Trade Show Strategy in Action: Canon Medical

Trade Show Strategy in Action - Canon Medical - TSI18.1

Trade shows are not a stand-alone marketing tool. Instead they should be integrated into all your other marketing efforts as part of a comprehensive strategy.

The team at Canon Medical Systems is a great example of that, so I featured their story in the updated edition of Build a Better Trade Show Image. Listen in as Debbi Kemp shares behind-the-scenes details (beyond what’s in the book) on how they:

  • Designed an exhibit to engage and draw attendees deeper into the booth
  • Incorporated virtual elements to reduce expenses
  • Took the show on the road to reach those who couldn’t make it to RSNA
  • Set (and exceeded) measurable goals

Here are the links mentioned in our interview:

About Debbi Kemp

Debbi Kemp
Debbi Kemp

Debbi Kemp is Senior Manager of Experience Marketing for Canon Medical Systems, USA. She has an International award-winning background in tradeshows and events. From Healthcare to Silicon Valley, it’s been a journey across the globe.

In her current role, Debbi oversees trade shows, events, roadshows, intimate affairs and more. She brings a new creative directive every time she turns the corner – there’s never a dull moment in Debbi’s camp!

She currently resides in Southern California with her husband & dog Milo, and vacations at their home in Datchet, England.


[00:00:00.490] - Marlys Arnold

You're listening to the Trade Show Insights podcast. Season 18 Episode 1. I'm your host and exhibit marketing strategist Marlys Arnold, bringing you tools to improve your exhibit results on today's episode, brought to you by the Exhibit Marketers Cafe.

[00:00:30.510] - Marlys Arnold

We're going behind the scenes of one of the case studies featured in the new edition of Build a Better Trade Show Image.

[00:00:37.770] - Marlys Arnold

You can hear the full story of an integrated marketing strategy.

[00:01:01.650] - Marlys Arnold

Well, I am so excited about today's guest. I first heard the story about what Canon Medical is doing and how it's basically what I always tell exhibitors. It's putting all the pieces together and bringing a strategy together and not just piecemealing it out. But I want to introduce our guest real quick, and then we'll just jump into the conversation. Debbi Kemp is the senior manager of Experienced Marketing for Canon Medical Systems, and Debbi has an international award winning background in trade shows and events. From healthcare to Silicon Valley, it's been a journey across the globe. In her current role at Canon Medical Systems, Debbi oversees trade shows, events, road shows, intimate affairs, all kinds of events for Canon. And she brings a new creative directive every time she turns the corner. And there's never a dull moment in Debbi's camp. She currently resides in Southern California with her husband and dog, Milo. Debbi, welcome to Trade Show Insights.

[00:02:06.670] - Debbi Kemp

Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

[00:02:08.970] - Marlys Arnold

Well, like I said, I am so excited to share the story of what Canon Medical is doing because you really are bringing all the pieces together and having a cohesive strategy, which is what I always tell exhibitors to do, is don't look at trade shows as just one thing out there by itself. It needs to be a part of all of your marketing and putting it all together. So let's start out, first of all, with, I know for RSNA or for those who aren't familiar, the Radiological Society of North America, for the show this year, you did something very different. So tell us a little bit about your exhibit at RSNA and how you made it different and more experiential this year.

[00:02:49.900] - Debbi Kemp

Yeah. So RSNA is a really big show in North America. It's the largest medical show in all of America. North America. In past, it's had up to 85,000 people. So it's quite a large attendance this year. Just second year, coming out of the pandemic, there was roughly about just under 40,000 people. So that was still quite a lot of people. They're still working their way. Trade shows are, as you know, on their way back. But we knew that going back and this year, it was still going to be a struggle with labor in Chicago. We did some research with the labor in Chicago and what type of labor was coming back. I think everybody's feeling that struggle of that pain. And I knew that we would struggle to get the quality of labor that we wanted or the people to even show up on the booth, to build parts of the booth. So I took everything out of the air, which we typically fly a lot of stuff in the air. And for those of you who do trade shows and fly truss lighting, signage, everything in the air, I knew that that was where they were really short on people.

[00:03:52.060] - Debbi Kemp

So my vision was to really pull it out of the air and put it all on the ground. And so in doing so, we wanted to create something that was at eye level, but really eye candy. We know that when people walk by a booth that they only have three to 4 seconds to really grasp whether or not they want to go into the booth or not go into the booth.

