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The Latest and Greatest Exhibit Concepts, Inc. News

Exhibit Concepts

10 Crucial Steps to Prepare for a Successful Trade Show - Part One

Exhibit Concepts July 05, 2017

You’ve made the decision to attend a trade show and you’ve allocated a lot of your marketing budget to the event. So, what steps can you take to make this a successful investment?  There are many variables and complexities involved in exhibiting so preparation is a crucial component of the overall process.

To insure your investment is well spent and your goals are met, there are many plans and considerations to work through. Here are ten key steps you should take in order to have a well-managed, successful trade show. We’ve broken the list into two parts; we’ll focus on the first five steps here.

These steps include:

1. Plan Early, Plan Often

Fail to plan and you can plan to fail, right? Planning isn’t just writing up a list of what you need to bring to a show or even how to staff your booth. We recommend you begin the planning process at least six months before a trade show and for major events; the planning can start over a year in advance. This means bringing in all the parties involved in the process to establish goals and objectives for the show. Once you are clear on objectives, you can turn your attention to overarching messaging and theming.

Then, you should walk step by step through products you plan to debut or display at the show, details and logistics, guidelines for those working the booth, and even details like how staffers will dress and how they will speak to visitors. This is all about getting marketing, sales, and management on the same page well in advance of a show. We recommend a creative brief to align your team during the planning process.

2. Establish Buyer Personas

Do you know what your target audience looks like? Creating a series of buyer personas will not only help you understand the pain points of your buyers, but to find innovative solutions to their problems. By understanding your audience, you gain insights into how they can be accurately targeting and pulled from the aisles and into your booth. When you are clear about the profile of your target attendee, you can then move on to attracting, meeting, and wowing these prospects during a show and well into the future.

3. Select the Ideal Booth Size

Is bigger always better? Not necessarily. When it comes to selecting booth size, you’ll need to consider your target number of prospects and the bearing that will have on the amount of size your team needs to attain your goals and objectives. Think about what’s happening in your booth: are your salespeople giving presentations? How much space does that require? How long is each presentation? How many salespeople and support staff will be in the booth simultaneously? Likewise, you should be thinking about storage space, AV equipment needs and conference rooms. Adding all these answers together will help you determine the proper size- and consulting your trusty exhibit house is a great way to find a booth size that meets your unique needs.

4. Choose Your Location Wisely

It’s a question we are asked often: where is the best location for my booth? Taking a peek at the show floor can give you the best insight; you won’t be able to see the show floor ahead of time. When looking at the layout, think not only about your customer but also about the booths located near and around your potential space that could have loud, distracting noise. Carefully consider the location of large, obtrusive columns, low ceilings, and even the location of the bathrooms in the hall. This is about your business; choose wisely! Remember: this is closely tied to #3, the size of your booth. Just like in real estate, location is everything. All that to say: you may have to change the dimensions of your booth in order to get prime real estate.

5. Engagement is King

An attractive trade show booth is just one element of a successful show. The next step is to think about innovative ways to pull your clients from the aisles of a busy show floor and into your booth for a meaningful conversation. Engagement should spark curiosity, bring smiles, and fit your overall theme and messaging for the show and also for your brand. It should feel fresh and smart, not hokey or contrived. Make this step a key part of your planning process to capture the eyes (and eventually hearts and minds) of your top targets.

This is part one of a two part series. In this part, we've covered many of the logistical planning issues you will encounter. Next, in Part Two, we'll cover what will actually happen in the booth, including staffing and training. Read Part Two

The Vertiv Trade Show Program: an End-to-End Solution

Exhibit Concepts June 23, 2017

When the new Vertiv brand was unveiled to customers, it was crucial for the change to feel cohesive across all touchpoints. Amy Williams, an Event Manager for Vertiv, based in Columbus, Ohio, went through the process of updating assets for the company she knew she needed a partner to guide her and the rest of the team through the process.

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This is where Exhibit Concepts came in. Our team worked alongside the Vertiv team to create that experience, that we call an end-to-end solution. It was crucial for customers to understand the new brand and see all it represents regardless of how and where they are interacting with Vertiv. This meant the look and feel of all physical environments needed to be consistent, from their trade show program to their Customer Experience Center

By working with one company (us!) for each of their needs spanning across touchpoints, a consistent brand emerged. With vibrant shades of orange and deep shades of slate gray, the Vertiv brand is hard to miss—and you always know it when you see it.

