Alexis Exhibits

How Tradeshows and Social Media Co-exist

There is Still a Place for Trade Shows in Your Marketing Mix

Talk to anyone who sends more than 2 texts a day and they will tell you that the only way to market products and services is to use Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or search engine optimization. They consider face-to-face marketing to be an antiquated form of communication and that the days of tradeshows are numbered.

Those of us who make our living producing trade shows get the opportunity to see things in a different light. Walk the aisles at the consumer electronics show and watch buyers from all over the world making deals with major manufacturers. Go to the HIMSS show and see hospital administrators finalizing plans for purchase of their new IT infrastructure. Attend the American College of Cardiology meeting and listen to heart specialists discussing the advantages of various new instruments with the inventor. This type of important business communication can only be done face-to-face and the most cost- and time-effective way to do this is at a tradeshow.

Social Media Should be an Important Part of Your Tradeshow Promotion

The fact is, social media can and should be an important part of tradeshow promotion and communication. The ability to reach out to potential customers before, during, and after a show using this technology can greatly increase tradeshow ROI. Just like any other marketing project, exhibitors should enlist the assistance of a person or group that has experience with the most popular networks, explain their goals and put together a plan for your tradeshow.

Keep an open mind. Don’t expect overnight success. Continue to review and improve your approach to both media and the results will come. Let’s talk.

Chasing Tradeshow Cost Savings?

Many exhibitors are being forced to find ways to reduce the cost of participation in tradeshows. The most common way this task is approached is to look at each cost line item and see what can be done to save money.

The common first step is to contract for a smaller booth space. This not only saves on the cost of the space rental but also provides an across-the-board cost reduction. The downside of such a reduction? You may have to settle for a less than desirable booth location and you’ll also need to make sure your display properties will fit in the smaller format.

After booth space, the likely second step is to look at each cost category for the show and try to determine which costs can be reduced. This is a very time-consuming process, and usually entails trying to find out how much your exhibit weighs and how long it should take to set up. This information is not always easy to get your hands on, and when you do, there are always a slew of variables that can affect the final cost of the show.

In my opinion, however, the best first step to take is to contact your exhibit supplier (assuming they store and manage your display) and lay your cards on the table. Explain to them that you have been asked to cut 25% off the cost of last year’s show. Ask them to provide recommendations. Remember, they do this for a living! They are not likely to be overly excited about this mission, but they should support you through good times and bad.
If they can’t or won’t provide you with some good ideas, you should probably consider finding another supplier.

Thinking about changing exhibit companies? Let’s Talk.

Ten Tips for Better Trade Show Exhibits

Trade shows can be one of the most cost-effective ways for your company to reach qualified prospects. And with a little bit of planning you can dramatically improve your results.

  1. Start planning as soon as you know you will be attending the show. Make your booth space reservation as far in advance as possible so you can select the best location and size.
  2. The majority of trade show attendees plan their trade show exhibit visits before the show. 75% of buyers arrive with pre-set purchasing objectives. A pre-show marketing campaign is essential to making the most of your trade show exhibit investment.
  3. Most trade shows are covered by local and industry media. Before the show, invite local media contacts to visit your booth. Find out if there will be any trade press at the show and set up a time to meet.
  4. Promote the shows your company will be exhibiting at and your booth location on your company website, Twitter and Facebook pages.
  5. Avoid printing anything at the trade show or at a hotel business center. Ship copies from your office or a printer to the show.
  6. Put together a comprehensive inventory list before you ship your exhibit. This will make check in and out-bound shipping more efficient, and better ensure that any missing items are identified rapidly.
  7. Bring more sales collateral and business cards than you think you could possibly need. You cannot afford to run out and it is inexpensive to ship it back to your office.
  8. Bring backup copies of all multimedia presentations on CDs just in case you have an issue with your laptop. You can also store copies of presentations online so that you can access them and download if needed.
  9. Organize your trade show leads in the downtime during the show and start to follow-up even before you leave the exhibit floor. Send the contact information for prospects to your office from the show and have someone send out requested collateral material to these prospects so it is waiting for them when they return to their office.
  10. Put together a trade show exhibit emergency kit: packing tape, scissors, pens, epoxy putty, a small trash can, power strips, extension cords, USB flash drives, cutting tools, and a tool kit. Add in anything that you might need for small emergency booth repairs and replacement parts for anything that can wear out or burn out like light bulbs.

