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Exhibiting a Portfolio of Brands

Exhibiting a Portfolio of Brands

We all know that exhibiting takes strategy. What’s more is that exhibiting at a trade show with a portfolio of brands takes even more framework development.

Often, we find companies on a show floor exhibiting with multiple brands and the spaces look unorganized, unstructured, and unclear of what they are striving to accomplish. Most of the time, this is due to a lack of a strategic framework that was not completed in the planning stages, or as we call it, the Define stage, of the process.

There are companies on the show floor that are true category leaders as it relates to exhibiting multiple brands in one booth. Their defined approach showcases their thoughtful brand strategy and helps to achieve their company goals in a stronger way on the show floor. Organizations like General Mills, Pearson’s Candy, and Legrand exhibit their brands with methodology and clarity.

When we are approached by a company to help them with their brand activation, and they carry a portfolio of brands, we help them determine how to showcase all their companies in the best way to achieve success.

First, we understand the goal of exhibiting at the show; a crucial element to define so that business goals are achieved.

Next, we outline who the target audience is of the exact show that the client is planning to attend. If a client doesn’t understand their audience on the show floor, they can’t best position themselves to their audience.

From there, we begin to decide, from the perspective of the target audience, what’s most relevant to them, the individual brands within the company or the company itself? This is the linchpin for how to showcase the company and its brands. For example, General Mills is excellent at knowing their approach for each show. Some brand activations, it’s more important to showcase Annie’s Homegrown, Larabar, Cascadian Farms Organic, etc. And other trade shows, it’s more important for the name General Mills to be front and center. We call this prioritization and alignment, brand hierarchy.

A client’s brand hierarchy should often flow from how the company sells its brands and how the target audience of the company purchases products or services. A trade show is just one of many sales and marketing programs and so the trade show should reflect the overall company and shouldn’t be built-out in a way that is completely different than the everyday actions of the business.

If a client decides that for a specific show they should be showcased as a “house of brands” vs. a “branded house,” we recommend building out answers to the following questions to ensure the booth build-out supports the strategic brand hierarchy.

  • Rank the brands in order of importance for the show.
  • Do any new products or brands need to be highlighted?
  • What percentage of the exhibit should each brand share?
  • Can any of the brands be coupled together?

The tactical execution of the exhibit should follow the brand hierarchy – this includes messaging. The cohesive messaging should flow from the brand strategy and drive home the message on the show floor. The messages are the elements of the exhibit that helps to bring people into the space, to learn more, and engage in conversation. It’s crucial to think about the messages after a company has decided which track to take: a branded house or a house of brands. Messages should vary significantly depending on the approach.

There are some great leaders out there on the show floor, and we believe that any company, of any size, can be an example of how to exhibit with a portfolio of brands. If you need help on deciding how to best position your company on the show floor. You know where to find us!

Leading with Leads


Leading with Leads

Leads. It’s what 95% of exhibitors want.

Unfortunately, not all these exhibitors are getting their leads. To get the most qualified prospects, it requires a strategic plan and framework. 

81% of trade show attendees are individuals who have authority at their organization to make purchases; therefore, most attendees are key decision makers.

As you build out your lead generation strategy, be sure to engage your brand activation company. We have lead generation conversations with our clients often and here are eight conversations to have.

1.     Set lead goals

Start by establishing goals for lead generation.

  • What does a successful, qualified lead look like?
  • How many leads are we aiming for?
  • Are there specific companies or individuals that are on our prospect list that we must get in front of?

2.     Captivate attention

Let’s be honest and agree that competition on the show floor is fierce; therefore, creating an experience that draws a qualified lead in, captivates their attention, and moves them through the sales funnel is important. Each of our clients requires a different approach to find success. Some execute through innovative technology approaches like augmented reality, virtual reality, projection mapping, flip disks, and more. Other clients engage through a nontraditional exhibit structure that draws attendees in from across the room. Our point here is that the exhibit’s presence must appeal to prospects.

3.     Qualify lead

Badge scanning is not a new technology but is one that should not be overlooked. It can help exhibitors better understand visitors and their level of engagement. The badge scanning we offer at nParallel ensures our customers are getting the most out of their exhibiting by tracking their conversations and metrics.  

4.     Discover pain-points

Understanding a prospect’s pain-point is crucial, no matter the brand activation. To get to the root issue and not an ailment of the problem, surveys can be instrumental. We help our customers discover their prospective customer’s challenge by using technology such as real-time exhibit surveys. A quick survey helps to qualify leads better, understand what products might be best for them, and drive them through the sales funnel by having a better understanding of how your solutions can help. If your team doesn’t want to execute a survey on the show floor, these surveys can be sent in pre-show marketing materials or post-show.