We’re proud to offer this complete end-to-end solution for clients like Vertiv, from managing regional meetings to trade shows and their Customer Experience Center. Learn more about how we worked with Vertiv on their trade show program in the video below:

Want a consistent, end-to-end solution for your brand? Contact us. Or, read more about the value of exhibit house partnership from another client, Scot Forge.

Face-to-Face & End-to-End Marketing

Exhibit Concepts June 16, 2017

The old saying is true: You only get one chance to make a first impression.  These days, we also know from experience that good branding is important and goes far beyond an eye-catching logo. While branding is definitely about the visual identity of your company it also encompasses your verbal identity: how you talk and write about the company is crucial. For your reader (AKA current/future clients), this communicates your brand personality and what your company values are likely to be, should they choose to hire you. It’s crucial to consider the physical spaces your target audience is likely to encounter your brand, in the same way we think about logos, fonts, tone, and voice.

Perception is Reality

When marketers are first involved in brand strategy and brand identity work, they typically think about a brand’s positioning and promise. What perception do we want our target audience to have about our brand?  A lot of thought and effort goes into those strategy sessions, to craft a unique brand statement that resonates with our target buyers and differentiates us from competitors.

Who are You?

Once the strategy is clear, attention turns to the visual and verbal identity – specifically logo, marks, color palettes, fonts, and templates. Some call it a brand style guide or brand guidelines, but there is typically a formal document that catalogs do’s and don’ts with respect to the visual representation of the brand in a wide array of formats. Templates are created for business cards, letterhead, sales presentations, building signage, and literature pieces.

But how often do brand guidelines cover the situations when clients and potential clients interact with your brand in a physical space?

Think about your corporate lobby: that place where you make a first impression. You must assume that a potential visitor (current client, prospect, supplier, or job candidate) has been to your corporate website. Ask yourself:

When they walk through your front door, does their first impression match their preconceived impression of your brand?

Does it match the impression you are hoping to make?

Is your intention to convey a warm, friendly, welcoming service-oriented business but your lobby is cold and sterile?  

For your company, this is it. The corporate lobby is an integral chance for your visitors to physically experience your brand and all that it represents. It’s a first date of sorts.

Take it to the Trade Show

It doesn’t stop there, however. Next, let’s think about your trade show program. Exhibiting at a trade show or conference gives you the opportunity to meet clients and prospects face to face, in a mutually convenient space. You are transforming your convention hall real estate into a physical representation of your brand.  This goes well beyond the signage and graphic panels where your logo is displayed, the entire structure of the booth, and the engagement you have chosen to draw people into the space. If your brand is about delivering customized, hand-crafted solutions, your space should communicate that message with a matching look and feel..

Hit the Road

Have you thought about mobile tours and events? If your customers can’t come to you, then you can bring your message straight to them. When taking your brand “on the road” either with a mobile tour or through a series of local events, these again are unique opportunities to communicate your brand identity well beyond the graphical display of your company name and logo. If your company’s image is one of southern hospitality, then sushi and techno-pop might not be the right choice.

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Lobbies, showrooms, briefing centers, trade show exhibits, mobile vehicle tours and events are opportunities to showcase your brand identity visually and experientially. Your visitors are physically immersed in your brand and these are your opportunities to engage all their senses – sight, sound, feel, taste and smell to express your brand. Engagement at its finest.

Want to discover new ways to engage your audience? See how a Customer Experience Center Comes to Life and how a museum tells the story of the computer revolution.

Trade Show Timeline: The Recipe for Success

Exhibit Concepts June 12, 2017

How many different tasks and coordination points are there in a new trade show build? There are only two correct answers:  It Depends (our “unofficial motto”) and A Lot!

On the client side, there are many decisions to make and many constituents to consult along the way. These important choices include:

  • The decision to exhibit at a trade show
  • Booth location and size
  • Choosing products to showcase
  • Messages to communicate
  • Campaign theme

As you might imagine, this process is no easier on the exhibit house side. What are the client’s objectives? Our team works to source new materials, incorporate new engagement, designing and printing graphics, and even recommending which product to incorporate into the booth.

And the trade show is not going to wait.

So, how can you keep everything and everyone on schedule and moving toward a common goal? By developing and managing to a jointly-developed trade show timeline.

Whether you are working on a major new build or refreshing graphics on an existing booth property, adhering to the timeline you develop with your exhibit house reduces risk and provides peace of mind. It is a critical communication device that keeps all parties on the same page, especially with respect to deliverables and interdependencies.