[00:04:12.650] - Marlys Arnold


[00:04:13.570] - Debbi Kemp

I think you know that from trade show experience. You know that when somebody walks by, are they intrigued enough to walk by or is it just going to be a straight wall with a graphic on it? And I never want to do that ever. As a trade show manager, you never want to just do a graphic on a wall. You're never going to attract somebody. So I wanted to build Vegas basically on the floor in Chicago, basically. And so we built a tunnel and we built an LED tunnel on curved panels. And I knew that by building a tunnel it was going to be excitement enough with movement on the LED panels to draw the customers in subliminally with whatever we put on the panel.

[00:04:55.890] - Marlys Arnold

You literally were building a path through the booth. You were guiding people through your exhibit.

[00:05:00.760] - Debbi Kemp

Absolutely. And so subliminally people in their minds when they walk by saying, hey, that's kind of cool. And it pulled them in without them even knowing it. So we were gathering people and we were right at the front of the hall, lucky enough that we managed to get that spot and we just pulled everybody in and then they ended up right into the middle center of the booth and they were captured. There was nowhere else to go. So it worked out really well in the end.

[00:05:27.530] - Marlys Arnold

So tell me a little bit more about how you crafted the tunnel. What was in the tunnel? What was it like? What was it that was drawing people in?

[00:05:36.940] - Debbi Kemp

So the goal was to really pull people in, like you said, and then once they got into the tunnel, the movement kept them intrigued enough so it wasn't always the same panel going and appearing and then disappearing. And then they were engaged to work within an interactive tool that talked to them about new products in our booth. And because the area was so innovative and dynamic, it was the suitable place to put innovative, new what's, new what's happening in Canon Medical. So every business unit had an area within the tunnel that they could talk to the customer on any topic that was being talked about throughout the entire booth, but only on the new. So when you got into the tunnel, which is naturally where everybody was drawn to, then they would be able to talk to all of our salespeople because that ideally was their job. Once we got them into the booth, then they would be able to talk to the customer and capture them and talk to them about all the new technology. And so really, the goal of the tunnel was really to pull them into the booth, talk about what's new, and then take them into the other auxiliary areas throughout the booth so that they can talk about drill down deep further.

[00:06:48.920] - Marlys Arnold

Talk more in depth.

[00:06:50.310] - Debbi Kemp

Yeah, absolutely.

[00:06:52.770] - Marlys Arnold

So the other thing I like is you incorporated virtual elements into your exhibit as well, because a lot of exhibitors are too scared to delve into the virtual side of things. Tell us how you incorporated that and really blended it all together really seamlessly.

[00:07:11.300] - Debbi Kemp

Yeah. Every trade show now, after the pandemic is going to have a virtual element and you never want to miss it. So I reiterate this constantly and tell people, even if it's just a page that people can go to if they're not going to come to the show, you know, a small percentage are always going to come virtually because travel is so expensive now. So we knew that customers were not going to be able to all get there. But sometimes what happens is they can send one candidate from their hospital or from their organization. So we hooked up various customers who were not able to come in our conference room, and we live streamed. We were able to live stream to our academy where we could demo the product. And if they couldn't even do the live streaming, we were able to drive them to a page that we had set up that sort of sat side by side our booth and could actually visit various areas throughout the booth. So if you couldn't come to the booth, you could actually see the product online and you could visit that. Or if you couldn't do that, then you could actually sit in a meeting or a conference room or in front of a computer and get a live stream of a demonstration of our product.

[00:08:29.910] - Debbi Kemp

Because we didn't bring big product this year, we chose not to do that.

[00:08:34.020] - Marlys Arnold

That was the other thing I thought was really interesting is you weren't showing off the actual product. You were demonstrating it in different kinds of ways.

[00:08:42.500] - Debbi Kemp

Yeah. So every trade show manager dreads their bill at the end of the show, and then drainage and drainage, and you're like you want to cry when you see the drainage bill. You're like, really? It's like half a million dollars to move all of that equipment to my booth. I mean, that's a big booth. Okay.

[00:09:00.250] - Marlys Arnold

But anytime you're dealing with big equipment, even if you just got one piece of big equipment. It's expensive.

[00:09:05.210] - Debbi Kemp

Yeah, exactly. So you really try and manage that. And in the new age of buttonology, if you think of Carvana, you don't go to a car lot to buy your car, do you? So you sort of get a demonstration online, you read about it and then you get the car delivered.

[00:09:24.240] - Marlys Arnold


[00:09:24.860] - Debbi Kemp

So a car is just as expensive as an X ray piece of equipment sometimes. So we went with that methodology and we said, okay, well, wait a minute. So we'll talk to you as much as we can, we'll drill it down and we can give you a sample, even virtually online, of what it's going to feel like and look like. It saved us thousands of dollars on drainage and space on the booth. So we were able to reach our customers still with the product, but just not in person. And they were very accepted on the booth this year. Very widely accepted.

