Tag Archives: Lead Generation

Top 10 Signs You Need a New Tradeshow Booth or Graphic Design

The situations on this list, while presented with humor, lead to results which are anything but funny. Unfortunately, we have seen (and corrected) every one of these mistakes over the last 15 years!

If you can’t read through it without a glimmer of recognition — chances are you are coming up short on achieving the trade show results you are looking for.

Top 10 Signs You Might Need a New Booth

We’ll work our way up from number 10 in classic late-night TV Top 10 List fashion.

#10 A sure sign you need to get a new booth is when you have clients saying “You do that?” even after just seeing you at the trade show where you announced a new product or service.

#9 A sign it’s past time for a revamp is when your booth sports a color scheme — and logo — that’s been changed, at least twice, since.

#8 You might be ready for a new booth if you’ve gotten tired of watching your competitors essentially open their arms and put their booth up in two minutes when it takes you an hour or two and a ladder.

Or your competitors have one of the hybrid fabric and extrusion models that only look like they require paying for labor from the general contractor, and you are paying for setup, with overtime too.

#7 A sign the timing is perfect for a new booth is you’ve just made a big move like purchasing another company or snagging some major clients, and you want to step up the style of your display to replace the same-old, same-old pop up you’ve relied on for years.

#6 An obvious sign is when your boss finally admits that his wife’s nephew did the design for a school project.  Or your marketing agency designed it when they did your brochures — and they look exactly the same, only the brochures work and the trade show booth design does not.

(Hint: you’re not saving money by using someone who does not know how to create impact with trade show graphics. You will have to pay to replace them to get the results you are looking for!)

#5 A painful sign (and maybe no one is telling you) is when your sales people or field marketing reps won’t put up the display you think they’re using. It weighs more than they do or is so difficult to set up, it cuts into their face time with prospects. Or they have decided it requires too much effort to explain its message, and the inflexible booth layout does not allow easy adaptation for their specific audiences or product lines.

#4 Another reason it could be time to reconsider your booth design is when people keep asking if you’re a startup — and you’re not. Or you are a startup with great new ideas and everyone sees the same stock photographs they see on other booths, so they don’t pay any attention to you.

#3 You know you need to get out of a rut when you get lost coming back from the bathroom, or prospects ask for help in finding your company.  This means, your booth looks too much like everyone else’s, your company name or tagline does not stand out, and even you can’t read most of its overly small print when you’re standing next to it.

#2 A truly bad sign that you need a new booth is — it’s not doing its job. Instead of connecting with leads pre-qualified by its message, you end up talking to the wrong people.

And the #1 most obvious and most worrisome sign that you need a new booth is when people pause, stare at your display, then look at you and ask, “So what is it you do anyway?”

Do you find yourself agreeing — or even suspecting — that any of these situations describes your own booth?

Take a look at our range of portable trade show displays or modular trade show exhibits – or give us a call to talk about updating your booth graphics.

We want you to get new prospects, expand your current client relationships, and be a trade show exhibiting success!  We provide the expertise of an exhibit house without the overhead. Reach out today for help assessing your current situation.


Deborah Elms is a co-founder of Imprinted Originals, a division of The Originals Group.  She is passionate about helping new and growing businesses create and retain customers through the effective use of trade shows & events.

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/D_Elms
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/deborahelms

Website: http://www.imprintedoriginals.com


Using QR Codes For Trade Show/Event Sales & Marketing


Are QR codes just a fad — or on their way into the mainstream? How can you use them to turn that glance from a prospect into meaningful engagement at your next trade show, conference, and other face-to-face event and move them down your sales pipeline?

Here are my suggestions for both event organizers and exhibitors,  plus some links to more resources.  And the offer to help you move in this direction, of course.

What are QR codes?

Just a brief explanation, if you have never seen a QR code, or have seen them but don’t know how they work.

QR stands for Quick Response. It’s a kind of bar code, similar to the ones used for SKUs on retail products, but able to carry more information. What makes them quick is that someone with a smart phone just takes a picture, which an application on the phone translates into some kind of action, usually taking them somewhere on the Internet.

