Friday, February 11, 2011

Took a Dog Show to remind me of the most important element of a successful Trade Show

I recently attended a major dog show where I was reminded of the most important trade show lesson.  It was driven home to me by Soupi the owner of Sand Scribbles with her first booth at a dog show.  Not because of any mistakes she made or anything she did wrong as she did neither.   
A little background first. Soupi is an artist and a very good one, a bit unusual in her Sand Scribbles Booth dog showmedium (sand) but an artist none the less. ( ). Her booth was set up to show off her products in the most positive manner. While she did not have a professional booth she did have an attractive exhibit with many of her products ready for sale. (This show like many B2C shows allows exhibitors to sale from their booths.) Her products feature many dog images and seemed to be a natural fit for this show.
At the end of the show I talked with Soupi about how the show went for her, since this was her first dog show I was curious to get her reaction. Her answer at first took me by surprise, I have 25 years trade show experience and looking at her booth I could not find real fault or any apparent reason as to why she felt the show was not what she expected. I figured, like her this should have been a good show for her products but I forgot the most important element in having a successful trade show.

Know your audience

.Sure they were dog people and her products were about dogs and she actually sold Soupi the artistsome of her cards, the Bulldog owners brought cards with Bulldogs on them, the Terrier people brought Terrier cards and so on. The dog owners were only interest in cards with their dogs featured on them and not any other cards.
The lesson is no matter how relevant your product or targeted your audience if you don't understand your audience's basic motivation a great booth presentation will not help. In this case the audience were all dog people but they were “Bulldog” or “Terrier “ or “German Shepherd“ or whatever type of dog they owned people. So on the surface they seemed to have a common interest but upon further examination it was clear the audience was actually fragmented into smaller interest groups.
Had Soupi known this before the show she could have taken steps to address the commonality of the audience without playing into the fragmented groups. Instead of showing a hundred cards with different dogs and designs she could have address the “custom or personal” aspect of her art. She could show how “their” dogs would be used to create a card, message or art work, not by showing all the different dogs she uses but by NOT showing all the dogs. Using a few (as in very limited numbers ) of examples but many examples where the dog is actually missing from the picture. This gives here audience a chance to picture “their” dog in the picture. Their imaginations would have created a buying situation for Soupi that all her samples prevented.
“Your Dog Here” is far more compelling to a Bulldog owner than seeing a picture of a Collie on a card despite the message. It forces the reader to see the message on the card and picture their dog.
What does this lesson mean to your trade show efforts? How can you learn from this when you don't attend dog shows?
The point is to know the attendees not just the audience, what do they have in common is important but what makes them different is more important. It is safe to assume a trade show is going to attract an audience with common interest (i.e. doctors, engineers, programmers, retailers, etc.) but what makes or breaks a trade show is being able to attract the attendees that are most valuable to your business. Knowing the motivation of “Your” target attendees is critical to success.
When you plan your next show ask yourself what do the trade show attendees have in common and what makes them different. Know before hand if you need to address the commonality or the differences then figure the best way to present your message. You do that and I guarantee you will have a successful show.
Don't make the mistake of assuming since it was a consumer show the same rules don't apply to a business to business shows. Not only do the same rules apply but they are magnified in a business to business environment where sales have a longer lead time and effective feedback is a lot harder to get. At a consumer show you know right away if the attendee is a buyer where at a business to business show they may say all the right things while at the show, but it is the follow-up that will determine the final results. Many things can go wrong once they leave your booth. But that is a subject for a different post.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

QR Tags for Every Booth at Art of Home Show


There is a first for everything; at the recent Art of Home Show at the Santa Clara Convention Center QR tags were assigned to every booth by the show organizer. The service was managed by Real Intelligence. QR tags are not new and commonly  seen associated with many Internet and mobile related products or services in print advertising.

What makes this different is the fact the tags were for all the exhibitors and managed by Real Intelligence and not each company on their own. Also what made this difference was the attendees to the show did not fit the demographics you would associate to QR tag users (smart phone power users).

I was curious why this show issued them to every exhibitor and who was behind it so I went looking for Real Intelligence to find out the reason. I met Steve Kompolt the CEO of Real Intelligence at his booth and not to be unkind I asked him why this show as it seemed extremely unlikely the attendees at this show would even recognize the QR tag much less know how to access it with their cell phone. In addition not one exhibitor I talked to at the show had any idea what the QR tags were or how they worked. With that out of the way Steve told me the idea behind the choice of show and real reason this was important.


