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Forget the flash: How a carefully-planned trade show lead gen strategy with the right staff can accelerate B2B growth

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Posted by , 5th September 2017

Trade show staffing: specialists can accelerate B2B growth

Specialist stand staff can boost lead generation results at trade shows  

B2B companies, despite huge advances in online analytics technology, still consider trade shows and event marketing to be an essential weapon in their outreach arsenal when attracting new clients and building strong commercial relationships.

That’s according to new research by eMarketer, which found that B2B marketers are investing heavily in events to complement and bridge their digital offerings amongst target markets. The report also highlights how B2Bs are hosting in-person events specifically to accelerate the sales pipeline and drive further revenue by discovering new prospects, collecting data and nurturing those leads.

Report author and analyst Jillian Ryan adds: “Even with the rise of more measurable digital marketing tactics, trade and marketing events continue to be a major avenue for building relationships, influencing attendees and sharing industry thought leadership.”

There are still so many companies operating in the B2B sphere, though, that think it’s enough to simply turn up at trade events. They may invest in graphics and in building a strong-looking exhibition space, believing that initial flash is all they need to attract passers-by and familiarise people to the brand, what they offer and introduce them to the sales pipeline.

They couldn’t be more wrong

It’s understandable why a lot of B2B companies and providers venture down that path. They believe in the inherent simplicity of event marketing; that it’s a hugely personal thing and that they can rely on their charm, passion for the product and overall people skills to see them through the day.

The rise in experiential marketing too has also convinced a lot of marketers that all they need to win hearts and minds at an event is a creative, unique idea that sets them apart. Across the top marketing agencies across the UK, budget reserved for experiential is rocketing upward annually and is of growing importance to the national economy according to a joint report by Event and London & Partners.

The attention that a clever experiential campaign can provide a brand can reap immediate rewards and generate an enormous social buzz online, as events company Exterion Live has recently discovered. The experiential specialists recently capitalised on TV show Game of Thrones’ popularity, taking over public transport locations in the capital with a team dressed as the programme’s deadly White Walkers.

This creative tactic helped the brand tap into a vibrant pop-culture consciousness surrounding the global hit, and raise the company’s profile. If you’re good at doing something after all, you may as well show what you can do to as many people as you can. Experiential can be a double-edged sword though, especially for smaller brands with tighter budgets who can’t afford to impress potential clients on such an enormous scale.

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They need to think about their event strategy

For every strong idea like Exterion Live’s, there are hundreds of creative ideas that are executed poorly or simply don’t resonate with potential audiences as well as the creator feels they should. Numerous brands over in the U.S. have recently tried to create marketing and experiential opportunities around the recent solar eclipse, for instance, in a bid to link the event and the possible memories it may create to their products and services.

Not a bad idea, but also one that may hold little long-term value. Instead of blowing the budget on one large flash-in-the-pan marketing event, wouldn’t your growth strategy be better served by consistently and regularly focusing on the right market, building strong relationships with them, learning more about the problems they may need solving and collecting the right data in transparent, ethical ways?

‘Strategy’ is the key word here. As previously mentioned, many believe they can invest in flashy graphics and tote bags at a marketing exhibition to make an impression. Senior managers and CEOs may also believe that it’s fine taking a handpicked internal team with them to manage and maintain the booth, and that they’ll be as dedicated, knowledgeable and as passionate about the brand as they are.

And there’s nothing wrong with that train of thought. It’s an admirable one and may be a solution that works for you if yours is a small, close team. In the majority of cases we see, though, taking people from certain behind-the-desk roles at a company and expecting them to evolve into perfect people-facing lead generators at valuable B2B industry events can often be a stretch too far.

Staffing truth: experienced trade show staff can provide instant returns

Truly effective trade show lead generation is all about creating an incredible attendee experience and journey on the day. For some brands, they may need a total overhaul of their trade show strategy and how they approach and identify potential leads. For others, they may need a slight tweak to their existing plans and hire the right staff who will complement their existing ideas, such as professionals experienced working internal booths.

Expo Stars has helped hundreds of businesses across the globe to better understand their market and the part they have to play at trade shows, providing strategy reviews and creating activity plans to better identify the leads that can become long-term repeat B2B customers; an essential part of accelerating growth in their chosen business sector.

One reason why marketers also have a penchant for digital is because it’s able to provide real-time visual analytical data for campaigns and their overall performance, thinking it’s much harder or closer to impossible to properly measure ROI at a physical event like an exhibition. Not so, and with an effective lead generation strategy in place, B2B marketers can quite easily measure their performance on the day through key reporting techniques that detail and rank potential prospects.

Get greater results with professional promotion staff

Those results simply couldn’t have been generated without using professional, multilingual promotion staff experienced in a multitude of areas. Workers representing you at a trade event may be a good stop-gap solution, but you’re more likely to target, meet and communicate with people on a better level if you employ professional exhibitors trained in the art of lead generation at B2B live marketing events.

That can include brand ambassadors, promotional models, crowd gatherers, sales representatives, product demonstrators, narrators, event managers, team leaders, interpreters and translators with experience in international events, and more. It’s also essential to craft a strategy that makes best use of the talents of the professionals who can best enhance those plans, work with you and your booth team and are as committed to your success as you are.

Sometimes, it may make sense to leave your own internal staff behind and just use professionals who enjoy the process, and can handle standing up on their feet all day long without worrying about their workload piling up back at the office.

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Engaging personalities are key to event success

At Expo Stars, we’re very particular about the promotion staff who not only represent us, but those who represent our clients to the world, too. It takes a certain type of engaging personality to effectively attract and nurture targeted leads in person during B2B trade shows. It’s even more valuable to our clients when those performers are there for our clients 24/7, learning as much as they can about a brand and its direction to effectively represent what they’re offering to the sector.

One of our recent clients, Prosymmetry, is a specialist Resource Management software vendor who commissioned Expo Stars to proactively engage attendees at several Gartner Project Management Conferences in London and Orlando. The challenge was to maximise the break times that attendees have in between conference sessions and ensure that they not only captured attendees’ attention but also communicated a compelling message in a way that brought them in to the stand and engaged them in a structured conversation in a very short space of time.

They kept the booth layout very basic, didn’t bother with promotional giveaways and focused on the personal interaction with the attendees. Expo Stars supplied them with two locally-based professional lead generation staff in each city to help them execute their engagement strategy.

The results were phenomenal, with VP of Sales Greg Bailey commenting: “All I can say is wow! The professionalism and work ethic was amazing. Your team truly took the time to engage and talk to prospects. We were slammed at the booth and they handled it with poise and professionalism, and we did not even have any promotional “swag” to give out.  

“If I had used your services over all the years I have done these events… I’m sick to my stomach thinking of the business we have missed out on.” Prosymmetry and the team Expo Stars supplied were able to create a buzz on the stand, filter out the time wasters, and were able to focus on following up qualified sales leads long after the event had finished.

Lee Ali of Expo Stars

About the Author

Lee Ali is the founder and Managing Director of Manchester-based Expo Stars Interactive Ltd., specialising in trade show lead generation and providing exhibitors with professional promotion staff worldwide. Lee Ali created Expo Stars in December 2007, and has since managed over 3,000 projects in over 100 cities across 53 countries.

Lee Ali and his Expo Stars team are dedicated to helping exhibitors generate better results and create stronger relationships through trade shows by building and executing bespoke attendee engagement strategies with a team of exhibition experts and trade show professionals worldwide.

Lee can be contacted via LinkedIn 

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Posted in Lead Management  /  Sales  /  Staffing  /  Stand Management

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