5.     eLiterature

Another obvious one that has benefits that are often overlooked is electronic literature. It’s a common practice now to forgo bringing printed sales material to the show and simply send the material via email to prospective clients. What’s overlooked is the opportunity to measure and further learn about your business lead through electronic literature. The technology that our team uses allows our customers to learn more about who they are sending the sales material to, what areas of the documents they’re interested in based upon clicks, forwards, read times, etc. The metrics derived from electronic literature is instrumental to understanding leads.

6.     Lead Management

If lead management is new to you, we can help. Our software integration allows our customers to capture leads on the show floor and easily merge into a CRM tool. If a client currently isn’t doing this, we can send a lead management expert with our client on the show floor to make sure leads are captured correctly. The last thing an exhibitor wants is to go to a show and not be able to reconnect with leads. Oh, and if we can say anything, please do not do the fishbowl lead capture!

7.     Merge to CRM

No one likes redundancies; therefore, no one should capture leads and then manually add them into their CRM tool. Technology these days should help, not create more work. If a software solution does not allow a company to automatically capture leads on the show floor and merge into their CRM tool, it might be time to reevaluate the solution.

8.     Evaluate

And speaking of evaluating, after a show, companies should be sure to evaluate their leads. Find out if lead goals were met and determine how to improve for the next show. All leads should be categorized and followed-up to close deals that began on the show floor.

Want to lead with leads on the show floor? We’d love to help.


How Exhibit Dollars Were Spent in 2017 & the 2018 Forecast


How Exhibit Dollars Were Spent in 2017 & the 2018 Forecast

2018 is here, and everyone in the trade show industry is in full swing with their focus on upcoming shows. 2017 is long gone from the trade show world, and it’s truly a thing of the past. 

Today, our emphasis is on helping clients strategize around how they can differentiate on the show floor, be more memorable with their on-site presence, and further help our clients engage at trade shows.  

Before we completely forget about 2017, we received a fantastic report from the Center for Exhibit Industry Research, also known as CEIR, called 2017 How the Exhibit Dollar is Spent. When reading through, we found some really interesting nuggets about how exhibitors allocated their resources in 2017. The study also outlined a few predictions for 2018 that we think you’ll find interesting. 

Takeaways from 2017

Roughly $25 billion was spent on exhibiting in 2017! Here’s how it breaks down: 


  • Exhibit space: 37.9% 

  • Show services: 12.9% 

  • Exhibit design & fabrication (including graphics): 11.4% 

  • Travel and entertainment: 10.9% 

  • Shipping & transportation of exhibit materials: 8.9% 

  • On-site promotional materials: 5.2% 

  • Off show floor promotional expenses: 3.9% 

  • On-site sponsorship/advertising: 2.9% 

  • Lead management & measurement: 2.7% 

  • Pre-show promotions: 1.7% 

  • Exhibit staff training: 0.7% 

  • Other: 1.0% 

Exhibitors with larger booths allocated more of their resources to the design of their space as well as shipping fees.  

When looking at companies with smaller budgets, they spent slightly more on giveaways, lead management equipment, and services. 

Look-Aheads for 2018

60% of exhibitors plan to either refurbish their current booth, purchase a new one, or rent an exhibit. 

We find this point really interesting: Larger companies plan to refurbish their booths, where slightly more mid-range companies plan to invest in a completely new exhibit. 

As it relates to industry specifics, almost two-thirds of medical and health care companies that exhibit plan to use the same booth as 2017. When looking at communication and IT companies that are exhibiting in 2018, more plan to use their same booth yet have a higher intent to rent. The industrial/heavy machinery and finished business inputs industries also have more plans to rent exhibits. 

The trends from the report showcased that companies with more square footage on the show floor plan to rent an exhibit vs. those who use a smaller footprint on the show floor. 

All of this to say, the trade show industry is not slowing down, it’s continuing to grow.  

Reach out if you want to chat with our team about 2018, we’re all ears and ready to help you strategize your program. 


Practical Tips for Trade Show Staff


Practical Tips for Trade Show Staff

The success of a company’s trade show presence is supported through its on-site show floor staff. This is no small feat. Floor teams represent a company’s voice, posture, heart, mind and of course, product or service. It’s a role that should be taken seriously as these are the individuals who bring in leads, increase the company’s ROI, and showcase the overall brand experience at an event. Once you have your staff selected, it’s important to always communicate the practical elements of managing a booth, no matter how perfect they may seem for the show floor. Communicating proper show etiquette and mistakes to avoid will go a long way to ensuring your staff feels prepared. Here are a few important tips for your team to remember at your next event.


