The Trade Show Floor Can Be a Fascinating Research Lab

Due to all the economic shifts in the last year or so, the audience for your product or service has changed.  Do you know how much they have changed?  You can easily gain insight by collecting information at your next show.  Here are a several simple ideas to consider and possibly incorporate in your overall show planning efforts.

Typically, the smart exhibit marketer has trained booth personnel to engage the audience with a unique “pick-up” line.  It is a short, an open-ended question, which stops the attendee in the aisle and draws them into the booth for further conversation.  It is NOT – “Can I help you?”

Using this function and conducting primary research with the trade show audience, you can have your fingers on the pulse of prospects and what is relevant for them.

Test Your Marketing Message:

Conveying your marketing message in a brief sentence or two can be a challenge.  These succinct ideas should deliver the compelling response – tell me more.  But which ones have the broadest appeal?

This concept is very similar to the A/B split testing done on headlines.  You want to assess which one has the greatest impact.  Does it solicit a response which indicates they want more information or is there no response?

Equip your booth personnel with two different statements and use them to engage the audience.  Then, see which one has the best response.  Now it is important that you coach your personnel to deliver the one-liners in the same fashion so there is consistency of information being collected.

It will be fascinating to hear and understand their responses.  They just might give you a better marketing message, in their language, than you could have dreamed up.

Once you have the winning statement, share this with your marketing teammates so they can assess if this should be woven into other marketing messages.  It could be used in email campaigns, advertising, website etc.

How is Your Competition Viewed?

What do the attendees say about your competition?  Gathering intelligence from your customers and prospects on how they view the competition can aid you in positioning your products/services.  How high do they regard the features, functions, and benefits of your adversary?

Typically, this information can be gathered when you are conducting a demo of your product/service.  During a demo or a conversation in the booth many questions are asked.  By carefully analyzing the questions asked, you can determine the holes in your marketing.

Assess the following:

  • What features did people ask about which you already have, but it wasn’t obvious in the demo?
  • What features did people keep asking for which you don’t have or are on the drawing board for a future release?

As you were talking to them, did they share anything they loved or hated about your competition?  This information is golden, in that you are hearing their preferences directly from your audience.

Consider hiring an outside research firm to conduct intercept interviews (GES is a great option).  This is where a person stops someone who has just left your booth and poses a few questions.  Via this qualitative research tool you can assess your marketing message, the booth personnel, etc.  Using the results will help fine tune or totally change your approach for the next show.

Gathering and analyzing the responses to your queries can alter your marketing so that it has a broader impact and moves more prospects into the sales funnel.

Joyce McKee – Defying Convention


Six Ideas to steal from 2014

Six Ideas to Steal from 2014 Trade Shows

Ours is an industry filled with ingenuity and innovation. Even the shows that have been around for decades find ways to reinvent themselves and bring an exciting and profitable experience to both attendees and exhibitors, making them crave even more next year. Here’re a few ideas tested by shows in 2014 that could bring a new sparkle to your event:Near Field Communication. Several shows switched this year to Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in attendee badges. In essence, it’s a microchip in the badge encrypted with relevant data about the attendee, such as access to expo, sessions and events. No printing and losing lunch tickets (and drink coupons) anymore. Exhibitors collect leads by scanning badges with their smartphone pre-loaded with a registration app and synched with their database. Since all contact info is digital exhibitors can also instantly send specs and relevant materials.CES introduced the badges at its 2014 show in collaboration with ITN International. “There’s a bit of a learning curve but people are very excited about it,” said Karen Chupka, senior vice president of events and conferences for Consumer Electronics Association. CES will again use NFT in their badges in 2015.Licensing Expo 2014 also has a successful experience with NFT. “I heard from a lot of attendees that this was the smoothest entry process they’ve had into a show. It is likely that Advanstar will adopt the same technology for its other shows,” said Chris DeMoulin, president of Licensing & EVP Worldwide Customer Development at Advanstar Communications.Mobile Engagement Technology. CTIA Super Mobility Week 2014 launched a system that could monitor location of mobile devices on the floor as well as send proximity marketing messages. It collected real-time data from 125 sensors around the floor and created a “heat map” of the busiest booths and presentations displayed in the Big Data Wall in the lobby. At the same time, it allowed exhibitors to send messages to nearby attendees through the official show app and opted-in to receive such notifications.  More of proximity messaging is expected at next year’s event.

“You’ll walk into the Samsung booth, and it will ask you questions about what you’d like to see and offer to schedule a meeting and send information to your phone,” said Robert Mesirow, vice president and show director for CTIA. “It makes it a lot more efficient for exhibitors as it automatically does their lead generation and follow-up.”

Shop the Tradeshow. MAGIC Market Week launched its Shop the Floor website as an online product showcase to help extend the life of the show. In 2014, the site became a full ecommerce platform. Buyers can still use it to research products and brands before the show but they also can also place orders throughout the year. “It’s an established brand now,” said Allison Lombardo, vice president of marketing for Advanstar. “And it’s a lot more robust in terms of a shopping experience for the retailer.”

Show Apps All Grown Up. One of the most helpful innovations in show apps has been the introduction of real-time navigation and its integration with other functions. At JCK, attendees could provide information about the desirable products and price ranges and were recommended up to 25 exhibitors that could be a good match. The app would then help schedule appointments and help navigate to the booth during the show.

Along with the GSP routing feature, National Hardware Show app also had a Near Me button that allowed exhibitors to show deals to attendees that had selected their product as category of interest.

Sample Box. Cosmoprof partnered with Glossy Box, a subscription beauty samples service, to create and distribute a limited edition Cosmoprof Box with products launched at the show. “We wanted our exhibitors, especially smaller companies, to get a chance to connect directly with their consumers and also to test the subscription box model that is getting very popular now,” said Daniela Ciocan, marketing director at Cosmoprof North America. “Normally, it takes 30,000 pieces to participate, and it’s a huge investment. Here they only have to contribute 3,000 pieces. We’re hoping it will be a successful partnership with a B-to-C platform.”

Awesome Old School. IT show Interop decided to go the low-tech route to promote attendance at its 2014 event by sending out posters with the history of the show and IT. Their colorful presence on the walls of attendee firms did the trick. “Instead of doing three humongous mail drops, we did one drop to about 100,000 potential registrants,” said Jennifer Jessup, general manager of Interop. “We got better pickup and made more money from those codes than we’d ever done.”

