Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Trade Show Marketing’

Seek Help. Trust Me, You Need It!

December 9th, 2019 COMMENTS

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Do You Have a Plan? Probably Not.

Most trade show exhibitors don’t have a plan when it comes to exhibition marketing. They purchase a display, which they think is THE PLAN. So before I harangue you with the obvious suggestions, let’s talk. Really talk.

If you are reading this, you are probably a sales/marketing professional with a history of accomplishments. You got there by being persistent, creative, and organized. You rely on Act-On, Marketo, or HubSpot for automation. You use CRM software like SalesForce or Infusionsoft. You have a comprehensive email campaign strategy and track it with Constant Contact, Yesware, or MailChimp.

When you have challenging problems, you tap into consultants for lead generation, sales training, social media, and SEO. And, when it comes to advertising, you have a team dedicated to maximizing your spend and metrics. In this hyper-competitive marketplace, you need every advantage that money, strategy, and discipline can bring.

And Then You Wing It!

Do You Believe in Trade Shows? That’s not meant to be a loaded question. You either do or you don’t. There’s no middle ground because exhibitors who “waffle” when it comes to trade show marketing are mostly wasting their money.

That’s not to say that trade shows are the same as trade shows pre-Internet. They’re not. Trade shows are much more efficient than they used to be because most attendees no longer “walk” the floor. They “research” and “shop” the floor just like they would an online purchase. They’ve already decided which companies they’ll visit days, even weeks before their feet hit the aisle carpet. Getting them to your booth pre-show is more important now than luring them into your booth at the show.

stk313213rknDo You Believe in Metrics and ROI? Of course you do. Imagine conducted a sales/marketing meeting or presentation without metrics. You love numbers. You love studying and reciting them to others like parables from the Bible. You get visibly excited using a spreadsheet to compare the Toledo to the Albuquerque office.

But, when it comes to your trade show marketing, you are like a four-year old with blocks, relying on the # of leads to judge success. Sadly, you pat yourself on the back if the leads are electronic and not a roll of paper cascading off the counter. For most exhibitors, anything beyond that falls into quantitative voodoo. There’s no measuring costs per show, return on sales, or contribution margin per client.

Are You a Good Judge of People? You should be. It’s kinda required for anyone in sales and marketing. At every trade show, you are doing two things:  meeting with customers and suppliers and evaluating your trade show staff. Far too often, we are spectacular at the first and abysmal at the second. We view trade show staffing along the same lines as a wedding invitation — the more the merrier and we pray no one gets so drunk they puke in public. When we do hold staffers accountable, it’s condensed into a pre-show rally which includes 10 minute booth training. It’s a joke.

Are You an Expert in 3D Marketing? I won’t bother to feed your ego on this one. You aren’t an expert. Not even close. You may be an expert at banner ads or print advertising or closing techniques, but you probably don’t know squat about exhibit design and trade show marketing. How do I know? Experience working with exhibitors and walking shows. Now, don’t misunderstand me. You know marketing and you know sales, but you decided at some point to believe that trade show marketing is more of the same. It is and it isn’t, and you’ll blow a ton of money until you know what works and what doesn’t.

Take Some Advice from a Trade Show Professional

VK-5088aaI mean this literally. Take some advice from a trade show professional.

1. Work with your Exhibit House. Exhibit Houses and Distributors do much more than design and build exhibits. They work with exhibitors on strategy, show services, ROI tracking, booth training, etc. They see the painful mistakes that their clients make that cost them money and prevent them from succeeding at trade shows. Believe me . . . they want your trade show marketing to be wildly successful. That way you’ll add more shows to your schedule, you’ll purchase new exhibits, and you’ll tap into their services.

2. Work with Independent Consultants. Like any industry, the trade show industry has seasoned independent consultants who want to share their advice for a fee. Some are generalists. Others specialize in booth staff training or ROI measuring or social media marketing or lead generation or overall trade show marketing. They know their stuff. They are paid to know their stuff. Don’t know who they are? Ask your exhibit house or use this niffy tool called Google. That said . . . always get references and do your homework.

3. Become an Expert. You can either continue to whine or you can take classes at EXHIBITORLIVE. There are hundreds of classes each year on every imaginable topic related to trade shows and trade show marketing. The classes are a great place to meet industry professionals and share your successes and failures with colleagues. For such a big industry, it’s actually a very small community.

No one can know everything. And what’s true for marketing automation software or social media advertising is also true for trade shows. Know what you don’t know and for everything else, seek help.

Cheers!

–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.


