Tag Archives: trade shows

Trade shows: What’s the real ROI?

20 Oct

People at an Exhibition

On the way home from the Remodeling Show and Deck Expo earlier this month, I found myself wondering if trade shows still matter. Let’s face it: Trade shows are expensive.

  • You build booths
  • Create collateral
  • Give away tchotchkes
  • Travel
  • Entertain clients

But the trade show budget spreadsheet doesn’t tell the whole story.

Trade shows are a rare opportunity for marketers to talk first-hand with customers – those actually using your product or service. It’s also a chance to meet in-person with your sales team and talk face-to-face about their stumbling blocks and opportunities:

  • What keeps your clients up at night?
  • Does your three-step installation process matter to clients?
  • Does the sales team really need new collateral?
  • What messages resonate with prospects?

Sometimes these responses are hard to hear. But they’re often the reality check we need to show where we should really spend our 40+ hours each week.

ERM clients attend trade shows worldwide. And most would likely put their trade show ROI on the high side.

Why?

They understand the value of candid customer feedback, seeing the sales process up close and learning about new products.

The real trade show ROI is the stuff that never makes it on the budget spreadsheet. It’s intangible and hard to assign a number.

It’s the knowledge you gain, the people you meet and the qualitative learnings that shape how your business moves forward.

For trade show tips and tricks, check out this ERM whitepaper.

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Lessons From The Builders’ Show

18 Feb

An Open Letter To Trade Show Exhibitors

Dear Friends,

According to the Convention Industry Council, trade shows added more than $280 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012, drawing more than 225 million participants. That’s a staggering set of figures and it underscores the importance these shows play. As marketers, we all know exhibiting at trade shows can be vital to our business—to see and be seen, to market products and services, and to nurture relationships.

Over my career, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a variety of trade shows across numerous industries, the most recent at the building industry’s combined 2016 IBS & KBIS in Las Vegas.

And over the years, I’m struck by one constant of booths, regardless of time, region or industry…

Chances are, your booth sucks. It’s cramped, cluttered, and really boring.

While harsh, it’s also probably true. Worst of all, you probably know it. But take heart because you’re most certainly not alone in this. Everywhere, at every show, are long swaths of cluttered and uninspired landscape—overwhelming collections of shapes and colors, fixtures and messages, all masquerading as brand. It’s as pervasive and inescapable as it is predictable.

Why? When did this happen? When did it become okay to develop a trade show booth as if someone pitched the idea “You know what people will want to do after spending thousands of dollars and traveling hundreds of miles? To stand inside our 4×9 brochure!

Sure, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s the reality we’ve all seen time and again—and sadly, what we’ve come to expect and attendees to accept. Throngs of people shuffling past a booth, each scanning over it and moving on. And that’s after you’ve spent—what?—tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of marketing budget, ostensibly to get exactly their attention.

So now that I’ve pointed out the obvious problem, let me point out the not-so-obvious remedy. The secret, the greatest missed opportunity, comes down to a simple idea that the majority of exhibitors overlook which is…want a hint? Here you go: International Builders’ Show, Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, International Consumer Electronics Show, SHOT Show, Club Industry Show, Nightclub & Bar Convention & Trade Show…

Notice anything in common? They’re trade shows. And what is a show? It’s an event, a spectacle, something to witness and enjoy. It’s active, not passive—and that’s the key. If you were invited to “dinner and a show” you’d naturally expect to be entertained, and yet at trade shows, we invite people to come see us and then reward them with opportunities to stand around and read something. Where’s the spectacle? Where’s the pizazz?

Face it, contemporary trade shows are overgrown ice trays of bland inactivity. But there is hope, bright morsels of brilliance among the milquetoast masses.

As recently as the IBS/KBIS in Las Vegas, I found a few who got it right and as a result, got noticed—some with every chair filled and some with onlookers clogging the aisle (drawing even more to come and see what the buzz is about). Others would do well to follow their lead.

CertainTeed

IBS Certainteed

If you have the budget, go big and use celebrities. CertainTeed brought in HGTV star Mike Holmes for an appearance and photo opp, plus constructed a climbing wall. What does a climbing wall have to do with their products? It was lost on a lot of people. But see the woman in the foreground…she’s capturing it on her phone, probably sharing it with others. She’s sharing images of a B2B trade show booth unsolicited. Money shot, indeed.