Bonus: Personal Meme Generator. Ok, so this is really a glance into the future, but 2015 CES lets you build a surprisingly accurate and funny personal meme that makes it hard to resist sharing on social media. Even if you’re not going, it might be worth it just as inspiration for next year.

Link to original Article at TSNN.com: Six Ideas to Steal from 2014 Trade Shows

 

Our Work @ The Armory Show 2013

 The Displayers is proud to have created the exhibits for:

 

Andy Warhol at Gagosian (Booth #903)

 

 

The Armory Show is at Pier 94, 12th Avenue at 55th Street, through Sunday March 10th.  For more information, visit: www.thearmoryshow.com

 

We look forward to hearing from you and discussing how we can bring your projects to life.  Enjoy the Show!

 

Other art projects The Displayers has created can be found at our:

 

Gagosian booth - Warhol installation - The Armory Show  2013
Liz Magic Laser - The Armory Show 2013 - catalog cover revised

 

6 Tips to Managing Client Expectations

6 Tips to Managing Client Expectations
Inc. Magazine
Michael A. Olguin
May 7, 2012

These tips will help you build longstanding relationships that can withstand the good times as well as the bad.

So much work goes into winning new business, regardless of the vertical space in which you work; there is the initial prospecting, early conversations, strategic program development, budget consideration, and creation of a deliverables timeline. Unfortunately, all of that work can come to a screeching halt before the ink is dry on the contract when the same amount of time, energy and commitment isn’t placed on managing the client’s expectations after the business is won.

To ensure this is never overlooked, we developed the Super Six: keys to developing excellent client expectations and building longstanding relationships that can withstand good times as well as bumps in the road. After all, it’s easy to keep a client when things are going well; maintaining a client when times are tough is the true test of a relationship. We believe the Super Six will aid in this process:

1. Build a relationship that goes beyond client/vendor I have long maintained that business people like working with people they not only respect, but also personally like. Therefore, we believe that developing a personal relationship goes a long way in building a stronger business relationship. Get to know the client’s family situation, how they spend their free time, where their interests lie and, most importantly, what motivates them on a daily basis. When you understand what makes them tick as a person, you can translate that into your business relationship.

2. Regularly communicate and address problems directly A lack of communication is usually at the root of most problems associated with clients. Any good client relationship will be able to weather setbacks if you are proactive in communicating both good and bad news. When communication is direct and transparent, trust forms and helps to create a foundation for long-lasting relationships.

3. Agree on strategy, goals and timelines Until you and your client agree on strategy, goals and timelines, you are always at risk of them not understanding what success is and how it should be measured. We always suggest creating a scope-of-work document that outlines the program details, budgets and metrics. This will alleviate any confusion over expectations and hopefully eliminate a difficult conversation.

4. Be a  Agree on strategy, goals and timelines When you offer your client advice, direction, input and business counsel, you become a truly valuable partner. This style of open dialogue helps to establish the respect necessary to ensure better project management. Clients hire outsourced marketing services because they want an objective opinion. If you fail at giving that POV, you subject yourself to being a “yes man or woman,” which will ultimately be your undoing.

5. Be a good listener Listening is one of the most misunderstood and least used tools in managing client expectations. Many clients are unsure of what they are trying to accomplish or not very good at articulating it. As such, you must have excellent intuition and listening skills in order to identify key messages being communicated. One of the best ways to compensate for a client who communicates poorly is to repeat what you have heard and ask them to confirm the accuracy of key takeaways, which will ultimately impact expectations.

6. Budget is not a bad word Most relationships will go south very quickly if you are not open and honest about budgets. To start, you must be realistic about setting a clear understanding of the budget required to execute the desired program. Throughout the course of the program, you must have regular dialogue about budgets. If you don’t address the client until you have an issue (i.e., operating over budget), you will not only have an unhappy client, you may also find yourself eating the overages.

At the end of the day, your ability to manage client expectations is going to hinge on how well you choose to communicate. If you leave things up to chance, chances are you and your client will both be disappointed. However, if you take the time to listen, be proactive about communicating openly and address any issues head-on, you will keep client expectations in check and be in a good position to grow your relationship over time.

http://www.inc.com/michael-olguin/6-tips-to-managing-client-expectations.html

Obesity and Other Targets of Children’s Museums

PLAY WITH A PURPOSE   EatSleepPlay at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is intended to promote children’s health.

CHILDREN’S museums do not usually have exhibitions that involve crawling through a giant digestive system.

A child exits a maze designed to explain the function of the intestines in the digestive process.

But such an installation — along with a play center where visitors learn the power of pedaling, bouncing and jumping and a place to meet superpowered vegetable heroes — is part of a larger effort by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan to help prevent childhood obesity.

While children’s museums are primarily known as activity centers to divert the younger set and to help form future museumgoers, they are increasingly focused on social outreach. “Part of our mission is to provide access,” said Andy Ackerman, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. “Social issues, education, health and creativity — it’s all a continuum, and we can connect those domains and reinforce each of them.”

The Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore has adapted museum exhibits and programming for children with special needs. The Young at Art Museum in Davie, Fla., has an afterschool arts program for homeless students. The Providence Children’s Museum in Rhode Island helps children in foster care find permanent families. And the Children’s Museum of the Arts in Manhattan provides a place for foster-care children to reunite with their birth parents by making art together.

“As resources become more and more scarce, everybody’s looking to children’s museums to fill varying kinds of needs for children and families,” said Janet Rice Elman, executive director of the Association of Children’s Museums in Arlington, Va. “These are places where families can learn through play — from science to early literacy skills to parenting — in settings that are joyful.”

Many of these programs involve collaborations with other organizations that have specific expertise. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan on the Upper West Side, for example, developed its so-called EatSleepPlay effort with the National Institutes of Health and collaborates with the City University of New York on training at-home child-care providers in teaching literacy, math and science.

The Children’s Museum of the Arts in SoHo has joined with Henry Street Settlement’s Urban Family Center to bring free weaving, printmaking and sculpture to children living in transitional housing, culminating with a children’s art exhibition and a reception for families and friends. And the Boston Children’s Museum is joining with Head Start, Boston Public Schools and the City of Boston to prepare students for kindergarten.

