Alexis Exhibits

A Perfect Tradeshow Vendor Relationship

Finding the perfect vendor to support your tradeshow program can be challenging, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but with the right things in mind, you can hit your target. As with any other decision, the preparation you put into it will greatly affect your level of success.

Typically, the decision for an exhibit supplier is made during the purchase of a new display. It may seem logical that the company that built the display would be the best choice to manage it. Sometimes that may be true, but often the problem is that the companies that do the best job of design and presentation are not always the best at program management. Their company’s focus might be on designing and building new exhibits, leaving program management to take a back seat.

A good start in your search is determining how much help you will need, and the size of your program:

  • Pharmaceutical companies might exhibit in over 100 shows per year, not including other events that are a large part of their face to face marketing. Auto manufacturers exhibit in 65 or more shows in the span of a few months. These types of companies usually prefer to deal with the largest exhibit companies.
  • Companies that participate in fewer shows each year in smaller configurations may not get the level of service that they need from a huge exhibit company, and often end up being the proverbial “small fish in a big pond.”

In order to find the best match for your needs, give some thought to how much support you will need from your exhibit company. Some companies need only basic assistance, such as storage, preparation and minor repairs. Others rely more heavily on an exhibit company to handle the entire show including show services, graphic design, shipping, etc. Be sure to consider how important your scale of business will be to your new vendor and whether you will have access to senior management in the event that problems occur.

While experience in your specific industry is a valuable thing, use caution in looking for a company that has several other clients in your most important show, as you may find that they are stretched too thin to provide the best service. Also, there are many other factors that contribute to the success of a vendor/client relationship, but a vendor’s efforts to become the best partner should always involve a willingness to listen and adapt to the client’s preferred ways of doing business.

Are you considering changing tradeshow vendors? Let’s Talk.

Avoid Being Part of the “Boring Sea of Tradeshow Sameness”

I attend a lot of trade shows – hardware, books, electronics, men’s wear, food service, medical equipment, etc. – if there is a trade show, odds are I’ve probably been to it. It’s part of my job. Sometimes it is a delightful part of what I do – but all too often I can walk an entire trade show floor and not see one new, inspiring idea.

So far this year at the shows I have attended, I have found that most booths are professional looking and nicely designed but I often don’t remember anything the minute I move on to the next aisle. The words that come to mind: boring, formulaic, and devoid of any discernable brand personality.

Everything is perfectly planned, so why aren’t you more successful?

You have a great location for the show – right up front, with lots of traffic. You have a beautifully designed booth that is uncluttered and well-merchandised. You have great people who know that a positive attitude is essential. Yet people just keep passing by, and don’t even slow down.

Ask yourself, why should someone stop at your booth?

Think about what it is like to attend this show or conference. After three hours of seminars and speeches, the conference attendees finally get a break. They enter the exhibit hall and are greeted with hundreds of booths and the din of people chattering, music and sales presentations. They quickly walk down the aisles and select a few booths to visit. What can you do to make your booth one of those stops?

Avoid being part of this “boring sea of sameness”?

Do something different and unexpected. Break out of the “just another trade show exhibit” pack. And do it in a way that sells your product and builds your brand. I know it is much easier said than done, but here are a few breakout ideas:

  • Entertainment: If it is appropriate to your overall message and product, hire a professional performer to be part of your booth but give it a twist. One small book publisher was promoting a new series of activity books include a book on juggling. They secured two booths located directly across from each other. Then they hired a two-person comedy juggler team who did a juggling show across the aisle. It was hard for anyone who saw this simple spectacle to pass them by without stopping. More importantly, it was hard to forget that the publisher had a juggling book coming out.
  • Create a place to “escape” from the show. Provide a place to really relax that gives you a sales opportunity. Many exhibitors provide comfortable seating or have conference tables with chairs for meeting with prospects or set up beverage bars with stools. This just creates a place to relax and avoid a sales message. Often it creates a place for your staff to sit where no one can see them. The breakout idea is to incorporate the escape into the overall sales message. A travel incentive company who promotes South Pacific Getaways created a tropical beach getaway with a couple real palm trees, some fresh exotic flowers, beach chairs and tropical beverages. They added ambient sound with tropical birds and waves and simple lighting effects. The staff was dressed in tropical business attire and was actively engaged in greeting people and answering questions – they were not relaxing at the beach, they were smiling, attentive and working all the time. It was the most popular place at the entire show. Everyone who entered received a “Tourist Guide and Passport” that provided information about the company’s travel incentives.
  • Incorporate an interactive demonstration. Make your booth interactive and experiential by turning the sales process into an active, dynamic experience. It doesn’t need to be a technological wonder and it should always involve 1-to-1 interaction between the sales staff and the prospect. Have something unusual for people to do, touch, smell or even taste. Bring your products to life with interactive demonstrations that focus on the key sales proposition. And if you do incorporate technology, make sure that it is not complete “self-service”. A medical technology company used an Interactive 3D display to allow prospects to explore their product, zoom, see internal mechanics, and even go a simulated “test drive”. The 3D simulation provided the company the opportunity to introduce key prospects to a very costly medical device but required some assistance from the booth staff so that there was a natural opportunity to start a dialog.
  • Everybody wins. If you are going to have a prize drawing, come up with something more enticing than a fishbowl for the entries and a random drawing sometime in the future when most of the entrants are already left the show. Attendees remember events, games, and competitions. One clever exhibitor created an “everybody wins” contest with thousands of prizes. Instead of being just another booth with a free logoed giveaway, they enticed people into entering their booth and spinning a gigantic wheel of fortune. Even most of the people who won the smallest prize – a promotional item with the company’s name, website, and phone number – remembered the company because they won their prize.
  • Open and inviting. The simplest way to increase the effectiveness of your trade show marketing is to open up your booth. Get rid of the table across the front and get rid of any barriers. Eliminate all the clutter. Design your trade show exhibit for graphic impact with large, attractive images and clean, simple and bold elements that will draw one’s attention. Add dramatic lighting and motion that welcomes people into your booth.

