Alexis Exhibits

Which Trade Show is Right for you?

It is an age old question – should we exhibit? This question surfaces on a regular basis in all marketing departments. There are certain shows, based on their great performance in the past, that are no-brainers. But there can be others which you may not know much about.

Ask Customers and Prospects about the Trade Shows They Attend

The first point is to simply ask others about the trade shows that they like and attend. Make it a habit to ask customers and prospects alike “which trade shows do you attend?”

  • Which is the “best” one for finding new products?
  • How are the shows different and what makes them different?
  • If they often attend more than one – which one is most important?
  • Which one would they skip if they had to choose?
  • Which show(s) have caught their attention, but haven’t yet made a priority?

You might consider conducting a short survey that can be sent out to your prospects and customers to solicit their responses. There are many free survey tools available to use, like Survey MonkeyZoomerang, and others.

Talk with the Trade Show Organizer

The show organizer’s job is to be an expert on who attends their events. Typically they have concrete, measurable registration surveys and audits for you to view. Initially, you can review their prospectus; then, if it looks like a fit for you, call them directly. They know that a successful show is predicated on the right buyers finding the right vendors.  Consequently, they make a science out of profiling their customers, and you should too.

To begin profiling your customer, start with these questions: Who do you want to attract to your exhibit booth? Who are the ideal customers for your product and/or service and what is important to them? Depending on whether your market is, business to consumer, or business to business, the criteria will be different. Regardless of the specific terms, you will need to define your customer. The broad range of data categories are: demographics (who is my customer), psychographics (what do they do), behavioral (how do they do it) and causation (why they do what they do). According to Barry Siskind in an article called The Right Place to Exhibit – A Strategic Approach, “causation is the sum total of all the demographic, psychographic and behavioral data you have accumulated. It matches up your features and benefits with your customers’ perception of their importance.”

As you profile your target audience, you can ask questions to find out where they are and the best way to reach them. Given that shows have various geographic focuses (regional, national or international), you will want to choose those ideally suited to both you and the audience you serve. Ultimately, you have plenty of choices, though finding the right trade show can be challenging. “The right show is a blend of audience, cost and logistics. Good event selection is a solid base upon which the rest of your exhibit program is built,” Siskind reminds us.

Resources for Locating Trade Shows

If you need to look up a show, here are several online resources for you.

Events in America:

Trade Show News Network:

The Trade Show Calendar:

Selecting the right trade show is just the beginning of the process.

Long after the Trade Show is Over Where Will the Swag Be?

Swag is a part of the DNA of every trade show booth. Some items have been worth their weight in gold, due to the attendee’s reaction to them, while some were a waste of money. Will the promotional product make it home or will it be left in the hotel room? There are many questions which should be posed and answered as you consider the worthiness of this endeavor.

The ultimate question is: does that Tchotchke really matter, and will it move the person along the sales funnel? Depending on your target market and what they expect, answers can vary. Below are some questions to consider when reviewing the options for your giveaways.

Questions, Ideas to Consider When Choosing a Tchotchke

  1. How useful is it? Is this item something you would truly use after the show is over?
  2. How does this piece relate to your company and its brand? Will it reinforce your brand image?
  3. How can this swag be tied to the overall booth theme?
  4. Will this item be kept at the recipient’s office? Or is it a fun item that will be given to someone at home, like a child?
  5. Is there a way that this item can share your unique sales proposition?
  6. Can this item easily go through security at the airport?
  7. What types of conversations can the booth staff build around this item as it is being given away?

All of these questions should be reviewed to determine what to choose or pick out. Unfortunately, due to the hurried nature of getting ready for a show, the selection of the “right” promotional product is at the bottom of the list of tasks to accomplish.