Steve's company provides show organizers a complete set of tools for managing their shows and as part on a new service (QR Tags) this show was the beta test of the service. According to Steve it worked as planned, they were under no illusion about the audience's awareness of QR tags but that was not the point the point was to see if they could organize the entire exhibit hall and provide every booth with their own working QR tag. It worked. Maybe it did not have the volume a more technology based show might have had but none the less those who used it got the information unique to the QR tags.

The attendees were taken directly to the exhibitors web site, the sponsors captured important demographics on the attendees who used the service and best of all the exhibitors received another way to connect with potential customers for no additional charge. The service will run for 3 months after the show so exhibitors can continue to use it and take advantage of the service.

Steve's purpose was three fold, to provide the show organizers another tool, provide attendees additional services beyond just being at the show and third give the exhibitors a valuable service beyond the booth space.

Will it catch on, only time will tell. Was it worth the effort to Steve's company only he will know that but at least at the show he thought so. Will we be seeing it at future shows as part of the organizers package to exhibitors? It makes more sense than the free sign they give each exhibitor now, at least it is useful for all parties.

More questions about Real Intelligence or want to get in touch with Steve you can contact him at  QR stands for Quick Response and invented by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994 for parts bar code.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

CES Booth Designs of Note, The Winners

Normally one show like the CES (2700 booths 140,000 attendees) would be enough for a person to take in one week but for me it was just the start, I also attended the Affiliate Summit West 11, Inter Next Webmaster show and then PPAI (Promotional products show) all in the same 7 day period.  I went looking to see if I could get a sense of “NEW” or “BETTER” not in products, although I did see my share of those but exhibits, displays, signage.  New and better ideas I could pass on to other exhibitors to help them improve their own shows in 2011.
My plan was to have a contest to determine the best and worst examples of trade show displays but after looking at about 1500 booths at CES I decided the worst was not possible and the best was a relative target.  Should Samsung or LG win because they had the biggest most expensive booths (Samsung booth was largest at 28,000 sqft, )LG, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba were smaller but not by much and certainly no less costly.  Cost is not really a fair measure and certainly not very useful for the average exhibitor.  I have pictures of these in the photo section so you can judge for yourself.
What I finally decided to do was to look for booths that “Worked” in the truest sense, they had to be unique, to displayed their products in attractive, none gimmicky ways that brought attention and most important positive feedback from their targeted attendees.  I was not as concerned with booths who put on shows to attraction attention without some way of qualifying the viewers as they were in the “Noise for the sake of Noise” category.  Some such as Gibson guitars showing off their new Firebird X ($4000) guitar with a masterful performance that stopped traffic was quite good and impressive. 
Without a doubt CES 2011 was a success from the show organizers, exhibitors, and attendees perspective this was the best show in years, the “feeling of excitement” was back and not just for a single product (3D TV) or new vendors (China Inc.) but across the board. Big and small exhibitors were happy with the response.

The Winners

The winners were Monitors in Motion (Best Small Booth), Miniwiz (Most Original with the use of materials that relate to their business), House of Marley (Best Themed), MakerBot (Best Mouse Trap)
The Best Small Booth that met my criteria was Monitors in Motions a Canadian company who design and manufacture outstanding looking while functioning desktop monitor mounts from machined aluminum.  These are heavy duty and great looking .  They are more expensive than the dozen or so other suppliers but as far as quality and functionality go there is no comparisons.   What made them stand out was the booth itself. It was built (by them) from the same materials as their monitor arms.  To those in the know you will recognize the back wall is made up of three retractable banner stands. 
Simple clean design that is a perfect compliment to their products.  These arms are perfect for trade show applications with built in security locks, quality construction and “Cool”.  Contact Adam (in photos)  The iPad arm is $349. .

Miniwiz (Most Original)

Normally when I see a booth that appears to be a gimmick I’m not interested but sometimes it is what it looks like and not a gimmick at all in those rare occasions I take a look and sometimes I’m rewarded with something truly creative.  This is the case with Miniwiz (Sustainable Energy Development LTD, Taiwan ROC) really that is the full name and that is what they do.  The booth structure, its solar lights, furniture, sound system are all products of the company. 
Their products are the Polli-Brick (plastic bottles 100% post consumer) making up the structure, the Solarbulb LED lamp cap turns old bottles into lamps, Dynamo Hub Charging system and power converter work off the power hubs built into many performance and premium bikes, Bioluminescence Lighting and The Peanut (musical furniture using Apple products round out the product line.  The company can be reached at

House of Marley (Best Themed)

Bob Marley’s family has launched eco conscious lifestyle products including electronics, watches, sunglasses, bags alone the themes expressed (and lived) by Bob Marley’s and his music.  With his music as the background the booth came alive with a sprit and feeling not normally felt in a trade show booth.  The feeling and atmosphere was more like a party in a festive home than a electronic show booth.  The products were everywhere but not “in your face” as displays are at these shows.  Laid back comes to mine but that would down play the upbeat sound and feeling in the booth.  I went back to the booth several times each day of the show and each time the party was still rocking.  I spend time in the booth watching peoples reactions and everyone who entered was “moved” to become apart of the party. Maybe it was the Marley name but it is hard to imagine anyone doing a better job with a theme than House of Marley ( and the products lived up to the billing.

MakerBot (Best Mouse Trap)

You know the expression “Build a better Mouse Trap” and the world will beat a path to your door, you also know that it does not work.  Well I’m here to tell you I saw first hand an exception to the rule.  MakerBot Industries of Brooklyn shows up at the CES show hangs two banners on the back wall sets up three long tables in a U shape puts its “factory” on the front table.  In the 10X20 booth the sole product took up about 1 sqft of space. No signs listing features and benefits in fact only the product, Isaac Dietz along with his laptop and a few product samples were all that was in the booth.  Unused tables and chairs don’t count nor does the shrink wrapped pallet in the back since they clearly were not used for anything.
Anyway what Isaac was demonstrating was MakerBot’s factory in a box. This device is actually  a 3D printer it prints (builds) solid objects from plastic using your designs and their program to drive the printer.  The little figure you see beside the machine is one of their “print” jobs. The red plastic strips (under the bottom of the machine) spool up into the printer as needed.  The device with optional spooler as shown is around $1300.  No kidding.  Apples first laser printer was $3000 and all it could do was black and white single sided  text prints (no graphic) this thing can make a cup, art objects, parts, prototypes, anything small enough to fit in the machine (when finished).
Clearly the booth did not attract any attention and while Isaac was knowledgeable and enthusiastic he was not the draw so obviously it was the product itself and only the product.  Not many products could pull it off at a show like CES where thousands of other products were competing for attention.  To MakerBot I have to say it took real nerve (or lost booth) to display the way you did at CES and pull it off.  Due to the constant crowds I was unable to talk directly with Isaac to get his feedback on the booth and show. 
I would not recommend following their example in booth design it is a little risky if you don’t happen to be showing a table top factory.  MakerBot’s web site is to the geeks out there this thing really works.  There is clearly a WOW factor associated with this product and their booth. 

For more on the CES products see my post on products.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monthly Trade Show Review Coming 2011

show setup 10  Starting with the January 2011 CES show in Las Vegas I will be covering a number of different types of shows each month looking for new ideas, new trends in exhibits, booths, promotional items, materials and marketing ideas that work. 

Hits and Misses

We will also offer up awards for Hits: in small displays, presentation, marketing, promotional items, and staff as chosen by my fellow attendees at the shows (by interview, Twitter,).  The idea is to feature those companies who are doing the right things to take advantage of the trade show environment. Creative new ideas and best used of space and materials.  This not a measure of how much is spent or how fancy the display it is about execution.
It is often said you lean more from mistakes than success so with that in mind we will also have the “That Sucks” aware for those companies who really do all the wrong things including but not limited to: embarrassing themselves, their customers, exhibits done in poor tasted or extremely bad design or just bad taste in general.  While we will not do any public “hanging” we will talk about why they won the distinction and what could be done to avoid repeating their success. 

