B2B marketers consistently to rate trade shows, conferences, and other in-person marketing events as one of their most useful tools for generating strong marketing leads and brand awareness. But, to pull off a successful event, a solid marketing strategy is required. Still, a good number of marketers fail miserably in this department.
If you have ever been to a trade show, you’ve seen the glaring inequality from booth-to-booth. Indeed, not all displays all are created equal. On the one hand, a good number of exhibits are lively, energetic and crowed by attendees looking to get a peek into what’s happening, while on the other hand, others garner little interest if any at all. Worse yet, many disinterested sales and marketing staff appear to be the norm.
Ultimately the wide disparities from booth-to-booth yields a minuscule number of companies reaping enormous rewards for the thoughtful and strategic trade show planning process with many more coming home with their tails between their legs feeling outclassed and wondering whether their time and budget dollars were worth it. Here are ten critical but straightforward steps to re-energize your trade show marketing strategies and tactical execution:
- Start Your Planning Process Early and Review Your Progress Often
For your team to pull off a successful trade show event, they should begin planning well ahead of time for the show. Proper preparation seems like it would be standard practice, but most companies fall short in this department. You need to prepare far ahead of the event, including early registration and period spot checks leading up to the event. The long and short is that planning for a trade show consists of more than booking flights and hotel rooms. Your planning process should be thoughtful, meaning that every aspect of the trade show—pre-show, during-show and post-show—are strategically planned and aligned with your stated business goals.
- Set Your Trade show Goals & Desired Outcomes Ahead of the Show
It’s fairly easing to agree ahead of a trade show what your stated goals and objective should be, but far too often many marketers fail to set simple metrics to measure success ahead of their events. The goals for a good majority of companies may be to increase brand awareness while for some it may be to engage with existing clients or to generate new prospect leads. For others, it may be to launch a new product or collect quality contacts to improve their existing marketing database.
Whatever your stated goals and objectives may be, the critical factor is setting them ahead of time. Once you’ve set your measurable goals, you should painstakingly connect them back to your pre-show, during-show and post-show event execution.
- Get Involved: Be a Speaker, Sponsor an Event – Don’t Just be a Booth
Securing a booth at a hot trade show is an excellent start to trade show success, but it is not the final destination. For your company to derive more value from conference participation, you’ll need to more than get a booth; you’ll need to seek out a speaking engagement, host an event. Becoming a speaker at a trade show event allows for your company’s thought leaders to position themselves experts to a targeted highly targeted and engaged audience providing your company with even more credibility. Speaker opportunities also offer an invaluable opportunity to promote your booth helping your sales and marketing teams generate more leads with increased foot traffic and conversation topics from the talks to immediately connect with prospective clients.
- Location, Location, Location: Select the Most Highly Trafficked Area and Make it Welcoming
The location of your booth will play a crucial role in the successful outcome of your event booth. Be sure to make sure that you have a solid understanding of the exhibit hall’s floor layout and pick a location that is highly trafficked and strategically positioned for natural interaction with conference goers. Ideally, a booth where you can see participants coming straight your way that requires eye contact or a position where you are the first booth that participants see would be ideal. Your sales team will thank you because it will make it easy for them to strike up conversations with participants as they walk by your booth.
Of course, to secure the best strategically located booth will require that you sign up for the trade show well ahead of time. With most trade shows, especially the more popular ones that crucial decision makers attend and that allows for great networking opportunities will cost a pretty penny. In addition to your location, you will be essential that you are familiar with your booth set up, i.e., the specifications including space dimensions, height, internet access, light, power, etc.
One way to quickly engage with potential clients and existing customers during a trade show is to setup a welcoming space. A tactical decision like placing an obstructive stand or table in your booth’s real-estate can signal to participants that you don’t welcome their conversation or worse yet business.
- Promote your Attendance in Advance & Schedule Sales Meetings Ahead of the Show
You should let your existing and prospective clients know about your expected attendance at a trade show well ahead of time. Whatever you do, don’t wait the week before or worse yet the day of the trade show to generate hype.
