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10 Common Myths about Trade Shows

January 9th, 2014 12 COMMENTS

10 Common Trade Show Myths

If you’ve ever attended a trade show, you have an opinion about trade shows, trade show marketing, or exhibit design. I won’t try to dispel every myth, but here are 10 Common Myths about Trade Shows.

1. Trade Show Marketing is Marketing. Yes . . . and no. If you are a skilled marketer, you will grasp the nuances of trade show marketing, but it will take time. Most marketing managers gravitate to their strengths by focusing on the structure, the graphics, or the show promotion and planning. Intellectually, they know these are interconnected, but they may not know how to maximize their results. Work with professionals, whether it’s a graphic designer, an exhibit consultant, or a certified trade show manager. Trade show exhibit marketing is a craft learned the hard way through trial and error. It’s easy to burn through a lot of money before you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t stumble through a year or two of mistakes when exhibit experts can save you time, money, and embarrassment.

2. Trade Show Labor is Hostile, Incompetent, and Expensive. Again, yes and no. No one will dispute that trade show I&D can be expensive, particularly in certain well-known venues. However, most I&D contractors are very competent. They can solve almost any last minute trade show display crisis. You may disagree with the show hall rules regarding labor regulations, but the actual laborers in your booth didn’t write them. If you disagree with the rules, don’t take it out on the guy or gal assembling your display. Contact your I&D labor provider or show management.

This is a sad but true fact regarding show labor at most trade shows. If three people are assigned to your booth, one person will be a star, one person will be average, and one person will be a zombie. Hire nine people and you are guaranteed to have three stars and three zombies. Sometimes you get lucky, and the ratio works in your favor. Sometimes not.

You have the power to control your labor costs, beginning with exhibit design. Consider assembly and packaging during the design phase. Are the components labeled, can it be packed without relying on a 20 page manual, and are the packaging materials reusable?

3. Anyone Can Staff a Booth. Too often, companies send the wrong folks to work the trade show booth. Even worse, they don’t train them. Not everyone has the temperament, the knowledge, or the discipline for a trade show. Here’s my rule:  Find those employees with previous retail sales experience who love assisting customers with product or service solutions. It doesn’t matter if they are in Sales, Marketing, Engineering, or Production. What matters is their attitude and their knowledge.

Want to know who not to send? “Joe.” Every company has a “Joe.” He drinks too much, he gambles too much, and he wanders around too much. About a half a dozen times a day, you’ll wonder what happened to Joe. Five minutes ago he was sucking down his third espresso, leaning on the counter, and ogling anything with two X chromosomes. Suddenly he’s gone . . . ONCE AGAIN!

4. Trade Shows are One Big Party. For some companies, that is true. They wine and dine customers to excess, party until daylight, and don’t attend any show sponsored events.

Inevitably, those are the same companies that grumble about their trade show ROI. They spent “X” but can only measure “Y” sales from the show. When you ask them about their pre-show promotions, their lead qualification, their client meetings at the show, and their follow up with prospective customers, you get a big “Duh?”  They didn’t plan their trade show marketing program, and now it’s suddenly the show’s fault.

5. Trade Shows are a Waste of Time. If you love sitting in a cubicle all day creating spreadsheets, then yes, a trade show is a waste of time. You fly to desirable locations like Las Vegas, San Francisco, Orlando, New York, New Orleans, or Chicago. You have to meet people, listen to their needs, talk about your company, stand on your feet, and generally be helpful, pleasant, and knowledgeable. Even worse, you may have to join clients for breakfast, socialize with them after show hours, mingle with potential suppliers, and attend educational seminars about your industry. That’s really tough

You either embrace the opportunity to build sales and learn something new, or you grumble about the airport, the food, the hotel, and the hassle of time away from the office. It’s all about your attitude.

6. Trade Show Displays are Expensive (Part 1). Very true, but so is almost any investment in capital equipment or advertising. Let’s explore this from another perspective. Let’s say your company purchased an $18,000 inline display (10 x 20). Then, let’s assume your company participates in four trade shows a year and you expect the booth to last five years. Now, take the average cost per show including show space, literature, airfare, hotels, meals, entertainment, transportation, and labor. If you are frugal, you’ll spend:

  • $25,000 per show
  • Multiply that by 20 shows (4 shows x 5 years) = $500,000
  • Then divide the booth cost $18,000 by the $500,000 in expenses
  • = 4.3% which is the display cost to total expenses

Let’s take it to the next step. Your company takes trade show marketing seriously (and you should). You conduct pre-show promotions, you send the right folks to the show, and you aggressively follow up on all leads. You expect the show to generate sales (or you wouldn’t be participating). On average, you demand $150,000 in new sales from each show. $150,000 x 20 shows = $3,000,000 in sales.

