. And I think the key word is slowly. You might add “randomly” as well to that description since many states are still experiencing increasing COVID cases (hello, Michigan!), which means some areas will open sooner than others. And yes, politics plays a part. Pandemic fatigue also is a big part.
My big question, though, boils down to how exhibitors and attendees will balance their desire to get back to the show with their desire to believe they’re safe when they do. That may change in the next few months as more and more people are vaccinated and the country edges closer to herd immunity, but of course there are always flies in the ointment, like virus variants, refusal among many people to wear a mask in certain situations, and so on.
Bottom line: shows will return, but it’ll be months or at least another year before the whole country can say that we’re getting close to normal.
What happens when you, as a company, take a stand on an issue important to you on the tradeshow floor?
As with pretty much everything, the answer is: it depends.
I don’t see it all the time, but there are a few examples where supporting a cause is a big part of a company’s tradeshow exhibit. A part of their public-facing stance.
The first one that came to mind was a recent update to an exhibit we did for Dave’s Killer Bread. Dave Dahl, the famous Dave of the namesake brand, had a, shall we say, interesting history. As a result, in 2019’s updating of the exhibit for Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, DKB focused a large part of their messaging on an issue important to them: making sure felons have a second chance. Their main counter and backdrop behind it were graced with statistics and images offering their take on the issue.
Another recent project seen at Expo West was Kashi’s spare booth warning of the lack of organic farmland in the U.S. There was no product to taste or see, just a simple 20×20 exhibit that displayed their concerns.
Another client, Bob’s Red Mill, made a change to their overhead banner touting that the company was an employee-owned company.
Once you start looking, it’s not hard to see the causes that companies support in their tradeshow booths. World’s largest B Corp. Zero waste to landfill. 100% organic. Save the Bees. The free-from market. And on and on.
Sure, you could say that especially in the natural products world, showing off your bona fides is just good marketing. And that’s true. But many companies go beyond that and plainly support causes as part of their tradeshow exhibit that a few years ago would be rare.
It’ll be interesting to see how this continues to unfold, and if it’s as obvious in other industries.
Nothing like having everything in one spot, right? With these stands doing yeoman’s work in your booth space, you’ll find a little extra space for other things, like more visitors?
3-in-1 and 4-in-1 stands offer choices of tablet (iPad or Surface) holders, hand sanitizer, and literature holders in one compact, convenient stand. And of course, they can be fully branded, powder-coated, with anti-theft locks, and wire/cord management that gives it a clean look.
Take a gander:
Contact us for more information. Go to our full Exhibit Design Search at TradeshowBuy.com.
A sit-down with Jamie Young of Uptown Screen Printing where we delve into ways to plan goal-setting for tradeshow marketing, and how to find a good promotional product that resonates. Hope you enjoy this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee: