» Diary of a Young Marketer

Trade Shows: B2B’s Black Friday



We’re coming off of retail’s hottest annual weekend. “Black Friday” has seeped deep into Thanksgiving Thursday and extends an arm all the way into “Cyber Monday” spurring economic growth. This weekend uses a combination of unbeatable deals and a proximity to upcoming holidays to drive sales.  In the business-to-business sales world such a weekend event doesn’t exist. Or does it?

Retail’s craziest weekend has a lot of the traits that make trade shows so important in the b2b world. There is a predetermined date range, usually one that falls annually. A consumer base that is well aware of the buying opportunity. And of course, competition vying for dollars in a tight window. So what do we make of these parallels?

Let’s analyze how retail, both online and brick-and-mortar, market themselves for this period. Just using trends from what I see from hundreds of brands over this weekend, I think we have an idea for what must be working.



Announce Participation

In advance of this weekend, my inbox is flooded with emails just letting me know to be on the lookout for their participation in the retail mega-weekend. Using email campaigns and personal invitations lets attendees, and specifically your prospects, know that you will be at the show.



Increase Frequency

From about a month out through the weekend itself, I receive increasing communication like the above participation announcements along with other emails. Saturating me with the brand via email, text, web ads and even push notifications on my phone. The key here with b2b is to find the line that will get you top of mind without annoying your prospects. Utilize less abrasive, but still highly visible tactics like physical advertisements at the show venue, sponsored hotels and even airports and taxis.



Utilize a Loss Leader

Brick-and-mortar’s favorite option is to offer an unbelievable, one-time deal to get customers in their store. This may be sold at a loss just to capitalize on priming purchasing in that store. Is there something you could offer a show-only deal on to get attendees into your space and purchasing? Consider products or services that can be leveraged into additional, full margin sales on the spot.



Ride Momentum

Retailers know that this weekend is just the beginning of the holiday shopping push by consumers and will a lot of times extend deals and maintain communication frequency. Your show attendees might not have purchased anything at the show, but leverage post show momentum to capture revenue shortly after by strategic follow up.



Do I envision a day when a b2b trade show opens the door to a stampede of aggressive purchasers literally fighting over who can spend their money on your products? No (as intriguing as that may be), but I think the tactics used in retail consumer marketing to create that buzz can be utilized in b2b to effectively drive revenue.

Analyze your clientele, find out their consumer spending habits, find out what works on them during the holiday sales rush. Chances are, it will work on them in the trade show realm as well.

Easy Ways to Buy Time with Attendees

Trade show attendees are faced with dozens, sometimes even hundreds of booths to potentially visit over a short window of time. A lot of our posts over the years have touched on ways exhibitors can break through the clutter. Once the attendee is there though, how can you get them stay long enough to hear you out. Here are some of the simple ways to get the attendees to stay in your space for more than just a hello.


Interactive Displays

There are some incredible interactive displays out there, with engaging programming and visuals. But even just transferring information that normally would come in a brochure or flyer to a screen with images and animation can capture the attention of an attendee better than their hard copy counterpart. Consider using touchscreens, iPads and/or e-literature in your booth.


Cushy Flooring

You know from standing in the booth all day how uncomfortable it becomes. Attendees are also spending a lot of time on their feet, so offer some relief with a cushioned floor for your space. Whether that’s splurging on the most padding available for carpet or using a foam floor with additional padding, your attendees will want to stand in your space just to get a reprieve from the concrete and hard floors all around. Utilize that time to build relationships.



Creating comfy spaces for clients and prospects to meet with exhibitors is becoming increasingly popular. For the same reasons as above, attendees are looking for a break. Think of the advantage you have with a prospect if they’re seated on your sofa versus standing and talking to your competitor. You will get more of their time naturally.


Charging Stations

If an attendee is at a trade show then they aren’t in their office. Work doesn’t stop because the show is going on, so they’re going to be glued to the phone making calls and checking emails. Grab some of their time by offering them a battery boost from your charging station. Keeping them from having to exit the show hall to charge a dying battery will be much appreciated, and you can chat with them while they wait.



Know your audience for this, but I know certain exhibitors that have success offering alcohol and/or snacks to attendees. Have them enjoy it in your space and take the opportunity to talk with them while they do.


