Trade Show TalesBlog

Trade Shows…. Don’t Bother!

January 12th, 2016 4 COMMENTS

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It’s January

The trade show season is in full swing, and exhibitors are talking about new graphics, giveaways, and Las Vegas. I love this time of year… and to some extent, loath it. I get to hear exhibitors grumble about the cost of a display, poor leads, drayage, and their ROI. And, no matter how much we coach them, there’s always a few marketing managers who just don’t get it. They buy cheap, basic displays, don’t do any pre-show marketing, bring the wrong staff, and then take a cavalier approach to show leads. Their results suck, and they wonder why.

It’s not an age thing. Baby boomers are no better than Millennials, Gen X’ers or Gen Y’ers. So, let’s draw a comparison to other advertising. Would most marketers make these advertising choices?

Magazine Ad:

1. So… the black and white ad is cheaper? Yes, I realize this is a glossy color publication, but B&W ads are  “artistic,” and I can run two for the price of one.
2. Thanks for the publication’s circulation numbers and demographics. No need to explain. I’ll review it later in my “reading” room.
3. My unemployed second cousin is designing the ad with a pirated copy of Illustrator. I’m paying him in pizza and PBR.
4. The sales team doesn’t need to see the ad. It’s their job to sell whatever we tell them to sell.
5. That B&W ad didn’t work. I’m not going to advertise there again. Stupid magazine!

Television Commercial:

Pasted image at 2016_01_12 01_40 PM1. “Video Production for Commercials” [Google Search]. That first one looks just fine.
2. Concept storyboard? Nah! Creativity should be spontaneous!
3. Those 2-4 am slots are cheap. I can run the spots 6 times an hour.
4. Neilsen ratings? That’s for amateurs who don’t trust their “gut.”
5. That television commercial didn’t work. I’m not advertising with them again. Stupid TV station.

Online Banner Ads and PPC:

1. My admin assistant manages our banner ads and PPC. Ruthie — Don’t you handle that?
2. Of course, we have a Google Analytics account. I have the password around here somewhere.
3. $2.50 a click? No brainer. Here’s my credit card. How much could that possibly cost?
4. You saw my banner ad on what site? For what? Oh that’s bad. That’s really bad.
5. That online advertising and PPC didn’t work. I’ve canceled my accounts. Stupid Internet.

Social Media:

1. Blogging? Love it. I’ll post every day for the next year! Starting tomorrow.
2. Who doesn’t love cats and kittens? Let me share.
3. Aren’t LinkedIn and Facebook basically the same? I post the same stuff on both.
4. 75 Tweets today. Where did the day go?
5. That social media didn’t work. What a colossal waste of time. Stupid Social Media.

You get my point. Trade show marketing should be treated with the same intensity, analysis, and professionalism as every other form of marketing. For many companies, it can represent up to 40% of their annual marketing budget; yet, they often see it as a distraction, not an opportunity. If you don’t have time to become an expert, hire an expert. There are many trade show consultants who have devoted their careers to ensure their clients succeed at face-to-face marketing.

Stupid? Not if trade show marketing is done right.

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.


 

2015 Annual State of the Company Letter

January 5th, 2016 COMMENTS

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Happy New Year!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. I know I did! It included nap time on the couch — something I rarely get these days.

We started the year on an upswing with a record-breaking Q1 across all divisions at Classic, including ENW, ClassicMODUL, and Rentals. There were several promising trends — some new, others cultivated in 2012-2014 but coming to fruition in 2015.

EDPA

EDPA Booth

Lightboxes were HUGE — literally! All year, inlines and islands seemed naked without a SEGUE lightbox. Our designers found new and creative ways to add light, whether as a backlit feature or using LED perimeter lights in counters, workstations, and accessories. This extended into Corporate and Retail Environments as well.

To meet this expanding need, Classic developed two new profiles:  a single-sided option for walls and a remarkably thin double-sided option for freestanding lightboxes. If you attended EDPA Access, you saw them both in our booth.

Custom Wood Fabricated Exhibits. Easily the largest growth segment for Classic Manufacturing. We joked that Classic Exhibits has become the largest, most invisible custom builder in North America.  And that’s just fine. Never has our unbranded approach been so valuable. Each and every day we build Custom Exhibits showcasing YOUR brand on crates and setup instructions.

