October 31, 2013

10 Questions to Ask When Preparing for a Trade Show

Category: Articles — admin @ 5:06 pm

BY  | October 28, 2013
10 Questions to Ask When Preparing for a Trade Show

10 Questions


For any small business, trade shows can provide an effective means of spreading brand awareness, getting your product out in front of a target audience and meeting with current or potential clients. But there’s much more to it than reserving your space and signing on the dotted line.

While preparing to attend any show, consider these 10 key questions to ask before exhibiting:


1. Why am I participating in this show? “There really has to be a why,” says D.J. Heckes, CEO of trade show management company Exhib-it and author of Full Brain Marketing.

People sign up for a show for a number of reasons: It can serve as a launching pad for new products or concepts, a way to build up your brand and distribution, a means of nurturing relationships or even a place to position your company for sale.

Once you nail down a clear motive that aligns with your business strategy, reach out to customers and find out if they are attending and if the show fits their timing and needs.

2. Am I organized for the show? Preparing for a show well in advance can save you both time and money.

For example, if you sign up early, you can take advantage of discounted rates, which can be considerably less than prices charged within 60 or 30 days of an event.

On the other side of the spectrum, if you are disorganized, you may incur additional costs. One instance where you might get penalized is if you forget to bring something and need to have it delivered to the show. You not only will have to pay for shipping and handling but the show may slap on hidden costs.

You can be surprised at the add-on costs if you don’t meet certain deadlines,” Heckes says. “If you follow a budget and a timeline, you won’t forget things.”

3. How much space will I need? While it’s nice to have a large footprint on a trade show floor, those who can’t afford it shouldn’t worry, says Michael Brody-Waite, CEO of InQuicker, a health-tech company focused on connecting consumers with services.

Brody-Waite’s approach is to invest in a simple booth presentation and then doing everything he can to capture contact information and follow-up with these leads after the show. For him, it is more about these meaningful connections, conversations and ability to covert prospects to actual customers than the complexity of a booth.

“The way we look at it, if we can’t have impactful conversations with a single booth space, simply adding more real estate probably isn’t the right solution,” he says.

4. Does it matter who my neighbors are? Absolutely. But how you view your neighbors is where views diverge.

Maureen Burke isn’t a fan of being placed next to a show-stopping booth. The senior account director at Nth Degree, an event marketing and management company, warns against having your small booth next to an extravagant presentation (think lots of signage and activity). This kind of placement can distract potential customers from your message and products.

“You’re not just competing against other companies who make the same product, but everyone who is exhibiting there,” she says.

However, Brody-Waite has a different perspective. He likes to secure a booth near flashier ones that will likely attract a lot of foot traffic. If another company is doing the heavy lifting to get people in a certain area, why not capitalize on it, he says.

“As a young company, we can count on any number of booths having better production value than ours, even if they belong to our competitors, he says. “It’s just another opportunity to be enterprising.”

5. Should I sponsor events in conjunction with the trade show? Brody-Waite believes in attending trade shows not only as an exhibitor, but also as a sponsor or presenter, as it affords the best opportunity to inform and educate an audience.

“We keep a calendar of speaking opportunity deadlines and make sure to pitch fresh, relevant session topics every year,” he says. “Speaking and exhibiting at a trade show is the ultimate one-two punch, as it maximizes your budget to get in front of as many people as possible.”

6. Who am I targeting at the show? A show might have tens of thousands of attendees trekking through the event but participants need to figure out who specifically they are targeting and how they plan on reeling them in. Some companies get stuck on the number of people who stop by the booth, instead of looking at whether they are qualified buyers of your goods and services.

“Are you looking for 1,500 basic leads or 200 well-qualified leads? Are you looking for shallow and wide exposure or narrow and deep?” Burke of Nth Degree says.

By qualifying the type of people you hope to reach, you can plan your presentation more effectively.

7. How am I going to measure my attendance and presence at the show? In addition to counting leads, it’s important to measure marketing impressions at the show. Just like you can see how many people view an ad in a magazine, you want to know how many people are viewing your marketing materials like signage on the show floor. Burke suggests working with the show organizer to get numbers.

For example, if your signage is at the front of an entrance on the west side, find out how many people entered the show floor from that door. This can help you plan for future shows and decide whether they’re worth attending.

8. Am I familiar with the host city and venue? When you’re planning to exhibit at a show, it’s important to know about the city you’re visiting, as well as the rules and regulations of the convention center, including the associated unions and contractors.

“Not only is this going to affect your budget but also how you meet deadlines,” Burke says. “Going to Orlando is totally different animal than going to San Francisco, Chicago and other union-driven convention centers.”

