Not a bad way to kick off June! I sat down with Mel White of Classic Exhibits, along with a few dozen viewers, for a presentation on tradeshow tips for newbies and wannabes. He invited me as part of their ongoing “Fast and Furious” webinar series, and I was grateful to be asked and glad to join. We nicknamed the presentation ‘From Tradeshow Stupid to Tradeshow Smart in 50 Minutes,’ but whatever you want to call it, I jammed a lot of stuff into the presentation. Take a look – hope you get something out of it, and thanks to Classic Exhibits for inviting me!
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.
With tradeshow marketing on the sidelines, now is as good a time as any to brush up on your tradeshow marketing skill and knowledge. And here’s a great place to find a whole lot of tradeshow marketing tips – all in one place, and all worth their weight in gold. Check out this short under-three-minute video:
I’ve known Kathleen Gage of PowerUp for Profits for years and she recently asked me to be on her podcast. Like me, she posts both audio on her podcast page and video on her YouTube channel. Kathleen knows how to get to the center of what is helpful to listeners, and this time was no different:
If you’d like to click through to the post that is specific to this interview, click here. She has broken down the conversation into the topics we covered, including Foundation for Success, Follow Up, Make Your Booth Time Engaging, Pre-Show Marketing, Swag and more. We covered a lot of ground in a short conversation.
You’ve heard the phrase “think outside the box.” But in the
tradeshow world, sometimes it makes more sense to think inside the box.
In many cases, it does make sense to think outside the box. Which means, generally,
to do things you don’t normally do. Turn it upside down. Work backwards. Do
But tradeshows have so much riding on them that the more you
have a plan and the better you stick to it – with minor deviations as warranted
– that it pays to stay inside the box.
Make the plan. Execute the plan. Stay inside the box.
While you’re making the plan, many weeks or even months
before the tradeshow, that might be the time to think outside the box. What can
you do that’s different? What your competitors aren’t doing? What might be an
activity in your booth that attracts people? What kind of different ways you
can think of to promote your appearance?
During the brainstorming and planning phase, come up with as
many different and unusual approaches you can think of that might help you
stand out. But vet them. Test them. Make sure they are practical and can be
executed as flawlessly as possible. Then, once you have something in place, iron
out the rough spots and prepare it for the show.
And once the show starts, don’t stray from the script unless
there’s agreement among the principals that it’s a good move. Otherwise, work
the plan, take notes on how it went, and make adjustments for the next show.
Thinking outside the box isn’t a bad idea, in fact in many cases it’s a great idea. Just know when and where to do it. The tradeshow floor where thousands of visitors are passing by, where competitors are putting up their best, is not the place to wing it.
The ‘modern business plan’ was hatched on a blog post by Seth Godin. I was a recent enrollee in Godin’s The Marketing Seminar, where at one point we were referred to the post which breaks down the five elements of what he feels are the important parts of a modern business plan: truth, assertions, alternatives, people and money.
It’s also possible to apply that thinking to how you
approach tradeshow marketing.
The truth of tradeshow marketing would be the facts
and figures of the specific show(s) that you plan to participate in. How many
people attend? What percentage of decision-makers and influencers are among the
attendees? Who are the competitors/exhibitors?
Assertions might include your thoughts on what you believe you know that is not necessarily supported by data. What new products are you launching that might be similar to new products from competitors? What types of marketing tactics and strategies are those competitors using? This is where you state what you believe to be true, although you might not be able to prove it.
Alternatives: This is where you play the “what if”
game. What if things go wrong? What is your plan B? What if you get lucky by
meeting the exact prospect that you didn’t anticipate? What if your top
salesperson is poached by a competitor? Hey, anything can happen. At least
opening your mind to some of those possibilities gives you a chance to chew
People: who are your best people and how can you best
use them? Where are your weak spots and how can you improve with them? Do you
need to acquire people to get your tradeshow department to run like a clock and
not like a Rube Goldberg machine?
Finally, money: Budgeting, logistical costs,
personnel costs. Return on investment, cost of samples. You know the drill. But
are your numbers accurate? And did you run the calculations a year later after
the show so that you actually know what your return on investment really is?
There are any number of ways of looking at your business or
marketing plan, but taking this approach helps to clarify several issues at once.
Give it a try!