Anticipate unexpected questions

The question isn’t if trade show staff will be asked unexpected questions - it’s when. If unprepared, these questions can easily blindside an employee and hinder a smooth sale. To prevent this from happening, staff should stay up-to-date on the industry and dig deep to find if there’s anything going on in the present culture of the industry that could prompt new questions. Be on-point with any disruptions or negativity taking place in the industry or company. For example, has there been a recall? Has the industry taken a hit in recent quarters, months, or years? Is sustainability a topic within your industry? As a show floor staffer, it’s important to anticipate all the questions and work as a team to expect comments that are outside the normal bell curve of questions.

Before the event, talk through these unexpected inquiries as a team and develop messages to support each. After each day of the event, debrief together and discuss any unusual or particularly difficult questions that came up and forge out answers.

Ask good questions

The best opening line is an open-ended question. It’s easy to reflex with questions like “can I help you?” but the most fruitful conversations stem from questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Before the trade show starts, encourage your team to develop a list of strong openers and use a different one for each engagement. We always recommend starting with a conversation, not a sales pitch. People are pitched all day long at a trade show – make your exhibit one where it’s not just about the sale but a memorable conversation.

Maintain eye contact

It’s something many of us do without thinking about it, but when presenting a product or explaining a service, be sure to keep eye contact with the customer. We don’t maintain eye contact for the sake of it; we do it because it helps us understand the person we’re speaking to. By making eye contact a priority, you’ll be able to read the person better and understand if they are truly interested and if you should continue to take them through the sales funnel or if they’re ready to keep moving throughout the show floor. 


Eat or drink in the exhibit

Eating and drinking in your company’s exhibit send an unprofessional message to your customers [unless of course, the event is the Sweets and Snacks Expo, Fancy Food Show or something of the like]. We realize everyone needs to eat, but at a trade show booth, it presents an awkwardness and unprofessionalism that will deter potential leads.

Thankfully, most exhibit halls have an area for exhibitors to eat and take a break. We highly recommend networking in these break rooms. These rooms are often filled with media, potential partners for your brand and sometimes even clients. When you take your break, be sure to connect with those around you, it’s an opportunity waiting at hand that you don’t want to miss.

Don’t trash talk the competition

Trade shows are intense environments that bring all the industry competition into one room for a concentrated amount of time. Every company is fighting for leads and is making deliberate efforts for their brand to stand out. As a staffer, you’re likely to get questions about how the company you represent holds up to other brands in the room. As a rule of thumb, keep competitor names and language out of your exhibit space completely. Refrain from all negativity regarding another brand and allow the silence to reveal your professionalism and the overall company character.

Likewise, savor every minute with a potential client by keeping it about your brand and your unique selling propositions. Don’t waste precious seconds discussing another company or product - use it all as a time to generate interest in what your brand offers. If you are in a bind where a potential client says, “tell me about the competitor over there and their product compared to yours?” again, talk about your brand and the differentiators you offer, not the issues they have with theirs.

We hope these tips were helpful to you, feel free to share this article with your team to ensure a smoother trade show floor execution.


How to Plan for Trade Show Relocations


How to Plan for Trade Show Relocations

The trade show industry is complex and the variable costs tend to change from year to year. A common issue we find is that our clients are dealing with budget changes due to the increase in annual same-show costs specifically related to show relocations.

A show in Ohio this year may cost drastically more next year if the show is in San Francisco. Some locations are more expensive than others, and companies are constantly challenged by their budget considering these unpredictable year-over-year changes. So, the question remains: how can companies confidently set a budget in light of location changes from year-to-year?

With economic inflation, it’s safe to say that businesses will never be free to rely on the same budget from the previous year. Show relocations impact the company dollar, but so does labor costs and gas prices, which frequently change as well. Having said the obvious, we know that relocation costs are frustrating because of their inconsistencies, and we’re here with a few tips to help companies better plan for this influx.

How to estimate the overall budget

Multiple industry surveys have revealed that exhibit space floor rentals account for about one-third of an exhibitor’s total-show costs, this is relative, but something to keep in mind. The cost of floor space will always vary depending on the type of trade show and the location where it’s held. Be proactive in understanding this massive expense by determining what the floor space will cost in that area, and then multiply it by three. By doing this, exhibitors can see an estimated value of their overall trade show expenses in that location and can move forward with their budget outline from there. Again, this is a very rough cost but is a starting place. 

