With the tradeshow season upon us and countless emails from CES, Mobile World Congress, CTIA and numerous other event organizers, we’re getting the message that now is the time to be planning for upcoming tradeshows. However, with tradeshow planning, comes the anxiety of figuring out how to maximize ROI and marketing dollars.
After spending hundreds of hours and dollars on attractive booths and flashy giveaways, many companies are questioning the true value of these shows. While these events can do wonders for brand awareness and lead generation, they also can consume large amounts of time and money with little return, unless you look for ways to maximize those dollars.
The “Field of Dreams” approach — “If you build it, they will come” — doesn’t cut it for trade shows. Merely having a display and handouts will not necessarily bring your best prospects with any interest in your products or services. So how do you grab a tradeshow attendee’s attention and bring in qualified prospects? A strategic approach with steps before, during and after the event can help you get the most out of your investment. You’ll land more face-to-face meetings with targeted media and prospects, and shorten sales cycles. Here are ways to do just that:
Before the show
- Promote your presence. List the show name and your booth number on your website. Add it to your corporate email signature. Share it via your social media pages (using a Twitter hashtag for the show). Mention it on your blog. Include it in your customer newsletter.
- Target your ideal audience. Build a targeted list of potential attendees, using your own database, the attendee list from the show organizer, or a list from a provider of IT sales intelligence. Then deliver a message (via an effective e-mail campaign) that speaks to your audience’s pain points and offers a compelling reason to visit with you. Develop separate messages/emails for current and prospective customers.
- Schedule press meetings. Obtain the pre-registered press list from the show organizer. Then send key media on that list a short invitation to meet and give them a sneak peek into what you will be announcing at the show. Consider hosting a cocktail reception/press conference where you can make key announcements, offer pre-show interviews (under embargo) and meetings at the show in a private meeting room. Make sure to consider throwing in drinks or coffee, and/or lunch to up the appeal of making it worth their time to meet.
- Train and prep. Make sure that anyone meeting with the press is well trained to answer questions. Also make sure all of your corporate, news and images are on your website or on some sort of digital media to hand out to the media.
- Schedule meetings with current and potential customers. Send customers and any hot prospects an e-mail from the CEO or a strategic direct mail piece. Set up meetings in advance. Make meetings short (10 to 20 minutes), and again, consider throwing in drinks or coffee, and/or lunch to up the appeal of making it worth their time to meet. Also consider hosting a “Client Appreciation Dinner” one night at the show.
- Develop your tradeshow graphics. Remember, you only have 30 seconds to grab a prospects attention. Make sure your graphics show what your company offers and makes the attendee want to stop by and ask more questions.
- Look for opportunities for speaking. Look into speaking panel topics that may be appropriate for your company. Then submit a bio and short abstract on the most appropriate executive from your company.
- Look for award opportunities. Look into any awards that may be given out at the show and submit your company or product for that award.
During the show
- Approach serious decision makers. Understand and only connect with your potential buyers.
- Ask a qualifying question. Formulate and pose a question to identify people in your target audience. Make sure your booth staff is trained to do the same.
- Videotape any press conferences or speaking panels. These can be used for follow-up after the show and also posted to your website.
- Email prospects during the show.
“John, I noticed a few folks from xxx (John’s company) at the xxx (name of trade show) — are you here as well? If so, I thought it would be ideal timing for us to get 15 minutes between sessions — I’ve been wanting to share with you how we are working with xxx (company in John’s industry) to manage its unstructured data.
There’s a break between 11:00 and 11:45 — can we meet?
(Your name and contact information)”
After the show
You came, you met, and conquered the trade show. But your job isn’t over. Now the real work — and payoff — begins. Your post-event strategy should include the following:
- Clean up your lead data. Capture and add information not on attendees’ badges. Make sure that your booth staff takes notes on key prospects, using an on-site qualification process or a post-show review. Delete duplicates of people who stopped by multiple times for your give-away. Complete missing information or verify contact information using a sales-intelligence database.
- Make your first touch immediate. Follow up with the media and qualified leads as soon as possible after the show closes. Your communications may differ, but the minimum should be a short thank-you email saying you’ll be in touch. Include an image of the product, booth or similar creative to jog memories. Follow-up to see if they need any additional information.
- Increase your reach. Explore opportunities to leverage trade show interactions. If you met with one employee of a targeted company, use sales intelligence tools to identify an appropriate or additional decision maker with the organization (if necessary).
- Continue to engage with your leads. Whether your long-term strategy includes a social media campaign, public relations, advertising or any combination of these, continue to nurture the leads from the show to maximize the potential return from exhibiting. Consider setting up alerts and triggers for your prospects, using a sales intelligence solution or targeted email campaign to glean timely information.
These tips will go a long way toward maximizing your tradeshow dollars and making your next trade show participation more effective. You’ll discover how essential trade shows can be for your company. And of course, if you need help with any aspect of your tradeshow, give us a call. We’d love to help!