A good timeline works as follows:

  • All critical deliverables are listed, especially those requiring approvals
  • For each deliverable, the responsible party is named along with the due date
  • Sign-off on the timeline indicates agreement to work diligently to meet dates
  • Regular reviews and reminders of upcoming deliverables

The benefits of a well-run timeline are peace of mind, project readiness, accurate and dependable delivery and an overall ROI for the client. A successful show experience depends on it.

Want more information on the importance of timelines? Here are 4 reasons your trade show needs a timeline.

Why Face-to-Face Marketing Needs Buyer Personas

Exhibit Concepts June 02, 2017

by Ellen Campbell-Kaminski

The concept of buyer personas has only been defined since 2002.  The practice of building a model representation of a typical buyer, defining their goals, understanding what drives their behavior, and how, when and why they buy is an incredibly valuable tool for marketers especially in the digital age. We create content based upon an informed understanding of who our buyer is and where she is on her buying journey.

How committed is she to finding a solution to her problem?

Has she created a short list of potential solutions and searching for information to help her differentiate and prioritize alternatives?

As marketers, we can then create content designed to help answer the questions our buyers face along their journey and we make that content available when and where they are likely to be looking for answers.

What about Face-to-Face Marketing?

Buyer personas are a proven part of successful content marketing.  Just run a web search on “buyer personas in content marketing” and you’ll get over 6 million results. But I believe personas should have a starring role in face-to-face marketing, too. We are a people-centric industry, and it’s time we actively worked to understand customer behavior in order to best serve them.

In my over 20 years in business-to-business marketing, I’ve attended over fifty trade shows both as an exhibitor and as an attendee across a wide variety of industries, from an oil and gas industry show in Houston, TX to the National Catholic Educators Association in Toronto, Canada. Early in my career, I didn’t know about buyer personas nor did I implement sophisticated engagement techniques.  I just sent out a simple pre-show mailer “Come Visit Us at Booth # ___” and had a simple pop-up stand, table skirt, signage, fish bowl to collect business cards, sample product (or demo software) and literature. I hoped people would stop by and talk to me. I’m happy to say my strategies, objectives and approaches have advanced significantly since those early days.

The other thing that has advanced since those early days is my understanding and anticipation of buyer behavior and how to apply that knowledge to my trade show planning.  And that planning includes the development of the buyer personas most likely to visit our booth.

Here are some ways to start forming personas:

  • Understand attendee demographics like industry, title, and purchase authority by consulting resources like the Conference Exhibitor Guide.
  • Interview show organizers for deeper insights into attendee behavior and preferences.
  • Contact your sales partners for information about the visitors they have spoken with at prior year shows and the nature of those conversations and any pain points raised by visitors.
  • Find a colleague at another company who has exhibited at the same show you plan to attend for their perspective.

Armed with this information, you and your team can develop buyer personas for your next trade show. With those personas in hand, your pre-show marketing activities will perform more effectively, your messaging will be more on-point, and your sales people will be better prepared to handle the inquiries they are likely to encounter on the show floor.

It’s true that knowledge is power. In this case the more you know, the better your approach will be when it comes to attending the best trade shows that will resonate with your audience.

Want more ideas on how to engage your audience? See how Adwerx, a digital marketing agency for real estate professionals, created a smart, interactive trade show booth that produced big results.

Want a Winning Trade Show Strategy? Try Start, Stop, Continue

Exhibit Concepts June 01, 2017

You just wrapped a successful trade show event. You are back in your office.  All your leads have been distributed to the sales team. You are reconciling final invoices against your budget. But before you’ve had a chance to gather feedback from your sales partners about any opportunities generated from the leads, you are called into a planning session for the next event on your marketing calendar. 

Does this sound familiar? For many of us, we go from one priority initiative straight into another high profile project. And then next time we have any time to think about the just completed event is when we start the planning process for the next year’s show. Which usually means a minimum of six or nine months have passed.

The good news for those of us with a good marketing platform with integrated sales CRM is that we have record of the leads that were generated and what happened with those leads such as opportunities created and business that was won. You likely have a trade show strategy, but it’s time to take things a step further.

What’s missing is the more qualitative feedback about what worked and where things did not go quite according to plan. So as we sit down to complete a creative brief for the upcoming show, we have to rely on our memory and that of our colleagues, if we are lucky enough to have the same co-workers on the project.