Three in a Row

The first three shows are very important shows in their respective industries: CES the biggest show for Consumer Electronics, The Affiliate Summit (also in Vegas) the most important show relating to Affiliate Internet marketing, and finally the PPAI Show for the promotional products industry.  These shows run back to back from January 6 to 9 for CES Jan 9- 11 for Affiliate show and 11-14 for the PPAI Show.
I will be attending each of these shows to meet with exhibitors and attendees to gage their mood, trends and outlook for their respective industries for the coming year.  I will be taking pictures for educational purposes not to embarrass anyone but to make everyone’s trade show experience better.  If your booth is picked for an “award” you will be notified before the results are published.

Year End Reviews are always to late

While it is good to look back on the year in review I think it is more valuable to look at trends as they are developing during the year so you can take advantage of them before it is history.  Good luck in 2011 let’s all look forward and not backwards this year to make all our trade shows more fun and profitable.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Apple Does not do Retail but Does a great Exhibit

With over 300 stores worldwide one would be excused if they thought Apple was in retail. Fact is they do sell their products at these locations but to call it retail is to ignore the obvious. Apple marketing is not like anyone else’s, as many of its competitors wrongly assume but its many loyal “Fans” know.  Apple is different so why should their stores not be different.
Retail is an environment where Apple Stores are part of an eco system
Retail is about place, products, pricing, and promotion. In retail making a sale is the primary focus for a store; the retail environment is where everything relating to the customer experience, from the different products on display, visible inventory, music, feature displays, special product placements, promotions, and personnel (clerks) serve the goal of increasing the chance someone will make a purchase. Walk into nearly any retail environment and you will find these key elements along with a “theme” that is usually distinctive and conducive to “shopping”.
If the comparison stopped here Apple would clearly not be classified as a “real” retailer, they have no inventory on display, no promotion, no music, no clerks (not the same as Apple well trained staff) , and very few non Apple products and no competitive products to compare.
Apple has figure out if they did not invent the concept of “eco-system marketing” where everything relating to Apple reinforces the Apple vision of itself. The products, the marketing message, the colors, are all part of the “design elements” included in the total eco system are all non-Apple products approve by Apple that support and promote the Apple vision.  But most critical is Apple’s ability to totally control the message.
Apple does not do random and it certainly does not follow convention
This is not to say Apple does not make mistakes or missteps it does and will in the future the difference is they know what they want to accomplish, so if it does not work as designed (be it product, marketing campaign, whatever) they recognize it early enough to cut their losses. Where others see failed products as a failure Apple sees it as a learning experience and moves on.
Apple is always promoting itself from the perspective of a total experience where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  It is not the product apart from the whole it is the total experience, solution, and empowerment that comes from buying into the Apple vision.
So if the Apple stores are not retail stores what are they?
Apple gives the public a trade show exhibit experience not a retail experience. Interesting Apple has a history of avoiding any trade shows where they do not have complete control like CES in favor  of their own hosted shows (MacWorld, Apple Expo) to great success.  When those shows no longer serve the Apple purpose they move on.
  At a trade show the exhibitors have their own booth space to exhibit their products and promote their company.  They do this in a venue with 100s if not 1,000s of other companies all vying for the attention of the attendees.  In some ways trade shows offer a greater chance to make a sale because of the close association of industry related companies as the exhibitors are not mutual exclusive so attendees are free to pick and choose which companies they will do business.  In the consumer retail world very much like shopping in shopping malls where there are a lot of shopping choices.
The real difference is focus, where retail is about making a sale of a product.  Trade shows are about selling the Company’s message.  The company’s vision, along with its products are all on display within their booth space.  When done properly the booth “sells” the company to the attendees.  The exhibitors display their products in demo areas where attendees are invited to touch and feel the products in a control environment exclusive of competitive products.  Where knowledgeable staffers are available to interface with attendees hopefully to convert them into customers.    
Apple has all its products out for all to touch and play with, in a very non promotional layout, with no visible inventory or non-Apple product in the demo area.  Ever seen an HP computer or NOKIA phone in an Apple Store?
As the trade show booth staffs are divided by functions so when they meet visitors in the booth they can provide the right people for the right situation, Apple’s store staff is divided by functions and trained to be experts if not a “genius”. 
When third party products are part of a trade show display it is to show support for the exhibitors products more than promote the other product like you would expect in a retail environment.  Ever notice how the non Apple products are on display shelves in the back of the store?
So why is it important in a Trade Show related article?
In my mind Apple has taken the trade show concept of “selling” the message not products to accomplish their corporate goals beyond just selling products.  Apple has proven when consumers buy into their message the products take care of themselves and competition is left far behind.   Apple is selling a message at its stores they don’t care if you come in just to look and touch the products without making a purchase as long as you are sold on the Apple vision.
Sooner or later they know they will get you as a customer if you buy into the vision. No retailer could afford to have people buying only into their vision while not buying their products, since Apple can afford to wait one can only conclude they are not in Retail.