“We want to be relevant to our communities,” said Jeri Robinson, the vice president for early childhood and family learning at the Boston museum.

Museums are also developing continuing relationships with outside experts. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, for example, has worked closely with health advisers like Dr. Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington. Her research helped the museum develop the sleep section of the EatSleepPlay exhibition,  covering topics like preparing for sleep, what happens during sleep and how much sleep children need.

Rather than serving as just one more recreational option, children’s museums are recasting themselves as essential anchors in their communities — “the hub or the center,” Mr. Ackerman said.

“Educating through the arts,” he added. “That’s how you change behavior.”

The New-York Historical Society is seeking to educate with its new DiMenna Children’s History Museum, which opened last fall. Young visitors learn about prejudice by studying the life story of James McCune Smith, the first African-American to earn a medical degree. They learn about money and credit by visiting the Alexander Hamilton pavilion. “All of the exhibits we’ve developed are focused on teaching a skill or a behavior,” said Louise Mirrer, the president and chief executive.

The museums are also reaching beyond their walls to take their programming more aggressively into underprivileged neighborhoods. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is replicating its exhibitions in East Harlem’s public housing. It sends two artists to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center every week to work with children. And it is running health and literacy programs in the Bronx and New Orleans.

And children’s museums are making a concerted effort to draw specific groups of people who might otherwise not come through their doors. On Mondays, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is open to children with autism and their families, as well as to school groups. “They need a quiet venue,” Mr. Ackerman said.

The ARTogether program at the Children’s Museum of the Arts brings foster children together with their biological parents to create art, led by a clinically trained, licensed art therapist. The museum recently expanded the effort to include families with children at risk of being placed in foster care. It has hired staff members who speak Mandarin and Cantonese.

“You can come to our space and participate alongside other folks who maybe aren’t having the same challenges,” said David Kaplan, the museum’s executive director. “You want to be supportive of families in the program but you want to be empowering them — you don’t want them to rely on you forever. Eventually you want them coming to the museum on their own terms and on their own time.”

In opening a larger space last fall, the Children’s Museum of the Arts hopes to generate more revenue to benefit children at risk, to provide a “nice, safe environment for people to come to,” Mr. Kaplan said.

Not only are children’s museums seeking to educate, they want their visitors to feel comfortable entering cultural institutions for many years to come and to see exhibitions that affirm their own experience. “The audiences who are living here want to be able to come here and see their lives reflected,” said Ms. Robinson of the Boston museum.

In some cases, the exhibits also take the visitors to places they have never been. The museum now features a Japanese silk weaver’s house that was a gift from Kyoto. “Many of our kids will never go to Japan,” Ms. Robinson said. “But they can have an authentic Japanese experience by coming to our house.”

By Robin Pogrebin / Published: March 14, 2012 / on page F2 of the New York Times

A Great Tradeshow Checklist, born of experience

Eric Sink says that tradeshows are like sex: When it’s good it’s really really good, but when it’s bad…  it’s still pretty good.

A lot of tradeshows have been cancelled due to low attendance (which in turn is probably due to slashed travel budgets), but those which remain are that much more interesting.

It’s easy to waste time and money at tradeshows. It’s not just the booth ($2k-$20k) and travel expenses ($1000/day including airline, hotel, rent car, shipping, and buying an extension cable at an outrageously overpriced convention center office supply center), it’s the week of time spent at the show (including travel days) plus weeks of time spent preparing your strategy, crafting your sales pitches, organizing the booth crap, and chewing out the stoned guy at the print shop counter who claims to not see that the “red” in the color swatch is not the same as the “red” in your 6′ x 6′ banner.

Tradeshows are a combination of high-level strategy and low-level minutiae, so a checklist comes in handy.

3-6 months before the tradeshow

  • Have a goal. Although there are many benefits of attending a show, you need a primary goal. A goal helps you make the decisions below and provides a yardstick for whether the tradeshow was “successful,” and therefore whether you should do more. Examples:
    • Make a sale on the tradeshow floor
    • Get at least 20 genuine prospects
    • Talk with 10 industry leaders
    • Find 10 good recruiting prospects
    • Find 3 serious investors.
    • Ask potential customers 3 specific things (market research)
  • Schedule a vendor presentation. Most shows allow vendors to give presentations, sometimes for a fee. Always do this. Even if just 20 people come to your talk, that’s 20 people you get to talk to in depth for 45 minutes — far more valuable than talking to 100 of people at your booth for 5-60 seconds. I frequently get a few sales just from the presentation.
  • Decide on your main message. Just like your home page, you get 3 seconds to convince someone to stop at your booth. You’ll need this message elsewhere (e.g. banner) so you need to decide what it is early on. Remember the goal is to get people to stop, not to explain everything about who you are and what you do! Boil it down to a single, short sentence.
  • Pick your booth. Booths go fast, and location does matter. Booths next to the bathroom are good even though they’re “in the back” because everyone’s going to hit the head. Booths near the front doors are good. Booths nearer to the center of the room are better than the ends. Booths at the ends of isles are good because you have a “corner” which means more traffic and your stuff can spill out over the edge.
  • Design your banner and handouts. Printing takes longer than you think because you’ll need to iterate. I’ve never gotten the result I wanted from a print shop on the first try. Never. The colors on your screen aren’t the colors on their paper. The Pantone® colors you selected for your banner won’t look the same as the samples. The sales guy you see at the counter screws things up. You need time to iterate and complain. And to find the right person:
  • Find the techie in the back of the print shop. The first person you see at the sign shop is typically the sales guy, who knows nothing about Adobe InDesign, DPI, CMYK, vector vs. raster, or anything else important to making your stuff come out properly. Ask for the techie and talk to her directly.
  • Plan on at least 3 people. You need two people at the booth to allow for busy times, to restock items, and to take breaks. Then you need another who can be walking around and going to meetings. Doesn’t have to be a strict separation of powers, just need enough people to do all of the above simultaneously.
  • Finish all the travel arrangements. Airplane tickets, hotels, rent cars. Fares are cheaper and there’s no last-minute surprises with things being full.
  • Decide how your booth will be different. Attendees will see a ton of booths, all essentially identical. A logo, a banner, some “clever” phrase, and 8 adjectives like “fast” and “scalable.” Snore. You have to do something different. It doesn’t have to be amazingly unique, just different.
  • Buy shirts and other swag. With customization (i.e. your logo on a shirt), it can sometimes take a while, so get this done early. At least have a “tradeshow shirt.” It’s the law.