There are myriad ways you can generate buzz for your event, including posting on social media, webinars, email blasts to your leads and contact databases. You may also want to leverage your blog as a useful promotional tool or writing a press release.
Your sales team should also personally invite as many of their prospects and clients to meet with them ahead of the trade show even if it’s only a quick 15-minute meeting at your booth. In-person meetings are an excellent way to nurture leads and build relationships. Ideally, the goal should be to set-up appointments with qualified leads for needs consultations, short presentations, product demonstrations or relevant meetings. Your sales team should always be setting meetings ahead of a conference or trade show. No Excuses!!!
- Customize Your Booth, Displays, and Logo Giveaways to Leave an Unforgettable Impression
Among a plethora of booths, you’ll only have seconds to attract the attention of eager trade show attendees. Therefore, have a beautifully designed and open booth coupled with concise messaging. Conference participants should unequivocally recognize your brand and generally what your problems solutions solve. It should serve to entice and lure attendees to your booth. It is the job of your sales team to take the conversation further discussing how solutions can help solve your potential client’s needs/challenges. Furthermore, your brand and marketing collateral should be consistent with the design of the booth.
Regarding SWAG, be sure to handout high-quality logo giveaways that set your company apart from the crowd. It’s always a good idea to have traditional items like totes, pens, calendars, power banks, etc. but make it a must to handout other items that attendees will use for themselves as opposed to giving them to someone else, leaving them in their hotel rooms, or worse yet throw away. Keep in mind that giveaways are a reflection of your brand, so opt for promotional items that are both unique and practical.
Check out our promotional products and signs, banners and display catalogs for some great promotional product ideas for your next trade show: http://birchhiggins.com/ecatalogs.
- Create a Kick-But Communication &Engagement Plan
Make sure that your sales and marketing team or whomever else you send to represent your company at the trade show are fully present. Encourage everyone to limit their use of laptops, tablets, etc. When a salesperson is reading his or her email at the booth, it sends a clear message to prospective clients that they don’t want to be bothered or worse yet, they are excited about the company or product they are representing. Bottom-line, your team is there to work the booth and doing so should be their primary job.
Aside from making sure that your team is being proactive and welcoming as they engage prospective clients, you may want to consider other ways such as adding motion graphics, product videos, and demonstrations as a tool to further engage potential buyers. Each can serve as a powerful medium to attract interest to your booth and tell a compelling story about your product or service solutions.
Giveaways, contests, and promotions are also an excellent way to engage prospective customers. They can be used to help create buzz surrounding your booth as well as a means to further engage prospects following the trade show. However, don’t just give away the whole candy store for nothing in return. Instead, create a communication strategy for spurring high-value conversations and seamlessly capturing quality contact information from leads.
- Devise an Effective a Post-Trade show Follow-Up Plan
The execution for a successful trade show doesn’t end on the last day of the show. In some ways, you can say it’s just the beginning because this is where you’ll reap the rewards of your thoughtful planning and hard work. Unfortunately, many drop the ball here by just dumping their leads in their CRM and essentially forgetting about them without tracking their sales team engagement with the leads and evaluating their overall quality.
Instead of dumping your trade show leads into CRM oblivion, try sending your new acquired prospects a thank you email for taking the time to speak with you, or share a copy of the presentation from any speaking events which your team may have been a participant. You’ll be able to quickly tell who your real prospects are by how they respond to your email or engage with any content you send.
For those leads deemed to be worth follow-up, create a lead nurturing campaign to build your relationship with the prospect. Furthermore, keep the hype going from the tradeshow by creating post-trade show content on your blog, website, and social media channels. Finally, be sure to measure your performance according to the goals you set ahead of the show up to several months following the trade show.
Whatever you do, don’t let your tradeshow planning get the best of you. Executing a successful tradeshow is an all-encompassing and exhausting endeavor. Keep in mind that to be successful your company needn’t have the most ostentatious booth at the show, or hire supermodels or celebrities to attract attention. No matter what your budget, you can have a productive and impactful tradeshow if you strategize well ahead of time and flawlessly execute your plan and follow-up accordingly.