Trade show exhibits are a big investment. Just a little bit of planning and a few tips from the pros, and you are well on the way to having a less stressful and more successful trade show exhibit.

Trade Show Planning Tips – Develop a Timeline

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Doing Basic Planning Makes Participation in a Trade Show More Profitable and Less Stressful.

First ask yourself, what do you want from the show?
As you begin your planning process, be sure to understand why your company is spending the money to rent a space in the first place. Who will be attending? Which attendees are important to your company and why? What products do you have to show? What do you want to say to visitors to your booth? Gaining a clear understanding of these “strategic” goals is vital to helping everything else fall neatly into place. As such, decisions on design, graphics, product placement, staffing, etc. should all be made based on your overall show strategy.

Next, develop a timeline.
Most show manuals include a timeline or schedule of events. This is helpful for dealing with the logistical details, but you need to make a personal timeline to guide your planning. You will also need to deal with your tradeshow display, all graphics, literature and premiums, room and dinner reservations, the list goes on and on. The only way to keep all of this organized and still be able to sleep at night is to start with a timeline. The first one that you make will be very difficult and time-consuming, but with the groundwork laid, subsequent show timelines can be as easy as cut and paste.

Get some help.
Your exhibit company should be able to take most of the display issues off of your shoulders, but it is best to confirm things with them from time to time to make sure that they are on track. This will allow you to focus on the things that are more difficult to outsource.

Be sure to set internal deadlines.
Make sure that things that must be done internally are listed on your timeline and communicate deadlines well in advance to everyone involved. Often, one of the most difficult things for trade show managers to do is to get their own trade show booth shipped to the show on time. With that in mind, sometimes it makes sense to set an internal deadline that leaves you a week or so fudge factor just in case.

Brochures need to be ready to go well in advance. It may make sense to send your boxes of literature to your exhibit company so that they can ship them to the show with the display. This will allow you to check one more thing off of your list, and as an added benefit, it’s one less shipment you’ll have to track down on-site.

Develop a trade show timeline, check it several times a day, and work well in advance. It’s not as easy as it might seem, but the payoff is well worth the effort.

Need trade show advice? Let’s talk.

How to Order Tradeshow Electrical Service

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Ordering electrical service is one of the most difficult aspects of tradeshow preparation. Just when you think that you have watts figured out, the next electrical form wants you to order amps. Volts seem easy enough, but what the heck is 3 phase? How about 24 hour power? Seems like a good idea, but it doubles the cost of each connection.

Trade Show Electrical Service Preparation

For the vast majority of tradeshow exhibits, the electrical requirements are pretty straight-forward. For a 10’ backwall exhibit, one standard minimum service outlet placed behind the booth will be all that is needed. If the plan includes a reception counter or table on the aisle, another minimum service outlet nearby will be handy to provide power to a lead retrieval device or laptop. As tradeshow displays get larger and more complex, it is advisable to have an electrical drawing. This is usually a simple display floorplan that shows exact placement of all electrical outlets and the required watts or amps for each. It is best to provide as much detail as possible. Most exhibit companies provide this service as part of their preparation procedure.

electricianOnce you have the electrical diagram, you can simply count the service outlets and fill out the form. Make sure to submit the form early enough to take advantage of any discounts.

Heavy duty electrical service such as 220 or 440 volts is used to power machinery. This type of service is very expensive and the order should be placed by someone who is very familiar with the equipment. Most convention centers turn off electrical service to displays at night. If you have equipment or computers in your exhibit that should not be turned off, or if you have refrigerators or freezers in your booth, you should consider ordering 24-hour service.

You will also need to provide the electrical diagram to the show electricians. They will use your electrical order and diagram to route extension cords on the floor to the locations specified. The diagram is normally sent in with the electrical order. If things change, be sure to provide the updated electrical drawing before you go to the show. The electricians typically go to work right after the booths are taped out on the floor.