1 month before the tradeshow

  • Postcard mailers work! I know, you thought “print media” was dead. Well not before a tradeshow, and not if you do it right. Best is to offer something cool/expensive at your booth, but only if they bring the postcard to you. This means they keep the postcard handy starting now and even during the tradeshow, which means whatever else you put on there (marketing material) gets seen repeatedly. It also means they seek you out on the tradeshow floor. Then, because you collect the card, you have their contact info (their name, company, and address), so you get to follow up later. Don’t forget to put your booth number on there!  (Another reason to pick the booth early.)
  • Emails probably work. Because you can use the tradeshow’s name in the subject of the email, people will probably read your email blast.
  • Set up meetings. Yes meetings! Tradeshows are a rare chance to get face-time with:
    • Editors of on-line and off-line magazines. Often overlooked, editors are your key to real press. I’ve been published in every major programming magazine; almost all of that I can directly attribute to talking with editors at tradeshows! It works.
    • Bloggers you like, especially if you wish they’d write about you
    • Existing Customers
    • Potential customers currently trialing your stuff
    • Your vendors
    • Your competition
    • Potential partners

    Proactively set meetings. Call/email everyone you can find. It’s easy to use email titles which will be obviously non-spam such as “At [Tradeshow]: Can we chat for 5 minutes?” I try to get at least 5 meetings per day. Organizing dinner and/or drinks after the show is good too.

  • Promote the show. You want people showing up and going to your booth, especially people who live in the area where attending the show just means getting half a day leave from work. Add a line to everyone’s email signature with the show info and your booth number. If you have a giveaway or something else interesting, say that too.
  • Box of everything. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been saved by a box of stuff. A small, cheap plastic box from Walmart is fine. You won’t use all the stuff every time, but I guarantee you will use an unpredictable subset every time. The box should contain:
    • pens (multiple, different colors)
    • Sharpie
    • Scotch tape
    • masking tape
    • extension cord
    • electric plug bar
    • post-it notes
    • rubber bands
    • tiny stapler
    • highlighter
    • paper clips
    • scissors
    • all-in-one tool (screwdriver, can opener)
    • medicine (Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, DayQuil)
    • zip-ties
    • Generic business cards (in case anyone runs out)
  • Comfortable shoes. You’ll be standing for much longer than you’re used to; comfortable shoes are a must. Attendees can’t see your shoes so sneakers or clogs might be OK; you can change into your pumps when you leave the booth. You can also bring floor pads designed for people who stand all day, or for a fee most venues can put padding under your booth’s carpeting.

At the tradeshow

  • A/B test your pick-up line. This is no different than your landing pages! A tradeshow is a wonderful place to test attention-grabbers. What gets people to stop? To laugh? To say “OK, fair enough, tell me more?” Test all show long. After the 100th pitch, you’ll know exactly what gets people’s attention — now put that on your home page!
  • Ask questions instead of pitching. Everyone else “pitches at” people; be different and actually have a conversation.  Good conversationalists are genuinely interested in the other person — what do they do, what are they interested in.  If you start chatting they will actually ask you for a pitch as a form of reciprocation.  Then you’ve got permission to “sell,” and they’re truly listening.
  • Don’t ask how they’re doing. Your opening line should engage them with something you specifically have to offer. “Hello, how’s it going” is not interesting or unique. Even just a simple “Are you interested in [thing you do]” is better, although still weak.
  • Ask questions, don’t just transmit. Sure you want to pitch your stuff, but this is a fantastic opportunity for direct market research on your potential customers! Come up with 3-5 questions that you’re going to ask of people who walk by the booth, then ask away. No need to carefully record the results — the big trends will be obvious and the rest is noise.
  • Stand, don’t sit. Sitting looks like you don’t want to be there. It’s uninviting. The head-height differential is psychologically off-putting. I know your feet hurt; stand.
  • Get into the aisle. Just because there’s a table there doesn’t mean you have to stand behind it. Break out of your 10′x10′ prison and engage people in the aisle. Best is to have someone inside the booth to talk to folks who walk up and another in the aisle getting attention and directing folks inward. Especially during high-traffic, just being a barrier in the middle forces people to squeeze by your booth, which gives you a chance to engage. Learn from the guy in the bear suit!
  • Moving pictures rock. When you’re sitting at a bar and there’s a TV behind the person you’re talking to, it’s really hard not to look, right? We tend to look at moving images, especially when they’re bright. So your booth should have a big monitor or better yet a bright projector. Don’t just show a static screenshot or PowerPoint image, and don’t leave it stuck wherever the last demo left off — get a demo movie going and catch some eyes. We did this at Smart Bear and I can’t count the number of times another vendor said “OMG we have to do that next year.”
  • Always be able to demo. Nothing is more sticky than a live demo. Not swag, not brochures, not clever phrases, not raffles. That other stuff is good — both for getting traffic and as a reminder — but you need a demo to make the experience memorable. I prefer demoing on a projector so it’s big and passers-by get hooked as well, but a large monitor works too. Large. Not your laptop screen.
  • Make notes on business cards. You’ll talk to hundreds of people; you’ll never remember what one guy said or what he wants. Always write it down on their business card. If they have one of those silly cards where you can’t make notes (why people, why?), use a post-it from your box-o-stuff to keep notes together with the card.
  • Sales people aren’t enough. Most attendees don’t want to talk to sales people anyway; if they’re interested at all they want to geek out with their peers. Air out some of those folks who typically don’t get to go on sales calls.
  • Build your own happy hour party Rent a room at or near the conference site with wine, beer, and basic food. Pass out invites at the show and on your pre-show mailers. Who can resist free booze and free food? It’s cheaper than you think and you get to pitch people in a relaxed atmosphere. People are willing to talk about your product to reciprocate.
  • Don’t depend on the Internet. Tradeshow Internet is spotty at best. Your demos and note-taking must operate without being online.
  • Use LinkedIn every night. Most people will accept, especially if you add the contact the same day and reference the conference. Take advantage of this opportunity to significantly expand your online network.
  • Walk the floor and talk to everyone. As a fellow vendor, you can commiserate about how the show is going and how it compares to other shows. Try to think of a way your two companies could work together; usually it doesn’t work out but the discussion helps them remember who you are. Try to skip past their salespeople. Meet the founder if she’s there.
  • Note the jokes. People will make fun of you. Actually, if they don’t, maybe that’s a bad sign because they can’t figure out what you do. Usually you get some wise-cracks. That’s interesting, right? Could be a good thing, could be a bad thing.
  • Free food. Works better than almost any other free thing. The more “real” the food is (i.e. not just candy) the better. Cookies are good. Put it at the center of your booth so it’s harder for someone to take without talking.
  • Raffle something. I’m not a fan of raffles as a way to get sales, but I do like them at tradeshows because it gets a crowd to appear at your booth. Crowds make other people think your booth is interesting. We’ve seen people stop by our booth a day after a big crowd saying “I didn’t want to stop yesterday because you guys were swamped, but I guess whatever you’re doing is interesting!” Make sure you have to provide contact info to enter (fill form, scan badge, drop business card). Those leads won’t be particularly qualified but it’s better than nothing.
  • Take names instead of pushing brochures.  Attendees get dozens of pieces of paper pushed into their hands and pre-filled in their tote bags.  Even if yours is clever, funny, and useful, it’s still going to be lost.  Instead of hand-outs, scan their badge or get a business card, and mail them something.  It will be waiting on their desk one morning without all the distraction of a tradeshow.
  • Quality not quantity. It’s cliché, but it’s better to have six solid conversations with people who will buy your software than to give away 200 pieces of branded swag to people who can’t remember who you are.