With a heavy focus on design and the use of our CNC shop, Classic builds custom exhibits for our Modular/Hybrid Distributors as well as our Custom Distributors who turn to us when they don’t have the time or capacity to build an exhibit. This has been a very welcome and creative challenge to the Classic staff.

Pokemon

Pokémon World Championships Retail Space

Retail Displays and Corporate Environments. Our work in the Retail and Corporate Environments continues to grow as our Distributors look beyond trade shows. The three largest examples were the Pokemon World Championships Retail Space, The Bonneville Power Administration Visitors Center, and our work inside the Nike Campus.

But it doesn’t stop there. We have open bids on several new corporate environments and are currently building an interactive space within a Midwest car dealership.

Patting Ourselves on the Back. At EXHIBITORLIVE, Classic Exhibits, Eco-Systems Sustainable, and several Classic Distributors were honored with five nominations for the Portable Modular Awards.

Pacifica

2015 PMA Winner Island less than 400 s.f.

Just being nominated is amazing… but we also WON two awards! Classic took home the prize for Best Island Design (400 sq. ft.) and Eco-Systems won best 10 x 10. Both a testament to the beautiful work of our talented Designers!

As if that was not enough, Event Marketer named us one of the Top 50 Manufactures in North America for the third straight year. The award speaks to the amazing work of our Production and Project Management teams!

We have three finalists in this year’s upcoming PMA’s. Be sure to vote for your favorite at the People’s Choice Voting.

Education. Whether in life or work, education is the key to success. Classic Exhibits’ Shared Knowledge University provides a platform for valuable education in our professional worlds. In 2015 we held two SKU sessions. The groups learned about Classic, our people, our products, and our great WEIRD Portlandia home. This year included a new twist… a trip to Cartlandia, one of Portland’s idiosyncratic food cart pods that make Portland… well Portland.

SKU benefited from the participation of great partners and speakers:  Optima Graphics, Cort Furnishings, Display SKUSupply and Lighting, 3 Dog Write, Tim Patterson (The TradeshowGuy) and Pinky Gonzales, the LinkedIn Specialist. They all helped to make Content King at SKU.

Over 65 students earned bachelor degrees, and a few earned graduate degrees. Our congratulations to our first Ph.D. — Dr. Cody. Contact Reid or Jen about attending in May.

Speaking of Reid and Jen. Reid Sherwood and Jen LaBruzza, our resident Road Warriors, hit the streets hard in 2015 visiting distributors, conducting onsite training, and generally spreading joy. If you missed them last year, they have very busy travel schedules in 2016.

Expect them to share news about New Product releases (more on that coming), Exhibit Design Search training, and your needs.

Distributor Visits. I have been doing this for 22 years and 2015 was a record year for distributor visits at Classic. Looking back at my calendar, we averaged a visit about every two weeks. Many were scheduled around client previews of large exhibit builds. Others arranged their own private one-on-one Distributor training — a mini-SKU if you will.

I appreciate these visits so much since I don’t travel much anymore due to my family’s schedule — 9 yr. old twins are BUSY. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce Distributors to our great staff/family at Classic. They’re the people who really make things happen, the folks you don’t see at EXHIBITORLIVE or other industry events.

Please know that our doors are always open. We welcome your visits with or without your clients. And our staff loves meeting you all as well. It helps seal the relationship they have developed with you all over the phone. Not to mention our food, wine, and craft beers are best experienced in person.

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Rental Project from 2015

Rental Growth. Classic Rental Solutions continued its double-digit growth. And it’s really no surprise. Jim Shelman and his crew do what others “can’t” or simply are “unwilling” to do in a rental solution. I love walking through their area to see what they are building. So much of it is as custom as what we are doing on the new build side.

Congrats to the entire CRS team on their growth. It speaks to your ongoing dedication to the service and solutions that customers expect… and often exceeding those expectations.

Strong Sales.
In 2015 we experienced increases across the board at the Classic Family of Companies, including a record Q1, Q2, and Q3. Q4 is yet to be determined.

I would humbly suggest two reasons for our growth.

