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I just encountered a situation that was frustrating, time consuming and a big turnoff but also one that let me see things from “the other side” because in the past “the shoe was on the other foot.” The issue: What happens when your company pays to sponsor an event and your competitors show up?

Earlier this week I was asked to “not attend” a seminar series which is part of an ongoing certification process I’m pursuing because an industry competitor (one I’ve encountered exactly once in 18 years) was sponsoring the breakout sessions. Having already paid a large fee and after presenting some reasonable assurances to the organization and the sponsor, I’m allowed to attend.

Several times in the past I’ve had to personally “un-invite” competitors that have planned to come to client education events my firm presents. Usually after hearing these events are ‘proprietary’ the competition respectfully relents. However, I have had people “crash” our seminars and being gracious to those less deserving sometimes is easier than calling the bouncers!

Presently, for my congregation I’m just starting the sales process for sponsorships of a unique event. Having been on both sides of this issue, I’m curious to see how the marketplace will react and what, if anything, they will demand.

As a sponsor of a B2B Marketing event when your competitor shows up in a sense, you’re paying money to gather a crowd to make it easier for them to network and solicit the same business you were going after. Your competition is at “the event” eating food you’ve paid for; drinking beverages you’ve financed and/or learning from the speakers, presentations, seminars that you’ve underwritten.

Ideally, the organizing entity of an event can control or address this without ruffled feathers and well in advance of a public faceoff! If they fail to do so then as the sponsor you can either appeal to your competitor to honor the exclusivity of the event and back out of attending; allow them to attend with a stern admonition regarding soliciting; be magnanimous and graciously welcome them to your event; or simply ignore them and encourage your team to work twice as hard.

To avoid the situation on the front side, some things to inquire about prior to agreeing to an event sponsorship include:

Whether or not your sponsorship allows you to dictate prohibiting anyone from attending?

 Whether or not your sponsorship is exclusive or category exclusive?

If non-exclusive, is there any guarantee of logo placement, activity separation, or classification of sponsorship level that will delineate each company’s recognition?

Is there an expectation of right of first refusal for future sponsorships?

Of course, both events and sponsorships come in all manner of varieties. There is a lot to consider, including the presence or lack of presence by your competition.


As we enter a beautiful Fall/Winter season, I know I’ll end up using the excuse of “preparing for hibernation” when stuffing myself at holiday parties and dinners. But the truth is that I’m not preparing for a long slumber; I’m actually in the process of waking up from one- just like everyone else.

“What slumber?” you ask? The Great Recession, my friends. Like a bear waiting out the cold of winter, companies of all sizes have been keeping safe and warm in their proverbial “caves” (those that were lucky enough to make it before the blizzard hit, that is).

 So, like bears awakening from their extended nap time, we’re hungry. The storm of the economy is on its way out and sunny days are just around the corner. Whether you’re in retail, manufacturing, service, or logistics, now is the time to stretch and thrive again.

Wikipedia provides a great definition of hibernation that I feel draws a perfect analogous relation to our current economic climate: animals conserve energy and food when supplies are limited just like companies. The most intriguing part of this analogy is when it supposes that “the animal’s slowed metabolic rate … leads to a reduction in body temperature and not the other way around.”

Similarly, I believe that it is our slowed consumption rate that lowers the temperature of the economy- not the other way around.

 If this is the case, then the question remains: how do we pick it back up? How does a company, with little to no resources left, escape from their cave and enter the sunlight again? It is by the promise of a feast.

When a bear awakens, he goes to the shallow stream. He jumps right in the middle of the flopping salmon and eats until he can’t eat any more. In the same light, it’s time for us to find the shallow water and begin our feast!

The shallow water is different for each company. For some it’s exhibiting at a tradeshow and for others, it’s hosting a highly publicized sale. As with any promotion of your company, there must be proper planning, executing, follow-up, and measuring.

It’s time for companies to unleash their marketing team to come up with a plan of attack, from cradle to cradle- a never-ending cycle of creating interest and developing leads. Invest in your future by expanding your business, not by hiding in the cave.

Check out our latest post for Carolina Marketer by President of Skyline Exhibits & Design, Steve Hoffman. This blog was also featured on our corporate blog site Skyline Trade Show Tips.

Just because your exercise routine gets interrupted when you attend or exhibit at a tradeshow, you don’t have to miss out on opportunities to keep the pounds off while getting healthier and more energized.  Just like at your local health club, start by getting ready in the locker room.