9. Have I backed up my presence through social media? Keeping your customers informed about your company’s activities before, during and after the trade show is crucial, Heckes of Exhib-it says. In addition to sending out a press release, you can post tweets about why people should come see you at the show. Possible incentives include a new technology, a prize drawing or a gift for stopping by.

Other relevant social media efforts can include blogging from the show floor, making regular updates on Facebook and posting videos of customers visiting your booth on your website.

10. Do I have a post-show plan? It takes a lot of money to plan and exhibit at a show. Don’t let all your effort go to the wayside by not being active after the event is over. In this competitive world, if you don’t respond to leads within two or three days, your competitors will,” Heckes says She recommends having a sound plan for following up with people immediately after the show is over. If you have an app where you can send out information in real time at the event, all the better.

“If you wait two or three weeks, you’ve missed your window,” Heckes says.

October 24, 2013

7 Levels of Social Media for Trade Show Marketers

Category: Articles — admin @ 6:10 pm

By , Published October 22, 2013

Perhaps you are an exhibit marketer who has yet to send your first Tweet, write your first blog post, or record your first YouTube video.  Or maybe social media has already become a regular part of your trade show promotions.  Either way, what’s next?

7 Levels of Social Media for Trade Show Marketers image 7 Levels of Social Media for Trade Shows5

Whether you are a social media rookie, a digital native, or somewhere in between, there is a progression of tactics you can follow to expand your reach, influence, relationships, and results.

Here are the 7 levels of social media, for business to business marketers, and especially trade show marketers:

Level 1:  Listen To Your Audience

The most basic thing you can do on social media is simply to listen to what your target audience is saying and doing on popular social media sites.  Listening doesn’t even require setting up any accounts.  Just go to the search pages for Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, and blogs, and do searches on your industry keywords, such as product names, job titles, and industry buzzwords.  Find out what people are talking about — their issues, their joys, and their dreams.  This is the first, simplest step, but it’s too often skipped.

For exhibitors, search on the names of the trade shows you exhibit at, to find out what attendees are saying about the show.  Find your show’s Facebook page and Twitter account as a shortcut, and learn Twitter hashtags for your main shows to find even more messages people are sending about the shows.

Level 2:  Share Content To Engage With Your Audience

The next level of social media is to share good content you’ve found with your target audience.  Share content you think they will value, content that will help them with their jobs, content that will entertain and connect.  Most of all, share content that echoes your viewpoint, and add your opinion to messages as you send them.  The fancy term for this is “content curation.”  To share content, you’ll have to set up accounts on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  You may want to start with one site first, and then expand when you’ve got the hang of the first one.  By sharing content, you can also join in the great conversations taking place all over social media, and start to build relationships with people online.

Sharing content as a trade show marketer can be as simple as retweeting interesting Tweets about your main show, or liking on Facebook about new products being introduced at your upcoming trade show, or sharing blog posts and YouTube videos produced to highlight what will be new and interesting at the show.

Level 3: Create Your Own Content

After listening and sharing, it’s time to step up to the next level — creating your own content to share on social media sites.  This is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a commitment, because once you start, you have to sustain your pace of content, or else you’ll look worse off than if you had never started.  Write a blog, create videos for YouTube, and have regular ideas from your own perspective to share via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Hint: It’s a lot easier to have a blog, and then share your content in bite-sized chunks via Twitter and Facebook, than to create lots of little content just for Twitter and Facebook.  Content that will get shared and build your brand is the same as content others produce that you’ve been sharing — useful, entertaining, funny, and newsworthy.  But now it’s from you and your company, so you are even more actively building your reputation with the millions of people online.

Content you create as a trade show marketer can be a pre-show or post-show video you post on YouTube and Facebook, pre-show Tweets about all the great things you are giving away in your trade show displays, or a blog post post-show recapping the new product you introduced at the show.

Level 4: Engage With The Influencers

Now that you have a created a solid footprint online, it’s time to up your game and start networking with the hubs of the network.  Brian Solis has said that when you engage with the influencers within your niche on social media sites, it’s like you are engaging with an audience of audiences.  These are the connectors and the thought leaders who can help share your content with a much broader audience, and help you build relationships with other influencers in your industry.  These are the people with high Klout scores, thousands of followers/friends/connections, and a well-read blog.  Many are also influential offline, too.  They can also be some of the best friends you will make online, as they are as passionate and insightful on your industry as you aspire to be.   On Twitter, follow them, retweet their best tweets with a comment, and get a dialog going over time.  Comment on their blog posts, and like their content on your Facebook account.

Trade show marketers can engage with influencers by searching on the show’s hashtag on Twitter, and see who’s Tweets are getting the most retweeting.  Search on Google blog search with the names of your top shows, and find out which bloggers write about your show, and then comment on their blog posts, and even invite them to your trade show exhibit to see what’s new.  Find out if there is a Tweetup (a live meeting of Twitter friends) at your show, so you can meet face-to-face with these online influencers who are more likely to attend it.