 

Download “What’s So Funny About Trade Shows?” — A New Book on Trade Show Marketing

December 4th, 2019 COMMENTS
What's So Funny About Trade Shows Book

We are delighted to announce the publication of “What’s So Funny About Trade Shows? A Humorous Guide to Effective Trade Show Marketing.” This guide takes a lighthearted approach to understanding the mysteries of trade show and exhibition marketing.

For most marketing professionals, trade shows represent one of their biggest challenges. Far too often, exhibitors waste a lot of money learning how to be successful at a trade show or exhibition. This book removes some of the mystery and pain. Sort of like getting a root canal while under the influence of laughing gas.

Tim Patterson of TradeshowGuy Exhibits recently reviewed the book saying, “As an introduction to tradeshow marketing, or as a refresher if you’ve been exhibiting for years, What’s So Funny About Trade Shows? is a great addition to any marketing library. Highly recommended!” Click here to see the full review.

Articles include:

  • What Zombies Can Teach Us About Trade Show Marketing
  • Dumb Stuff People Do at Trade Shows
  • What Not to Wear at a Trade Show
  • Your Trade Show Booth Staff Kinda Sucks
  • Plus 11 More Articles to Up Your Trade Show Game

What’s So Funny” is available as a FREE PDF download, and also for purchase via Amazon as a Kindle or paperback print edition.

What's So Funny About Trade Shows

Up Your Game Newsletter ~ October 2019

October 18th, 2019 COMMENTS

Now for Something Completely Different

Those with a few grey hairs will recognize this line from Monty Python as the abrupt, often nonsensical transition from one skit to another. In this month’s newsletter, we share videos, blog posts, and a 1960’s car ad from Classic Distributor Partners. In other words, something different.

We think you’ll enjoy how cleverly they market their exhibit companies. Are you promoting your company in creative ways? Please let us know.  

(2) Empire Display Solutions Videos

At Classic Exhibits, we rarely see show photos, let alone videos of the exhibits we design and build. However, Matthew Houck of Empire Display Solutions shared two professionally edited videos from Natural Products East.

The videographer is James Morano, and Matt and Aniyah Haynes narrate. Jeff Garrett and Alex Lebedev were the PMs and Kim DiStefano the Designer.

Both show how our collaboration with Empire Display Solutions resulted in two amazing custom exhibits.

See the YouTube previews below or click on these links: Threshold (20 x 30) and PICNIK Austin (10 x 10).

Tradeshow Guy Blog Posts

One of the best bloggers in the trade show industry is Tim Patterson, aka The Tradeshow Guy. He posts, on average, about three blogs a week, including his weekly Monday Morning Coffee video and podcast. His trade show marketing advice is consistently practical, personal, and fun to read.

I’ve learned a lot from Tim over the years and often give his books to new Classic employees as an introduction to the industry. Although we don’t agree on everything, like whether “trade show” should be one or two words, we do agree that trade show marketing is a craft learned from skilled professionals. Below are some recent blog posts.

USA Exhibits and Gear – Jim Munro

This has nothing to do with trade shows, but a lot to do with marketing, creativity, and humor. Jim Munro owns USA Exhibits and Gear in Fresno, CA. Recently, he posted the following in LinkedIn about his dad.

In Jim’s words… “I wanted to share this piece of family history from the early 1960’s. My dad was a California auto dealer who specialized in sourcing and selling specialty, hi-performance cars that were popular during this period. The following is a clip from our local newspaper, The Fresno Bee, in 1963.

I know there are some Gearheads out there that will appreciate the creative descriptions. Yes, he was quite a character!”

Westeros and Trade Shows: Meet Your Game of Thrones Characters as Exhibitors

June 6th, 2019 COMMENTS
Trade Show Exhibitors and The Game of Thrones

Guest Post: Erica Dougherty, Exhibits Northwest Seattle

Yeah yeah, you’ve had enough Game of Thrones analogies, articles, and opinions about how the show ended. Me, too. I get it, but bear with me for just ONE MORE because I bet you haven’t read something that compares your favorite characters with — you guessed it — Trade Show Exhibitors!

So, sit back and contemplate who you are, or rather, who you want to be and see if this makes sense — unlike the ending to GoT.

*Spoiler Alert:  Read only if you have finished Game of Thrones, will never watch the show, or some jerk has already spoiled the ending for you.  

In the Order of My Favorite GoT Characters

Arya Stark – Arya exhibitors are underestimated but won’t stand for anyone’s bull. They work hard and hone their skills slowly and wisely, making a list and checking it… over and over. Arya exhibitors reach out to learn from the masters. They take notes and practice until their own skills are formidable, planning seamlessly for victory each step of the way.