You’re probably seeing the theme of comfort and hospitality. Trade shows are draining for attendees too. Acknowledging their discomfort on the floor can show them that you’re putting them first as a customer as well. Use a combination of the above to generate a desirable experience for your attendees. If you don’t want every passerby to indulge, create a VIP lounge with seating, charging stations and drinks for the key guests. Whether for the few or for the many, make the sales staff part of a relaxing experience as opposed to pushy and attacking. For both the exhibitor and the attendee, every second on the show floor counts, use these ideas to make the most of the time for all involved.

Important Considerations for Space

retailspaceIn all areas of our business, dealing with trade show booths, marketing events and all manor of branded environments, we are challenged with working within a particular space size. Fortunately, the technology we use to make scaled renderings and mock ups helps us avoid any major errors before production, but there’s still been many creative and well-intentioned ideas crushed because of the parameters of the space. I’ll lay out some of the points of emphasis that can help maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the space.



Too often the focus is getting as much into a space as possible, and aside from a cluttered aesthetic, the physical pathway for the consumer can suffer. When considering the size of the space you may need, think about how much you’d need to hit all of the major branding and messaging elements while allowing for a natural, logical progression throughout. This might mean they start at a reception counter in the corner and work clockwise through a space, or maybe they start in the center for qualification and are directed to the left for product A or the right for product B. This applies to trade show spaces, retail, showrooms and even things like mobile marketing units.

If you have a set space already (purchased 20×20 trade show space, or leased retail space) work backwards and pair down all of the potential items until an organized flow develops.

Utilize things like monitors and touchscreens to take the place of multiple displays and shelving for physical products. Also, take advantage of height where you’re able to, to decrease sprawl.



Review regulations for the particular location, whether a showsite, retail space or any other venue there will be rules, codes and regs that can come into play. For instance, in the trade show world, the standard is using IAEE‘s guidelines. Some of these include a capped heights across backwalls, towers and freestanding displays to prevent obstructing neighboring booths.

Also consider ADA compliance. This comes into play a lot for creating those pathways for flow mentioned above, and requiring 36″ width for wheelchair accessibility. Which also allows a good minimum width for other consumers as well. ADA also has ramping requirements for raised flooring to consider.



When creating a space, play director of the scene. What do you want your consumer to see, what should the focus be. Conversely, sometimes you need your staff to be the ones that see with a clear path when theft may be an issue or proprietary processes are being shown and they need to have photos/videos withheld. Remember that people will likely start looking top left and that below the knee is almost never seen. Balance barriers around the space so that they are directing traffic without walling off areas making them uninviting. Prominently place logos and messaging, and neatly merchandise product.

The purpose of all of these areas above is to drive the best possible consumer experience. Avoid clutter, create a natural flow and keep within the rules. Remember that the design of the space goes beyond the design of the displays within it. Utilize the aide of 3d rendering. It requires time and patience, but can illuminate pitfalls as well as new neat ideas. Take notice of the stores and booths that catch your eye and why that was, maybe there are takeaways for your design there as well.

It is important to remember that your space speaks to your clients about your firms capabilities, its image and may even influence their satisfaction with your organization. The space is also impacting your employees; their pride in the organization and attitude.  Temporary or otherwise this is their work environment!



Using Data to Enhance Trade Shows and Events

We are in the ‘Age of Information’ Collection. From government to marketers to social media, data is being collected everywhere we go and enormous data centers are continually popping up to store it. When used, and used correctly, data can be very beneficial. For instance, personally I use a Fitbit to track, establish and work from a baseline for sleep time, workout time, heart rate, calorie burn, weight, body-fat, etc. Professionally, I use a CRM to maintain sales analytics and various web applications to monitor digital marketing efforts. Utilizing the data from these things has allowed me to tailor my future efforts to what has proven to be most effective.

This certainly isn’t anything new for marketers, especially those versed in SEO and digital marketing in general. For whatever reason though, it seems to fall flat for many when it comes to live events like trade shows.  Why is this? Well, you have to have a way to capture, and you have to have a way to get people to opt-in to giving their information. This isn’t nearly as easy in a routine human interaction as it would be in a digital setting. It can also be harder to capture information over a long sales cycle. For example, the call is initiated with a customer at a show, but the deal closes eight months later.