Of course for exhibitors, the “LOCKER ROOM” preparation should be a pre-show meeting two weeks before the show involving everyone on your team.

To avoid injury, you start your workout with a good “STRETCH.”  When planning for your tradeshow activities, go ahead and stretch your goals.  Reach out to attendees.  Push yourself until you feel it where you know your company is trying to achieve something.

OK, next exercise, it’s time to CRUNCH the numbers.  Sure in your mind you may dream of having ideal abs.  But the same way a smart workout is aimed at realistic objectives, your tradeshow budgeting also needs to be realistic.

Next up, take some “CLASSES.”  At the gym you improve by regular attendance at cardio, kick-boxing, yoga or boot camp.  At many tradeshows, you can vastly increase the benefit of attending by taking advantage of general sessions, breakouts, continuing education units, speakers and roundtables.  Even if the content in these ‘classes’ is familiar and known, it’s always good to “JOG” your memory and remind yourself of best practices.

When you’re working out at your gym, most of us are good about carrying water and “STAYING HYDRATED.”  Ditto on the show floor.  Convention centers are very dry.  Without realizing it, by staffing a booth for hours or walking “LAPS” on the show floor up and down the aisles your body and mind require extra water.

Whether you’re at the gym or exhibiting at a tradeshow, you want to sweat!   Exercise resulting in a good sweat is healthy.  “SWEATING” the details of your exhibit marketing program allows you to do the “HEAVY LIFTING” and meet the responsibility of representing your brand at a time and place where your best customers as well as best prospects are all present.

Grunting, loudly exhaling, encouragements from your spotters are all sounds one might hear at the club.  Similarly, on the tradeshow floor the organizations that get the best results “MAKE SOME NOISE.”  They are noticed, talked about, stand out and others want to emulate their results.

You can and will burn calories by building a tradeshow booth, walking the floor, participating in the golf tournament, or taking advantage of the hotel’s workout center.  And like your regular workout, when it comes to attending or exhibiting you should “MAKE IT FUN.”  Many should explore ways to “LOSE WEIGHT” by reducing the cost per hundred pounds of weight (c.w.t.) for your tradeshow materials as this will also save significantly on your drayage budget.

Working out can be a great way to “GET A LEAD” on your day and tradeshows are great ways to get leads that will propel your business further.

Time to make those resolutions about how you will be different this year…better.

Are you a booth staffer? Is your resolution to improve your staffing skills?

A display can only take your company so far at a show. It’s the interactions and relationship built by the booth staffers that get leads for your company. A booth design is a great way to attract attention but a booth design plus an engaging booth staff is a surefire way to stay with people after the show.

Will you strive to plan, set goals & expectations as well as budget better for your tradeshows this year?

The sooner you start planning for your tradeshows, the less stressful the experience will be. Establish a timeline with your exhibiting company to include clear deadlines and expectations for staff and the company. With clear communication and understanding, a successful tradeshow experience is always possible!

Is your resolution to have a better follow-up strategy with your prospects after the tradeshow?

If you don’t establish contact with the leads you received from the show, you will have wasted your own time and money by being there! Don’t let too much time pass without reaching out to those you met on the floor. You need to begin your communication with them while you are still fresh in their minds.

There are so many ways to improve your tradeshow marketing this year and these are just a few! Whether its design elements, display options or staff training there are always measures to make tradeshow marketing work for you. Keep checking back on Carolina Marketer as we at Skyline Exhibits & Design launch our 2011 marketing campaign, “Tradeshows Work!” Let us show you how tradeshows can benefit your company this year!

I have had a few prospective clients tell me recently that they need a new tradeshow exhibit.   I am very happy to see the upswing in the economy & companies realizing that they need to replace that 12-year old tradeshow display.  In the past few weeks, I have had a number of people tell me, “Our company is planning on increasing the number of tradeshows this year, and we’re budgeting to get a new exhibit.”  Whoo Hoo!  Then the next sentence is usually, “I think we want some of those new banner things that everyone’s switching to?”

I am reminded of being in school.  Did you get a new pair of shoes because you liked them, or because everyone had them?  I fell victim to begging for Member’s Only jackets, Converse high top sneakers, and spiral perms too.  Is it because they were ME, or was it because everyone had them & I wanted to fit in?  Don’t fit in – stand out if you want to be perceived as outstanding!

