Category Archives: tradeshows

Posted On February 27th, 2017 by Crowded Ocean

No-nonsense tradeshow tips for every startup team

If you’re a startup planning to devote some of your precious marketing budget (and human resources) to a tradeshow, we offer these tips:

  1. Make sure the booth team knows the business goals. It sounds so basic, but if your goals for the tradeshow include a specific # of leads per day or a specific # of demos or off-floor briefings, make sure the entire team knows precisely what the goals are so that all of their efforts and time can be dedicated accordingly. (And let them know you expect them to report on their results to the entire company upon their return! No pressure….)
  1. Better to go to a tradeshow to speak at. Whether it’s a keynote address, a breakout session or participation in a panel discussion, plan ahead to leverage the speaker tracks at a show to demonstrate your authority. And repurpose that speaker content from the show: a blog post, an annotated PPT on Slideshare, perhaps a recording of your talk.
  1. Script the booth staff. The team you’re sending will probably include a mix of veterans and newbies. It’s not uncommon for a startup to have to pull engineers away from their computers to staff a show. Therefore, invest in training your team on what the key messages are to enable each and every person staffing your booth, regardless of their title, to stick to the script of what your product or service does and why the customer should care. A team delivering a consistent message can help build the image of a professional organization and brand.
  1. Run your own event. In addition to staffing your booth during show hours, are you having off-floor meetings with customers? Partners? Media? Analysts? Is there an invitation-only customer dinner? Have you dedicated staff to track the conversations on social media during the show, so you can join the conversation? Engaged teams can respond to opportunities on Twitter during the show and create opportunities on the fly for private demos, exec meetings, etc.
  1. Trade leads with other exhibitors, especially complementary vendors or partners. An experienced tradeshow captain who is connected, can swap leads with another non-competitive exhibitor at the show. The swap may not double the leads you come home with, but it could significantly increase the leads you collect for nurturing, post-show.
  1. Sleuth out the competition. Make sure your tradeshow team has scouted the competitors during the show and has a plan to bring home valuable information about the competitors’ messages, materials, claims, demos, etc.
  1. Celebrate your returning team. When your tradeshow team returns, give them the spotlight to report on their results as well as their insights into customer concerns, and strategies employed by the competition, etc.
  1. Can you leverage a show without a booth? Yes, you can! There are shows that lend themselves to lots of off-floor briefings, meetings with the media and with partners. All it takes is planning. And if you’re sending a team to a show that your company is not exhibiting at, they should still have goals to meet and report on to the company.
  1. Have a response plan in place before the show starts. Do you have a follow up plan to nurture leads from the show? Is there content from the show to incorporate in the email response, post show? Perhaps there’s a blog post on the top questions from customers? Or the results of a survey conducted in the booth?
  1. Measure, measure, measure. Just because you went to the show last year doesn’t mean you should go again this year. Shows can have a high program and human cost. Startups have to be ruthless about measuring the ROI on tradeshows to ensure they really make sense in your marketing program mix.

Posted On February 23rd, 2016 by Crowded Ocean

The 20×20 Rule for Startups

As part of every onboarding process, we get asked by the startup founding team what we think of trade shows. Implicit in that question (since most of them come from established companies who are frequent participants in trade shows) is: when do you think we’re ready to start exhibiting?

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 8.28.27 AMThe immediate answer (and remember: there are always exceptions) is: not yet, and probably not for a long time. The reasoning behind this answer is:

  1. Trade shows are cripplers for startups, from finding and customizing a rental booth to building a demo to staffing the show. It brings product development and early Sales to a grinding halt.
  2. A rental 10×10 booth (even in Startup Alley) makes you look small, perhaps even temporary.
  3. Trade show leads (in the opinion of most of the Sales guys we’ve worked with) don’t rank as highly as those from other sources, such as webinars or outbound e-blasts.

The exceptions to the rule are those events where everyone is given the same real estate, such as certain Gartner shows. Quality of lead is good and everyone’s in a 10×10.