1. Classic Distributors tapped into our designers earlier in the sales process. By using them as YOUR designer on the initial calls with the clients, we saw our close ratio increase three-fold.

2. More distributors visiting Classic or attending SKU. There is this “moment” when someone steps into our manufacturing plant. It’s tangible and it’s hard to explain fully, but somehow it seems to validate everything that person has heard or been told by Reid, Jen, Mel, Jim, or myself over the years. They see our process, our capabilities, and our people.

Exhibit Design Search (EDS). Last year brought multiple changes to EDS. All of which were geared to make your sales process easier. Some of the highlighted changes/additions include

  • Modified Navigation
  • Easier Sort Feature
  • Expanded My Gallery-Kits, Photos and tips now can be added to your galleries
  • Home Page Redesign – including larger images
  • Printable Product sheets on most product lines
  • A NEW Gallery coming in Early 2016…VERY VERY Exciting!
100DayGuarantee

100-Day Return Guarantee

BELIEVE IT – 100 Day Return Guarantee. In 2015 Classic introduced a 100-Day Return Guarantee on Sacagawea, Perfect 10, Quadro, and FGS.  It was an easy decision since we build it right the first time! We’re proud to be the first company in the exhibit industry to offer this guarantee.

Association Participation. EDPA and E2MA are a key part of the Classic Exhibits’ DNA. I sit on the Board of Directors for The Exhibit Designers and Producers Association while Mel sits on the Board of Directors for the Exhibit and Event Marketers Association and serves as the Treasury Chair. Both associations focus their efforts on the betterment of our industry through Education, Scholarships, Industry Round Tables, and bridging the gaps between the stakeholders in our industry.

I know I speak for Mel when I say we are both very proud of our work in these two associations, and that we are always available to speak to anyone interested in learning more about how they can become more involved.

JZ

John Zipay, Exhibits Northwest, GM

John Zipay (JZ). Classic was excited to add John to our management team in 2015. John is the General Manager of the Exhibits Northwest division of Classic Exhibits which focuses on the Pacific Northwest market.

More than that, John brings a wealth of knowledge to the company with his I&D experience. It’s a perspective we lean on frequently in manufacturing when analyzing a potential exhibit build. His knowledge of the trade show floor has also been beneficial to our distributors when finding the right labor in certain US cities.

Be on the lookout! We are about to launch a new product line. What is it? You will have to wait, but we are close to the formal unveiling. Expect a “soft launch” in late January. You’ll see the full product line at EXHIBITORLIVE. It will change the way you look at building exhibit systems!

Lastly, I offer my sincere thanks to you for being great partners and for supporting the Classic Family. I look forward to working with and seeing you in the coming year.

Be well!

–Kevin
http://twitter.com/kevin_carty
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/kevin-carty/3/800/32a


 

Custom Charging Station with Programmable RGB Lights

December 31st, 2015 COMMENTS

In this video, Mel presents two Custom Charging Stations with Programmable RGB LED Lights. The bistro-style tables include: (8) USB ports, two electrical outlets, and perimeter LED lights. Note the graphic branding on the counter top.

This is a custom variation of the MOD-1432 Bistro Charging Station. Are we shipping lots of charging stations? OH YEA!!!!

Why are Marketers so Uncomfortable with Trade Show Marketing?

December 28th, 2015 COMMENTS

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Some marketers will hint at it. Others will grumble. Then there are the ones who are honest. They simply don’t understand trade show marketing. That’s not surprising. It’s rarely taught on the undergraduate or graduate level. At best, it’s mentioned in passing in a textbook. I know. After earning an MBA, I went to work for an exhibit builder. On Day 1, I was clueless.

I’d love to say that trade show marketing is marketing… but that’s not entirely true. It’s odder, less compact, and more unpredictable than other forms marketing. And, depending on the company, it can be more difficult to measure results.

3D vs. 2D

Marketing has traditionally been 2D:  print and television, brochures, websites, etc. It’s also been static and somewhat controllable. Trade show marketing or face-to-face marketing is as much about human interaction as the message or the branding. It’s about creating conversations, before, during, and after the show. Then there’s the booth design. That’s outside most marketers comfort zone and the dollars involved make it even scarier. It’s easy to panic when the costs begin to hit triple digits for even a modest island exhibit.