They surprise their adversaries and show up fearless to every show and walk away triumphant. But don’t be fooled; they aren’t perfect. They learn from failures. Step-by-step they keep getting better, more clever, and eventually shatter their competition like a total boss.

Samwell Tarly – OK, so these exhibitors might not always be the front-runner “winners,” but you have to love them. They might be a little timid at first and need some hand-holding but, dang, are they loyal. They trust those they deem experts (like their exhibit house professional), and they are generally open to new ideas and strategies.

However, these exhibitors are not pushovers:  they are intelligent and perceptive, so don’t perceive their willingness to follow as a weakness. Their intuition is spot on, and in the end, their steady strategy pays off consistently. They also tend to befriend the right people and create meaningful and lasting professional partnerships — priceless on and off the trade show floor.

Tyrion Lannister – This “wanna be” 50 x50 exhibitor excels in a 10×10 footprint. They are smart and clever, making the best of what they are given. Strategy is their king, and they make wise trade show marketing decisions in the beginning, winning the trust of many big clients. But then, over time, their confidence (and a few bad habits) gets the best of them which leads to dumber and dumber choices as they grow.

They aren’t evil, just overly confident in their own abilities. But don’t worry, the Tyrion exhibitor is ultimately a strategic player and will wise up and get it together (by partnering with the right supportive team) in time to GROW into a brilliant 20×20 booth. Still not the biggest, but it’s perfect for their awakened goals.

Game of Thrones and Trade Shows

Sansa Stark – Sansa exhibitors are supremely confident, intelligent, skeptical, and bold. They exhibit with a honed strategy based on learning from past failures (traumas). They are “under the radar” triumphant in the end and have their own loyal following who will forever be faithful.

Clients stick with them for the long haul, and their activity in the booth is mostly current customers looking for “what’s new” from their favorite vendor. Oh, and they have a design aesthetic that cannot be beat. Their booth will look stunning.

Jon Snow – Essentially, one of these exhibitors is the outcast who really isn’t. Have you ever seen an exhibitor who shows up and their booth looks a little boring on the surface, but darn it if their booth isn’t the most popular? They are cautious, slow, and steady, but they listen and make real connections with their booth visitors and loyal clients.

They make bold decisions when necessary but know how to read the room. They choose their shows (battles) wisely and strategize with a team to ultimately create a winning plan. They are humble to a fault and never see all that they could be, allowing others to shine more brightly on the show floor and in business. But they don’t go broke (or dead), so their ROI is impressive.

They may decide to partner with a front-runner, trusting that’s the right thing to do and hoping for mutual success. When it’s proven to them that they are actually better (their clients tell them so), they refuse to believe until they must make the ultimate sacrifice… choosing themselves to WIN (maybe they steal that larger booth space from their partner… gasp!). But it’s OK:  their fans are supportive and loyal.

Game of Thrones and Trade Shows

Daenerys Targaryen – Imagine these exhibitors were start-up companies at first and then with the help of a few huge investors, they grew BIG, fast. They began with nothing and were perceived as weak and easily taken advantage of. But then, (born out of fire) they shoot out into the industry with the biggest dragon of them all –MONEY. They spare no expense, and they have it all: formidable assets (killer booth and amazing swag) and an army of booth staff in matching shirts.

They are coming for a fight with the confidence to win. And they do win, until they break. Emotions get the best of their strategy and something bad happens. Can they recover? Hmmm…

Cersei and Jaime Lannister – Cersei exhibitors think they are ruling the show floor and take no help or compromise from anyone. Other exhibitors sense their arrogance and are out to attack and overcome this misguided leader. Their “twin,” maybe a sister-company (ok, brother, but that’s not the colloquial term), is along for the ride and follows the lead. This sibling company may have a wandering eye seeing what others do and their success, but ultimately stays loyal to their leader, for better or for worse.

This talented hero is known by all the land, but all of a sudden, that fame is taken swiftly and #thestruggleisreal. These exhibitors once had it all: fame, fortune and literally the world in both of their hands (ha ha), but when they least expected it, someone took their most valuable asset (maybe their biggest client?) and now they feel lost. Loyalties realign, and a new beginning is on the horizon, but old habits die hard and well… the end.

OK, I think that’s enough. I could go on and on, but with over 150 main characters in Game of Thrones, we’d be here literally until Winter. On that note: Ready for one last GoT cliché? Winter is Coming. And in the #TradeShowLife, Winter is the TIMELINE.

