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15 Creative uses for your trade show display (when you aren’t at a trade show)

Written by Susan Ratliff on July 3rd, 2013. Posted in Uncategorized

You’ve invested a ton of money to create a cool trade show display so don’t stick it away in storage when you’re not at a show. Here is a list of creative places and occasions where you can use your back wall structure, custom table covers, banner stands, podiums and other exhibit properties in between events to help you amortize your investment and give you a bigger bang for your buck.

  • Public Seminars
  • In-house training classes
  • Sponsorship Opportunities
  • Sales Meetings
  • Mall Marketing
  • Recruiting
  • Fundraisers
  • Reseller Support
  • Lobby Display
  • Media Events
  • Information Center
  • Special events
  •  Employee Recognition
  •  Product Showcase
  •  Charitable Campaigns

Collect trade show leads your sales team will love

Written by Susan Ratliff on May 29th, 2013. Posted in generating leads

Curtis Gattis at Sparksight recently posted about why sales teams hate tradeshow leads.   His five tips are great. Here are a few additions from my perspective

 Set trade show Goals: Curtis’ #1 recommendation is key.  Too few companies even have a conversation about the goals they wish to accomplish before the show. The assumption of course, is to get leads, but there are so many other goals to accomplish while you are there.  The discussion needs to take place before the sales team goes to the show.  The more goals you have to accomplish, the more chances for success.  Getting quality customer leads is first, but look at what else you can do while you are there.

  • How about assigning someone to collect competitive intelligence.  Your competitors will probably be there, why not observe and report back with some useful data. 
  • How about seeking publicity?  What can you do at your booth or at the show that would attract a reporters attention? Are you bringing in the company top gun, featuring a celebrity at your booth or launching a new product or service? Send out some media releases and invite local reporters to your booth.  Be ready to give them a newsworthy experience.
  • Do some market research.  You have a million dollar opportunity to check the pulse of the public. Ask your target customers what you want to know about what they want, what they hate and how you can help.  You will be surprised at the amazing and valuable answers you will uncover.

Rank those trade show leads:  How many times have you seen attendees toss their business cards in a bowl for a drawing without first talking to a salesperson.  How about the salesperson who swipes a prospect’s badge after a qualifying conversation, but adds no intimate details about the person or what they needed?  Technology is taking over the lead generating process with computer screen surveys and apps on iPhones and tablets, but too often important questions are skipped and incomplete info is gathered. Leads like that are about as valuable as pulling a cold prospect list off a google search.  I personally hate that with the new technologies we are losing that personal touch that makes a face to face event so unique.  Regardless of all the elaborate bells and whistles out there for gathering data, what your sales team and more importantly what the person who is following up on the leads needs, is useful information that will result in a sales.  Here are three recommendations that will improve the closing ration and follow-up results.

  • What is the quality of the lead?: A simple ranking system with A leads being hot prospects, B leads might purchase within six months and all C leads just stopped by for the drawing or give-a- ways. This step will help a salesperson prioritize the prospects.
  • What does the prospect want?: What was discussed at the booth? What questions did the attendee ask? Do they need confirmation on size, color, deliver time, pricing, availability?  What instructions can the booth staff include on the lead that will help satisfy the prospects questions and fill their expectations regarding what was promised at the show?  This is especially important when the salesperson who took the lead is not the same person who follows up.
  • That personal touch:  It could be days before the follow-up call is made or the email is sent.  It is difficult for any salesperson to remember what was said to any particular prospect on the show floor.  It is even more difficult to make a personal connection when you were not even at the show.  When the salesperson references the business notes about what was discussed at the show they will trigger the prospects memory about the experience at the booth.  If you really want to have some unique ammunition that will help you stand out from the three other companies calling on this prospect, then include a personal comment when recording the lead information.   Did you discuss the results of last nights hockey playoffs?  Did she mention she just had a baby?  Was he excited about his recent move to Chicago?  If you can jot down one or two personal tidbits to refer to in a future conversation you will stand out and be remembered by that prospect.  This personal touch might just be the factor that gets you the sale.   