Variable Measurements

Unlike print, television, or web ads, there are no standards or no reliable source for subscriptions, ratings, or clicks. Counting leads works, but it’s a crude measurement. More sophisticated exhibitors track pre-show promotions, leads, and sales through the entire sales channel, but they are the exception.

Competitors

SoYoungTrade shows are truly a competitive sport when it comes to marketing. It’s the one time you and your competitors are all in the same room, all vying for attention with the same audience. You see what they’re doing… and vice versa.

Uncontrollable Variables

No one likes unpredictability when it comes to their marketing campaign and implementation. Yet, despite one’s best efforts, trade shows can be chaotic. Freight doesn’t arrive on time. Items are broken. Flights are cancelled. An exhibitor on the far side of the exhibit hall is giving away beer and sandwiches. The exhibitor nearest you has their music so loud you can’t talk to potential clients without shouting.

Unfamiliarity/Knowledge

Most medium-sized companies participate in two to five trade shows per year. Some as few as one. That makes it challenging to become an expert quickly. Plus, each show may not only have a different audience, but also different rules, layout, and resources. Too often, just when the internal “expert” understands how to maximize the company’s trade show efforts that person is assigned to other responsibilities. Then someone new has to start fresh.

Sales and Marketing

PhiladelphiaCommercialBefore, during, and after a trade show, sales and marketing must be partners at dance. You’re a team. Face-to-face marketing requires sales skills and marketing expertise perfectly choreographed. And no matter how much sales and marketing claim to play nice, there’s always a wall at most companies. It’s that wall that dooms most exhibitors from fully benefiting from their trade show program.

So how do you become an expert at trade show marketing? Four tips.

  1. Go to trade shows as often as possible as an attendee. Ask questions and listen to what works and what doesn’t. Plus, be willing to take classes at industry events about trade show marketing, even if you goal isn’t to become a trade show certified manager.
  2. Rely on your local trade show professional. If they only know how to sell you a display, but not how to succeed at trade show marketing, then find someone else.
  3. Tap into industry consultants. These folks know how to avoid the potholes and the meandering paths so often taken by trade show exhibitors. You can find them in LinkedIn, Google, or simply ask your local vendor.
  4. Plan to succeed. Create a comprehensive plan that targets pre-show, show, and post-show marketing and put specific goals in place for each one.

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite

**********************************************

Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.


 

560 Design Mondays… But Who’s Counting

December 18th, 2015 COMMENTS

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Design Monday…. 560 Weeks

It’s been 10+ years, starting with April 18, 2005. This week represents the 560th weekly Design Monday with over 1300 individual designs. During that time, we’ve missed a week here and there — usually on a holiday — but only 3-4 at most.

It started at EXHIBITOR 2005. We had a binder full of designs in our booth, and Mike Swartout doing renderings for distributors on the show floor. Time and again, distributors would say to us, “Oh, I didn’t know you did [fill in the blank] — customization, modular exhibits, hybrids, counters, etc.” So we said, “How do we show distributors who we are, not who they think we are?” The decision was made to send new designs to the Classic Exhibits Network each week. We chose Sunday because we wanted the email to be one of the first things distributors saw Monday morning.

Over the years, the templates have changed, and Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits was added to the mix about two years ago.

Frankly, our discipline has been impressive. Week in and week out, we’ve sent you 2-3 new designs at 12 noon PST (3 pm EST) each Sunday. Most Design Mondays tap into the skills of designers, project managers, graphic designer(s), Kevin Carty, our Production Manager, and me. Not every design is a winner, but we’ve done OK and it’s always been a wonderful place to experiment and get your feedback.

If this seems like we’re patting ourselves on the back — we are. And you too. Many of the designs showcase your design requests and your consultative work with customers. Some are presented “as is” in Design Monday. Others serve to push concepts even further. Not everyone gets built, but that’s OK as well.

We’d like to think Design Monday has accomplished three things:

1. It made us a design leader,

2. It’s been HUGELY instrumental to our consistent year-over-year growth, and

3. It has served to bind us all closer together, via the designs and the blog.

While you may not read/review DM each week, you always know we’re here to assist you on your next project.

Here’s to Design Monday 122115! Have a very Happy Holiday.

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite

**********************************************

Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.