Kathleen Hanover has written a post titled: Trade Show Marketing Tip: How To Choose Smart Swagwhere she presents a great idea:

“Let’s say your company sells a breakthrough solar panel that is 27% more cost-efficient than anyone else’s. Why not give away a small, solar-powered calculator? And what if that calculator had a formula printed on it that the recipient could use to calculate her cost savings over your competition? (Needless to say, it would also have your logo, tagline, and other pertinent details.) The possibilities are endless.”

Think about two different types of giveaways. Use a less expensive, but effective, giveaway for the freebie vultures for those people that come by your booth looking for the free giveaway. Don’t totally discount these people because they may actually just be trying to get your information and the giveaway will cause them to think of you whenever they use it. The second giveaway should be something a little nicer. It is a reward and thank you for a visitor stopping and engaging in genuinely interested conversation regarding your product. You definitely want to give them a reason to remember you.

Consider a Charitable Gift Rather than Swag

Depending on the audience at the show, a contribution to a charitable cause might gain more recognition for your firm than a giveaway. The show might have a cause they are supporting, like a food bank or a local animal shelter. You could coordinate your efforts with the show to add your contribution along with theirs. Let the press know what you are doing in lieu of spending money on giveaways and you might be able to gain positive exposure for your efforts. The press would be seen by show attendees and those who are not there.

Choosing the appropriate gift is often on a trial and error basis. Consult with a promotional products expert to discuss the wide range of options at your disposal. They can guide you in selecting the right item which will meet and possibly exceed your goals. Walk the show aisles to see what other exhibitors are using. You might see something which can be used for another show.

The good news is you have many options to choose from which can allow you flexibility in meeting budgetary considerations. What has been a great giveaway for you in the past?

Trade Show Targeting – What Makes My Customer Tick?

Understanding the business concerns, issues and problems of your prospects and customers is paramount in crafting a marketing message. This message is a critical component of your trade show plan, as well as your business marketing plan as a whole.  However, it is not easy to tap into their minds.  This process requires market research to effectively derive their characteristics for purchasing.  During the last few years, the buying patterns have changed and possibly your customer persona has evolved into a totally different person.  Keeping up with the shifts and changes can be difficult.

One way to tune into the mindset of a customer base is using focus groups.  They can be quite effective in uncovering the thought processes and preferences of an audience.  If you are not familiar with this research form, let me provide some additional information.

What are Focus Groups?

Focus Groups are great at capturing the attitudes and opinions of a “selected” group(s) of individuals.  The moderator poses questions to the group affording the participants the opportunity to share their views.  It is important to remember that these groups are qualitative in nature and sometimes would need to be followed up with a quantitative research project to ensure statistical reliability.

However, the catalytic nature of focus groups can provide direction as to what the next steps should be in the evolution of the idea being tested.

In essence – you are testing ideas or communication messages to determine if they are on target or not.  Customer and prospect language or what they “hear” can be TOTALLY different from what you are communicating.  Being in tune with your audience can spell s-u-c-c-e-s-s.

Using Online Research to Probe the Minds of Your Customer

Rather than in-person focus groups, participants are recruited for the online experience.  Typically, 12 – 15 are secured and they commit to the process.

  • A research moderator posts questions over the course of several days as the conversation evolves and probes respondents for details and clarifications when needed.
  • Respondents can log in and answer each days’ questions whenever it’s convenient for them – some folks are online at the crack of dawn, some like to log in and take a break during work hours and others log in after dinner is done and the kids are in bed.  Being convenient means that respondents can take time to think about the questions and provide thoughtful answers.
  • Clients are able to log in and observe the discussion and leave private messages for the moderator regarding comments they would like clarified or suggestions for new topics.
  • They last over a three-day period which allows for reflection on questions answered and possible modifications to the moderator’s script.

The participants interact with each other and the moderator as they provide their valuable insights to questions posed.  In the process, all sorts of light bulbs are illuminated and most often a new, enhanced direction is revealed.

Mike Courtney from Aperio Insights shares these insights when considering online focus groups to determine your trade show messages.