Based on those numbers:

  • $500,000/$3,000,000 = 16% trade show cost to sales
  • $18,000/$3,000,000 = 0.6% display cost to sales

I don’t know about you, but those numbers look pretty good to me. And unlike magazine, television, or direct mail advertising, they’re measurable if you put the right metrics in place.

7. Trade Show Displays are Expensive (Part 2). Probably 60 percent of all trade show displays never go to large, industry shows in Las Vegas, Orlando, or Chicago. The owners take them to Chamber of Commerce mixers, local business shows, corporate events, regional industry shows, and hiring and recruitment fairs. At these shows, you won’t see island exhibits, but you will see pop ups, table tops, banner stands, and lightweight hybrids. These displays range in price from under $200 for a basic banner stand with graphics to $8000 for an upscale portable hybrid. Considering the cost of most advertising, buying a trade show display is a bargain that you’ll use for years and years.

8. All Shows are the Same. Really? If your experience has been that “all shows are the same,” you may be approaching every show EXACTLY the SAME. Not every show has the same audience. There may be similarities, but the attendees vary even in shows focusing on the same industry.

If you are serious about trade show marketing, then contact show management and request attendee and exhibitor data. Have them describe the goals, mission, and audience of the show. Then go to the next step, ask for exhibitors who have been loyal to that trade show for many years. Assuming they are not competitors, contact the Marketing Manager or Trade Show Coordinator. Ask them why they attend, how they tailor their message to the audience, and how that message differs from other shows. And then do what professional marketers do . . . create a message, design appropriate graphics, and plan a pre-show, show, and post-show campaign.

9. Trade Show Leads are a Waste of Time. Leads can be a waste of time if:  a) You collect business cards in a fishbowl for a cool product giveaway like an iPad, b) You don’t qualify the attendees who visit your booth (or jot down their needs), and c) You don’t contact them until a month or two after the show.

Trade Show LeadsMore than anything else you do at a trade show, your lead quality is a byproduct of your pre-show planning, booth staff training and timely post-show follow-up. There is a direct correlation. A trade show is a salesperson’s nirvana, namely a captive audience that spent money to see you.

Now, you may get lucky and acquire a game-changing customer while sipping coffee, clipping your fingernails, and chatting with co-workers. But that’s rare. Finding good customers takes time, enthusiasm, knowledge, and patience. You have to be at your best because they can (and will) walk down the aisle and find another solution.

10. Virtual Trade Shows will Replace Real Trade Shows. There is a place for virtual trade shows just as there is a place for dating websites. But at some point, you have to meet in person. And unless you’re looking for a mail order bride (or groom), you’re not going to get any action unless you shake hands, look one another in the eye, and share your story face-to-face.

Want to learn more about trade shows, trade show marketing, and displays? Click here for more than 50 expert articles.

–Mel White
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
mel@classicexhibits.com

Five Amazing Trade Show Exhibit Specials

September 3rd, 2013 COMMENTS

This fall, Classic Exhibits and Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits pulled out all the stops. You’ll discover some of our most exciting exhibit designs at special prices. Click on any display in the Specials Gallery to see the details.

Five Amazing Specials:

#1 Our Biggest Savings Ever on Quadro EO Pop Up Displays

All Quadro EO Pop Up Display are on sale through October 31.  The Quadro EO Self-locking Pop Up has been a favorite of distributors for five years, and now we’ve make it even more irresistible. Whether you order the frame with fabric end caps, with fabric panels, or with graphic panels, they are all on sale for the next 60 days.

#2 Get Port\Land iPad Kiosk Cases at a Promotional Price

The innovative Port\Land iPad Kiosks are already a hit with your customers. Make sure to include the portable case with wheels on the order. The TF-701 cases are discounted from $199 to $165. The rolling case includes the die-cut foam and reusable jigging you’ve come to expect from Classic Exhibits.

#3 Special Savings on Select eSmart Displays

This is a first! eSmart Displays have never been sale before. And not just any designs, it’s 10 of the most popular inlines. If you have not spent time in the eSmart Gallery before, you’re missing a lot. Cool designs at competitive prices. Not to mention so GREEN that Kermit would be jealous.

#4 $200 Bonus on Aero Portable Table Tops

There’s no sexier table top than the Aero Portable. It’s got all the curves, vivid tension fabric graphics, and portable assembly. For anyone wanting to make a visual impact with a “no tools” table top, the Aero Series is the #1 choice. Choose from six of our most popular designs.