After the tradeshow

  • Follow up! Attendees are saturated with presentations and vendor pitches, so there’s a 99% chance they’ve forgotten about you. Yes, even if they took your oh-so-memorable swag or your fabulously-designed brochure. It’s up to you to follow up and remind them who you were, and take them up on their offer to get a demo, trial the software, or look at a draft of an article you want published.
  • Apply what you learned about selling. You talked to hundreds of people, pitching a hundred different ways, with mixed results. What did you learn? Some questions to get you started:
    • Which one-liners got people’s attention, and what did people not relate to?
    • How can you incorporate the successful one-liners in your home page?
    • What new AdWords text do you want to try?
    • How should you change your 2-minute demo?
    • What were people saying about your competition? What were your best retorts?
  • Apply what you learned about your software. Having to demo the product 50 times always churns up invaluable product information. Some questions to get your started:
    • What features did people ask about which you already have, but it wasn’t obvious?
    • What features did people keep asking for which you don’t have?
    • What part of your demo seemed to drag because your workflow wasn’t easy enough?
    • What part confused viewers because the interface wasn’t obvious?
    • What terminology made no sense to newbies?
    • What did people hate about your competitors, and how can you maintain that advantage?
    • What did people love about your competitors, and how can you close that gap?

     

A Smart Bear – January 25, 2010

 

How to Train Your Exhibit Staff

EXHIBITING 101 – How to Train Your Exhibit Staff

Ten topics to cover in your pre-show meeting.

 

When exhibit managers ask me, “What’s your best secret weapon at a trade show?” my answer is always the same: “A well-trained exhibit staff.”

As exhibit managers, we are consumed by the broad scope of the exhibiting experience, and we often forget that our staff doesn’t have the same level of involvement and knowledge. However, if we effectively communicate with our exhibit staff, their comfort level will be high and they’ll help us achieve our objectives. Excluding very large companies with deep pockets, less than 5 percent of exhibitors have formal staff-training meetings. If your staff is well trained you will have a competitive advantage and you will create a better experience for your attendees.

In a perfect world, exhibit training begins with a pre-show meeting held up to a month before the show at the corporate office. But a pre-show meeting can also be held the day before the show, or even at breakfast the first day of the show.

If you hold the pre-show meeting in your exhibit, remember that walls have ears. I’ve learned some of my best competitive intelligence from my competition’s pre-show product-training meeting held in the neighboring exhibit. Hold your product training in a meeting room in the convention center, a local restaurant with private meeting rooms, or at your hotel.

The elements you include and the extent to which you cover them in your pre-show meeting depends on a number of criteria. Consider the amount of time available for training, the experience level of the team, the size of the staff and their familiarity with one another and the company’s products, the number and intricacy of products on display, the size and complexity of your exhibit, and your promotional program.

Keep the pre-show meeting short — no more than to two hours. Think of your meeting as the “Reader’s Digest” version of what you’d really like to do if you had unlimited time.

Promote it as a show preview rather training, so veteran staffers who think they know it all will be encouraged to attend. Here are 10 topics to cover in your pre-show meeting to prepare your staff for the show.

1. The Show’s Value and Corporate Investment
Ideally, your company’s management team should open the meeting, emphasize its support of the exhibit program as part of the overall marketing mix, and relay the corporate commitment to the show and its importance to the company’s success.

Share any results from last year’s show with your staff and use it to challenge improvement. Share data on the cost to exhibit — average cost per employee, cost per lead, cost per qualified lead, or cost per sale. Letting staff know the costs associated with exhibiting at the show can open their eyes to the value of the show to the company and the importance of their job at the show.

2. Target Audience
Review the profile of your target audience, including job title(s), type and size of company, budget size, and the problems your “perfect prospect” typically encounters. Remind staff that not all targeted contacts are prospects. Let them know what customers, VIPs, press, and analysts may be stopping by, as well as the badge color your target audience will be wearing.

3. Goals and Objectives
Review the company’s show strategy and key messages. Personalize the goals for individual staff members and get their commitment to achieve them. For example, if you have 10 exhibit staffers and your goal is to obtain 300 qualified leads during a 15-hour show, each staffer needs to get 30 qualified leads, or an average of two leads per hour.

4. The Power of Attitude
Explain to staff that their interaction with attendees will be the most memorable part of their visit to your exhibit. Stress the value of a positive first impression, good listening skills, confident body language, and the use of phrases like “Tell me about…” to draw information from attendees. Remind staff that unless they’re behind the closed door of their hotel room, they’re “on stage” and they represent the company.

