With Return on Investment at trade events and exhibitions going down, it is more important than ever to consider your tactic, both pre-show and when actually exhibiting, to make the most of your time. Are you at an event that is right for your company? Do you have a booth location that is maximising your potential? Are you team prepared enough to exhibit? Are you walking around the show and getting the most beyond your booth? And lastly, but by no means the least, what is your marketing strategy – what promotions and communication techniques are you using?
Is it the right event?
Do your team know why this is the right event for them? If they don’t, there may be some disconnect over the objectives. Where there is uncertainty over events, or the event is new, many companies walk the floor, or it may be prudent to have some research done independently first.
When I ask exhibitors at events why they are exhibiting, I sometimes get surprising responses. At a major sensors event in Europe recently I spoke to several exhibitors who were not expecting to get any quality leads from the event, the main reason for being there was that ‘If we’re not here, our customers might wonder why’.
Ensuring you are seen in the market and dealing with the competitive threats is an excellent reason to exhibit, but I would argue the organisers have a responsibility to ensure full support to your business development objectives fully, and if you aren’t getting good quality leads, this is a threat to your growth.
Have more dialogue with your event organiser, and tell them, well in advance, whom you want to be there to make your participation worthwhile. Does your event organiser allow access to the full attendee list in advance? – Many can provide you with the job title and company name only at least, this is enough for the sales team to do some research and set up some meetings.
When you do get access to the attendee list, will the organiser facilitate an introduction for you? Done the right way, it doesn’t breach confidentiality.
Choosing a good booth location
Different organisers will give you different perspectives on the right location. Before the show, make sure you know the rebooking policy for the following year. In some cases, the best locations will be secured at the event.
1) Check with the organiser the location of any conference theatres which hold tracks particularly relevant to your business in advance. For example, if you are an IoT solutions provider while you may think being near the entrance is the best location, consider locations near to the theatre holding the IoT tracks.
2) Check with the organiser the general flow of traffic, and if they have no data, you could consider speaking to the organiser of another event held at the same venue, or the venue themselves.
3) Choose a location with good visibility. Some shell schemes give a restricted view, and when traffic flows by, you can be out of site in less than 5 seconds. A corner location open on two sides is best, and if none of these are available, look for locations at the end of an aisle for good brand visibility.
4) Check who your immediate neighbours will be. You might not want to be next to a competitor, and if there are some particular neighbours you need to avoid, it might be worth sharing this with the organiser, so you avoid some challenges at the show.
If you are not entirely happy with the location you have reserved, tell the organiser you would like a second option. There is often some movement as the floorplan nears completion and they may be able to accommodate your request.
Preparing the team
I have addressed some of these issues in my article booth etiquette and getting the most from exhibiting . As we all know, you cannot overprepare, and it’s worth making sure that everyone knows who the Tier 1 and Tier 2 target customers will be. There will doubtless be people selling solutions. Find a way as soon as possible to differentiate these at the show, such as separate leads list so that you can fast track to the quality leads afterwards. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the finer details of whom you met after the event break down, and the long journey home.
Walk the show floor
If the whole team spend the event entirely at your exhibition booth, you aren’t achieving your potential ROI. Maybe your ROI is not just determined by your badge scanner. There could be potential partners exhibiting elsewhere. There is also a great opportunity for you to learn from other exhibitors as to what works at shows. Maybe there is a competition or a new method of attracting leads. Walking the floor gives you the opportunity to source a new lead retrieval system (gathering the details and data of the people who visit your stand). Your lead capture process needs to run as smoothly as possible, for you to maximise on your ROI, and for potential customers to receive relevant information from your marketing team. It might be an app, or a badge scanner, or something entirely new; the key is you find the right solution for your company. Near the end of the trade show, seek out who has won the ‘Best in Show Award’ – see what they, as the best exhibitor, have done to win. Look at their booth and adopt some of their best practices, what can you learn from them, and could it work for your company?
Trade show marketers often get so preoccupied with designing and building their stands; they often forget to concentrate on driving qualified traffic. Investment in promotion is critical. Attendees usually plan their trade show time in advance, and they use pre-show information to do this. It is essential you get on your prospects calendars early using pre-show promotion so that you can drive qualified traffic towards your booth.
1) Targeted communication to registered attendees: First, eliminate non-prospects and competitors from your targeted list. Second, invite your own customers, inquirers and prospects to the show. These people are already interested in doing business with you; an invite acts an encouragement to attend and a reminder that you are exhibiting.
2) Multi-touch promotions – use multiple media channels to send out clear messages to registered and targeted attendees. Send out a follow-up email reminded to the same list, with an introduction to your trade show – announcing speakers and giving a reason why prospects will benefit from the fact you are exhibiting.
Pre-show promotional checklist. Attract the wheat and repel the chaff:
– Print stickers with your stand number, and the name, date, time, and city of the trade show then to the lead up to the event affix the stickers to all forms of communication.
– Create an electronic ad that can be embedded into your electronic communication (website, newsletters, email)
– Blog post your activities at upcoming trade shows (press releases, announcements, exhibit times, contact, speakers etc.)
– Send out free passes and discount registration (if there is a charge for entrance) – this requires cooperation with the show management, but arrangements can be made.
– Advertise pre-show in trade publications.
– Send out coupon or key that can be redeemed for a gift at the stand – narrow your target for this promotion, so you are likely to convert to qualified leads.
– Use testimonials from last year’s attendees.
– Personalise your communications; send a letter or make a phone call – acknowledging the name of the receipt and explain the benefits of that person visiting your stand
I spoke with David O’Beirne, Managing Director of event consultancy Exhibitors Only. He highlighted that experience at events is increasingly important to improving ROI.
“Fun is often overlooked in the preparation for making sales at an exhibition. Making sales is a serious endeavour for exhibitors, and it’s front and centre of their thinking. However, that’s not the case for show visitors. So, when preparing for a show think about ways that you can use on-stand attractions to make your stand more visible and appealing. It’s a proven way to make your name more memorable post-event.
There are trade shows in the US that now have music stages, food villages and top-line music stars performing. They have borrowed thinking from the world of festivals to make their events into attractions that combine business with pleasure. It’s been a highly successful combination and one that exhibitors can learn from and apply to their show thinking.”