Most likely there is a current marketing communications campaign going on within your company.  Does your audience really understand the campaign or is there some confusion on the message you are attempting to convey?

Or you can assess whether your prospects deem you as a trustworthy resource.  Or do they trust your competition more than you?

Have the prospect or customer “explain” your services or products to the moderator of the online focus group.  Are they accurately defining your offering?  Note: this question can be quite revealing as to how far off the mark your audience is to what your product does or what your marketing message is.

One other word of note – research can beget research.  The more you uncover – additional questions will surface.

As you research and make your trade show marketing plan, consider taking the pulse of your customers.  If you can translate their heartbeat (the business issues) into your marketing message, a match is made and most likely you will have a new customer.

Making Sure Your Booth Gets to the Trade Show

This horror story happens – you are at the show, but your booth isn’t! Somehow it was lost or misplaced in transit. This post covers the basics of transporting your booth property to the show site. It is important to note, this is one area where you can experience savings by planning ahead.

Candy Adams, in her article on Exhibitor Online Lost in Transportation provided 12 questions you should ask regarding transportation to avoid any snafus. One question is, “where is your freight going?” Her response:

The quickest way to not get your shipment to a show is to provide inaccurate or incomplete shipping information. But there’s more to getting your freight from Point A to Point B than filling out a shipping label and affixing it to a box. Specifically, you need to tell your transportation carrier whether the shipment needs to go to the trade show’s advance warehouse, or direct to the show site. If you don’t make the distinction, you might be sitting in your booth space waiting for your freight to arrive from the advance warehouse, while it’s still en route direct to the show and set to arrive the following day. Not only will you not have your freight, but your setup costs will escalate as the installation laborers twiddle their thumbs until it arrives. What’s more, the additional day it takes the freight to travel direct to show site can result in late-delivery penalties if you miss your on-site targeted delivery deadline.

As Candy stated, you have choices on how you can ship your materials to the show. You can ship them to:

Advanced Warehouse by a certain date


Direct Deliveries to the Show Site on specific dates

Each show will have a designated shipping company for you to use and their information can be obtained in Exhibitor Kit supplied by show management. However, you may have a preferred carrier, one you use regularly.

Key Questions which Determine Freight Costs

As you are working with the transportation issues, these are key pieces of information which will determine the cost of freight:

  • Number of Pieces
  • Estimated Weight
  • Estimated Size
  • Addresses for Pickup/Delivery

Remember, items that arrive after the receiving deadlines can incur additional charges. Once again, you can save money by planning ahead!

An important note: make sure you have the address of the venue correct. Candy shares in her article:

There can be confusion, especially in major cities, if a specific street address or hall designation isn’t provided. I’ve witnessed freight delivered to the wrong convention center in cities with multiple exhibition facilities, and to the wrong Marriott or Hilton since there can be multiple chain hotels in metropolitan areas. Unless you want your carrier to guess which venue is the correct destination, provide the full venue name and street address.

Transportation Timing and Charges

The shorter the transit time, the higher the charges are for most deliveries. Here is a brief summary for your review.

  1. The lowest charges are usually common carriers, but unless you pay a large premium, you cannot designate the delivery date. This works mostly for advance receiving shipments but does not work at all for direct to show site shipments.
  2. Next lowest is the 3-5 business day. Lots of flexibility in that the shipper can designate day and time to deliver as long as we have at least 3 business days. If they designate a time, or if the day is on the weekend or a holiday, there is an extra charge.
  3. The 2nd Business day is still higher priced. The shipper can still designate date and time.
  4. Overnight is higher still.
  5. Same Day is the highest cost, and it will be delivered as quickly as possible.

Transportation companies designated by show management or those you have used in the past can be great resources for you. If you are new to this, ask questions. Typically, you will find great advice from them and if you plan ahead you can save money.

Transportation problems can be avoided by careful planning. This is an area where you want time to be on your side by advance scheduling.