Have you seen any unique and enticing booth ideas that created buzz on the exhibition floor and attracted visitors?

Tradeshow Exhibit Packaging 101

Tradeshow exhibits can be packaged in a variety of ways including:

  • Crates
  • Skids or pallets
  • Molded plastic cases
  • Or no packaging at all, (pad wrapped)

Crates

The vast majority of custom or modular trade show exhibits are packed in crates. Properly constructed crates reduce the likelihood of damage and can greatly enhance the useful life of the display. The downside of crates is the cost (usually around $1,500 each for average sizes) and the weight of the crates (around 300 pounds each). While properly designed crates will take full advantage of the space in a truck, their weight will add cost to shipping (if based on weight) and material handling. Crated displays can usually avoid the “special handling” fees charged for material handling.

 

Skids or Pallets

Skids are essentially crates without sides or a top. They are easily moved with a forklift and are commonly used when the items are too big or bulky to fit in a crate, e.g., structural beams, truss, furniture and rolls of carpet and padding. The disadvantages to skids are that they are difficult or impossible to stack, increasing storage and shipping costs, and they do not afford the protection that crates do. Skids do reduce shipping weight when compared to crates.

Molded Cases

Manufactured exhibit systems and portable displays often pack in molded plastic cases. In some instances, the cases are compartmentalized to secure the individual parts of the display. Manufactured displays break down into smaller pieces that lend themselves to being packed into these pre-engineered containers. They are much lighter than crates and are very durable. Some displays that are packed in multiple molded cases are then stacked on skids for ease of handling on the show floor.

Pad Wrapped

Some exhibits are shipped as individual pieces without crates or skids. The items are wrapped with packing pads and loaded into moving vans just like household goods are handled. This process adds considerable time to the packing, loading and unloading process and increases the likelihood of damage, but might be worth considering in some cases.

Trade show display packaging is not as simple as it might seem, as there are many variables involved in deciding which method will be most cost-effective. Your exhibit supplier should be able to describe how your exhibit is going to be packaged and why. A detailed cost comparison of each option, accounting for all potential areas of impact on cost, might be of value before you make a decision.

Choosing a Tradeshow Display Shipping Carrier

When shipping tradeshow displays, you generally have two types of carriers to choose from:

  1. Van lines like Atlas, Bekins, United, Allied, etc. who also do moving of high-value products and household goods.
  2. Motor freight companies who move commodities, manufactured goods, etc.

If your exhibit is palletized or crated, you have the option of shipping via van lines or motor freight. If your materials are not crated (also known as “loose” or “pad wrapped”) you must go with a van line.

Motor freight companies operate on a hub system very much like the airlines, so displays that are loaded on a truck at your facility may be transferred one, two or even more times before reaching their final destination. This extra handling exposes your materials to more wear and tear and greatly increases the possibility of damage. Motor freight shipping costs are usually calculated by weight, although larger, lightweight items may be subject to a different cost calculation called “dimensional weight”.

The advantage to van line shipments is that the trucks are usually going directly from your warehouse to the convention center, so materials are less likely to be transferred from one truck to another. Moving vans use air ride trailers that cushion bumps along the way. Van lines almost always charge by the amount of floor space in the trailer that your materials require.

Total shipping cost can vary a great deal. It is generally assumed that motor freight is less expensive but that is not always the case. Check with your traffic department to see what kind of discounts your company gets from various carriers, make sure that your carrier has tradeshow specific experience and request quotes.