So our counsel to our clients is this:

  • Stay off the show floor for as long as you can. Your time and money is better spent playing off-floor—renting a hotel suite and bringing clients and analysts there for a more controlled (and peaceful) environment.
  • If you’re determined to exhibit on the show floor, don’t go until you can afford a 20×20 booth. If you can afford a booth that size, Sales is probably established, the product is stable, and you’re large enough to staff the show without bringing your entire operation to a halt.


Posted On May 12th, 2015 by Crowded Ocean

Launching our 36th startup: PowWow Mobile

We’re proud to launch our 36th startup. That’s PowWow Mobile, a pioneer in enterprise application transformation that will be showcasing its Application Transformation platform at the Citrix Synergy tradeshow in Orlando this week.

PowWowMobile-logoPowWow can transform any enterprise app for any mobile device in ten days. PowWow is helping enterprise IT deliver trusted, workhorse applications that are core to the business as a native mobile experience for its users. That results in tremendous cost savings and helps enterprise meet the needs of their increasingly mobile workforce.

Since stepping in as PowWow’s interim VP of marketing at the beginning of 2015, we have tapped our ecosystem of marketing partners to build a virtual marketing team ofpowwowbooth experts to position, staff and launch the company:

  • Web design team – Dystrick
  • Video content – Launchsquad
  • PR agency – Eastwick
  • Demand gen – Marketing Operations
  • Design – Jer Jager
  • Marketing Automation – Hubspot

And we’re pleased to be handing over the reins to the new head of marketing starting next week at PowWow Mobile. Congrats to the PowWow team. Sell, team, sell.

Posted On March 17th, 2014 by Crowded Ocean

Lost at sea – can startups stand out at tradeshows?

As a rule, we counsel our startup clients to avoid trade shows in their first year of existence. First off, a trade show can cripple a startup, since it consumes a young company’s lean resources, human and otherwise. trifacta boothSecond, the most they can usually afford is a 10’x10’ booth (usually a rental), which hardly communicates a sense of leadership or longevity.

We normally recommend going to shows where every company gets the same booth and the same opportunity.

How a startup does it right

But there’s an exception to every rule. And in our case that exception was our client Trifacta, the new Big Data player. Five months ago, when we started working with them, and we built the marketing launch timeline, making the annual Strata Conference in February a focus made perfect sense to help scale the company. trifactakeynoteAlong with our PR firm, Lewis PR, we formulated a strategy where we created buzz and expectation during January, launched Trifacta in early February and capped it off at the Strata Conference the following week with a strong mix of investments that would normally run counter to best practices.

Go big or go home

The showcase of the company at Strata included:

  • A 90-min tutorial by two of the founders, luckily sandwiched right before the opening of the exhibit showfloor
  • A sponsorship that included a 10×20 booth and a 40-min speaker session and demo before a capacity crowd of 100+
  • An opening keynote for one of the co-founder and VP of UX before a capacity crowd of 500
  • Special “office hours” for two of the co-founders

After each speaker session the booth was packed, sometimes up to five deep. And the team was able to leverage the annual conference to set its own events: private customer briefings, a private customer dinner, partner meetings and briefings with the media and market analysts.

trifactabreakoutPress coverage grew exponentially, and social media exploded. The client was justifiably ecstatic.

Critical benefits for sales focus and team training

Although we are wary of trade shows early in a company’s lifetime, there are some benefits to be aware of. A recent post on, details the how a tradeshow may catalyze the team in ways that bring long-term benefits for the company. For example, the Trifacta team is now much better versed at social media best practices after being rallied to use social channels to share new content and market feedback at the tradeshow. Additionally, all of the one-on-one interactions with prospects in the booth have helped to turn a team of mostly engineers into much more sales-focused team. .

So has all of the above changed our minds about trade shows? Not really. Given the limited resources—financial and otherwise—that startups have, we don’t find the ROI there to justify the participation. But there are always exceptions, and in Trifacta’s case we all agreed that we had the opportunity to maximize a ‘perfect marketing storm’. And we did.