5. Sales Review
Talk about why selling from an exhibit is different than field sales — the compressed time frame for interaction, the sensory overload, the instant comparison to your competition. Give staffers the specific structured components of interaction with attendees: a greeting to engage attendees; a brief elevator speech; three to five open-ended, qualifying questions; consensus on a future interaction; and a comfortable dismissal. Specify how you’d like the staff to record the information taken during the conversation.

6. Boothmanship Rules
Tell your staff that every booth visitor is a VIP guest and should be treated as such. Ask staff to help you compile a list of the dozen worst exhibit faux pas — such as talking on their cell phones, eating in the booth, chewing gum, ignoring attendees, and talking in closed groups. Then deputize them to help you police offenders.

7. Exhibit Tour
You know your exhibit inside out, but your staff doesn’t know the storage closet from the meeting room. Review your booth layout, including all demo stations, information counters, and lead-gathering systems. Point out the locations of the nearest entrance and exit, restroom, concession stand, luggage and coat-check area, cyber café, and fire apparatus. If time allows, run through the demos and presentations.

8. Tool Kit
The pre-show meeting is also a good time to provide staff with tools to help them be star performers. Do they know what products you have in the booth and how to demonstrate them? Do they need to familiarize themselves with pocket-sized product “cheat sheets” and show-special pricing? Are there any issues, such as product-delivery delays or negative PR, for which they need to know the corporate party line?

To get the most complete and concise lead information, review your lead-gathering system, whether you’re using pre-printed, manual lead forms or an electronic lead system that reads attendee badges. Also, orient staffers to any promotions or giveaways you’re distributing and the qualification process involved.

9. Housekeeping Details
This part of the meeting can cover everything from the distribution of show shirts and badges to where you keep show reference material and press kits in the booth. Explain your expectations: to arrive at the show at least a half hour before their shift starts and to plan on transportation delays and lines to get through show security. Reiterate the dress code (including ironed shirts) and what personal items can be stored in the booth.

10. Fun and Games
Add some spice to your pre-show meeting by giving out trade show survival kits. These can include items such as foam insoles, Altoids, and T-shirts imprinted with “Trade Show Warrior.” You can also give crisp $2 or $5 bills or small-denomination gift cards as prizes for participation in role plays, correct answers to “skill-test questions,” or the best qualifying question or 30-second elevator speech.

Professional athletes don’t play the big game without a warm-up. And actors don’t skip their dress rehearsal. So don’t mess with your show’s success — prepare your staff to be your secret weapon.

By Candy Adams
Exhibitoronline.com – March 2005

Five Ways to Make Your Small Exhibit More Effective

Five Ways to Make Your Small Exhibit More Effective
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You’ve got a small booth — 10-by-20 feet — and a budget to match. You’re getting ready to exhibit at one of your biggest shows of the year, an exhibition that’s jam-packed with big booths and big money. How do you get attendees to notice you?

“Visibility, interactivity, and involvement are different in a smaller exhibit, so you need to put more thought into how you focus your event,” says Marc Goldberg, CME, partner and founder of Marketech, an exhibit-staff training and measurement firm based in Westboro, MA, and a veteran small exhibitor. “You can’t outspend other exhibitors, so you have to outsmart them.”

Here’s what Goldberg and other industry experts had to say about making an exhibit larger than life.

1. Promote ‘Til You Drop
A targeted pre-show promotion is key to combating the disadvantage of size.

“Before visitors arrive at a show — unless they already know you — they have no idea whether you are a 10-by-10 or the largest exhibitor on the floor,” Goldberg says. “A two- or three-part promotion program gives the illusion that you are a player that must be seen. That is the objective: Get on your attendee’s ‘must see’ list.”

Does that mean you should send a flyer to every attendee? In most cases, no. Bob Burk, CTSM, marketing-communications manager for Norwalk, CT,-based chemical manufacturer King Industries Inc., explains. “If you’re doing a show with 10,000 attendees, you can’t afford to do a direct mailing to all 10,000 if you’re a small guy, but you can handpick 150 to 200 and target your market with a pre-show mailing,” he says. “We’ve found that very effective.”

At the International Coatings Exposition in Chicago this October, Burk targeted roughly 350, or 10 percent, of the show’s 3,500 pre-registered attendees who fit King Industries’ target audience based on job function. He sent out a direct-mail piece two weeks prior to the show. One hundred twelve attendees brought the flyer to Burk’s booth — a 32-percent return.

To find out which attendees fit your target market, ask show management for its attendance profile. “Most shows do a pretty good job of providing a prospectus that profiles who the attendees are and what their product interests are,” Burk says. “That should give you some clues on where to focus your efforts.”

When it comes to the promotion itself, Goldberg says one plan that works well for small exhibitors is a three-phase promotion. Give attendees a preview of your booth experience with a pre-show promotion, continue that experience in the booth, and then reinforce the experience with a post-show promotion. “This achieves greater memorability,” he says.

Goldberg puts this plan into action in Marketech’s 10-by-10-foot exhibit. Before the show, he typically sends attendees a 3-by-5-inch, four-color postcard printed with the message “Experience the Results.” When attendees visit the booth, they see the same message. After the show, Goldberg sends a 4-by-6-inch, four-color postcard with a photo of the Marketech staff and the message “Experience the Results” repeated again. At EXHIBITOR Show 2004, Marketech landed 36 qualified leads with this promotion — 33-percent more than the 24 qualified leads gathered at the 2003 show.

Keeping costs down is always top of mind with small exhibitors, but when it comes to promotions, Goldberg recommends splurging a bit. “Most exhibitors commit about 6 percent of their trade show budget to promotion. A small exhibitor must commit more,” Goldberg says. “Why? To drive home why a visitor should invest time to visit the exhibit .”

2. Focus Your Graphics
Every exhibitor needs graphics, Goldberg says, but a small exhibitor’s graphics need to be more effective and more attractive than most. “Your message must be clear and memorable to overcome the issue of size,” he says.