Make sure that your chosen carrier provides you with a way to track your shipment and verify delivery. Last, but certainly not least, be sure to ask your carrier about insurance coverage. The standard coverage that they provide is usually less than $1.00 per pound which won’t even cover the replacement of the crates, let alone the contents.

Do your homework and you can minimize cost. Or, leave the homework to us – we’ll take care of knowing where your tradeshow display is, where it needs to go, and getting everything shipped on time. With our national network of facilities and climate-controlled environments, we are always close by, so shipping your tradeshow exhibits is never a problem. Let’s talk.

Goal Setting – How to Evaluate a Successful Tradeshow

As corporate tradeshow marketing professionals, justifying participation in trade shows is one of the most daunting tasks that we face. The competition for every penny of your marketing budget is fierce and very few executives are in love with tradeshows.

How can you convince others in your organization that shows are a good investment? How can you say that you had a successful show when there was never any measurement technique established? Like any other investment, it must start with goals. When the decision is made to exhibit in a show, you and your team need to produce a written set of measurable goals that everyone buys into.

These may include a number of completed lead sheets, meetings with certain key prospects, the number of individual demonstrations, etc. This list, created well before the show provides a very effective guide for exhibit design, graphics, booth staffing and show activities. Everything planned for the tradeshow must be done with your goals list in mind.

During the show, you can assemble the data to report which goals were achieved and which were not.

A team meeting 2 weeks after the show will allow you to share your results and will clearly demonstrate the value of the show. This then becomes a procedure that is done for every event.

A lack of goals leaves the future of your tradeshow program totally to chance. Need help establishing your goals? Our exhibit management is based entirely on strategic planning. Let’s Talk.

Exhibit Acronyms – What is a Trade Show RFP?

RFP is an Acronym for Request for Proposal

This is one of the few tradeshow exhibit industry terms that is also pretty common in other areas of business. In a nutshell, it means that your company has a need to buy products or services and you’d like to invite prospective vendors to submit proposals. RFPs can be sent out for something as simple as a rental backwall display or as elaborate as complete multi-year management of a hundred shows per year tradeshow program.

Once received, evaluation of submitted proposals can be difficult and time-consuming. As such, the number of companies that you invite should be limited to 3 – 5.

The basic RFP format is to provide:

  1. An overview of your company.
  2. A summary of your needs.
  3. An outline of how and when proposals should be submitted.

In order to make the process as efficient as possible, it is best to provide information that is concise. The key to dealing with responses in a timely fashion is to direct submissions so they are as similar in format as possible.

If you intend to request custom exhibit designs from bidders, keep in mind that designs are presented in a variety of formats from renderings mounted on boards to web-based video productions. You should clearly communicate the presentation format you prefer. When requesting designs, providing a budget number will make the final evaluation process much more productive.

You should also provide a format for the cost portion of the proposals. This can be in the form of a spreadsheet included in your RFP to be filled out and returned, or even as simple as an itemized list. Including this information helps to clearly describe what cost elements are to be included in the proposal. Things like carpet, electrical service, vacuuming, floral or technical support are not always part of the RFP process.

The bottom line? Give prospective vendors enough information to put together a proposal that is complete and in a format that makes it easy to compare. Time spent editing and refining your RFP documents can result not only in significant time savings when the time comes to review submissions, but also more quality in responses.

Need Exhibit Management for your trade show? We are ready to earn your business. Let’s talk.

EXHIBIT ACRONYMS – What does an EAC Provide at a Trade Show?

Exhibitor Appointed Contractor is a Company or Individual that Works on the Tradeshow Floor

The letters EAC is one of the thousands of acronyms that can seem to exist only to confuse people with less than 5 years of experience in the tradeshow business. EAC stands for Exhibitor Appointed Contractor.

alphabetAn Exhibitor Appointed Contractor is a company or individual that works on the tradeshow floor providing any of a number of services that could also be ordered from the General Services Contractor. (Freeman, GES, etc.) There are a few services for which you may prefer to use someone other than the General Services Contractor (GSC) such as installation and dismantling labor, audio visual rentals and service, floral, etc.

If you choose to use an EAC, you must notify the show well in advance to allow them time to make sure your selected company is properly certified and insured. The form for this notification is in the show manual. Be sure to find the form and get it sent in as soon as you are able since the show generally requires at least 30 days notice.

The most common service provided by an EAC is installation and dismantling labor. A large number of companies of all sizes are anxious to provide you with labor services. These companies claim to provide better quality labor and service than the GSC at a competitive price. They will also help you with filing the EAC form. Be sure to get their information in writing and check references just like you would with any of your vendors.