Profitable Exhibitors = Successful Shows

Written by Susan Ratliff on May 1st, 2013. Posted in exhibitor training

Every company that exhibits in tradeshows should provide some pre-show training to exhibitors.  In addition, when a show producer or event manager provides exhibitor training on goal setting, effective display design, sales strategies, promotions and follow up, exhibitors will be much more productive at the show.   A trained exhibit staff will collect 20% more leads than a company with no training. Believe me, I know from experience that it is rare to find an exhibitor that has ever had a comprehensive course on how to create a great exhibit or work the show. Most companies have never provided exhibitor training and veteran exhibitors who think they have so much experience, actually have been making the same mistakes for years.  Show producers would benefit greatly by offering training to exhibitors in their shows.  An effective training seminar will foster their loyalty, add value to your booth package, reduce turn-over, improve professionalism on the show floor and give your event a competitive edge.  Providing education about networking, effective promotions and marketing strategies will generate free publicity, drive traffic to the show and improve sponsorship sales.  When you give exhibitors relevant tools and training to maximize returns on their investment you will be remembered as the show producer that does more than just sell booth space.  In addition, studies show that meeting an exhibit marketing expert in person, getting questions answered on the spot, seeing real-world examples in action and learning it all from someone other than you or your staff will produce the best results. 

Here’s a start:  The Exhibit Experts Top Ten Tips for a Terrific Show

Plan ahead:

Begin preparations for each event well in advance. Order show services and schedule shipping early. Evaluate display properties for damage.  Attention to details will eliminate headaches and save you time and money

Set Objectives:

Know what you want to accomplish at the show. Create a list of goals with the staff.  Make expectations clear.  Reward exceptional productivity.

Design A Dynamic Display:

Image is everything.  You have only seconds to attract attention. Receive maximum visibility with a coordinated theme and interesting merchandising methods.

Reinforce your marketing message:

Sell benefits! Use large pictures, vibrant colors and minimal text to promote solutions and results. 

Project a positive image:

First impressions are critical. Every display element of your display must reflect your company’s professionalism, personality, integrity and style.

Train you staff

80% of attendees base their opinion of your company on the actions of the employees at your booth.  Prepare your people. 

Develop a sales strategy

Script a presentation that engages, excites, educates and encourages a desired action fom attendees.  Require the staff to follow it as a guide.

Follow-up effectively

Contact all leads within one week. Phone, fax, email or mail information that solicits an appointment, interview or sale. Include a deadline for reply.

Exude Enthusiasm

Nothing makes a more memorable impression than happy, smiling employees eager to assist inquisitive prospects.

Factor in some fun

Loosen up. Don’t be to conservative. Show attendees want to be entertained as well as informed.  Successful exhibitors combine the two.


Face to Face Marketing still desired

Written by Susan Ratliff on March 30th, 2013. Posted in Uncategorized

IMG_6533We’re Baaaaack!   Yes tradeshow attendance, booth sales and number of shows are on the rise again.  The Center for Exhibition Industry Research recently reported that 48 per cent of tradeshow attendees said face to face interactions at expos, tradeshows and conventions are more valuable today than two years ago and expect that satisfaction will grow.  I saw it first hand at Exhibitor 2013, the largest tradeshow for the tradeshow industry.  The show had shrunk over the last three years, but this year the exhibit hall was packed with attendees with healthy budgets. There were many new display manufacturers and suppliers launching products into the marketplace and industry giants were out in full force introducing many new and innovative display concepts.  One of my favorite veteran manufacturers is Featherlite Exhibits.  This family owned company is heading into their 50th year in business.  Three generations of family members currently work in the company that was started by the grandfather that invented the portable folding panel system.


Tradeshows, consumer shows and conventions are not going away no matter how hard the government tries to monkey with our industry.  There is no better way to launch a product, brand a company and meet thousands of new prospects than at a face to face event. 

2013 Featherlite Team

2013 Featherlite Team



Top Twelve Clues Your Tradeshow Team Needs Training

Written by Susan Ratliff on March 20th, 2013. Posted in exhibitor training

I got inspiration for this post after walking through several exhibit halls at the conferences I have been speaking at recently and of course, from David Letterman’s top ten list. These issues have a way of really messing up a perfectly great display and making your booth staff and your company look unprofessional. I’m here to offer advice if you need some work in these areas.


The plans for assembling the display were not in the crate so the I&D crew set up the booth backwards


It takes the average attendee 22.6 seconds to figure out what your company does


The booth decor includes an assortment of half empty cardboard boxes


Cleavage appears to be part of the dress code 


An entire 20’ exhibit is stuffed into a 10×10 booth space 


Three chairs are blocking the view of that brand new $5000 graphic mural 


Three guys in suits are sitting in those chairs talking to each other 


A bowl filled with kit-kats and snickers is the preferred method of customer engagement 


The front counter doubles as a dinner table 


A magnifying glass is required to read the long list of features under the mission statement on the banner stand 


A badge-swipe has replaced the need to ask qualifying questions 


The decorator’s ugly cardboard I.D. sign is still hanging from the rear drape