Are You Ready for NeoCon 2015?

NeoCon 2014 hosted 40,000 attendees at the Chicago Merchandise Mart with 700 exhibitors vying for their attention.


Was it packed by 10am? Did you hit the front pages of the Show Dailys? Were your tweets getting retweeted and was your showroom getting Instagramed? If not, this newsletter is written just for you. NeoCon is known as the most important annual event for the commercial interiors industry. It’s the beginning of a fresh season for designers, dealers and architects and a great way to launch your new products and ideas. Below are tips to maximize your budget and create a lasting impact so you can be the buzz at this year’s show.

1. Assign a preliminary budget.

We say preliminary, because it’ll change throughout the process, but you’ve gotta start somewhere.

Is your showroom ready for a refresh or possibly a total refurb?

Not sure which is the right move? Your budget will handle that decision for you. Here’s what to consider:
  • Start with last year’s budget, adjust and re-apportion it.
  • Use a price per square foot formula. For a refresh, $40-$50 per SF should work. For a refurb, $100 - $150 per SF may be required depending on construction needs.
  • Use available TI dollars. With any remaining, divvy up using your facilities budget, your marketing budget and your product development budget. NeoCon’s really a shared expenditure between all three.
  • Graphically excite visitors. Vinyl is inexpensive and is visually exciting. Carry your graphics across invitations, eblasts, social media campaigns and swags.

Your budget should visit flooring, paint, wallcovering, lighting, electrical, data & media, graphics, signage, design and construction fees, and NeoCon marketing and promotion for your brand messaging.

If you need help determining a rough budget, give us a call.

2. Know your space.

Find a floorplan or contact the Merchandise Mart for a copy of your showroom’s plan. It may be old, but it’s a start. Determine the scale. Digitize it to flexibly space plan and develop rough design schematics to communicate with contractors.

Visit the space. Take your floorplan and confirm measurements. Review flooring and ceiling conditions, lighting, paint, walls, electrical & data, entry, hallway and basically every nook and cranny.

Does your showroom look like you? Does it match the feel of your website?

Be you. Be comfortable in your own skin, albeit with an exfoliated approach. Make it easy for the customer to see why your brand is different. Make your visitors remember you.

Now review your floorplan, and select those areas that should change to align with your brand’s personality. Will the customer be confused by your bright and white website while standing inside your dark and dramatic showroom? Align your touch points so they work together.

3. Work your space.

You have roughly 15 minutes to impress visitors and be memorable.


NeoCon people like to talk about cool products and see them in action. Designers are here to learn and enhance their careers. Give them products and architectural details that excite them.

Whether you’re budgeting for a simple refresh this year, or positioning your brand for a transformational experience, do it with purpose. A good spaceplan shows well planned product demo’s, incorporates areas for relaxing, mingling and meeting. It should be unburdened with non-essentials and plenty of Aha! moments along the way.

4. Eliminate expensive surprises.

A stellar spaceplan will make the rest of the details fall into place. This includes important walls, the flow of traffic and supportive electrical and data. Now comes the #1 question:

HOW DO I find the best CONTRACTOR for our money?

Mart contractors want to please leaseholders; they have a reputation to uphold. Like your employees, they require direction, involvement and feedback.

Visit the space again to review your floorplan (and desires) with two or three Mart-approved general contractors. Choose the GC that pays attention to you, has worked in your space before, and has other projects on your floor or near your showroom. Allow several weeks to finalize all bids and award the contract.

At this point, you may need help from an architectural firm or a really good brand firm (like us) who adds marketing value to your investment.

5. Treat it like the Superbowl.

NeoCon comes every year, so put your offensive strategy to work for you.


If not, they should be. While you’re conducting weekly calls with your GC, spread enthusiasm to your internal team through good leadership.
  • Set up internal kickoff meetings, exciting co-workers and enlisting their help for the multitude of NeoCon tasks and deadlines.
  • Spread the excitement through reps and key dealer salespeople. Engage them as insiders; keep them ‘in the know’ with product intro updates and NeoCon plans.
  • Blog about your progress on your website (if you don’t have a blog, NOW’S THE PERFECT TIME TO START). Tweet about your progress. Post pics on Instagram and Facebook to build anticipation. Highlight the event on your brand’s website.

And lastly, be a game changer. Build a NeoCon campaign that brings a return all year long. Craft a theme or campaign, sculpt it around products, and instill pre- and post-NeoCon chatter to fill your showroom June 15th. After NeoCon, further your investment. Continue to build on your campaign at 3Q and 4Q trade shows. Create internal contests to nurture your growing company culture. Tie your campaign into factory tours, use the campaign to create on-the-road events or at company showrooms, spreading your message to all regions and customers in your distribution network.

Be a wise marketer this year. Use NeoCon to further YOUR brand by opportunizing on the millions of dollars spent on luring designers and dealers to one building, and kick off your message with fervor. And prepare for a packed showroom in 2015!

  • Jenny Neff
  • Jenny Neff
  • Category
  • Date
    March 30 2015

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