Do you really want to spend thousands of your company’s dollars to show up and look exactly like everyone else in the room? Do you want combo #2,  or do you want a fresh, new representation of why your company is better than the other company’s peddling their wares?   Marketing what distinguishes your company from the others is the critical piece of success.  Everyone thinks they are better/faster/cheaper, but until you stand out from the crowd and get noticed then deliberately tell them WHY you are the best at what you do they’ll never know!


Planning for a trade show doesn’t mean that you have to become a nervous wreck for months. Even if you’re new to the industry, you can have a successful, scare-free show experience. As a consultant for hundreds of newbie and veteran trade show exhibitors, I hear myself giving certain suggestions quite often. Here’s a short list of simple, yet very important tips that you may want to consider during your trade show planning.

1.       Be aware of show form deadlines. Double check deadlines just to be safe that you do not miss anything.  Missing a deadline can sometimes double certain costs!


2.       Pay attention to show rules and regulations. Make sure that you not only read the rules and regulations carefully, but that you also understand them. Is your exhibit breaking height or self setup regulations?  Remember, these can change with the city, venue, show contractor, as well as booth size.


3.       Properly train your booth staff. Just because they are seasoned sales representatives, doesn’t mean they are going to be efficient and effective selling at a trade show. Keep in mind that speaking with prospects and clients during a trade show is going to require a different process than day to day sales encounters due to the drastic change of environment (number of people, time available, space, additional pressures). Since 85% of what people remember is their interaction with the booth staffer, ensure that everyone has an appropriate technique to promote your business!


4.       Make sure your crates stand out. Decorating your crates makes them easier to find if misplaced. (Yes this can happen even when you do everything correctly!) You can paint your crates, add colored tape, or sometimes a simple piece of ribbon might save you hours of searching for a big dark crate among thousands of other big dark crates.


5.       Remember to consolidate your shipments. With each shipment, most trade show contractors will charge minimums on drayage. With an average rate of $78/100lbs, and minimum weight per shipment at 200 pounds, that’s over $150 just to bring in one shipment! By consolidating your shipments you will minimize unnecessary drayage costs.


6.       Ship to the advanced warehouse. Shipping to the advanced warehouse will give you piece of mind that your exhibit will be in your booth space the first day for set-up. Shipping direct to the show site can have you waiting during valuable set up hours and nervous about your shipment’s location. It’s also a good idea to keep tabs on your shipments with tracking numbers and piece counts.


7.       Prepare backup and duplicates for all Audio Visual presentations. When you have already spent the time and money on your electronic equipment, cases, shipping, drayage, and set up, the last thing you want to do is end up with a blank screen. That space that was strategically integrated into the exhibit layout now is empty and the well planned reformatted sales process now must be altered last minute! There may be a person back at the office to send the presentation. But, if it’s not a small file, uploading or overnight mailing is only going to add stress to an already hectic day. Be smart, load up your flash drive and relax.


8.       Bring confirmation of all show form orders should a mistake occur.  It’s also smart to send your I&D team copies of show forms. Most good I&D companies will check them to make sure that all requests have been met. If something is incomplete, they will know where to go and how to get it done quickly.


9.       Do not tear down your booth early. Not only will some shows penalize you for doing this, but you could also lose out on the opportunity to talk with prospects or other exhibitors at the show.



If you’re not online, you might as well live in a cave. No, seriously, everyone who is anyone is online. Facebook, Twitter , LinkedIn, WordPress: the internet is where it’s at!

Now, whether or not the above statement is completely true, it does have some merit to it. The internet has become an increasingly vital tool for everyone from the bored college student in class to the networking business professional trying to get his company a higher SEO. The internet gives us the ability to put our voices and ideas out there for the world to see and comment on.  With the increased technology, we’re able to boost our online presence at a growing rate and benefit ourselves as well as others with information and ideas to share!

Where the internet used to be referred to as the “information highway”, I now think of it as the “information Autobahn.” With the use of devices like Tweet Deck and Google Reader , viewers are able to receive information at speeds quicker than we ever could have imagined back in the early days of AOL. Just as quickly as we receive information, we’re able to forward it on to everyone we know with just the click of a button. Pictures, videos, blogs, and links to websites are constantly flying in and out of our screens and inboxes with the help of Twitter, Facebook, Google, and various blogging sites.

BUT with great power comes great responsibility. Information found on the internet is becoming more and more influential whether it is valid or not. For example, Shirley Sherrod lost her job with the USDA based on a video of her posted on a blog. A blogger, Andrew Breitbart manipulated a video of this woman’s speech to make her appear racist. Once the video was posted and gained enough attention, the woman was forced to resign from her job. There were so many other places that her boss could have looked to find a version of her speech but because of all the recognition the blog was getting, he jumped to conclusions without doing a thorough investigation.