What follows lays out for you the most important areas to measure and what tools can aide in doing so: » Read More

Location, Location, Location


Location matters in real estate, restaurants, retail, advertising, SEO, on the trade show floor and just about everywhere else, especially in marketing. One area we deal with in particular where there are very specific pros and cons to location is the location of the show itself. Here we’ll touch on the obvious pros, but delve a little deeper on the cons and the potential pitfalls to be aware of. » Read More

Retail Design 101

RetailDesignOver my six years with FrontLine Exhibits one of the areas we’ve looked to expand and develop has been retail and showroom design. The demand for us to entertain this segment derived from our clients who wanted to have us utilize some of the same core competencies we’ve shared success with on the trade show/event side into their other customer facing environments. Now we have a portfolio of designs for office entries, corporate showrooms, and retail spaces utilizing products like touchscreens, gondola shelving, wall graphics, window graphics, custom wood displays and custom product merchandising displays. All offered in a complete package starting from design conception through final installation. A lot of the people that come to us though, come with these projects as something added on to their usual workload, or just beginning this process for their company. In other words, they’re leaning on our experience to help them achieve success. Here is what that process looks like: » Read More

Cross-Utilization of Talents

Having a business degree in marketing and working in marketing related positions/industries for my career, I have seen how marketing and marketers can get downgraded among our colleagues in other business disciplines such as accounting, finance or management. We deal in the qualitative, creative realm versus the hard numbers, quantitative side of theirs. The truth is, marketers have to be well-rounded. The job requirements demand the ability to be creative (aid in developing consistent branding and advertising), be well-written (aid in developing copy and messaging), be accountable for numbers (manage budgets, measure return on investment), be a negotiator (with third-party agencies, venues, vendors, etc.), be able to delegate tasks and manage people, and be strategic (implementation, marketing mix, analyzing opportunities). Of course, everyone has strengths and weaknesses within these areas, but unlike the accountant who knows there is a limit on what is asked of them, the marketer is required to be a swiss army knife of business talents.

One of the most exciting things about being involved in the marketing world, trade shows and events in particular, is seeing how people find ways to cross-utilize their talents. Many clients and vendors of ours use these skills to further a good cause. This can be in the form of a charitable event for their company, side-work with a non-profit and/or developing their own event altogether.

It is common for our clients to come to us to order items they’re going to use for charity or side projects. Because unlike the finance person, the people in our industry know exactly how to organize, market/fundraise and execute events. We’ve seen our clients aide with (or more) charity golf tournaments, bike races, 5ks, food drives, church activities, functions for kids, and on and on.

In addition to charity and community involvement, we have many clients that utilize their skills for their own hobbies as well. That creative side likes to shine after work hours in the form of food (products and catering), music, photography, art and other creative outlets.

I love finding out about people’s non-work interests, and the sheer joy it brings to everyone’s faces to be doing this work despite the inherent stress and anxiety of these projects. I know we’re always happy when we get to touch some of these projects as well. It helps everyone involved to break free from what can become the mundane day-to-day.

As we head into spring/summer and event season, we look forward to again seeing how our clients are using their knowledge, experience and skill on their passions!

Trade Show Display Trade-Off

The biggest portion of our trade show display requests involve five main factors: uniqueness of design, production lead time, ease of setup/takedown, portability and of course price. Commonly, people will be looking for a cost-effective, easy, portable, unique next-day display. I definitely want that as well! Unfortunately, that is our unicorn. Consider these five main attributes as budgeted out of 100 “points.” Here is the trade-off, to increase one you must take away from another. I’ve put together a general guideline that I hope is helpful in assessing the right display for your organization based upon these five areas. » Read More

5 Habits for Trade Show Success

tradeshowhabits2017 is under way, and with a new year comes resolutions that drive us to be better. Seeing as we’re already completing the first month, many could already be behind on these or even have long since thrown in the towel! Between staying faithful to my 2017 plans and adapting to our first baby, my days look nothing like they did before. But what I know will be the key to success is creating good habits and routines. Mapping out my days allowing the time and effort required to best accomplish each task (if successful, 2018’s goal will be more sleep as I can see that is the trade-off).

Good habits and routines do not just apply to success in personal goals, but very much apply to those at our jobs too. Exhibit coordination and event planning is extremely detail oriented, and far too often is not allotted the time and forethought needed for optimal results.

Here are five habits to start now, before many of you have fully jumped into this year’s trade show campaign: » Read More

Conversation with a First-Time Exhibitor

We have the benefit here of regularly working with start-up companies as well as individuals who have taken on trade show and event responsibilities for the first time. I thought it would be a good idea to chat with someone who has been through that and could share some insight.

Earlier this year I began a dialogue with a new prospective client, Jessica Pohlen with Cata Company. She recently moved to the United States and opened her company’s first office outside of Brazil. Recently, she completed her first trade show as an exhibitor, and also the first for her company in the US. Hopefully, those who are considering exhibiting can learn from her experiences. » Read More