“Cautious optimism” follows CONEXPO enthusiasm

CECA-2017-RGBConstruction’s big party, CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017, wrapped up in Vegas about a month ago, and I am only now getting around to writing about the experience. From the perspective of our agency, it was a great show. And the reason it was a great show for us was that our clients, new and old, told us that it was a great show for them. Enthusiasm was high—the mood was totally unlike the funereal tone in 2014 and 2011. People were buying what the exhibitors were selling and that is good for the industry and the national economy.

There were more than 2,500 exhibitors splashed over 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space. During three full days at the expo I walked every single aisle in every single lot and hall in the show, and I talked to hundreds of people. I spent significant time in 36 booths, but I really focused the bulk of my time in 15 of them. Eight are current clients, and the other seven are not yet clients, though I hope they soon will be. Of those 15, only one was even a little bit disappointed with the show. The other 14 were on the spectrum that began at “Wow, we’re getting serious interest here!” to “Our problem in 2017 is now going to be manufacturing enough to keep up with orders.”

xHHconexpo xtradeshow 2Almost all of these companies are manufacturers of heavy equipment of one kind or another, and many of them reported that they sold all the units in their booth, and took orders for additional units. And that does not even begin to tell the story of the quality leads that sales and marketing managers took back with them to the office to sort through and act on after the show.

When asked why they thought buyers were so optimistic, everyone I spoke to mentioned the forecast of more federal money to support national infrastructure as well as regulation relief. New construction stats have been trending up but are still not great, so most of the optimism was based on future expectations. But as one industry veteran told me, “A depressed man doesn’t spend money. On the other hand, one who is feeling good about the future opens his pockets.”

A couple of weeks after the show, I polled several of the marketing managers I had spoken to earlier to see if their outlook had changed. Again, almost everyone said that their primary feeling about business was one of cautious optimism. Some of the Vegas enthusiasm had faded, but the overall feeling was still very positive. It appears that marketing budgets may be opening up a bit, a trend I expect to accelerate if this year ends up in positive territory.



Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

Will you be at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017?


Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.


I know that this Expo does not apply to all of you, but over half of our subscribers are in fields that relate to CONEXPO in one way or another, and I know that most of those companies will have booths at this show. After CES (the computer and electronics expo,) it’s the largest convention in Las Vegas in 2017!

We will have several members of our team at CONEXPO, some supporting specific clients and some, like me, just trying to visit with all our clients and the prospective clients we’ve been talking to. We’ll also be taking the time to keep our relationships with the trade media strong as well as supporting the first-ever Construction Media Alliance Editorial and Marketing Communications Awards.

I’d love to chat with you about what we may be able to do to help you realize your own marketing goals—send an email to to set up a time to meet! I’ll be at the show the whole week.








Tradeshow logistics & warehousing—another Ellcom service

SPE_6228_edit webOur clients see tradeshows as a way to see potential customers face to face. Meeting them and sharing information at a show doesn’t have to go through the media or some new app. It’s just you and your customers, making connections.

Through our years of putting together tradeshows for clients, we’ve tried to be smart about resources – reusing materials, keeping themes continuous from show to show. We also had staff with experience in logistics and realized that using our skills and ample space to warehouse tradeshow material made sense. We know the companies we work for, their products, what goes where, so why not organize tradeshow goods and ship them where they’re needed?

We like to help make sure those well laid and expensive plans for tradeshows turn into success stories. Whether it’s planning a show from start to finish, creating a 3D sketch of booth space, arranging for booth setup, carpet laying, rigging, whatever is needed, plus creating your communication material, we can do that.

We inventory, house, maintain, ship and receive items used for marketing at tradeshows – from keychains to equipment weighing tons. The companies we work for pay storage fees like they would anywhere. They get the benefit of not paying or training full-time staff to run this warehouse, but yet they have us on call for their warehousing needs.