#5 10% Sale on Sacagawea Portable Hybrids Plus a Cell Phone Charging Station FREE (where applicable)

This special blows the doors off any previous Sacagawea promotion. Not only are ALL Sacagawea Hybrids on sale, but we’re including a FREE Cell Phone or Tablet Charging Station on those kits with workstations. You have to see this to believe it. You already know that Sacagawea is the VERY BEST AFFORDABLE Hybrid . . . Now it’s even better! Choose from 54 inline kits.

To view all the Specials, go to the Specials Gallery in Exhibit Design Search. Give us a call if you have any questions.

–Mel White
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
mel@classicexhibits.com

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.


 

iPad Kiosks and Summer Specials: Word on the Street — May 28th thru June 1st

June 3rd, 2012 COMMENTS
iPad Kiosks and Summer Specials: Word on the Street -- May 28th thru June 1st

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

June, July, (and August) Specials

Table Top Savings

Save 10% on select Table Top Displays including Sacagawea, Perfect 10, SEGUE, and Intro. These are some of our most innovative table tops, which we’ve never discounted before. But, it’s summer in Portland, OR, and we’re apt to lose our sanity after not seeing the sun for nine months. 20 kits total. Be sure to check out the quick, easy, and inexpensive iPad option for Intro Fabric Table Tops. So very, very simple. So very smart.

Free eBook

Your customer will receive Build a Better Trade Show Image, the definitive guide to trade show marketing, when they order a hybrid inline or island through August 31. This 280+ page eBook by Marlys Arnold is your customer’s gift. Inside the display, they will find a large postcard with a unique code and a web address. Here are two links for more information about this promotion:

http://www.imagespecialist.com/classicexhibits/classic-exhibits-distributors/

http://www.imagespecialist.com/classicexhibits/

Quadro EO and iPad Kiosk “Summer Crush” Promotion

iPad Kiosk with Wings and Graphic Halo

In celebration of the long-awaited iPad Kiosks (MOD-1312 and MOD-1314), we are running Summer Crush Specials. The Specials feature the Quadro EO Pop Up combined with the newly released iPad Kiosks (June 1st). The savings are ginormous. Literally GINORMOUS! It’s our way of introducing what we expect will be one of our largest selling products over the next two years.

Those who saw the units at EXHIBITOR 2012 know that the Classic iPad Kiosks are the real deal. They combine function and value never before seen in an iPad kiosk with a lockable clamshell case, integrated wire management, an internal power strip, and powder-coated steel and aluminum construction. Plus, it wouldn’t be a Classic without accessory options like graphic wings, graphic clamshell halos, literature holders, and a nifty keyboard shelf. Check out the links below to see all the great options.

But my personal favorite . . . the clamshell case with an extrusion connection similar to how Literature Brochures attach to our hybrid systems. This gives you the ability to add an iPad to any new or existing hybrid inline or island from Classic Exhibits (and a competing extrusion line as well). 😉

Kudos to Mike Swartout for the great demo video. Pay special attention to the cool theme music. I love it!!

Let’s Meet at Your Pad

See the details in the Exhibit Specials gallery. You’ll receive an e-broadcast on Tuesday with a flyer you can re-brand and send to your customers. But like all summer crushes, this one is 2 Good 2 Last 4 Ever.

For the iPad Kiosk Product Sheet and Price List, click on the links.

Hope you all had a great weekend and a productive week ahead. Be well!

–Kevin Carty
http://twitter.com/kevin_carty
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/kevin-carty/3/800/32a

Word on the Street — November 15th thru November 19th

November 21st, 2010 3 COMMENTS
Why we participate in the TS2 Show

Word on the Street by Mel White

Trade Show Industry Predictions 2011 . . .

(Kevin Carty is on vacation, so Mel White has graciously agreed to substitute this week.)

As we head into the holidays, I thought I’d put on my clairvoyant hat and peer into a crystal ball. It doesn’t take a fortune teller to know that 2011 is already on your mind. You’re wondering if the exhibit industry will plod along like a Clydesdale, sprint like Quarter Horse, or remain stubborn and unpredictable like a mule.

To ensure my predictions are accurate, I’ve checked the astrological star charts, turned over the Tarot cards, and consulted the Magic 8 Ball. And to protect your sanity, I’ll spare you any doomsday or apocalyptic scenarios. Frankly, my psyche couldn’t handle it after the past two plus years.

Anyway . . . here goes.