Patti Burge, an event-marketing and management consultant, offers some guidelines for catching the attendee’s eye. “Keep booth graphics simple and succinct,” she says. “Text should be benefit-oriented, not feature-oriented. Determine the most succinct way to say what your company or service does. An attendee shouldn’t have to ask, ‘What does this company do?’ More often than not, attendees will just walk by a booth if they can’t tell what the company does.”

3. Do It Yourself — or Find a Way to Do It Cheaper
If you have the time and the know-how, Burk suggests creating your own graphics. “If you’re able to do some of your graphics yourself using the standard computer programs out there, you can save a great deal of money because you don’t have to pay a graphic designer and an advertising house to produce them,” he says.

Kris Thatcher finds innovative ways to produce high-impact exhibit components for less. When the president of trade show consulting and hardware provider Kass Marketing Group LLC, based in Carrollton, TX, needed to rent a round pedestal with a red top for a client’s display, she refused to pay the hefty price quoted by her exhibit house.

“The standard tops were black and ran about $250 to $275,” Thatcher says. “When I inquired about a red top the price nearly doubled. But a trip to my local Plexiglas supplier netted me four, 24-inch red circles for the price of one custom top. My client will lay the red Plexiglas on top of the standard black. With careful packing, we should get several shows out of them.”

Burk discovered he can save on booth carpet by using a non-standard supplier. “Our company’s facility has 12 buildings, and we’re constantly changing our carpet, so it was less expensive to buy from the company that produces our office-building carpet than to go through the exhibit house. We probably saved 50 percent of the cost of other options from exhibit houses — a savings that could be channeled into exhibit-program components with bigger impact.”

4. Design for Change
When Burk designs a booth, he tries to envision a variety of ways he can use it. This ensures that the final booth design will be configurable in a number of different ways, and it allows him to change the look of the booth from show to show and year to year —which makes the exhibit more competitive.

For example, Burk’s current two-story, custom booth was designed with the usual components — cabinets, wall sections, and display pieces — but they can be used in everything from a 10-by-10-foot to a 20-by-40-foot configuration.

“We’re going on eight years with the same booth,” Burk says, “and every year people think it’s a different booth. But it’s the same framework that can be configured in several different ways. Rather than make an investment every two to four years on a new build, we’ve been able to save time and money by planning components to give the old booth a new look each year.”

5. Think Outside the Booth
To stand out in a sea of exhibits, Burk recommends scenery and props. At one of King Industries’ major shows for its Lubricant Additive Division, Burk rented a 1932 Packard, which he parked in the center of his 20-by-20-footspace next to two lead counters and signs that proclaimed the company’s “long-standing affair with the automobile.” Burk’s Packard cost $2,300 less than the company’s regular booth rental, and increased the number of qualified leads by more than 35 percent over the previous year.

Burk recalls one exhibit manager from a seminar he taught at EXHIBITOR Show 2003 who employed this technique with success. She works for a company that manufactures latex gloves for the medical industry, and jazzed up a standard 10-by-10-foot with a huge latex glove. “Rather than throwing up a typical pop-up, she had a big hand made,” Burk says. “This 8-foot-tall hand with a latex glove on it became her entire booth.”

The crafty exhibit manager even went the extra mile and connected her booth structure with her pre-show promotion. “She did a pre-show mailing with five points about her product that corresponded to the five fingers on the glove in the booth,” Burk says.

Sandra Monroe, marketing-communications manager for outdoor power-systems retailer Argus Technologies Ltd. of Burnaby, BC, Canada, builds her booth with product. “For our 20-by-20-foot space, I’ve moved away from sending large booth pieces and I’m using our equipment to design the booth,” Monroe says. “When I started at this company, we shipped a heavy custom booth to our 400 shows. That makes sense if you have small products or services and need something to fill the space. But I realized the booth just took up too much room.”

Monroe’s solution? She tossed the booth and created a walk-through exhibit of the company’s products. “Even though the products are not attractive, they’re what the customers want to see,” she says. “And the money saved on shipping and drayage can be put toward new signage and better lighting.”

Monroe also made her products the foundation for her giveaway, which she combined with a product demo.” One of our products has an air conditioner in the bottom to keep batteries at a cool temperature,” she says. “I put bottled water in the bottom and turned up the air conditioner. This way, we were able to give customers cold water and demo our product at the same time.”

Whether you use one or all of these techniques in your next exhibit, with a little time, thought, and elbow grease, you’ll only be as small as your imagination.

 

By Nicole Brudos Ferrara
Exhibitoronline.com – January 2005

Effective Tradeshow Planning

 

Exhibiting at trade shows, expos, conventions, fairs and other exhibitions gives you a unique sales opportunity that can also help you generate new leads, find suppliers, check out the competition, do some networking, and get publicity. In short, you can achieve at one trade show what it would take you weeks or months to do if you stayed home. And it may even save you money — according to the Center for Exhibit Industry Research, it costs 62% less to close a lead generated from a trade show than one originated in the field.

But to accomplish all of the above you must plan carefully. That means choosing the correct show, setting clear objectives, creating an effective exhibition, and promoting your presence. All this, before you even get to the show! Click on the subjects below to learn more about getting the most out of your trade show experience.

Choosing the Correct Show

With more than 10,000 trade shows held in the United States annually, picking the one that will net you the greatest benefit for your investment of time and money can be daunting.

Begin your search by looking for trade shows that fit your product or service. You can find these out by looking in directories such as “The Tradeshow & Convention Guide” (BPI Communications) and “The Tradeshow Week Data Book” (Reed Reference), both of which list trade shows across the U.S., as well as various show data. On the Web, you can try one of the trade show search sites, including

Another resource for finding out about shows is your industry’s trade association, since many shows and conventions are sponsored by industry groups. Your local Chamber of Commerce or Convention Bureau may also be able to help you find out about smaller local shows.

Here are some additional tips to help you make the right choice:

Don’t just choose by the numbers
Big trade show crowds can actually be a waste of time if they don’t include people who are buyers or prospective customers for your product or service. Look closely at statistics of past years’ shows to help you evaluate whether attendees fit your customer profile. The show manager should be able to provide you with this data.

Ask your customers for help
Talk to your customers to find out what trade shows they attend, since shows that meet their needs will likely be attended by other prospects. You can also speak with your competitors to find out what shows they’ve found most useful.