Things posted on the internet have much more power than we realize. Now if only people would use their powers for good and not evil. The internet gives the Average Joe the potential for high recognition. A smart blog or funny video can receive thousands of views a day. However, a false statement or negative image can also receive just as many views and be damaging for a person’s (or company’s) reputation.

As quickly as good news travels down the information autobahn, it seems like bad news travels double-time. Choose your words wisely when posting something online. You never know who might see it. Try to regularly monitor what’s being said about your company as well. If you’re able to follow up with a positive fix to a problem or negative comment almost as quickly as it’s posted, the effects could be significantly less damaging.

The Internet isn’t going anywhere. It’s constantly changing and growing, so as long as we continue to grow with it, there will be ways to benefit ourselves. A conscientious mind is necessary when posting something online. Next time you go on a rant on Twitter or your blog, think about who will read it and how that will impact their view of you or someone else.

There’s an app for that…The weather, name-that-tune, restaurant locator, meal recipes, current sports scores, latest news headlines…There’s an app for that.  Whether it is Facebook, the Droid, your Blackberry or Apple’s I-phone, there’s an app for that.  Yes, there is an app for just about everything.

Why?  Because technology is ever evolving, thus increasing our everyday reliance on what technology has to offer.  People want information at their fingertips the second they need it, and technology has made this a possibility.  Why?  Because our world has become a non-stop, fast paced environment.  Our daily lives have become consumed by emails, texts, and tweets.  We have lost touch of the personal face-to-face interactions that were once so common.  Therefore the act of forming personal relationships without the aid of technology has become a lost phenomenon.

Or has it?

Tradeshows are an existing environment where face-to-face marketing is still a reality. When you are on the tradeshow floor, either as an attendee or an exhibitor, you have the potential to form personal relationships with those around you.  Many marketers today face the challenge of getting their message through the “clutter.”  Clutter is ultimately formed from the various communication outlets that technology has so vastly created.  Therefore, in a tradeshow environment you have the ability to connect with individuals on a personal level without placing a heavy reliance on technology.

Technology can be a great tool to help enhance and maintain the relationships we have already built through our face-to-face interactions.  However, technology can never replace the value of the personal relationships you form with your clients as well as others!

Contrary to popular belief, the entire state of Ohio is not here at the Carolina beaches all summer.  I just met a salesperson from Ohio who has figured out a great approach to meeting many challenges we marketers face:  gaining attention; establishing a memorable and sustainable rapport, and making her personal ‘brand’ somewhat unique.

Her Secret?  Dogs.

The door to her office is covered with photos of dogs all owned by clients.  As the proud owner of a Maltese, I know many of us humans that are slaves to our pets would be honored for our four legged friends to earn a place of honor on her door.  So in the course a conversation with this “salesperson” if she learned I was a dog lover would it give us something to discuss?  Would it make me curious to both learn and like more about her – and ultimately her company, products and services.

So frequently we concentrate our marketing efforts on high tech and innovative wizardry.  Lets not forget human touch – or even the canine effect!

Hello Blogosphere! is a clubhouse for Marketing Professionals in the Carolinas seeking ideas and inspiration.  The people hanging out here crave an intellectual challenge but usually have too much “real work” to do to sit around and ponder existential crap.

Let’s just say the our ‘club’ will be inclusive versus exclusive.  After all, the debate and dissent over a true definition of ‘Marketing’ continues to evolve.

It actually started over a hundred years ago as a barroom brawl on Madison Avenue when some Account Executives were talking trash about the Creatives.  Another milestone in defining “marketing” came later on with the emergence of Product Designers.  The  Marketing Analysts and Merchandisers were pissed off.  It wasn’t pretty.

History and a mile high stack of organizational flowcharts show us that in corporations the world over the Sales Department and the Marketing Teams continue to sabotage one another’s coffee pots.  Similarly, at Advertising Agencies everywhere, Copywriters and Graphic Designers exemplify a relationship of ‘détente’ while engaging in spitball tactics.

So, if is a club for “The Marketers”  who can join?  Would the Product Managers be allowed in?  How about the Public Relations folks?  Could they actually be in the same club as “the Media?” What about Technical Writers or Corporate Communicators?  Would B-to-B members pay the same dues as B-to-C? Read the rest of this entry »

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