Level 5: Create “Wow” Events To Provoke Sharing

The next level is to invest creative energy and money into making events that are so cool, so awesome, that people who see it or participate in it will whip out their smartphones, take pictures, and share what they’re seeing with all their social media contacts.  Business-to-consumer brands do this a lot, when they are more focused on building brand awareness to millions.   Brands that do this are seen as cooler and more fun.

For trade show marketers, it means creating an activity in your trade show booth that excites your target audience so much, that they will stop walking down the trade show aisle, watch, participate, and share.  You can create moments in your booth where attendees will want to have their photo taken, and then design a backdrop that includes your logo repeated on it, so your brand is seen when the share the photo (or even video) across their social media accounts.

Level 6: Create A Community

For most of us, we can draft off of the efforts of others who have brought together our target audience within a part or niche of a larger social media network.  For the truly dedicated, the next level is to launch your own community on social media.  That may be your own group on LinkedIn or Facebook that you administer, or a Tweet Chat (a regularly scheduled chat on Twitter) that you host.  The effort is greater, but by taking a leadership role you boost your reputation and instill gratitude among your target audience.  You gain relationships with the very people your company serves, who can give you valuable feedback about their needs and their problems.   Some companies go so far as to set up their own private social network to have these conversations away from their competitors’ eyes.

For trade show marketers, creating a community specific to a show is probably not necessary, because the show owner will have the best list to start from in creating the show’s online community, and most likely already has started one that you can interact with.  But if you have set up your own community, you can lead discussions about what will be happening at your upcoming industry shows, and be sure to mention what your company will be offering there, and reach out to the members who say they will coming to the show.

Level 7: Expand Your Social Media Footprint

Now that you have a viable, consistent presence on all the main social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogs, you can expand in many directions.  You can create more content on the main networks – such as doubling the number of videos you post on YouTube or increasing your blog posts per month.  You can add more accounts on the main networks, training more people in your company to use Twitter or to help everyone build or improve their LinkedIn accounts.   You can refine your social media activities by creating content specific to your best vertical markets or market segments.  And you can go wider by starting and continuing accounts on other social media networks, such as Google+, Pinterest, Quora, StumbledUpon, Tumbler, Instagram, and more.  You can also be the first in your industry to dive into new social media networks as they emerge.  This highest level of social media is never fully accomplished – it’s a question of how far you can go before your extra efforts are not worth it.

For trade show marketers, this means increasing your social media activities before, during, and after the show.  Pre-show you can have multiple people talking up with their social networks what your company will be doing at your upcoming show, or ask all booth staffers to send a LinkedIn update that they will be booth staffing there.  At show, it could mean bringing a dedicated team of social media savvy people to booth staff, where they are constantly sharing on your social media accounts what is happening in your booth, including photos and videos of interactions within your exhibit and at the show’s networking events and educational sessions.  And post-show, it’s producing and posting lots of content about what happened in your booth and at the show that is newsworthy to your industry, be it in blog posts or YouTube videos.

No matter where you are in your social media and trade show marketing program, there is always room for growth.  I hope this article inspires you to raise your to the next level.


October 17, 2013

Companies That Exhibit Without a Trade Show Plan

Category: Articles,Tales From The Booth — admin @ 7:11 pm

If a company signs up to be an exhibitor at a trade show, and they have not developed a trade show business plan, they are just attendee with a booth. Trade Shows are expensive. If a company intends to invest $15K to $250K or more in a major trade show they need to have a plan that will articulate what they intend to accomplish, how many qualified leads, based on their pre-show effort, they expect to obtain and their return On Investment (ROI) in the trade show. Besides the ROI at a trade show, an exhibitor should be looking at their Return on Objectives (ROO).  Some exhibitors may not be focused primarily on generating opportunities, but on increasing their sphere of influence, on being noticed, on being consider a major technical resource for a particular industry. Both the ROI and ROO have to be taken into consideration when developing a marketing plan for a trade show.

There should be an overall trade show plan that takes into consideration all of the trade shows where the company will exhibit for the year. Then each trade show should be able to develop its own marketing plan for trade show success. The reason that each show should be unique is that the time of the year, the competition and industry are always in continuing change. What is happening at a trade show in an industry in January may not be the same for that industry in June.

This plan should be part of the company’s overall marketing plan, and comparison data should be made available to management that will substantiate and support their commitment to these trade shows.