Graphics – Many distributors survived on graphic orders in 2009 and 2010, a trend that’s unlikely to change in 2011 with 50% of your volume coming from new or replacement graphics. You will see, based on our trend the past nine months, more silicone edge graphics (SEG) in towers, inlines, and islands. We anticipate a continued downward pressure on basic systems graphics, such as pop up panels and banner stands, because there is no margin left in the hardware.

Table Tops – Oddly enough, table top orders tanked over the past 26 months, whether $400 or $2000 table tops. The budget TT’s have yet to show a pulse, but the higher priced units such as Aero are no longer on life support. We expect modest increases in TT orders with even an occasional multiple quantity order. You can’t make a living on TT’s, but when you get a multiple quantity order it’s a nice break from the Ramen noodles.

The Magic 8 Ball Says . . .

Banner Stands, Pop Ups, and Basic Curve Walls — No change. We don’t expect an increase in sales for these displays even as the economy improves. As more and more customers return to the market, we anticipate a more balanced approach between customers buying pop ups/banner stands and customers moving slightly upstream to hybrids. Many distributors have all but abandoned the entry level market where distributors (online or offline) are trading dollars. We would encourage you not to throw in the towel yet. There are still mainstream corporate clients who value quality at a fair price over the 30 feet or 30 second displays.

Until someone invents the “add one drop of water and poof you have a 10 ft. display,” many customers will still demand displays that require minimal effort even at the expense of marketing impact. If we believe the Marketing and HR Departments, the Sales AE’s at most companies are more likely to use an assembly tool for scratching and picking than for putting a display together.

Portable Hybrids and Modulars – Three years ago, there were few players in the $4000 to $8500 inline market. The field has gotten more crowded, but for inexplicable reasons, the players are repeating the mistakes of the pop up market. Lots of look-a-like displays with very little innovation. There are some exceptions in design and assembly (yes boys and girls, I’m talking about Classic), but by and large customers are being handed a bag of parts, a tool, and asked to assemble a square with two wings.

This segment will see double-digit growth in 2011, but distributors will have to decide whether to sell or to clerk. According to our distributors, sales conversations are migrating from price first and design second to a more balanced approach. We’re not quite back to the world of “I’ll find the money if I love the design,” but design is no longer playing second fiddle.

2011 Predictions

2011 Predictions

Over $10,000 Inlines – In our business, over $10,000 inlines are the “canary in the coal mine,” indicating whether there is an economic gas leak. Distributors will see more interest in >$10K designs in 2011 as clients talk more and more about what they need rather than what they can afford. Many will still decide to purchase a less expensive display, but others will invest in display solutions that more closely match their true marketing goals.

Islands – They’re back. (note the period rather than the exclamation mark) Unfortunately, islands may be the least profitable segment as the intersection between expectations and price points has shifted. Customers are willing to pay between $50,000 and $75,000 for a modular display, but they expect that to include EVERYTHING. Yikes. That’s a tough sell. More than any other segment, we’ll need to work together as partners to land these orders. Give and take is the key with both sides willing to take smaller margins or find creative solutions.

We’ve seen significant interest in SEG solutions in the past 6 months. In SEG islands, the graphics play a more dominant role in the design than the structure. Re-configurability will continue to be in the design mix, even if it compromises the overall design (sadly).

Rentals — Without question, rentals have been the biggest beneficiary of the economic downturn. We saw double-digit growth in both 2009 and 2010, particularly in island rentals. And if the past two months are any indication, this trend is unlikely to change. Customers are turning to rentals as cost-effective answers to purchasing an exhibit and to maintaining their trade show presence. We suspect that many companies have now made the decision to never own an island exhibit again. And it makes sense in many circumstances. Rental designs have gotten more flexible and imaginative. Gone are the days when a rental had all the sexiness of granny panties.

Green Displays — You may find this surprising, but requests for Green Displays never went away. Just ask our sister company Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits. The price points may have dropped but not the interest. Companies with a green focus or with green initiatives will choose an eco-friendly display every time as long as the price is somewhat comparable. We caution you not to ignore this category. You must be able to speak the language to sell these products. These customers can spot a fraud a mile away. Now is the time to learn the language before you get schooled by a knowledgeable client.

What are your predictions for 2011? Click on the Leave a Comment link (at the top of the page) to share your thoughts with your Classic colleagues. We’d love to hear from you.

On behalf of the entire Classic Family, have a safe and relaxing Holiday.

–Mel White

http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
mel@classicexhibits.com
Classic Exhibits Network (LinkedIn)