A word about safety… One of the most common complaints heard from exhibitors is that they have to pay an electrician $90.00 to plug in their lights. While the cost does seem high, there is a very good reason for an electrician to make the connection. This process ensures that the electrician has an opportunity to inspect the wiring in your display. This may seem like a hassle, but keep in mind that on the night of January 16, 1967, while the biggest tradeshow of the year was hours from opening, a fire that was later traced to faulty wiring in an exhibit, burned Chicago’s McCormick Place to the ground. One person died and economic loss included the building, all of the exhibits and products.

I’m sure you can agree, it’s much better safe than sorry.
Does your exhibit company provide electrical service as part of their preparation procedure? Need help? Let’s talk.

Best Practices for Establishing a Tradeshow Budget

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Preparing a corporate marketing budget these days is a daunting task. All companies need to increase sales leads and amp up revenues, but shrinking marketing budgets have forced companies to carefully consider what must stay and what must go as far as budget items. An important component of the overall marketing budget is the portion allotted to tradeshows, which can be a valuable tool to help increase the visibility of your company and boost sales.

tradeshow_budgetThe reality, however, is that no matter how you look at it, tradeshows are expensive endeavors. You have to rent the space, create a display, promote it, stock it, and staff it. So before you decide to undertake a tradeshow, take a comprehensive look at all the costs associated with exhibiting as well as the expected returns.

Establishing an accurate tradeshow budget early is essential to developing an overall strategy that will achieve success and assure upper management buy-in. The amount you allocate to tradeshows will depend upon the scope of your efforts and the number, size and location of the shows you are planning on exhibiting at throughout the year. Though strategies will vary from company to company, the methods of establishing a tradeshow budget remain relatively the same.

Let’s take a look at some of the larger components you’ll need to be cognizant of when preparing your overall tradeshow budget.

Space rental. Exhibit halls will charge your company based on the size of your display so determine early what size booth you will be using so you can more accurately estimate how many dollars to allocate to booth space rental.

Utilities and related booth expenses. There will be a charge for installing and dismantling your booth. Other expenses include electricity, gas, water, and any other items you may require at your booth during a show.

Exhibit display, signage and accessories. This would include everything from display production, graphics, and banners to booth furniture, literature racks and any equipment needed to demonstrate your products. Crating and storage costs should also be added to this category.

Shipping and drayage. This would include all expenses associated with transporting your exhibit and materials to each location. Freight would include charges for shipping your exhibit, literature, and any other materials to the event location and back to your office or warehouse. Drayage costs account for items delivered to and from your booth space from the loading dock of the exhibit hall or conference center.

Travel and entertainment. Try to put together a realistic estimate on what it will cost you and your staff to attend each tradeshow. This estimate must include travel expenses (airfare, taxi fares, rental cars, etc.), meals, and hotel expenses. This category would also include any expenses associated with entertaining prospects and customers during the show.

Show marketing. This would include all the marketing and sales collateral required to support the exhibit. These materials could be used at multiple shows, so keep in mind that these costs will be spread over a number of shows. These might include product literature, handouts, staff training, and show promotional items.

Want to know how to leverage our experience and make your trade show budget go further? Let’s talk.

Putting your Best Face Forward: How to Staff your Trade Show Booth

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You can spend lots of money creating an eye-grabbing, elaborate trade show exhibit, but lose potential customers if your booth personnel are not well trained and prepared. Make it an essential part of your pre-show strategy, right along with pre-event marketing and demo preparations. Keep in mind that these people will leave a lasting impression, good or bad, on your attendees and potential customers when they leave your booth, so pick the best and brightest to represent your organization.

Here are a few more tips on how you can ensure that everyone in your trade show staff is show-ready:

Make sure they are well versed. This is particularly important when using temp workers. These people need to know detailed background about your company, its mission, goal, target audience, products or services, as well as your sales and marketing message.

Practice makes perfect. Establish a pre-show training session and conduct them before every show. Prepare a list of objectives and make sure everyone is aware of their role. For example, some people might be assigned official greeters, while others might be reserved for fielding more detailed technical questions.

friendly tradeshow staffChoose friendly folk. This might seem obvious, but the more outgoing and friendly a person is, the better they will be at engaging prospects.

Stick to the script. Training booth personnel should include a well-practiced script that includes a quick introduction of themselves, a one-minute overview of your company and its products; a few questions to qualify the attendee as a potential prospect; and a request for contact info for effective follow-up after the event.