GAF

IBS GAF

Don’t have big budgets for big talent? Go traditional and use models and simple RTW giveaways. Your own team is paid to be productive experts, but hired talent is paid to be charming, inviting, and generally attractive. At the GAF booth—just inside a major entry point—a smiling woman with a bubbly personality was getting grown men to register to win stuffed animals. And it worked; in the few moments it took for me to grab this picture, two men asked where to sign up.

Plastpro

IBS plastpro

I walked by the Plastpro booth a few times and each time I did, people were standing-room-only to watch a pro install a door. To most people, this would be a punchline, but to attendees it was interesting, valuable, and yes, entertaining. The presenter was upbeat and personable…and he presented, not simply talked. I’ll admit, I stuck around and learned how to square a door much easier than I used to (and I’m not even the target audience).

Okay, so it’s great if you have the resources for a 30×40 booth with big events and headline talent and boxes of prizes. But what about the 10×10 along the back wall? What about those who spent a third of their marketing budget just to get it all to the show?

Bad Dog Tools

IB baddog

For more than 10 minutes, I watched two men at Bad Dog Tools do nothing but demo their product and answer questions. No brochures, no giveaways, no models. Yet people were constantly lined up on two sides of the booth to watch drill bits bore through everything from rasps to brake discs. Bad Dog Tools could have made a video of it and had it looping while two of their salespeople sat on bar stools and watched attendees shuffle by and not stop, but instead they made the product the show. Brilliant.

What’s the takeaway? Don’t settle, make a spectacle. Create a booth that’s a destination, or at the very least, an interruption. Remember that people can get information about your products or services at your website, so use your trade show booth to interact with them in a way you can’t otherwise—and in a manner that doesn’t feel like you’re pressuring them to buy a timeshare.

And here’s one final thought to consider…

“People will pay more to be entertained than educated.” –Johnny Carson

So come on, marketers. Show us what you’re made of.

Sincerely,

Matt Hillman

ER Marketing, Creative Director

hillman

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Trade Show Marketing Do’s & Don’ts

11 Feb

Building Products Marketers, Take Note.

IBS 2016 Showroom Floor

In the world of building products marketing, trade shows are a big deal. (Don’t believe me? My business partner and I have only been blogging about it here, here, here, here, and oh yeah, here.)

There is perhaps no more important trade show for building products marketers than the International Builders’ Show (IBS). This annual event is where the biggest and best in the industry present their biggest and best products, services, and offerings. It sets the tone for the year to come, establishes future trends, and in short, it’s just kind of a big deal.

While I was at IBS this year with several members of my team, I saw some amazing showings, and some not so amazing showings. Things to emulate as a marketer, and things to never do in a million years. I’ve compiled a list of some of my top do’s and don’ts seen at the show that can apply to any B2B marketing at any trade show in any industry:

Do:

  • Stay somewhere close to the convention center. Avoid distance and distraction. It will save you time, help you avoid waiting on busses or transportation, and prevent you from having to lug around all your gear. More time spent at the show, whether as an attendee or exhibitor, is good for you and your business.
  • Institute a “30-minute rule.” It doesn’t matter if you’re an attendee or exhibitor, you should probably have several meetings, presentations, or activities lined up ahead of time. But you need to make sure to keep a 30-minute gap between each. Consider your physical location and how long it will take you to get where you need to go—some event centers, like at IBS, are unbelievably huge.
  • Know the flow of the convention center. While at IBS, I noticed more than a few booths struggle by assuming there would be traffic just because they were close to an entryway. But if the doors by your booth are located far from the main entrance people actually use, your “prime location” might prove to be anything but.

Don’t:

  • Put any text below eye-level. I’ve discussed before how important it is to carefully consider the experience of your booth (for specific instructions on text/design height and spacing, download my whitepaper), but the basic gist is: just because you have space on a wall or pop-up banner doesn’t mean you need to fill it with text or design. By the time your visitor has backed up enough to read that text, they’re already out of your booth. Just sayin’.
  • Staff your booth with uninvolved or uninformed people. You’d be amazed how many booths I saw where people acted like they didn’t care when visitors came by, had uncharismatic staff, or put their junior-most employee in charge of manning the booth. And then there were the people eating at their booth or spending all their time talking to their coworkers…don’t even get me started on that one.
  • Offer giveaways just to offer giveaways. We’ve all fallen guilty to it here and there, but don’t offer a random, trending item just to do it (ex. an Apple Watch just because it’s the hot new thing). If it has no tie to your company, the marketing approach at the event, etc., then it comes across as random at best, desperate at worst. Plus, it creates no link to your company in the minds of your prospects. Instead, look for more natural connections for giveaways, even if they’re less “sexy” than the trending stuff. (Ex. a kitchen company making cookies at KBIS.)