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A better approach is to conduct a formal “Stop, Start, and Continue” exercise within a week or two post-show. You want the session to be held close enough to the event that memories are still fresh but with enough time passed that your post-show activities have been initiated. 

The exercise, as the name suggests, is a guided way to think about what activities worked really well – these are the ones we want to Continue. Now that we’ve had a chance to reflect, are there things we should have done but didn’t – these are the ones we want to Start. And of course, there are things that just didn’t work out as planned – these are the ones we want to Stop.

You can do this as a solo exercise but it is even more effective if you ask representatives from all the different departments that were involved in the trade show planning and execution of the show to participate. Have your team complete the worksheet independently and then bring the group together to discuss everyone’s perspective.  Compile all the feedback into one document and share across the team.

As you sit down to start planning your presence at the show next year, review this document before you do anything else. It will not only help you enter the process with a fresh perspective but also find yourself armed with knowledge from your experience.

 Ready to continue the planning process? We recommend creating a timeline. Here are 4 reasons your trade show needs a timeline.

How a Customer Experience Center Comes to Life

Exhibit Concepts May 30, 2017

The Need

Vertiv, located in Columbus, Ohio, approached Exhibit Concepts with a specific need: they wanted to transform an existing 1,975 square foot space into a Customer Experience Center. The Center needed to showcase the company’s breadth and depth of technology offerings that protect mainframes with precision cooling systems.

The Client

The company, formerly known as the Network Power business of Emerson, wanted a space that represented the new brand’s look and feel. The Vertiv portfolio spans includes power, thermal and infrastructure management products, software and solutions, all complemented by a network of 250 service centers worldwide. Communicating this solution-based approach was a critical requirement to incorporate into the new Customer Experience Center.

The Process

Every good plan starts with a meaningful conversation. The Exhibit Concepts team met with Vertiv’s team to discuss not only their goals for the space, but to fully understand their creative vision Vertiv wanted a space that would welcome existing and potential customers in order to showcase the company’s offerings with room for meetings and the ability to see Vertiv’s manufacturing facility. A modern, technology-focused space was vital.

The Result

Vertiv’s Customer Experience Center is an innovative, engaging experience for all who enter its doors. Vertiv’s signature orange along with white and natural wood accents provides the perfect backdrop to let the company’s story shine. Panels throughout the space highlight product offerings while televisions play videos of each solution. Tablets are used throughout the space to allow visitors to dive deeper into Vertiv’s technology solutions and see for themselves the many situations in which it can be applied. There’s also a small meeting area for clients and a space for employees to brainstorm new ideas with a white board wall.

“The objective was to show the breadth of our product line and what we can do for our customers in their data centers,” said Rita Vannoy, Manager of the Vertiv Customer Experience Center. “When our customers come in, they love the Center because it’s very modern and ‘techy.’ It’s been a huge success for us.”

Want to learn more about this project? See the Vertiv Customer Experience Center Case Study by selecting the Download button below. 

DOWNLOAD

For more about our interior projects, see our work at a facility for small businesses and a museum dedicated to the history of computing.

Packing It In: Why Crates Can Make or Break Your Trade Show

Exhibit Concepts May 25, 2017

“It depends.”

At Exhibit Concepts, this has become somewhat of an unofficial motto around our offices. After 39 years in the trade show, commercial interior, and museum industry, we know all too well that every project and each client is unique. When it comes to unique, however, nothing is more so than the wooden crates we use to ship property across the world for our customers.

There is no getting around it. Crates are expensive. And for clients with large exhibits requiring many crates, it can be a large line item cost. So, why are they so costly? What makes them such an important element of a successful trade show experience? When you know what goes into making these wooden marvels, it’s easy to see why the humble crate is much more than it seems.

Crates are Precious Snowflakes

It looks anything but special, a large but very plain wooden box with black letter stenciling. But they are special and have the most important job: they must protect and transport property as it travels all over the world. Crates must be strong, resilient, and reusable not just once, but for many years. No easy task, to be certain, but they are up for the job.

Each crate we build is 100% custom. It’s built by hand in a dedicated space in our production facility, designed and created with its specific contents in mind. This means that just like a snowflake, no two crates are exactly the same. Very special indeed.