Typically the application brings up the URL of a landing page with anything from a poll to a coupon to a white paper to a video.

How Might It Work for You As a Tradeshow Exhibitor?

The most basic advice for exhibitors is that you want as much interaction with your tradeshow booth visitor as possible. Factors which impact interactivity include how many people are staffing your booth, your pre-show marketing, your in-booth promotional activities, the complexity of your offer, and the length of your sales cycle — plus who your target audience is.

QR codes will not replace the primacy of human-to-human contact.

They can supplement it by allowing you to create additional targeted touch points.  You get a prospect to move themselves from a glance to a more engaged interaction, which you have devised for them.

How QR Codes Are Being Used Now

  • Retailers are moving people from advertisements to micro sites for specific offers or to sign-up for more information on items of interest.
  • Manufacturers use codes to serve up a specific page for instructions based on their particular purchase.
  • Starbucks has created an essentially two-way application, where people add money to an account which is deducted when a barista scans the customer’s personal QR code on their phone.

How Can Event Organizers Use QR/2D Codes?

  • Invitations. The first obvious application has been to include QR codes in printed invites, so potential attendees get to information quickly and can register right then and there, or easily get back to the sign-in location.
  • Registrations/Check-ins. A second use, still taking hold, is to speed up in-person event registration and check-in lines by including QR codes on confirmation sheets attendees print and bring with them

Other opportunities:

  • Name Tags. Add codes to name tags so that not just exhibitors can scan attendee name tags, but attendees can share contact information amongst themselves easily.
  • Sponsor Call-outs. Provide as a benefit for sponsors — in show materials, on websites and as a special mark within their event display area.  Use in event journals or show listings to provide a map to the sponsor’s location or special offers they are providing.
  • Temporary Tattoo/Icebreakers. Lara McCulloch-Carter mentions several more options in her in her Ready2Spark blog entry on Event Planners and QR codes (see link below).  I liked her suggestion to use codes as temporary tattoos, with 2 people sharing 1 code, so that finding each other works as an icebreaker in large events.

How Can Tradeshow Exhibitors or Event Sponsors Use Codes?

You can use QR codes in easily integrated ways, including your pre-show marketing, at-show promotional activities, post show follow-up, and even booth graphic design to help you deepen your connection and keep it moving forward.

  • Event Landing Page. Have at least one QR code that leads to a particular landing page for each event,  allowing you to hone offers and help you track results by campaign.  Note that you can keep updating information after the event to keep the interaction going.
  • Incorporate in your Graphic Design.  You can integrate a QR tag within your major graphic display to carry a major message or simplify getting information to people unlikely to pickup and carry printed materials back to the office or home.
  • Multiple Products or Services? Even better — especially if you have multiple products or services which you are highlighting or demonstrating — have a separate code at each kiosk or as a standalone display, with a unique QR code for each specific item.
  • Pre-show Campaign with PURL Driving Customization. Include a barcode on your preshow postcard or e-mail which drives a prospect to a PURL (private landing page), where they enter their interests, create their own code, and then, at your exhibit — your booth staff only needs to scan that code in order to direct them to the correct person to talk to, or a specialized demonstration or other personalized attention.
  • Personalized Rewards. Especially in the case where you want to drive a prime prospect to their PURL and get them to your booth — promise and give them a great gift.

Other ideas:

  • Marketing Collateral. Include a QR code on your business cards or sell sheets
  • Build Buzz with Wearable Codes. Wear your code — or better yet, let your prospects wear it on a brightly colored giveaway such as a shirt or cap or button — with a great tagline to catch interest and make others want to scan it and get one of their own.
  • Social Media. Offer a way that attendees can “like” your FB page or sign up for Twitter feeds or otherwise connect via social media sites.
  • Convenient Gifts. Offer prizes which will be sent to the office instead of having to lug back from event, based on tiering of gift, of course.
  • Activities. Set up treasure hunt or other interactgive game, possibly with your marketing or channel partners at show.
  • Promotional items. Get your message back to the office with a QR code, which is especially important if you do not have direct contact with the decision-maker.
  • Make Them the Star. Take a video or picture of a prospect, maybe with a celebrity, and post it to a PURL which will be accessible using their scan. Of course this needs to be after they have participated in a presentation or demonstration, or otherwise qualified themselves or you may be over run with non-qualified participants.
  • Beyond the Booth. Does the show offer opportunities for hall banners or floor space for use for advertisements? Post a QR code which will lure them in.


