No one saw us coming and by the end of it, we were part of the buzz around the show. Even without the robot bartenders and live welding opportunities like other vendors (which were freaking amazing!), how’d we get 1,000s of visitors interested enough in our product to get on a waitlist? We did things a little differently and we want to share our thinking. Here is an inside look at our winningest moments for launching a new brand and product at the largest industry tradeshow for forming, fabricating, welding, and finishing.
Winning Moment #1: Stealth Mode Engaged
We have of a team of industry vets, technology wizards, and SWAT-level specialists that bring their A-game and have been working on various facets of the product and launch for over a year. But, no one knew because if you looked at their LinkedIN they weren’t updated or literally listed a stealth mode start-up. We’ve been studying competitors, getting to know customers, building something no one has seen before, and setting the stage for the launch. This gave us an element of surprise that only happens once for a new company. So if you’ve got something in the works, how can you leverage secrecy to your advantage?
Winning Moment #2: Air Coverage and Ground Control
Once teammates started changing over their LinkedIN, we appeared in industry publications, and the company started having public-facing assets, we knew it was time to launch our full marketing plan. We purchased print and digital ads through the show that were targeted at visitors, as well as launched national and geo-fenced digital ad campaigns across LinkedIN, Meta, and Google. This served as our air coverage to drive people to see us in the booth and minimize the “stranger danger” aspect of being new. We then showed up with a professional booth that was well-staffed. It was not the look of a small start-up, but rather a well-oiled, smart machine that reflected the approachable partner we aim to be. The space had everything a professional presenter at a show needs- sizzle reels, printed collateral, clean designs, intentionality to the furniture and space to drive the interactions we wanted, and of course, premium swag. We had the tools we needed on hand and in the right intentional environment to be successful. To get here, the team stood in a pretend booth and imagined being there and talking to people. We captured every idea and every need in an effort to anticipate nearly every possible iteration of an interaction. Then, we went to work. The details matter, so how are you asking yourself and answering the question “What do we want people to think, feel, and do when they interact with us?”
Winning Moment #3: Formation Drills
We practiced and then practiced some more. We started 6 weeks prior to the show with increasingly larger investments of time and energy put towards practicing as the show approached. Given we understand people learn in different ways as well, we built multi-modal opportunities for the team to learn product features, created jeopardy games and flashcards as study buddies, induced the pressure of getting random questions by using “hot seat” exercises, and added some incentives for the show! We created quizzes, short videos, workbooks and worksheets for notes, role-playing scenarios, and conducted live skills trainings for both product knowledge and communication and selling skills. Again, we created intentional space during working hours for the team to learn, train, and gain confidence for the tradeshow floor. How will you be intentional in training and supporting your team for success prior to the show?
Winning Moment #4: Tactical Maneuvers
We wanted to make ourselves memorable and with the ads and articles providing support, we opted for high-visibility, bright lime green shirts that read “You should meet Stella” as our stand-out option. We also took shifts and had enough team members in the booth and walking the floor. With people in pairs in these shirts just taking laps, I actually had other exhibitors ask if we brought 100 people to the show and they just had to know what Stella was and who we were. I ended up speaking to a lot of exhibitors, as well as attendees about Stella. Win-win. Beyond the shirts, the walking and in-booth shifts were critical for the team, not just for the brand. This provided mental breaks, chances to walk around as opposed to stand, see their network, and honestly just have some fun at the show. How will you support your team in showing up effectively to represent the brand as well as be their best for multi-day events?
Winning Moment #5: Direct Engagement
We spent a lot of our training time focused on the direct interactions with customers and again imagined every question, hesitation, concern, and even compliment someone might have when we spoke to them. We also imagined how we might meet them – in front of our laptop, in front of the big screen displays, in the hallways, in the lunch line, or at another booth and prepared for ways to talk about the product. In every situation, we gave them a chance to interact with something physically. On the floor, it was a heavyweight team business card and postcard with some information and a QR code. In the booth, it was the sizzle reel playing that we could point to or the “Guess the Nest” game we had tee’ed up for some fun prizes. Gamifying our product was a lot of fun for us and a great way to showcase the capabilities of the product. It was way less marketing-heavy and more, step right up and show Stella what ya got! It became a fun icebreaker to meet a lot of people. Gamification is one way to make swag giveaways a lot more rewarding as well. How will you add memorable and innovative ways to break the ice with visitors and share your product?
If we had to do it all over again, we would probably do it the same way. It was not easy and a lot of decision-making and planning went into this launch. As you know winning moments can come with some losing ones, but even with those, we learned and quickly adapted each day. In the end, we met thousands of people, stayed true to our brand, and launched a platform that is going to change our industry. We are already planning for our next tradeshows. And already thinking about the new ways we can make a splash.
If you are thinking about a tradeshow as an option for your company and not sure where to start, you can interact with this post and we will shoot you an <> you can use to start your planning. Happy tradeshowing!