[00:09:59.780] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and on the flip side of that, you didn't necessarily have everybody and their brother there in your staff. You had people virtually on the staffing side, too. Talk a little bit about that.

[00:10:11.920] - Debbi Kemp

Correct, yeah. So at our academy, where we do some training, we do online training, we do in person training, hands on training, and we do it virtually as well. We had staff there and we had a small camera crew there. So when a customer came onto the booth and they wanted a demonstration of a pet CT scanner, we were able to queue up the camera in Irvine or in Florida and say, hey, can we get a demonstration? And boom, it was right there on the screen for them. We didn't have to worry about shipping equipment, all those trucks and all that drag and all that electric and everything else with them. We contained all of those costs and kept it in house.

[00:10:54.530] - Marlys Arnold

I love it. And that's so smart because it's true. The trade show is a great place. The show floor is a great place to meet people face to face. But you don't have to have everybody and everything in your space. And I think too many times exhibitors think they got to cram everything possible in that space, and you did it in a very creative way. Well, let's shift gears, literally, and talk about your roadshow. (Road show) I think this is so fantastic. I mean, in the book Build a Better Trade Show Image, we have a whole chapter on road shows because that is something that, again, could be easily worked into the trade show strategy. So talk about how you blended the two. What was the road show all about and then how you blended the two aspects together.

[00:11:43.840] - Debbi Kemp

The road show is my baby. I absolutely love it. And for eight years I pitched it and finally, after coming out of COVID they finally caught onto it and said, okay, that's a great idea. We're tired of listening to you just go do it. But we did it. And my thought was that people were coming out of COVID Everybody lost their budgets, everybody lost their staff. There was everybody short staffed. And then we work in the hospital environment. So hospitals were really short staffed and they could not get on a plane. They lost all their trade show money to visit trade shows for education. So virtual played a big part in a lot of the hospital world. And I knew that the mobile truck would be a great feeling for them to get out into their hospital. So we built a truck, kidded it out as a trade show. So it wasn't one single business unit. It was all of our products, and you could visit all of our products. It had a little pop out, just like an RV when you get a big mobile home and it popped out. We set it up.

[00:12:42.800] - Debbi Kemp

We would pull into the parking lot of the hospital and we would invite anybody who was in the hospital to come out and visit the product. We staffed it with our own people, and they could come and they could visit the product and see everything that was new and happening that they would typically see at a trade show. But instead, they saw it in their parking lot, spent 45 minutes with us, and then went back in the hospital. So on average, we pulled about 100 people per stop, just under 100 people per stop. And we got through to people that normally wouldn't even go to a trade show that get hands on with the product. And those people are the ones that will eventually be the director of the hospital that will make decisions. And it just proved fantastic for us.

[00:13:25.650] - Marlys Arnold

Well, there's so many parts of this that I love. First of all, you outsource the selection of the sites. You made it a crowd sourcing activity. Tell us a little bit about that.

[00:13:39.830] - Debbi Kemp

Absolutely. We made it a competition internally with our staff, our salespeople, because our salespeople know their customers the best, and they know who is more welcoming to let us come onto the campus and let us drive a big 18 wheeler into their parking lot at the front of the hospital. Right.

[00:13:55.450] - Marlys Arnold

Doesn't work everywhere. Yeah, I know.

[00:13:57.480] - Debbi Kemp

So we made it a competition amongst our people, and we said, nominate your staff, nominate your hospital is what we said. And they nominated their hospitals. We then went through all of the hospitals that we knew we wanted to get into. So there were several hospitals that we had never they wouldn't even let us in the door, but they were willing to have the 18 wheeler pull up. So we said, okay, great. So we pulled into certain hospitals that we had never even been welcomed to come into, and it opened up doors that we didn't even know existed. So it sort of lit a fire and it reimagined a new way of doing trade shows. You put it all on the truck. You pull into the hospital or you pull into your location. I work in the hospital environment, but you pull into your location, all those people can't come to trade shows. So you're going to get a lot more visibility by pulling in there and visiting and talking to those people. We encourage all of our staff, anybody to invite any nominate, any hospital, any institution that they wanted. And we didn't just go to hospitals, we went to hotels.

[00:15:06.620] - Debbi Kemp

If there were four hospitals in the area or imaging centers in the area, we would then be able to gather various people from all the various locations. And that has one central location. And we fed everybody lunch. They stayed on the trailer for 45 minutes to an hour, one stop. We had somebody stand for 2 hours.