Build Crates

In order to really appreciate what goes into building a crate, we have to go back to the beginning. At the beginning of any new project, our design and estimating team determine the number of crates required for a particular project. The work order is then passed to our crate builder Rick Rapp who enters all the specifications into a computer program. This produces a material list and he gets to work, carefully building each crate by hand with an AC plywood exterior, raw hardwood pine supports, and hardwood ply feet. Inside, crates are made of a 1 x 4 frame and covered in cotton felt to protect the contents and prevent any friction during the shipping process.

Crates are held together with plenty of staples, nails, and a generous helping of wood glue. Much like tires on a car, a crate is arguably the most important element of successful transportation.

Living the Crate Life

What is the life span of a crate? They’ve discovered the fountain of youth, it seems. Unless the crate itself is damaged (it happens now and then) it can last for decades—and is intended as long as a client wants to hold on to the property that is in the crate. 99% of the crates stored in our warehouse are shipped  back and forth across the country numerous times each year and many have also traveled overseas. And they are constructed to withstand the elements as they are often staged outdoors temporarily before a trade show starts, so resiliency is key.

Crates vs. Skids

Crates aren’t the only option when shipping property to a trade show or museum installation. You could place property on a pallet or skid, which is significantly less costly. However, there are some major risks involved.  For starters, a skid does not protect the property like a crate does—leaving the door open for irreversible damage. Even worse, skids cannot be stacked on top of one another. This means fewer items can fit in a truck, increasing shipping costs and when they return to our warehouse, they take up more area in storage.

There are literally thousands of crates stored in our warehouses. They contain millions of dollars in property.  Our clients have made a sizable investment in their booth property and they have entrusted us to keep that property safe during transit or when being stored for longer periods. We take the task of protecting these items very seriously, and a well-designed and well-constructed crate is the key.

So here’s to the humble crate, which really isn’t that humble after all.

Why Crates Can Make or Break Your Trade Show

How a Donation Led to the Ultimate Moonwalk

Exhibit Concepts May 04, 2017

As a kid, did you ever want to walk on the moon? Maybe you still dream of going into space one day. Thanks to a donation, a lucky group of second graders at St. Albert the Great School in Kettering, Ohio step foot on the moon every time they walk into their classroom.

In 2014 Exhibit Concepts produced an outdoor activation that was used for a PGA event at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY. The project was for Omega Watches through Engine Shop, one of our advertising agency partners. Omega’s Speedmaster Watches had been used on NASA’s mission to the moon. This event featured the timepieces in a lunar setting complete with an astronaut, planets and a floor designed to look like the surface of the moon. Recently, the owner decided they had no further plans for it and ECI came up with a novel idea.

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ECI is filled with creative engineers, one of whom obviously dreamed of being an astronaut as a child, and thought we could repurpose the property (or the flooring) for a younger audience. We reached out to officials at the school to share the idea. Several volunteers installed the flooring in one of the classrooms during the school’s winter break, transforming it into a fun and unique experience for students.

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“As a teacher, I’m always looking for new ways to help my students learn,” said Paige Spangler, second grade teacher at St. Albert the Great School. “Incorporating this floor into my classroom is just a small way to not only make science fun, but also bring smiles to my students’ faces with a unique new addition to their room.”

Now that’s what you call an out-of-this-world experience. Want to see more of our unique event work? Check out our portfolio!

Why Creativity Matters: The HIWIN Story

Exhibit Concepts May 02, 2017

We believe creativity isn’t just delivering fresh, innovative ideas to clients. It goes much deeper than that, into the realm of understanding (and anticipating) their needs, interpreting the vision, and offering solutions along the way.

This is the kind of knowledge and insight that can only come from experience. The most creative thinking often comes from places other than the creative department. For example, creative thinking and problem solving resides in the purchasing department to find new cost effective material sources or with the crate fabricator to construct a solution involving the fewest number of crates but also protecting the contents.

For HIWIN Technologies, they had very specific goals for their face-to-face marketing program: they desired a fresh look for an upcoming trade show, where they planned to introduce a new product to the market. It was important to not only attract visitors to their trade show space at the show, but also outshine the competition in the process.

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Creativity drove the design of their trade show space, but it’s the guidance and contribution of a trade show partner that has made all the difference.

But you shouldn’t take our word for it. We believe our customer, Shawn from HIWIN, says it best in the video below.

Looking to increase the creativity of your face-to-face marketing plan? Download our free Creative Brief Template or read more about how inspiring spaces lead to creative places.

The Latest and Greatest Exhibit Concepts, Inc. News