  • Be Helpful. Don’t assume everyone has a QR reader or smartphone. Be sure to include information on how to download a reader for those who have smartphones, and post website URLs for those who do not.
  • Be Visible. If you can, send them to a .mobi site or, at a minimum, a page friendly to phones! Be wary of Flash, large documents, and awkward placement on the page as these can negatively impact your results. And needless to say, there must be cell phones reception.
  • Be interesting. Don’t forget to include specfic benefits and acall to action.
  • Test! Use a/b testing and don’t forget to make sure your code works as planned, using a range of QR code readers.

Wave of the Future? Or a Fad?

QR codes have been around since the mid-1990s but their use was limited while phone cameras and technology caught up with them.

How far they go now, as smartphones become more ubiquitous, is anybody’s guess. I believe there is such potential to create interactions which empower the prospect and allow for smart marketing, that their use should be explored, and not just by the “big kahunas” but also smaller, nimbler exhibitors and event planners who want to step ahead of the curve.

Need Help Implementing QR Codes at Tradeshows and Events?

Feel free to shoot questions my way.

Imprinted Originals can help with design and production of booths, displays, accessories and promotional products which carry and utilize QR / 2D codes.

We also partner with experienced event planners, marketing and branding gurus, and printing, direct marketing and fulfillment resources with customization experience that I can recommend.

More information:

Lara McCulloch-Carter’s Ready2Spark blog:  QR Codes for Event Planners — many additional event-oriented ideas

From Mashable.com:  HOW TO: Create and Deploy Your Own QR Codes and 2-D codes: The 10 Commandments for Marketers



“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

Experience seems to bear out the wisdom of this quote.

I’ve known people who set their sights on a “round the world trip of a lifetime” and succeeded, by determining the specific financial and logistical steps required and following them, even if it took months or years.  On the other hand, people make resolutions to lose weight every January and then don’t figure out discrete actionable changes and follow through – ending in no appreciable change.

Is there any reason it wouldn’t be the same with tradeshows?

If you don’t have specific goals, create strategies to meet them, and decide in advance what will make a “win”, all you are doing is spending money and wishing you will succeed.

Check out our growing Planning category on this blog.  We’ll include some 101 level as well as more advanced best practices.

Or call for some actionable steps and support in creating Exhibiting Success.



There are only three important things to remember after a show:

1. Follow-up
2. Follow-up
3. Follow-up.


Fact: 89% of exhibitors go with the intention of gathering leads, but only 21% of the leads are followed up on. Don’t let this happen to you!

Unless you went in the interests of winning a prize for your booth, or for a working vacation in a conference hall, we can assume your participation at the trade show was about creating or maintaining relationships with current or potential customers.

1. Always follow up with your leads, in a timely fashion. Contact your leads while their contact with you is fresh in their mind. This also allows you to demonstrate that you are true to your word.

2. Have a “lead fulfillment” system for following up in place before you go to the show – then use it. Also, be prepared with materials you will need in advance, including letter or email templates.

3. Make it personal if possible. Here is where you will reap rewards from noting down details from your conversation with them, about their concerns or interests. You will be more likely to remember them, and they will have an easier time pulling up your memory as well. They will be flattered by the attention, and this will put you steps ahead.

4. If you receive an attendee list, don’t hesitate to contact people that did not get a chance to visit your booth. Chances are, they have forgotten who they visited.


1. Meet with your booth staff and ask about their experiences. Did the layout work? The materials? The giveaways? Were there questions no one was prepared for? What are their recommendations for the next time?

2. What changes did you make onsite? Take note of what changes you made and evaluate their impact. Modify your preparation guidelines / checklist for future events to incorporate what you have learned. Don’t expect yourself to remember next time, and don’t make yourself re-invent the wheel.