EXHIBITOR magazine - Article: Deadly Intentions, November 2010

Theme displays can be a very dangerous strategy at trade shows given the possibility of a flop causing a company a real loss of market share. But sometimes it works beyond expectations.  I think this is the case with the  PayLock LLC exhibit at the International Parking Institute Conference & Expo published in a case study by Linda Armstrong.

It's best when she tells the story.  The real test if it works is when attendees love it and competitors complain.

EXHIBITOR magazine - Article: Deadly Intentions, November 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

3 Tradeshow Myths and How to Handle Them


I: You get what you pay for

If only it was true. True quality is relative to the price but not always the direct match we are lead to believe. Many companies waste money by poor planning, poor execution, and poor choice of vendors. The unfortunate aspect of tradeshows is the enormous amount of details which needs to be resolved in a relative short period of time.
Three things you can do to save your company money;
1. Don’t become the bottleneck in the process, if you are reading this it means you are in a position to impede or expedite decisions that have a direct impact on cost and performance of your tradeshow group.
2. Develop a schedule of things to be done and delegate the items to others who can perform them just as well as you but be very specific of the task and appropriate actions to be taken.
3. Make sure your vendors have actual tradeshow experience and dedicated to helping you, not just themselves.
The pop-up on the left is $3,330 the pop-up on right cost $2,727 same product different vendors.
.mural_02      mural_02

II: The more the better

This is true when referring to qualified leads but not much else regarding tradeshows. More space, more show floor promotions, more bags, more handouts, more staff, more product, more signs, etc. do not compare to more prepared. And certainly more money is not always the answer, although sometimes it is.
To get more of the first (qualified leads, sales) without spending more of the last (money) YOU meaning you need to realize how important your role is in the process and realize the clearer your desires are presented earlier in the process the better the results. Five minutes of your time at the right time can save hours and hundreds if not thousands of dollars later.
Three things you can do to better impact the process;
1. Set out in clear written form the company’s objectives for each tradeshow, including how it fits into the corporate strategy, how success should be measured, the budget and your hot buttons, (the things only you can judge). Then get it approved by those who will judge the success.
2. Utilize your staff to handle important tasks while outsourcing those tasks others can do better at lower cost so you and your staff can do the jobs that will have the greatest impact.
3. Require all booth staff to attend training before they can staff a booth. The pair on the right are too busy with texting to pay any attention to attendees at this very busy (except for their booth) show.  
        NO 101
(Photo and Preempt Marketing)

III: A tradeshow is just a tradeshow or your marketing and sales department believe “tradeshows are a big waste of …”

These words are music to the ears of a competitor who really understands the value of a successful tradeshow. Tradeshows are expensive but with a good strategy, good execution, and good follow-up the results can be spectacular. And no a tradeshow is not any tradeshow they are all different and the results to be gained are directly related to the choices made for going into the show in the first place. Finally if your tradeshows have been a waste of time, money or resources then you are dealing with the wrong approach.
Three ways to tell if you are on the right track.
1. Company (meaning management) have developed clear trade show strategies including but not limited to:
1.1. Written goals for each show (i.e. leads, sales , meetings, etc.)
1.2. Realistic budget for each show
1.3. Approved staff training
2. Also given you the authority to match the responsibility you have with each show.
3. Make themselves available on short notice to deal with approvals where you need their input.
It may be a bit of a stretch to think you would  ever have everything you want but make sure you at least have what you need. Look to other departments not normally in the process for help when you need internal help, like HR for training help. Many companies have cut staff in trade show departments, if they had one at all but given the short term nature of events it should be possible to pull in other corporate resources to help if timed properly. Managers should be involved when their departments are responsible for certain elements of the show (marketing, product managers, sales).