[00:15:24.980] - Marlys Arnold

Oh, wow.

[00:15:26.310] - Debbi Kemp

And we were able to live stream in our CEOs, our presidents, people who couldn't make that stuff, so that we could then have our customers, our chief of radiology or directors, all talk to our directors via streaming in a conference room that was there as well. And it was very comfortable. It was air conditioned. It has its own power. It was very self contained, and it worked out great well.

[00:15:52.210] - Marlys Arnold

And you also had kind of a viral element that you used at the hotel as well to help the people who came through spread the word. Right.

[00:16:04.950] - Debbi Kemp

In what situation is it?

[00:16:06.420] - Marlys Arnold

Well, you had talked about the QR codes that you use.

[00:16:10.600] - Debbi Kemp

Yeah, the QR codes are really popular, so I wanted everybody to feel special when they came on the trailer. So they would check in and then we would give them like a backstage pass. VIP, I love it. And it was really cool. And so we would put their name on it, VIP, and they would go into the trailer. But it had a QR code on the back. So I never wanted people to forget about the trailer visit. And sometimes when we leave something, we forget about it after a few minutes. So when they would walk back into the hospital, they would have this lanyard with his VIP bash, and they go, hey, where did you get that? And then they would say, at the Canon trailer. And the QR code on the back would then take them to inside the trailer so they could then see a picture of inside the trailer once they went back in the hospital. So it never really left them. It followed them wherever they went.

[00:16:58.550] - Marlys Arnold

That's awesome. That is such a creative way to do it. It gives it that extra level of the whole exclusivity or feeling special. Not everybody got the opportunity to go through that trailer.

[00:17:14.750] - Debbi Kemp

And I wanted to just say, hey, I'm with the band. Right. Yeah. We very much felt like that everybody was kind of excited about it. So it worked out really well.

[00:17:25.010] - Marlys Arnold

And I want to just share, too. We will actually have in the show notes, we'll have links so that people can go check out some photos and videos of the road show as well and see what you're doing. And you're going to be doing it again in 23, right?

[00:17:39.040] - Debbi Kemp

Absolutely. We're having twins. Yeah, we're having twins. We're doing it on east and West Coast because we want to reach all those people that we didn't get to reach in 2022. I believe we're 2023 now. I know, but we want to be able to reach those customers and find other avenues as well to visit. So we are looking at all different areas. It was very successful and we've had a lot of demand from people to request that we visit their hospital. So we have our website. So if you go to our website, you'll be able to request a visit from our mobile trailer. So east and west coast. I figure I can cover both, right?

[00:18:17.810] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah, because I looked at the map, you guys were literally all over and you backtracked them. I think it said 13,000 miles. You covered.

[00:18:27.290] - Debbi Kemp

Yeah, we covered a lot. So we went all the way down from Southern California, all the way up to Connecticut. So we went just about everywhere.

[00:18:36.560] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and then tying it all together. What was the last stop on the road show?

[00:18:42.040] - Debbi Kemp

The last stop? We pulled it into RSNA. So everybody followed me on LinkedIn and my messages and my posts and get to see the pictures of every stop. And the excitement was building. So a lot of people said, Are you coming to RSNA? And of course, yes, we came to RSNA. So when people saw the truck at RSNA, they came in board and said, I was there. And they saw their picture on the movies that we had sprayed around everywhere. And it was an implied radiology. They had ran a spread on it as well, and they did some interviews with people. So it worked out really well. And people were really excited that they got to say, hey, I was on the truck and it's at RSNA, so it proved out really well. So people got to visit it and see the truck. So it was really cool at RSNA.

[00:19:25.960] - Marlys Arnold

It was like a reunion for those.

[00:19:27.370] - Debbi Kemp

Who had seen it. Well, we actually garnered more credibility, but we also got a lot of people interested enough so that they've requested that it comes to their association show, which, wow. So we had a couple of associations come on board and say, have you thought about bringing it to our association annual meeting? And we're like, yeah, I'm on board. Yeah, as long as I can fit it into the exhibit hall. Sure.

[00:19:56.580] - Marlys Arnold

That is so cool. And that probably wasn't something you had thought about originally.

[00:20:02.140] - Debbi Kemp

No, we hadn't, because we had scaled back our trade show presence due to the pandemic and COVID. And we put a lot of our faith in the trailer, visiting around everywhere. And so when that came up, I thought it's a great opportunity to meet that middle ground, to do trade shows and to get the trailer out there. And so it was the perfect opportunity. So it worked out really well.

