Unless you have previously experienced a wave of new business from exhibitions and trade shows, then deciding to take a booth yet again can be a decision that requires some serious deliberation.
The truth is, if we were honest with ourselves, it’s highly likely that we would admit that not enough research and planning went into the activity. Although excitement and creativity surrounding the event are rife in the initial booking stages, this soon peters out when the time comes to fit planning around a busy day-to-day schedule that involves hitting targets and deadlines. It quickly slips down to the bottom of the business agenda – but it should be an integral part of the quarters marketing strategy.
The exhibition season is nearly upon us, and events in all industries are looming, so it’s time to revisit your previous plans and ideas. This article isn’t about teaching you to suck eggs; by now you should know the basics of what makes an attractive stand, although if you don’t, here is a quick recap –
- Avoid the trestle table at all costs – this is exhibition suicide
- Incorporate all aspects of your branding within the stand
- Use technology where possible – its 2016
- Opt for interactive elements – great for data capture
- Take your best sales people – you are there to do business
As stated, these are merely primary concerns. That’s not to say that they don’t require great care and attention – because they do. But these events are fiercely competitive, and it can take a lot more than a great stand to secure ROI. With this in mind, there are a number of ways that you can take your attendance at a business exhibition to the next level, raising your credentials among the competition and business community and making it a long-term profitable experience.
The event organisers should be able to provide you with a list of previous year’s exhibitors and visitors, whether by business name or the names of individualsthat attended. This information can be gold dust; because in 2016, audience insight should be at the very heart of all business activity. Not only can you build up a picture of who is attending with regards to age range, likely interests and experience and shape your approach at the event based on these – you can target these people before the event.
Putting the demographics into social platforms means you can create targeted ad campaigns that are delivered straight to your audience to let them know….anything you want – but maybe that you will be at said event and are doing something there that they should take a look at? Of course, it needs to be something that will pique their interest.
Knowing who will be attending means that you can directly connect with them on these social media platforms in a more professional sense -namely LinkedIn. According to a study by HubSpot, LinkedIn generates the highest lead conversion rate; leaving your name at the forefront of the individuals mind–75% of users actively use the feature ‘whose viewed your profile’ – and many of us are inclined to view the profiles of those that have been viewing ours…..
Once you make the connection on social media platforms, you can get a feel for the content that they share, like and engage with – which brings us nicely onto the next point.
Many business events have content hubs where exhibitors can share thought led and opinion pieces; this is one way you can gain traction among other businesses attending and those in the industry.
Using tools such as AHRefs, you can quickly see which sites have mentioned the event, or any of the other exhibitors, and outreach your own content to these sites also. If you have noticed any relevant trends within your industry, or the business world in general, then covering these will communicate you as relevant and well informed.
By providing information, educational and valuable content for sites visited by your target audience, itwill not only keep your name at the forefront of their mind, but you have a great way to start a conversation naturally.
If you are feeling particularly confident about a piece that you have written, there’s no reason that you can’t turn it into an email campaign to send to attendees or leverage social media and ask them to read it! Writing allows you to reach a far wider audience than the one you are hoping to get in-front of, and will continue to bring in new readers and potential clients.
Matt Steinhofel from On Trade Consulting comments, “You have to find your niche in the market by working with key industry trade associations and business leaders, to carve out the subject matter you think will attract the decision makers to the show. Develop thought provoking content that is relevant and insightful. You want the attendee to leave by saying that it was worth half a day out the business to attend that show and these are the takeaways from the day. Forging good working relationships with technology companies that provide real-time data about what the audience is thinking has developed from general election debates to large scale trade shows. I recently went to a conference where everyone had a mini iPad on their seat for this purpose and questions would appear throughout the presentation for feedback.”
Often at these events, there is the opportunity to give a talk, sharing your proficiency and knowledge and cementing your place as an expert within your field. Granted, not all of the events will be your ideal scenario, but starting somewhere is far beyond your competitors who aren’t speaking at all!
The benefit of speaking at these events is that your business becomes more than a one-dimensional stand swallowed up by the event. Rather than pitching your products and services, you can impart your wisdom and communicate brand values, discuss business strategies that you embrace, industry trends – just don’t try to sell. You will inadvertently do this as people authentically interact with them.
By sharing knowledge, thoughts and opinions –both yours and the businesses name will be long remembered. A top tip when choosing the events that will secure an ROI is to opt for events in industries where your services are used. For instance, speaking at a marketing event about marketing is great for personal branding as anindustry influencer, but unlikely to secure ROI. Speaking at a telecoms event about marketing has an increased chance of becoming a profitable activity.
However, to take it one step further and add extra value to the experience for your event, you could provide your talk as a takeaway along with added extras such as an industry white paper or presentation. Richard LeCount from USBMakers shares his experience, “It’s all about adding value, and we are seeing more and more businesses opt for our products rather than handing out generic business cards because the products can offer so much more to people. Not only do they mean that businesses can use them to share much more information than a business card, but they are perpetually useful to the person that ends up with them – which is great if it’s branded with your business name.”
In conclusion, when these events are approached with due care and attention, and decisions underpinned by data they can ultimately provide a healthy return on investment. But in order to do this, you must look beyond the stand and to the other opportunities that are aligned with the events. Take a comprehensive view and endure there is a solid follow-up strategy in place to secure ROI.