3. Check your stats compared to your expectations. Were your goals met? Was this show a good match for your current business needs? Evaluate viable lead ROI.

Before the show: set goals and make sure everyone knows how to accomplish them. At the show – have everything working together towards reaching your goals. After the show – follow-up, evaluate and track your results against your goals.



There’s more to LinkedIn than a static database of job titles and historical information.  It’s also a resource to deepen new and existing relationships.

Tell Us About Yourself – Today

You can use LinkedIn to communicate “out” about yourself, not just about what happened in the past – but what is happening today: your interests, your activities and thoughts.

First of all, on your profile page, answer the question “what are you working on?” with any information you want – and keep it current. Tell us about important projects, travel, personal interests, or upcoming meetings.

You have up to 140 characters, and can change it as frequently as you want. This information will be available to your connections (and only your connections) via their LinkedIn update emails – or when they visit their Home Page.

If you have a blog (weblog) or Twitter account, you can add a link in the Applications area. You can tell us about books you are reading … upload a Powerpoint or SlideShare presentation about your business or area of expertise … and much more.

Go Home Regularly – Visit Your Home Page, That Is

The reason to familiarize yourself with your LinkedIn Home Page and visit it regularly is that this provides a window into your connections’ activities in real time, within (and sometimes beyond, depending on their application choices) LinkedIn.

As your connections update the same information on their Profile page we mentioned above – or when they ask or answer questions, or join new groups – you will see it reflected on your home page.

What can you learn besides the obvious?

Profile Updates:

When you see lots of changes, someone has decided to double down on LinkedIn. Something is up – it may be a promotion, preparing for a (possible) layoff, or a new job.

Added Connections:

In addition to the obvious, you can sometimes spot something interesting. Once I realized a contact was adding the person who would replace them in their current position, which tipped me off to their next career move.

See someone added you know? Send them an invitation.

Group Updates:

Keeping an eye on which groups your connections join is informative … and can tip you off on good possibilities for you.

Questions and Answers:

You can also see questions being asked and answered by your connections.

For all of this, you select what you want to see – and how you want it delivered – via the Manage your Network Update Settings towards the bottom of your home page.

You can opt for emailed updates instead of, or in addition to, visiting your Home Page.

What can you do with the information you glean?

You may simply use it to keep informed, or you may learn information that primes you to contact a prospect at the right moment. Or you may discover that you have information that can be of use to someone in your network.

In the end, online networking is no different than in-person networking. It’s largely a matter of being in the right place at the right time to perceive a need.

And it’s a whole lot of offering help – answering a question, recommending a resource … and maybe even, when you see they’re on a trip to your old home town, recommending a great restaurant for your contact to take their clients or family.



Preparing the Lead Card, AKA the Customer or Prospect Survey

Is there a “most important moment” at trade shows – a time when a mistake will hurt the most?

Obviously if you do not even exhibit, you will not meet anyone. And if your booth is not designed properly, very few will stop.

But the “rubbber meets the road” moment is the time spent with attendees, because how you handle that determines how effective your follow up can be.

If you do not collect meaningful information about your booth visitors, thinking “if they’re interested, they’ll get back to us” – you will probably wait a long lonely time for results and hence conclude “trade shows just don’t work”.

Scoring Your Leads – Better Than Trying to Rely on Memory

As part of your preparation, you should come up with a rating scale to score your leads, and every one in the booth should know and use it consistantly.

Often this is done with a scale of 1 to 5 or, more typically, letter grades and is written, with perhaps a few jotted notes, on the back of business cards.

An “A” is a Hot Lead – they fit the profile of a good prospect; the project is planned; they’re actively researching options (and hence at trade show); the time frame is near.

A “B” is a Warm Lead – fitting the profile but with a more intermediate time frame. A “C” is a longer term lead: interest is expressed but there is no definitive timeframe or it’s much further out. A “D” is a non-lead.

While this provides a quick way to sort through business cards for the hottest leads, there are two downsides. One is that the process almost always becomes subjective on the floor of the show. The other is that typically only the A leads get used for quick sales, and the other 80% of leads are ignored because not enough information is available to develop them over time.