My team learned a lot at IBS this year. This show has a ripple effect throughout the entire industry, whether you know it or not. For more insights from this year’s show, read more here, here, and here.

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10 Trade Show Tips That Speak for Themselves

22 Dec

Be in the Know Before the Show

Trade Show Gift

When you’ve been in the building products industry for long enough, you learn some valuable lessons about attending a trade show and making the most of your time there. That’s how I know that every year, January marks more than just the start of the new year—it’s also the start of what we in the building products industry call “trade show season.”

Trade shows are fun and an  teffective way to meet prospects; they’re also hectic and crazy. Over the years, I’ve lost count of all the trade shows I’ve attended, but the lessons learned have stuck with me.

I’ve compiled a quick list of tips for attending a trade show that need no further explanation:

  1. Follow all the handles/hashtags for the event to keep current—before, during, and after an event.
  2. Visit the website before the show to view the map against the schedule of speakers you’d like to attend. Don’t be that freshman who schedules back-to-back classes across campus.
  3. Download the app for the show beforehand (if they have one).
  4. Wear comfortable shoes—you’ll be walking. Hint: if your feet are hurting, seek out the booths that paid extra for carpet padding.
  5. Bring enough business cards.
  6. Have a plan for how you’re going to follow up with the prospects you meet. Then, follow through with it.
  7. Pack a backup phone battery and bring it with you. Thank me later.
  8. Don’t be that guy who eats your lunch at a table in a booth. Sit with prospects and meet new people.
  9. Know how long it takes to get to the nearest bathroom and back so you don’t miss something important.
  10. Wi-Fi isn’t always a given. Plan accordingly.

I’ve had to learn some of these lessons the hard way—but follow these tips and you won’t have to. Consider it my trade show season gift to you.

For more trade show tips and tricks, see my last roundup post here.

Bonus tip for those who made it to the bottom of this post: If you take nothing else away from this, remember that the Lowe’s booth always has fresh-baked cookies. Just be careful not to burn your mouth if they’re fresh out of the oven.

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Building Products Trade Show Tips Roundup!

29 Sep

What You Need to Prepare for This Year’s Trade Shows

Tradeshow Floor

It’s official: trade show season is in full swing. As someone who attends his fair share of them, I can attest to it. This week, I will be attending the DeckExpo and Remodeling Show, where I will visit booths from many companies in the building industry. I already have an idea of which booths I want to visit and which products I want to learn more about. This isn’t uncommon in the building products industry—in fact, about 76% of attendees already have an agenda of which exhibitors they want to visit. So how can you, as a building products marketer, capitalize on an exhibit to get the best value out of your time there?

In the past, I have written several blog posts about trade shows and what building products marketers need to do—and avoid—to maximize their return on investment. Here is a quick roundup of those posts:

  • Bring Your “A” Game When You Exhibit: Many companies who exhibit at trade shows can spend thousands of dollars (or even millions) to draw in new customers and show off products. 67% of attendees represent a new prospect, and 81% of them have buying authority. Read this article for 5 tips and tricks to raise awareness and create memorable experiences for your building products trade show audience.
  • Is Your Brand Ready for the Big Show: There are a lot of questions that building products need to consider when planning their trade show exhibit or booth. This article isolates several of the most important questions you can ask yourself before attending the trade show to make sure that your booth represents your brand well during the “big show.”
  • The 5 Most Common Trade Show Mistakes (Part 1 & Part 2): After more than two decades in the building products industry, I’ve seen it all: the good, the bad, and the oh-so-ugly. In a two-part series of blog posts, I outlined the five biggest mistakes that building products marketers can make when planning their trade show exhibit.
  • WHITEPAPER: Killer Booths!: What can building products trade show marketers learn from horror movies? As it turns out, a lot. Download this free whitepaper if you’re afraid that your trade show marketing is falling victim to horror movie clichés—it just might help you live long enough to make it to the sequel.

Building products trade shows can be an enjoyable time and a great opportunity to produce qualified leads. But they also take a lot of planning, research, and hard work to make them successful. Any one of these articles are a good start for building products marketers who want to make sure their booth is up to snuff.

Read more of our recent posts at Navigate-the-Channel.

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