[00:20:28.440] - Marlys Arnold

That's great. Well, and there's so many other aspects, too. I mean, you did promotion both for RSNA and for the roadshow. Like you mentioned, you did a lot of social media promotion and ways to build the buzz as you went along, but you also had strategic measurements that you did. So tell us just real quick, what were some of the ways that you measured the success of the roadshow?

[00:20:54.610] - Debbi Kemp

So part of my goal was to get out to people that we hadn't seen before and to make sure that we got in front of people. So I set a goal that we would hit at least 25, 25 stops across America. 25 is ambitious if you think about it. There's only 50 states in America.

[00:21:13.480] - Marlys Arnold

And how long was the tour, how many months?

[00:21:15.680] - Debbi Kemp

We started in march and we finished the last stop was in october. So we hit 50 stops in the end because it kept coming through to do more and more and more. So my goal really, when we first started was to hit I figured we could get 50 people per stop, and we could increase our web traffic by 25%, if not 25 and 35%. And I wanted to be able to get about 50 people, 25 stops and increase web traffic. And in the end, I doubled everything. I doubled absolutely everything. And we had over 50% traffic, website traffic increased. Our social media went off the charts. We were trying to frantically type and keep everything up to date because every stop was every week with two stops. So you were driving we had karaoke carpool in the car when we would drive from stop to stop. I wish I could video that, that would be so much fun. So there were a bunch of us, we would drive from stop to stop. So the commander, we just built a great team and it got so much fun. So that when customers would come on, everybody was laughing.

[00:22:27.170] - Debbi Kemp

I mean, in Tupelo, we had Elvis playing on the music system. It was great.

[00:22:32.690] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and you had that energy internally with your team, and so that just spilled over. When the clients came through, they could feel the enthusiasm and the energy that you guys were experiencing.

[00:22:47.950] - Debbi Kemp

We had a lot of customers tell us that they had never seen anything like this roll up to their hospital before.

[00:22:53.350] - Marlys Arnold

Oh, I'm sure.

[00:22:54.250] - Debbi Kemp

Which told me, well, there's a demand for this, right? There is such a demand for this, because these poor people have been come through the pandemic. They've worked their hearts out and they can't even go to a trade show now to have some fun.

[00:23:07.690] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah, well, and like you said, a lot of those people probably never go to the trade shows anyway because their hospital may only have budget to send five people and there's 25 people actually working in the department or whatever.

[00:23:20.320] - Debbi Kemp


[00:23:23.390] - Marlys Arnold

It shows that you care about not just the executive level who are coming to the trade shows, but you care about everybody in the department who's working with that equipment and needs to learn and explore and discover new things. So I think it was just like I said, it was just such a genius plan that you had. You used the road show not in replacement of a trade show, but in conjunction with and to augment the whole trade show experience. Like you said, you basically put the exhibit on a trailer and took it across the country.

[00:23:55.210] - Debbi Kemp

Absolutely. Yeah.

[00:23:56.730] - Marlys Arnold

It was just such a great plan, and I thought this was just a wonderful story to tell, not only on Trade Show Insights, but also to include in the book as an example of everybody bringing it all together into a cohesive strategy. So, Debbi, thank you so much for being a part of not only Trade Show Insights, but also being an example in Build a Better Trade Show Image.

[00:24:19.930] - Debbi Kemp

Thank you very much. It's my pleasure to be here.

[00:24:23.110] - Marlys Arnold

This is so great. Well, best of luck to you as you start up the truck or the twins for yeah, thanks.

[00:24:33.300] - Debbi Kemp

We're looking forward to it.

[00:24:40.890] - Marlys Arnold

If you enjoyed today's episode and would like more, you can subscribe to the podcast and automatically receive future episodes on your chosen device. Simply search for Trade Show Insights in Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or virtually anywhere else.

[00:24:56.660] - Marlys Arnold

That podcasts are found.

[00:24:58.030] - Marlys Arnold

Then click the subscribe button. Trade Show Insights is protected by the Creative Commons copyright license. You may feel free to share this recording with colleagues or embedded on your own blog, as long as it's shared in its entirety and is not used for commercial purposes. To learn more, please see the link in the sidebar of the Show notes. Trade Show Well, that's it for this episode of Trade Show Insights. Be sure to check out our Show notes and archives. Trade Show Insights you can also connect with me using the social media links or the contact page on the site. I'm Marlys Arnold. Thanks for listening and be sure to join us next time for more tools to improve your exhibit results.


The NEW version of Build a Better Trade Show Image has arrived!Click here to learn more