Dress the part. Make sure that booth staff understands what is expected of them in terms of how to dress, proper etiquette (no gum chewing, eating, etc.), the importance of arriving early and being prepared, and how long they are expected to be on duty.

Don’t overstaff. It’s human nature to avoid excessively crowded spaces and nothing is more intimidating then walking into a booth and being besieged by a throng of over-eager salespeople. Proper staffing will depend upon the size of the actual booth.

Put sales staff on the front line. Even if you rely on temporary help at trade shows, it’s vital to have salespeople in the mix and preferably taking the lead in greeting visitors and doing demos.

Listen more, talk less. Companies can learn more about potential customers and how they might be able to help them by taking the time to listen to their needs, pain points, issues, etc. Booth staff should adhere to the 80/20 principle: listen 80% and talk only 20%.

How to Make Your Trade Show Booth Stand Out

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Exhibiting at a trade show is a marvelous way for your company to capture the attention of its target market in order to introduce a new product or service, generate valuable sales leads, get media attention, or sell products. Garnering that attention, however, can be tricky when your booth is amid hundreds of competing booths, each staffed with eager employees trying to grab the often-fleeting interest of passing attendees.

standoutSo how do you make your exhibit stand out? Research shows that exhibitors have mere seconds to grab the attention of attendees, often weary and overwhelmed by the vast number of booths. You can’t meet your tradeshow objectives unless you get those folks in your booth to hear your pitch, so exhibitors must always be on the lookout for new and creative ways to make their exhibit stand out.

One way is to walk the show floor and take note of what other exhibitors are doing with their trade show exhibits and displays. Notice what types of marketing strategies they are using to attract booth traffic. Also, pay attention to what booths seem to be drawing in the largest number of attendees. Is there an enticing giveaway drawing in hordes of people? Ask attendees that have stopped in your booth which exhibitors’ booths they were most drawn to and why.

Leverage your relationship with your display provider as well. They often can offer specific expertise on what has proven successful for other customers as far as boosting traffic. It is their job to stay on top of the latest in exhibit design, event strategies and promotional trends.

Another potential source of innovative ideas are trade show associations and industry consultants. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research ( is another great resource for ideas on how to increase your tradeshow exhibit’s visibility. Once you have developed some new strategy ideas to boost booth traffic, lead generation and possibly sales, just make sure they all align with your company’s brand positioning.

Here are a handful of promotional ideas to draw in visitors to your booth:

Entertain them. Magicians, caricaturists, and celebrity look-alikes are sometimes cheesy but often effective in grabbing the interest of attendees, giving your booth staffers an opportunity to strike up a conversation.

Photograph them. Take a digital photo of visitors and superimpose them on unique backgrounds, such as magazine covers to create a memorable takeaway. Or use the image to perform a virtual makeover, so visitors can see what they would look like in various hairstyles or clothes.

Let them play. Provide a chance to play virtual sports, such as golf or baseball using simulation software systems. Winners take away balls with your logo printed on them.

Feed them. Weary and often hungry trade show attendees tend to flock to booths offering free food, coffee or beverages. While they are munching or sipping, make sure your booth staffers introduce themselves and give them the two-minute pitch.

Reward them. Offer an incentive to stop by your booth. A creative giveaway— with your logo and marketing slogan on it—could include tote bags, laser pointers, memory sticks, apparel, golf tees, pens, coffee mugs, etc.

Give us the opportunity to help you find the best way to stand out on the show floor, among other things – we are confident that you’ll respond in much the same way as these happy clients attest.

Let’s talk.

What should you know about your Trade Show prospects?

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dataOne of the most important decisions you need to make about exhibiting at a trade show is what information you should collect from your key prospects.

Many trade shows place barcodes on attendee badges and have scanners available for rent at a reasonable fee. This streamlines the process of building lead lists and provides a fast, unobtrusive way to gather critical information for follow-up.

When a prospect enters your booth and inquires about a product, just ask permission to scan the bar code on their badge. Then also record the products or services the person is interested in knowing more about. Most trade shows will email a spreadsheet to participating exhibitors with complete contact information and other information about the prospects.

It is a simple, effective and useful way to systematize prospect information and prioritize sales leads. And you will have almost all of the information you need to effectively follow-up on your trade show leads.