Storing tradeshow gear with our warehouse has advantages for our clients. For one, there’s no better way to make sure the right equipment is sent with the right marketing and branding material than to have the ones who planned it, pallet it. Our clients can file orders through a handy online system that shows them their inventory, or just call us to say, “Remember that really pretty wall we used six months ago in New York? I want that next week in Las Vegas.”

SPE_6099_edit webWe not only provide economical storage but can clean and touch up displays and products so that they arrive looking showroom ready, with minimal prep on the show site. We strive to have goods arrive only needing to unwrap and maybe put a final shine on them.

We keep detailed records for every piece of your inventory, and we can provide tracking so that everyone in your company knows where something is at, and when it’ll be available for the next show.

Realizing that tradeshows are a way for you to put your best face forward, we’re happy to help in all aspects of that process.  From the fun show concepts all the way to the booth space … and the trucks that get everything there.




Sara Schmuck is an Account Manager, and the Managing Editor of Client Publications, for Ellenbecker Communications.

Booth invitations—the medium matters

Jenny Ellenbecker is the Tradeshow Manager for Ellenbecker Communications. She has planned and executed tradeshow strategies for clients for over a decade, including for some of the biggest expos in the mining, construction and oil and gas industries.

In an earlier blog post, I talked about how important it is to target your pre-show marketing to the few hundred or few thousand people—both customers and prospective customers— that matter most to your success. But how do you do that, once you have identified your target audience and customized a message that talks directly to them?

The medium matters.

When I say medium, I am referring the actual marketing piece that is carrying your carefully crafted message. Is it an eblast? Is it a postcard? Is it something more exotic?

I’m not going to talk much about eblasts, mainly because everyone does them, and because there are so many issues that can derail or dilute their effectiveness. They can be caught by the recipient’s spam filter and never get a chance to do their job. Even if they make it into the inbox, the email program may block any active content or the awesome graphics your artist worked so hard to create. Some of them get through, and some are actually read by the recipient, and this may well be worth the time and expense. Like an ad in a magazine, they are a way to get a general message in front of a lot of people. We approach every eblast on a case by case basis.

I should probably add that I’m not talking about targeted emails here—we consider them to be something quite different from an eblast. By its nature, an eblast is general and “blasts” out to a large list. A targeted email goes to one person at a time, or to a small group of people. And these are generally people who are used to getting an email from you and are likely to read your message.

But there is an “old school” message-delivery system that we still like here at Ellcom—Direct Mail (DM.) A DM piece can be crafted to stand out from all the other physical mail a prospect gets. Maybe by the creative use of shapes or colors or copy you can stand out from the crowd. Or perhaps you can include a small promotional item, or send an invitation in the same format as a birthday or holiday card—those almost always get opened! DM is not always appropriate—but it is another option to consider when sending to a relatively small, targeted group of recipients.

And finally, you may consider actual phone calls to invite a few dozen or even a few hundred special customers or prospects. Either the salesperson for an area or a marketing person may make these simple calls—the fact is that most of the calls will likely roll to voicemail, where you can leave a brief, warm invitation to a special event you are hosting, or perhaps just an invitation to see your new equipment at your booth. This is an unusually personal touch that can help your message stand out from all the background static that surrounds a major tradeshow.

Make the most of your pre-show marketing

Jenny Ellenbecker is the Tradeshow Manager for Ellenbecker Communications. She has planned and executed tradeshow strategies for clients for over a decade, including for some of the biggest expos in the mining, construction and oil and gas industries.

As we’ve said before on this blog, you just don’t throw a party and then forget to invite anyone. But that’s what you have done, in effect, if you don’t aggressively market your presence at a tradeshow in the months leading up to it.

Many reports have shown that most attendees know well in advance of the opening ceremony just which booths they will visit. Therefore, setting up a booth—no matter how attractive—and just hoping that someone strolls by and decides to drop in is simply not a viable strategy. And this is even more critical as corporate budgets are cut at the same time that tradeshows costs continue to climb!

Here at Ellcom, we have a lot of tradeshows on the horizon that serve important industries for our clients’ diverse product lines. Power-Gen, NGWA, the ARA show, CONEXPO-CON/AGG, OTC…

And pre-show marketing is a big part of our planning for each and every one of these shows.

