Return on Investment at trade events and exhibitions is going down, so it’s more important than ever to consider your event tactics.
This applies to both pre-show tactics and those when actually exhibiting so that you make the most of your limited time.
Are you at an event that is right for your company? Do you have a booth location that is maximising your potential? Are your team prepared enough to exhibit?
What about walking around the show and getting the most beyond your booth? Lastly, but by no means least, what is your marketing strategy? What promotion and communication techniques are you using?
1. Is it the right event?
Do your team know why this is the right event both for them and the business?
If they don’t, there may be some disconnect over objectives. Where there is uncertainty over chosen events, or if the event is new, walk the show floor before you book. It may also 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, I spoke to several exhibitors who were not expecting to get any quality leads from the event. Their main reason for participation 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. However, I would argue that organisers have a responsibility to ensure full support to your business development objectives. If you aren’t getting good quality leads from event participation, then this is a threat to the growth of your business.
Talk to your show organiser
Talk to the organiser of your show and tell them, well in advance, who it is you want to attend. Tell them about the companies that will make your participation worthwhile.
Next, ask if your event organiser allows access to the full attendee list in advance?
Many can provide you with the job title and company names of visitors to the last event. This is usually enough for a sales team. They can research the list, find contacts and set up some meetings.
And, if 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.
2. Choosing a good booth location
Different organisers will give you different perspectives on the right location. Pre-show, make sure you know the rebooking policy for the following year. In some cases, the best site locations will be secured at the event.
- 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.
- Check with the organiser about the general flow of visitor traffic. If they have no data, you could consider speaking to the organiser of another event held at the same venue, or the venue themselves.
- 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. If none of these are available, look for locations at the end of an aisle as they offer better visibility for your brand.
- Check who your immediate neighbours will be. You might not want to be next to a competitor. If there are some particular neighbours you want to avoid, it might be worth sharing this information with the organiser. Better to avoid potential challenges in advance of the show rather than at it.
If you are not entirely happy with the location you have reserved, tell the organiser that you would like a second option. There is often movement as a floorplan nears completion and they may be able to accommodate your request.
3. 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.
Find a way to differentiate hot (short-term) leads at the show. A separate list for these leads can help you fast-track these enquiries post-event. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the finer details of show conversations and a list like this can then be invaluable.
4. 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 successful exhibitors.
Maybe there’s a competition or a new method of attracting leads that you could adapt.
Walking the show 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 ROI.
Potential customers need to receive relevant information from your marketing team and quickly.
You might come across an app, or a badge scanner, or something entirely new. any or all of these could provide solutions for your company.
Near the end of a show, seek out who has won the ‘Best in Show Award.’ Take a look at what they, as the best exhibitor, have done to win.
Look at their booth and adopt some of their best practices. Keep competitive in your market wherever you happen to be selling.
5. Marketing strategy
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.
That’s why it’s essential to get on your prospects calendars early using pre-show promotions. Done successfully, you can drive qualified traffic towards your booth.
- 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 invitation acts as an encouragement to attend and a reminder that you are exhibiting.
- Multi-touch promotions: Use multiple media channels to send out clear messages to registered and targeted attendees. Send out follow-up email reminders to the same list. Provide an introduction to the show announcing speakers and giving a reason why prospects will benefit from visiting you there.
Pre-show promotional checklist. Attract the wheat and repel the chaff
- Print stickers with your stand number plus the name, date, timing, and city where the show will be held. Then in the lead up to the event affix the stickers to all forms of communication
- Create a digital advertisement that can be embedded into your digital comms channels (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 coupons that can be redeemed for a gift at your stand. Narrow your target for this promotion, so you are more likely to convert qualified leads
- Use testimonials from last year’s attendees
- Personalise your communications; send a letter or make a phone call. Acknowledge the name of the receipt and explain the benefits for that person visiting your stand
The importance of experience when it comes to attracting visitors and improving exhibition ROI
I recently spoke with David O’Beirne, Managing Director of event consultancy Exhibitors Only, who of course are the publishers of this inbox magazine.
David 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.
About the Author
Ricky Purnell has founded Lexa Research, a B2B Market research company focused on events, conferences and tradeshows. The business aims to help find suitable events for SME’s through advance research, including on-site surveys and interviews. The objective is to remove the financial risk out of committing to new or untested events. Lexa offers primary research conducted by analysts and is currently focused on the technology events sector. Ricky is interested in real market intelligence and believes in the continuing importance of B2B events as a means to connect with customers and generate business in our digital world. He has worked in B2B media for over 30 years with senior roles at IDTechEx and Black Box Publishing.