Some Exhibitors have taken data collection to a whole new level

One Fortune 500 company tracks everything imaginable about a trade show prospect using a special RFID barcode that they place on prospects when they enter their booth. They track the prospect’s path in the booth, the specific displays and demos in the booth the prospect visited, the total time spent in the booth, who accompanied the prospect to the booth and so on. Then they combine this information with registration data to create a prospect profile. In all, this company collects over 200 pieces of information about every prospect. The catch is that they didn’t have any idea what to do with most of the information they gather.

What information should you collect about prospects?

The most important part of a trade show is that it provides an opportunity to establish and build a personal relationship with each prospect. It is vital to make sure that you do not interfere with the 1-on-1 dialog with a series of questions designed to gather information. Work to make the conversation very natural and focus on the vital info.

If you can get contact information from the trade show registration, then you do not have to do anything more than scan a badge and you can focus on the critical questions and answers:

  1. What products or services are of interest?
  2. When do the buyers plan to make their purchase?
  3. How much does the buyer plan to spend?
  4. What are the most important benefits and features the buyer is looking for?
  5. Who is your competition and what advantages does the buyer believe the competition offers?

Does it matter if the prospect spent 8.4 minutes or 6.2 minutes in your booth? No. What matters is that you can identify the high-value prospects to sell to during the show and to contact after the show and that these prospects have a positive experience at your booth and remember your company and your staff favorably.

How to Choose the Right Trade Show

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Some trade shows are great investments and deliver lots of high-quality leads; others are just a waste of your marketing budget. choicesThe trick is to find the productive shows without making a lot of mistakes.

I always start by defining my marketing goals and target customer. This immediately points me in the right direction. Armed with that information, I put together a list of all the shows that reach my target customers and then evaluate them.

What kind of show should you attend? Often it is a mix of consumer shows, industry shows, buyers’ expositions and educational conferences. Each kind of show has its place.

Then look at these key factors to decide which trade show is best suited for your business:

1. Does the show help you meet your marketing goals?

If you are interested in a regional market or are new to trade shows, consider participating in a smaller, local trade show. If your goal is to acquire the largest number of qualified leads, to support a major new product launch, and/or to significantly build awareness, participate in the major industry tradeshows that capture the largest number of target customers. If your objective is to build your network and to position your company as a thought leader, then investigate shows where your company can be a show’s sponsor and a company representative can be a featured speaker.

2. Is it the right market space?

A show that matches your exact market space is often the best show to attend. You can learn a lot by looking at who exhibits at a show you are considering. A list of past exhibitors is usually available from the trade show management or on their website. Call a few of the past exhibitors and ask about the quality and number of attendees at previous years’ shows. Identify the shows that have an exhibitor mix that will attract your target customers and that are complementary to your business.

3. Determine which shows your top prospects attend.

See if the attendee list from past shows is available. Review the list to determine which shows have a large number of your target customers on the attendee list.

4. Identify which shows your best customers attend.

Call your customers and ask which shows they plan to attend and which shows they would like to attend. If there is a show that some of your customers would like to attend but are not planning to attend, ask if they would attend if they received a free pass to the exhibits. Most major trade shows offer exhibitors a limited number of free passes, so if your customers would attend the show with free passes, this could be a good reason to attend this show.

5. Figure out where your competition will be.

How many of your competitors will be exhibiting at the show? If you are not there, will you be at a competitive disadvantage? Trade shows usually bring together many competitors under one roof. Look for shows where your company will stand out as a leader in your market.

6. Consider timing – does the show’s timing make sense?

Will your company have news? Do you have a new product to announce or roll out? Does it conflict with another more important show?

7. Are there any special PR opportunities?

Exhibitors have a distinct advantage capturing Trade Show PR because they have higher profiles than attendees. They can also more easily and effectively demonstrate their products. This is particularly important for new product introductions. Ask the Trade Show management for last year’s press list and if they have any information on who is planning to cover this year’s event. Are there any media outlets attending that provide opportunities for you to reach your target audience in an impactful way?

8. Finally, take a look at the cost to attend each show.

Will it have a positive return on your marketing investment? Which shows have the best returns?

Put it all together and you should be able to pick the best trade shows for your company.