Of course, there are a lot of tools you can use to reach your audience. Advertising plays a part, as does participation in some of the marketing plans sponsored by the various organizations putting on these shows. Then there are invitations of one sort or another—and other familiar methods.

We’ve noticed a trend in pre-show marketing that we find troubling. I call it the “spamification effect.” What I mean is that budget-cutting is leading many companies to turn to massive eblast campaigns as their primary pre-show marketing tool. For a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, you can send an emailed invitation out to tens of thousands of potential attendees. Bam! Mission accomplished, right?

I’m not so sure.

Of course, these campaigns have their place as a mass-marketing announcement of your presence, just as paid ads do. But the question I always ask is, “Are they really targeting the people you most want to see walk in your booth?”

As any salesman will tell you, a lead is not the same as a qualified lead. And we strongly suggest that our clients focus on targeting their pre-show marketing as much as possible to the hundred or few hundred or few thousand people who are the most important to their success. That includes current customers and your top prospects for new customers.

Your salesmen know who those people are; get their addresses and email addresses and make sure that these key people receive a targeted invitation to your booth. Make sure that your eblast or postcard or other direct mail piece is customized to appeal to a group or sub-group that these people belong to. You likely have several such groups that these key contacts can be sorted into into—customize a separate message for each of these different groups.

Make sure that the message is something they will care about. We all react more favorably to a message that speaks to us, our specific interests, than to a general message that we know is going to all ten or twenty thousand attendees.

And in an upcoming blog post, I’ll talk a little more about the actual media you may choose to use to accomplish your pre-show marketing goals.

Are you ready for the big show?

Scott Ellenbecker is Editor-in-Chief of multiple in-house publications for Atlas Copco, and the president of Ellenbecker Communications.

Atlas Copco’s booth at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2011.

Atlas Copco’s booth at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2011.

We’re talking about CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014, which will be held March 4-8 next year in Las Vegas, so the answer is probably “no.”

Sure, you have your booth space reserved, and you’re probably working on some booth details, but this is the Big Show. This deserves your “A” game. Here are a few things to keep in mind—because I can almost guarantee you that, before you know it, you’re going to look at the calendar and say, “Oh-oh, I’m running out of time! CONEXPO is next month!”

Brand awareness is an important part of the planning for any big trade show, and CONEXPO is no exception. In fact, it is even more important—because there is one truly enormous crowd of exhibitors from which to distinguish your company! And the sponsorships that can help you create awareness are being snapped up; a lot of the most popular ones are already gone, as show management decided to open up sponsorships to buyers several months earlier than they have in the past.

Of course, you are giving attention to your booth. For the Big Show, many companies will create a completely new booth, giving a lot attention to visual appeal, and that is a good thing. Excellent visuals and visual storytelling can bring prospects into your booth that had not planned to visit you—and these can turn into new customers. Great visuals will attract existing customers as well, and subtly encourage them to spend some quality time with you.

Planning traffic-flow through the booth is also important, as is adequate staffing—both are projects that require plenty of time to plan properly, and should be done well in advance of opening day.

But in all the important work of designing a booth, sometimes the pre-show marketing is missed or scrimped on. We always remind our clients that exhibiting at a trade show without going all-out to invite customers and prospects is like throwing a party and forgetting to invite anyone.


We recommend trying to create an event within your booth, something that customers and prospects alike would be interested in. A wine-bar at the end of the day, or a cappuccino bar in the mornings, are good general interest attractions. Or perhaps product demonstrations would be appropriate if they are dramatic enough or would generate sufficient interest in the mind of the invitee. In short, try to give your expo-weary target audience something to look forward to, and then make sure that your marketing effort reaches them well ahead of the show.

But to really make that pre-show marketing work, you need that great idea—an event or series of events that will captivate your target audience. Unfortunately, that takes time. Fortunately, as of today—early in the month of June—you have sufficient time. Just don’t let it slip away!