Installation and Dismantling of Your Tradeshow Exhibit Should be done by an EAC or GSC

There are some services that are provided only by the convention center or GSC such as material handling, electrical service and labor, rigging, vacuuming, plumbing, etc. Many exhibitors feel that this exclusivity allows the GSC to charge inflated rates or provide inferior labor, but for most of these services, there are good reasons for the rules. In the case of material handling or drayage, there must be only one exhibit management company organizing everything, both to keep order and for safety reasons. Electrical labor and service must be done according to the contract with the convention center and local building codes for public safety.

No matter who you choose to provide your needed services on the show floor, as a first step, you need to spend some time reading the show manual to understand each service and to know the rules and your rights. Need help? Let’s Talk.

Trade Show Success Strategy: Pre-Show Promotion

About 75% of show attendees plan booth visits before the show starts. Surprisingly, research studies have also found that most exhibitors do not do any pre-show promotion. If you want to have a really successful show, you need to be part of their pre-show plans.

pre-tradeshow planPre-show promotion is inexpensive and often can just be an investment of staff time. Here is an example of how one trade show pro promoted his business before the show.

The VP of Sales for a furniture manufacturer stays ahead of his competition by having his sales team call every customer and key prospect before their most important annual show. They do not use the Trade Show attendee list; they call their entire target customer list. The sales team uses the upcoming show as a reason to call all of their target customers. The call is an invitation to a company-sponsored breakfast reception which has become an annual event at the show. When they learn that someone plans to attend the show, they take the opportunity to make sure they have the target customer’s current cell phone number so they can reach them during the show. They follow-up with two personalized e-mails to people who have said they will attend. Target customers, who are not attending the show, also receive two e-mails plus are sent a “breakfast in a box” gift along with information about the season’s new line of furniture and show specials.

The company uses a similar strategy for every trade show they attend: A phone call and follow-up emails to attendees and target prospects who are not able to attend the show.

It’s a simple plan. It’s easily executed by the sales team. They are careful not inundate their prospects and customers with lots of unwanted emails and promotional materials.

This well-orchestrated pre-show promotion has significantly increased the number of qualified leads generated from the show and has resulted in improving the ROI on the company’s tradeshow budget.

How can you put together a pre-show promotion that is successful?

  1. If you do not have a target customer list to contact, make sure to get the list of show attendees as soon as you can from the show staff. If you can get additional information about attendees that will be useful in quickly identifying prospects, make sure that it is included.
  2. Structure your pre-promotion campaign to start to build a relationship with your target customers before the show.
  3. Make sure that all materials and communication are professional and consistent with your company’s brand image. Design everything so that it is consistent with the graphic experience that your company will present at the show.
  4. Explore options for cost-effective pre-show communications in planned trade show mailings or emails.
  5. For major shows that have high traffic websites, think about online banner advertising. But be cautious about investing much of your budget in banner ads.
  6. Include a call to action that involves a commitment to meet during the show or to visit your booth at a set time.

Pre-show promotion takes some time and effort. It will increase your workload. But it will increase the number of qualified leads and sales that you get from the show. It gives you the opportunity to pre-sell your business. And it helps you focus your time and effort of the most important prospect versus anyone who wanders by your booth.

Do you have a pre-show promotion program? Have you found pre-show promotion is worth your investment?

Trade Show Preparation Checklist

Things to do before leaving for a trade show

Create a trade show project timeline. Take a look at the show exhibitor manual that is available online. Many show manuals include a chronological list of deadlines that make an excellent starting point for your personalized project timeline. Things that you may add to this list include: preparation and shipment of your products and literature, making your travel arrangements, hotel accommodations for your staff, making arrangements for activities, dinners, etc. during the show.

tradeshow_checklist

  • Make a folder or binder to contain all of the confirmations and show services forms that you have submitted.
  • Create a list of important telephone numbers. These are specific to each show. This can be done electronically or manually but should be something that you have with you at all times in the trade show city.
  • Check the weather in the trade show city. Make sure that you bring the right clothes for the climate and keep in mind that the convention center might not be heated or air conditioned during installation and dismantling.
  • Take a good digital camera to document things. Cell phone cameras are getting better but the best results can be expected if you use a decent quality portable digital camera. You will want to photograph your display to reference for future show planning. You may need to document damage to items during shipment. You may wish to take some shots of competitors’ displays or other exhibits that you find attractive.
  • Plan how you will evaluate the show and collect the necessary information.
  • Make sure that your booth staffers are aware of the show hours and when they are to work the booth.
  • Plan a booth staff orientation meeting in the booth before the show opens on the first day to make everything work smoothly.
  • Think about dismantle. Where and how are your materials being shipped after the show? Have labels and paperwork filled out to eliminate unnecessary confusion during dismantle.
  • Leave yourself sufficient time to catch your plane. Dismantle will go much better if you are not in a rush to get to the airport.

Do you need trade show help? Click here for a list of services Alexis Exhibits provides to make sure everything goes according to plan.

Good luck with the show!