The Lead Card

A better alternative than simply rating business cards is to develop and use lead cards, sometimes called prospect survey or customer qualification forms.

Lead cards allow you to capture information to drive the qualification process for short term sales, and the longer term nurturing process of marketing.

Now, not only will you convert the hottest leads from your trade shows into sales. You will have enough information on the B and C leads, so that over time you can convert them into sales as well.

Implementing a Lead Tracking Form or System

The first step in designing your Lead Card or Prospect Survey Form is to go back to your objective for the show to determine what is the prospect profile which will match it best. Then define what are the characteristics that set them apart, and the questions which will show if they have been met.

Lead qualification characteristics may include:

* Size of company
* Title of contact
* Users of competitors system or product
* Issues or unmet needs with current implementation or model
* Timeframe for need
* Perception of your company or product/service
* Relationship with competitor
* Do they have decision making or influencing role
* Is a budget set and for how much

The simplest way to implement a Lead Card or Form is simply to create a standardized list of questions on sheets of paper (or a custom pad prepared for the purpose).

Arrange the questions in order, so the first few tell you if the organization itself does not present a good opportunity – in which case you can stop. Otherwise, continue with questions to learn more about the role the contact would have in a sale, and the timeframe and degree of interest.

Set the sheet up so most answers require only a check in a box. Your goal in designing the form is to make sure it gathers enough information to help you qualify your leads, but is clear enough to use on the trade show floor.

Leave space for answers to open ended questions, later in the process, but only if you have enough staff in the booth to handle the time involved.

Will your prospects be impatient about talking to people with clipboards in their hand? Not if they too are looking for a good match, not just a sales pitch.

Computerized Lead Systems

How about those computerized lead retrieval systems? If you can customize the questions you ask, it is comparable. If you cannot, they’re probably not worth it. If you do a lot of shows, you may want to purchase your own.

By the way, you always want to gather business cards if you can, even with a computerized system. Not only does that protect you in the case of a system failure, they tend to have more accurate information.

Using the Lead Information

Make sure the information you spent all this time, energy and money on, is captured, kept and used. Follow up on the hot leads and nurture the others.



LinkedIn is arguably the one online “social networking” tool that all business professionals should include in their marketing/business development kit.

While not directly related to “on the floor exhibiting”, LinkedIn is a simple but sophisticated way to maintain ongoing relationships with clients, vendors, peers, and other trusted resources – as well as to nurture and deepen relationships with potential customers, networking associates and cross-referral partners, for whom you can be a resource as well.

To start, simply go in and add yourself, with as much information as you choose, and send invitations to people you respect to connect with you, and you’re on. You’re at the center of a network of people you know and trust.

Now you can also look for expertise by reaching out to the people in your network – or asking them to look in their further networks for you. You may find that someone you know “knows someone” who could be important for you and they can make an introduction to you or for you.

You can also participate in Question and Answer sessions and / or join Groups based on topic, industry, schools, etc. This way, you can read and learn – or establish your credibility as an expert by answering – or ask your own questions and get answers from peers and what are essentially ad hoc “focus groups” of people similar to or within your own prospect pool.

Groups that may be of interest: Trade Show Professionals, Sales & Marketing Community, MarketingProfs, Event Planning & Management … alumni groups … groups based in your city or state… It’s easy to do a keyword based search. And you can always leave a group if it turns out not to be a match.

On a really basic level, LinkedIn is a way to keep in touch as people move between positions. Recruiters use it regularly. And, outside of the realm of business, you may be able to find long lost friends, classmates or colleagues.

The executive summary of why to use LinkedIn as a tool:

* Develop deeper connections with contacts of all kinds
* Allow people who trust you to find resources among your connections
* Potentially get introductions to your connections’ connections
* Establish credibility and gain knowledge through participation
* Not lose contact when people switch positions or locations

To start, here’s the spot to go to:  LinkedIn: What Is LinkedIn? In addition to help, there is a Q&A section devoted to how to use the tool most effectively.