Travel expenses

After floor rental and booth space, travel expenses carry a large portion of the budget. Travel costs add up, especially when a show in based in New York City or San Francisco. Companies need to be prepared for these expensive changes tied to show relocation, and budget accordingly. Hotels, meals, show services, air travel and car rentals - they all add up, and some cities more than others. Know the number of staff you want present, as it may change according to where the show is held, and research the average travel and hospitality costs associated.

Never underestimate drayage

Shipping and drayage are two expenses that often shock companies. Don’t let the show relocation fool you: drayage is notorious to fluctuate. Shipping can carry a hefty expense, especially when the distance increases a few hundred miles. It’s crucial to not overlook these types of costs – we plan for shipping and drayage on behalf of our clients for every trade show.

Be sure to leave extra room for both shipping and drayage and just plan for an expensive city. You’d rather plan for too much than not enough.

Trade show relocations don’t have to eat company budgets alive. With careful planning and a strong trade show partner, you should be prepared for every cost. Shows are great for brands, and they’re certainly ever-evolving; every exhibitor can embrace these changes without intimidation when they understand the intricacies involved in them, and how that impacts their budget.

As companies plan for the next year, we hope these tips keep them moving toward success. If you have questions on the topic, reach out, we’re more than happy to bounce ideas around with you and help you plan accordingly.



Choosing the Perfect Giveaway


Choosing the Perfect Giveaway

Every booth at a trade show is different. Each exhibitor works long and hard to create that unique experience that will draw attention and ultimately potential clients, to their booth. In a room full of prospective leads, you can bet that companies will go above and beyond to make that touch-point connection. And what we’ve noticed is that sometimes the perfect takeaway items can draw a crowd.

Giveaways, if executed wisely, are an investment in brand equity and relationships. In contrast, if executed poorly, these giveaways can be a waste of money, time, and even sour a company brand-name if perceived as cheap or useless. So, the question is, how do you choose an appropriate giveaway? Here are a few questions to consider as your company looks for the perfect option.

What is the purpose?

A giveaway item should make a statement. No company wants to spend money on something that will be thrown away. It’s important to utilize the opportunity to give away an item that has an intention and purpose to the company. These giveaway items ought to communicate and promote a message or increase recognition in some way. So, as a company, decide what purpose the giveaway will serve and make sure it leaves an impact.

Is it desirable?

Is your giveaway a pack of company pens? If so, the demand for it will most likely be low. Though more desirable giveaways may make you fear your company dollar, it doesn’t have to. Your company can find a quality, budget-friendly giveaway item that, in the end, may even serve you more ROI. Because the truth is, even clients who make top dollar, will still stand in a long line waiting for a giveaway that speaks to them. However, make a dubious effort to understand your target audience before you choose a giveaway - for it to truly speak to them, it’s important to know who they are. Once that’s understood, choose a giveaway that has people running to your booth from every side of the trade show.

What is your budget?

There are ways to cut costs when looking for a quality giveaway item.  Quantity discounts do exist, and we recommend using the same giveaway for multiple trade shows to save on quantity shipping discounts. Give yourself room in the budget for a quality giveaway that creates “buzz,” knowing it will generate leads and ultimately that return on investment you long for. A giveaway is ultimately an investment in a relationship - a relationship that could turn long-term and be worth millions of dollars to your company. Be sure you set these giveaway dollars aside in the budget each year.

Should VIP customers have different giveaways?

If you want yet another reason to use a quality giveaway, let it be that it can also serve as a marketing tool for your company, especially your more VIP clients or potential clients. Whatever the item is, coin it to your brand. Also, look for an item that effectively ties into your overall marketing theme. Imprint the message on the giveaway item, as well as your company’s logo, but make it special. For example, if you do decide to go with a water bottle, make it a desirable one that everyone loves and wants. Many know the brand Yeti and the fad for their stainless-steel tumblers – it’s a desirable brand with a lot of buzz around their beverage holders. This product is probably too high of a price for an everyday giveaway, but, it could be an excellent choice for your VIP giveaway. Offering your VIPs a specific, desirable and more high-ticket giveaway can build intrigue and appreciation.

Giveaways need to be selected strategically. They’re smart resources that are more often than not overlooked by companies. These products aren't just trade show “swag” so-to-speak, but they’re marketing tools, brand generators, lead-catchers, and also cultivate memorability long after the show ends. They’re worth it - if done well. So, don’t fall into the lie that says giveaways are petty; instead, put forth strategic effort into the resource and watch how it affects your trade show impressions. You won’t be disappointed.