For years companies have used two marketing plans, the first covered all of the advertising and literature required to present the company products in an effective way. The second, was a “add on” to the existing marketing plan that covered trade shows.  If the company didn’t make its numbers in the third quarter, the first marketing causality was the trade shows budget. The marketing manager in his or her wisdom could show that they reduced their expenses by eliminating the trade shows for that quarter, or for the rest of the year. The problem with this approach is that it will now take the company twice as long to come back up to the original sales level because more effort has to be put into “cold calling” and unqualified sales opportunities. It is interesting that a company will have a sales person sit down and follow up on leads submitted by a trade publication, but will put qualified leads from a trade show on the back burner. I can guarantee that the majority of those people who filled out a form from a trade publication are just literature collectors, but when you get a qualified lead from a trade show, they really want to do business.

October 10, 2013

Expensive Literature and a Free Dinner

Category: Articles,Tales From The Booth — admin @ 6:50 pm

Some years ago I had a client that was bound and determined to spend many dollars on literature to be handed out at the trade show.  No matter what I said he always had a response. “This is old literature, I was going to get rid of it anyway” or “This literature has a lot of information so they will hold on to it”

We had done a few trade shows together, and the expense allocated for trade show material was astronomical. When I confronted my client on this, because I had a tough time presenting a realistic ROI (Return on Investment) that made sense. He said, not to worry it was an accounting thing. I also know when things get tight in a company because of a downturn in sales, accounting takes a hard look at everything, and where they can “cut” because of the expense they do.   Having listened to my client talk about his literature, He loved to design, write copy, and show how informative it was, and how the attendees really like it and no doubt they will be carrying it home to read again and again. While at my client’s booth at a major trade show at the Javits Center in New York City I really got annoyed, and I confronted my client as he was handing out  these very elaborate 8 page multicolored coated stock brochures that must of cost over $4.00 each. When I saw this I asked him how long he had been handing these out. He said since the start of the trade show, which was at 10:00AM.  It was now a little after noon, and I asked my client how many do you think you have handed out. He was so excited, when I asked him that because he said that everyone wanted them, they were so professional. Again I asked him how many he had given out, and he said, “About 60” Well I said, I have been telling you for over 2 years that it’s a waste of money to spend a lot on literature to be handed out at a trade show because, according to statistics between 82% to 90% of the literature collected at a trade show is thrown away. I said to my client, “I will bet you dinner at the best restaurant of your choosing, that I can collect at least 30 of your brochures right here at the trade show” He said, “I’ll take that bet”

With that said, I found two of the workers that empty the garbage cans around the trade show floor. I told them I would give each of them $20 dollars if they could find 30 of these brochures that have been thrown away. Then I told them I would meet them back at the booth in one hour.

50 minutes later both of these workers came back with 45 brochures in their hands, and wanted their money, which I gladly gave them.

That evening I had dinner and a wonderful bottle of very expensive wine at restaurant considered the best seafood restaurant in New York City. My client was still in shock, but not over paying the bill, but seeing how much money he had wasted by not listening to me two years ago when it came to literature.

If you do your trade show literature correctly, it will be inexpensive, it will be focused on this show, and also follow your trade show theme, and it will be something they will hold on too, and use for reference for the whole trade show.

October 1, 2013

Packing and Returning Your Booth to the Office

Category: Articles,Tales From The Booth — admin @ 3:35 pm

Make arrangements to pack and return the booth to your company before the trade show begins. Once the trade show is over people are in a hurry to leave and do not pay attention to details, which is one of the major problems in shipping and receiving that can cost you both time and money.  The following are some of the things to take into consideration:



  1. List any problems with the booth that should be addressed when you return to your office.
  2. Put a paper inside the exhibit stating who the person was who was in charge of breaking down the booth and getting it ready for shipping.
  3. Make a list of the problems you encountered with the booth at the trade show.
  4. If it is a very intricate booth to set up, have someone take pictures of the step by step process that you go through to get the booth set up.  Instructions are great but a picture is worth a thousand words.
  5. Make copies of the bills of lading and any other receipts or invoices that you get from the shipping company.
  6. Make sure if your booth is to be shipped via Allied Van Lines, that the manager of the shipping dock does not take it upon himself to ship it with another carrier.
  7. Make sure you know the people in charge of shipping your equipment to the trade show. When you have a problem you want to have someone at the shipping company to speak with, not just the driver of the truck.
  8. Read all of the shipping and receiving documentation carefully. You want to know who is responsible if your booth of equipment is damaged in shipment. Accountability is key
  9. Insurance is important and if your custom booth cost $100,000. You need to be assured that if you have damage or problems that you can recoup your investment.
  10. You should interview your booth and equipment carrier that same way you would interview anyone else for a job. Ask to speak with some of their clients who also do trade shows. You want to be sure that you are placing your booth and equipment in capable, and accountable hands.