Although social media is now viewed as the best way to talk to customers one-on-one, the fact is that NOTHING, especially in the business-to-business world, beats a trade show. You get to actually meet and shake hands with people, answer questions in real time, present your products and your message exactly how you want to present them, and meet new people who could very well become customers in the future. Trade shows can be huge benefits, but like with everything else we have talked about, you will only see those benefits if you come into the trade show with an objective and a few fundamentals in your pocket. Here are some tips we feel will help ensure that your trade show goes smoothly.
1. Drive traffic to your booth BEFORE the show
It’s in the trade show’s best interest to drive people to the show. Once attendees are there, it’s up to you to get them to come to your booth versus a competitor’s. There are nearly countless ways to accomplish this goal, and you can use any channel of marketing to assist you. Many trade shows offer a direct mail list of pre-registrants that you can rent as part of your show package – that’s a fairly easy way to start, but you need to make sure you send something compelling. Those people are receiving many messages over a short period of time all asking them to visit a specific booth. Adding your booth number to your print and online ads and advertising in key show issues or show months always helps. Having a list of trade shows on your website, along with booth numbers and a show notice on your homepage can help capture who visit your website.
But there are also a lot of more creative ways to get people to your booth. Consider notifying your Facebook fans (if you have a page) that fans who show up at the booth will be entered into a special drawing. Send personalized messages to your most loyal customers and invite them to visit your booth where they’ll receive some sort of VIP treatment (a free massage perhaps). You’re competing for attention – combining something really special with frequent reminders you’ll be at the show is an ideal way to drive traffic to your booth.
2. Generating and defining leads
Everyone at a show wears a badge, and when you scan that badge you get that particular attendee’s contact information. Because of this, many times when you visit a booth you’ll be asked for your badge, even if you’re not really a customer. Is this company really gathering leads? Not necessarily. Scanning any badge that comes along is in the same line as measuring banner ads with impressions or email marketing with opens. A pair of eyeballs on your booth does not mean a person is likely to buy from you. Decide on how you will qualify your leads. Will it be a person who asks a question? Will it be a person who hangs around the booth for x amount of time, indicating interest? When you come back with new contacts, you should be able to explain, generally, why those people were considered leads. Not only will this give you a more accurate idea of how the show performed for you but it will also help you establish how you want to nurture those leads.
3. Have a plan to follow up with leads
Speaking of which, knowing how you are going to nurture the leads you generate at the show should be part of your pre-show conversation. Trying to decide on a strategy after the show has ended is already too late. As people return to their offices after a show they’re going to be playing catch-up from the work they missed while attending the conference. Soon, their interest in your company will wane if there is no follow-up. We recommend making sure that your customer service department, your sales department, and your marketing department are all on the same page before your personnel leave for the show. Who will process the leads? Who will send out the first communication to those people and what will it be? Again, the more creative the better. Show attendees are likely to receive a lot of emails after the show is over because people view email follow-ups as quick and easy. The same holds true for direct mail. How can you stand out and remind your prospect why they were interested in your company?
Incidentally, following up with existing customers who visited you is not a bad idea either. Making them feel special by acknowledging that you saw them and appreciated their presence could go a long way towards building customer loyalty.
4. Exhibit with marketing materials that look professional
A trade show booth, in many ways, is like a real-life website homepage. You are standing in an aisle and you want people to see all of the things you feel are most important about your company. As we have discussed before, we understand that professional literature and booth graphics represent a bigger investment, but when you are trying to make a powerful first impression, isn’t it important to put your best possible foot forward? Your booth graphics, your literature, your business cards, and anything else you present will be how people perceive you as they walk by. Make it a good first impression.
5. Be creative
We’ve touched on this a lot already, but trade shows are real-life representatives of the struggle marketers face to get attention. You are literally on a floor with hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of other companies. Your competitors are likely there. People are there who are buying from your competitors, and you have a chance to make them rethink that decision. Think creatively from your efforts to drive traffic to your booth to the way you interact with people at your booth and through the process of following up with leads. Simply handing out logo pens is no longer enough. There are ways to integrate social media, video, and more into your trade show presentation. Think outside the box.
If you are planning on exhibiting at a number of trade shows in 2013, or even just one big one, now is the time to start planning. If you need any help from us or if you have any questions, just let us know!
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gypsyrosed/482920665/ via Creative Commons