Your show is coming and planning ahead is the only way to defeat the White Walkers = RUSH FEES. Knowing this… I think GoT got at least one thing right. #AryaStark

Erica Dougherty, Exhibits Northwest, erica@exhibitsnw.com

How to Win the Hearts and Minds of Trade Show Attendees

May 29th, 2019 COMMENTS
Wining the Hearts and Minds of Any Trade Show Attendee

Trade shows can be brutal for attendees and exhibitors alike. Just consider the intensive planning, travel, installation, and long hours before, during, and after the show hours. It’s a big commitment, both physically and financially, so smart trade show marketers look for creative tricks to entice attendees to visit their booth

Of course, there’s no substitute for the basics of pre-show marketing, exhibit design, branding, and staff training. That goes without saying. Beyond that, many exhibitors neglect to create an environment where attendees feel comfortable and want to spend time. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to win the hearts and minds of potential clients. Feed them. Give them a place to relax. And get them charged up!

The Five Essentials

1.  Food/Candy. If you have ever attended a European trade show, you know that many exhibitors have (at the very least) cheese and crackers in the booth. Unlike in Europe, serving food can be problematic at most U.S. venues because the convention center has an exclusive contract on food and drinks. Which means being creative with the food you offer.

Most venues will look the other way if you are giving “selective” guests candy, protein or breakfast bars, or even bagged cookies. More elaborate promotions like ice cream sundaes or taco bars require show approval, but smaller items are rarely a problem if handled discretely. Trade show attendees welcome munchies after strolling the floor for hours, especially if it’s presented as a special treat unavailable to the general public.

The 5 essentials to any trade show booth

2. Water. Like food, most venues are very protective of drinks since the markup is so lucrative. However, many exhibitors pack cases of water in their crates for their use during setup and for the staff during the show, which they keep in the storage closet or counters. You certainly don’t want someone fainting in your booth from dehydration, so having some spare water is probably a good idea as long as it’s not being handed to every attendee passing by your booth. Wink. Wink.

Here’s an idea you might consider. Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits, a designer and builder of eco-friendly trade show displays, brings branded boxed water to their events. Boxed water is more eco-friendly than plastic bottles and is more efficient to produce and ship. Plus, it’s unusual and rarely identifiable as water by the show halls. Click HERE to learn more about Boxed Water. 

3. Entertainment. Face it… you yearn to be entertained at a trade show. If there’s a magician, you stop and watch. Same with virtual reality demos. Entertainment doesn’t have to be expensive, and it should never be a distraction from your messaging. But there are always ways to intertwine your message with a simple game like electronic darts or Wack-a-Mole or golf. The key is to attract the right attendees, not just anyone bored and eager to win a prize. If you don’t feel you have the time or the creativity to create and manage the entertainment, work with your exhibit house. They know lots of companies dedicated to matching your show objectives with targeted entertainment.

4. Comfortable Furniture. EVERY ATTENDEE appreciates comfortable chairs or loveseats in a booth, regardless of the booth size. Furniture encourages clients to linger so you have time to assess their needs and suggest solutions. Thankfully, modern rental furniture comes in a wide variety of styles and colors to match most exhibit designs and colors. As an exhibitor, you need to decide if you want private or semi-private meeting spaces, whether you need tables, and how you need to structure the space. Keep in mind, you are not creating a lounge for everyone to plop down, answer emails, and check their social media. It’s for business and business conversations.

BTW – Don’t let anyone tell you that booths should never have furniture because it will encourage your staff to sit and do nothing. That’s a not a furniture issue. It’s a training issue which indicates that the booth staff doesn’t understand your company’s trade show goals.

Charging Stations for Trade Shows and Events

5. Power/Charging. Why fight it? Everyone has a smartphone. Some have several, plus a tablet or laptop at the show. And even with the improved battery life of most devices, we’re all power nomads searching for an electrical oasis on the show floor. Be smart. Give them what they want with charging stations. Thankfully, modern charging solutions don’t have to look like something you stole from the airport. There are contemporary bistro, coffee, and meeting tables along with standalone charging kiosks. All with branding options that complement your overall graphic theme. Many include both USB and wireless charging options. Many are available for purchase or to rent. See a wide selection HERE.

Gone are the days when you exhibitors could rely on bold graphics and an attractive exhibit to draw attendees into their booth. Trade shows are more competitive and complex than ever before. You need to understand today’s attendees – what they want and expect and how they decide which exhibitors to visit before and during the show.

Nothing is more important than quality touches with a potential client on the show floor. Creating an atmosphere that’s welcoming, inviting, and entertaining is a step in the right direction to win the heart and mind of your next big customer.  

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

**********************************************

Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, custom, rental 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.