Check it out ahead of time
The best way to evaluate a show is to take a first-hand look. Before you sign up, go to the show as an attendee. Is the show active and exciting? Are the people walking the show floor potential customers? Who are the other exhibitors and where would your product/service fit in the mix? Talk to people and keep your eyes open.

Evaluate it carefully
Once you’ve got a list of show possibilities, ask these questions to determine if the show is the right one for your purposes:

  • Is it big enough to draw a cross-section of prospects and vendors — but not so large that you’ll be competing against the giants in your industry?
  • Is it in the right place, geographically, to attract your customers — whether they are local, regional, national, or global?
  • Is it scheduled at a time when you can service the new business you’ll attract and follow up on leads?
  • Are the show’s promoters reliable and does the management have a proven track record of success?
  •  
    Don’t wait until the last minute
    Some popular shows fill up fast. If you wait too long, you could find yourself on a waiting list. Plus, the earlier you sign up for a show, the more choices you’ll have regarding finding a good location for your booth.

     
    Setting Clear Objectives
    To get the most out of the time, money and energy you invest in exhibiting at a trade show, it’s vital that you decide what your purpose is for being there and set measurable goals. Everything you do before, during, and after the show should be evaluated in terms of whether it contributes toward reaching these goals.

    Possible goals for trade shows
    Here are some reasons businesses exhibit at trade shows. Your goals may include several of these, or others that are important to your small business:

    • write sales orders
    • research the competition
    • spot trends
    • generate leads for future sales
    • build your mailing list with quality names
    • find better or cheaper suppliers
    • build rapport with current customers
    • get press
    • generate excitement around a new product
    • increase company’s visibility within the industry
    •  
      Be sure to staff your booth adequately and smartly
      You can’t do it alone. No matter what your goal, you will need at least one person to “spot” you when you leave the booth to take a break or to check out the competition. A good rule of thumb is to have two staffers for every 100 square feet of exhibit space. Your staff should be well-groomed, well-trained, friendly and knowledgeable. They should understand your goals and know their role in reaching them. If you don’t have employees on the payroll, hire relatives, friends, or part-timers.

      Focus your message
      Pick just two or three key ideas that you want to get across at the show and train yourself and your staff to “stay on message”. Design your graphics, pre-show promotion, literature and show directory advertising around your message.

      Create a budget
      Once you know which show you’re going to and what your goals are, draw up a budget. Without a budget, costs can quickly spiral out of control (last minute impulse purchases to jazz up your booth, for example) and defeat your best laid plans. One rule of thumb is that your space costs should represent about a quarter of your total budget. So when you know what you’ll be paying for space rental, multiply by four for a rough idea of your expenses, excluding personnel costs.

       
      Creating an Effective Exhibit
      Where your booth is located and how your booth looks will have an impact on your trade show success. Use these tips to help you along.

      Shoot for a high-traffic location
      Be sure to look at a floor plan before you choose your site. Foot traffic is heaviest in certain areas of a typical trade show floor. Look for locations near entrances, food concessions, rest rooms, seminar rooms, or close to major exhibitors. Try to avoid dead-end aisles, loading docks, obstructing columns, or other low-traffic regions.

      Consider sharing a booth
      New exhibitors often get the least desirable locations. One way around that is to share a well-located booth with a colleague in a related business. Talk to your sales rep, or try to hook up with an established exhibitor whose products or services complement yours.

      Elate the senses
      Make sure people coming to your booth can experience your product or service. Let them touch, see, feel, hear or taste it. Are you selling decorative pillows? Display them in an appropriate setting and have samples that buyers can touch. Have you developed a new software package? Be sure to have multiple computer terminals available for attendees to try the package.

      Keep it simple
      Don’t go overboard with booth graphics. One large picture that can be seen from afar may have a greater impact than many small ones. A single catchy slogan that describes your business may say more than long blocks of text.

      Gimmicks work
      Gimmicks and give-aways can also drive traffic to your booth. Hold a contest; have a loud product demo; give away pieces of candy; hire a masseuse and offer free back rubs. Just make sure that the gimmick fits your company’s image and the sensibilities of your clients.

      Promoting Your Presence
      Remember that the best trade show planning will fail if nobody knows you’re there. The CEIR estimates that as many as three-quarters of show attendees know what exhibits they want to see before they get to the show. Strong pre-show promotion will let your customers and prospects know about your exhibit. These tips will help.

      Work the phones
      A month to 6 weeks before the show, start calling your top customers and prospects to set up meetings. Many people arrive at a show with a firm schedule and have little or no time for other booths, so it’s important to get on that schedule as early as you can. Be sure to confirm all phone meetings a week or so before the show.

      Send out mailings
      The show’s management will often let you purchase a mailing list of pre-registered attendees. Try a simple pre-show mailing focusing on one or two benefits of dropping by your booth. Be sure to it includes show contact information, including your booth number.

      Use the press
      Issue press releases to trade publications and local papers that will be covering the show. Your release should highlight something newsworthy about your exhibit — a new product introduction or a special demonstration, for example. You’ll also want to prepare plenty of press kits for the show, and be sure to drop it by the press room so reporters can find it.

      Look out for show publications
      Advertising in publications that are distributed only at the show can be expensive and ineffective. These publications often have a narrow focus, and they get lost in the blizzard of paper that rains upon trade show attendees.

      Planning Your Follow-up Strategy
      The time to plan your follow-up strategy is before the show begins. That way, you can reach prospects with your follow-up message while the show is still fresh in their minds. Here are some things you should know about follow-up.

      Make follow-up a priority
      According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 80% of show leads aren’t followed up. Make lead follow-up your number one priority after a show, taking precedence over just about everything else — including catching up on what you missed while you were out of the office.

      Write your follow-up mailer before the show
      Your post-show mailing can be as simple as a thank-you note or a brochure with a cover note. Write it and have it printed out before you leave for the show, so you can send the mailing immediately upon your return.

      Qualify leads during the show
      Rank your leads by level of importance and interest, and base your post-show efforts on these priorities. Phone your hottest prospects within a week after the show ends — the longer you let them sit, the staler they’ll become. Send everyone else some kind of follow-up mailing.

      Keep your promises
      Be sure that you keep any promises you made at your booth. Have enough brochures and product sheets on hand before the show so you can send out requested information promptly.

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