Trade shows have the potential to generate an impressive number of leads for the brands that approach them in the right way. Unfortunately, many B2B and B2C brands walk away from trade shows feeling defeated and as if their efforts were for naught. This is likely because those brands approached the whole event without a thorough trade show marketing strategy.
Like any aspect of marketing, brands cannot just “wing” a trade show. If a company hopes to gain brand recognition, connect with potential leads and sell products or services, it needs to approach the whole ordeal as it would any other marketing campaign: with a comprehensive and goal-oriented strategy. Before you hit the road to your next trade show, consider and act on these 10 best trade show practices.
Identify Your WHY
According to Simon Sinek, marketing extraordinaire, every organization and every person operates on three basic levels: What we do, how we do it and why we do it. Identifying your what is simple, as the what is the products or services you sell and/or the job you do. The how refers to the processes you use and the ideas you think up. But what about your why?
If you’re like many people, you cannot clearly articulate why you do what you do. Sure, you want to make money, but is that really what drives every decision you make? Probably not. Your why, or your brand’s why, is the cause, purpose or belief that leads to the creation of your business, propels you out of bed every morning and convinces others to care about your what. Needless to say, your financial stability is not what drives others to purchase from you.
Before you make any other decisions for your business, Sinek recommends first establishing your why and working outward. Once you know why you do what you do, you can begin to explore how you will do it, which should lead you to your what. Below is an example of how this process might work when developing your trade show marketing strategy:
Q: WHY attend trade shows?
A: To generate awareness of and excitement for new vibration reduction technology for automobile manufacturers, and to ensure you stay top of mind when manufacturers’ needs arise.
Q: HOW will you convince prospects that your materials are superior to competitors’ and to contact you when they’re in need of vibration reduction components?
By demonstrating what your products can do and gathering email addresses so you can stay in touch with prospects and follow up with leads.
Q: WHAT is your plan?
A: You will attend a trade show directed toward the automobile manufacturing industry. You will design everything, from your booth to your marketing materials to your messaging, in such a way that they inform prospects about your new technology and boasts its benefits. Your booth will have a live demonstration. You will offer giveaways in exchange for business cards and email addresses, and you will follow up with new contacts.
This step is the most intensive of all 10, but once you establish your why, everything else should fall into place.
Design Your Booth and Messaging
Once you identify your why, set your marketing team to work on the booth’s design and messaging. Everything from your banner to your brochures to your talking points should reflect your goals for the trade show. The objective is to get people to remember you and to follow through with your call-to-action, which brings us to the next point.
Establish a Clear CTA
You cannot track and measure your success if you don’t have a clear metric by which to gauge it. Create a clear call-to-action, such as “Leave your name and email address,” “Visit our website and download our specs sheet” or “Drop your business card in the box for 10% off your first bulk order.” Tactics such these are easy to track and help to generate new leads.
Reach Out To Current Customers
Though many brands attend trade shows to forge new relationships, smart brands know that trade shows are also a great way to nourish existing ones. Before you hit the road, reach out to current customers to let them know where you’ll be and when. Also, inform them of what to expect at your booth. For instance, if you plan to unveil a new rigging or fabrication solution, include this information in weekly newsletters. Doing so demonstrates your loyalty to existing customers in that it gives them an edge over competitors. It also gives them a chance to meet with their supplier in person.
Spread the Word
One of the biggest mistakes brands make is assuming the trade show hosts will generate enough buzz for them. Most people will only attend a trade show if they think something is in it for them. For instance, an aerospace manufacturer may not be enticed by advertisements for a “Heat Treatment Trade Show.” However, if you promote the benefits of precise heat treatment services for airplane frame parts, engine brackets, hydraulic fittings and oil pans, and state where he or she can learn more (the trade show), you may convince that manufacturer to head to the show just to visit your booth. For the most effective advertising, send targeted ads via social media, email outreach, Google ads, mailers and video.
Pick the Right People
Another mistake brands make is sending their customer service reps or product or service experts to trade shows. Think twice about doing either. Consider the skillsets of each person on your team and plan your booth lineup strategically. Ideally, your sales squad should consist of marketers who can focus on generating leads, customer service or sales reps who can qualify prospects and salespeople who can close.
Create an Engagement Plan
Once you have your team solidified, create an action plan. The people in your booth should be energetic, enthusiastic and prepared to connect with visitors. They should be well-versed in talking points ahead of time and prepared to explain any graphics, visuals and demonstrations in your booth. If you plan to host a contest or giveaway, your people should know how to interact with attendees to ensure that giveaways and contest signups produce qualified leads.
You have only so many hours to connect with and hook qualified leads, meaning you don’t want to spend too much time handing out free swag to individuals who have no interest in your products or services and who never will. To ensure you make the most of your time, limit giveaways only to individuals who follow through with a predetermined qualification standard, such as providing their full contact information or enrolling in your email newsletter. That said, you want to make sure your giveaway is something memorable, enticing and informative, such as a free t-shirt, hat or backpack with your company name and contact info on it.
Follow Up Promptly
Once the trade show is over, you still have work to do. If a person left his or her phone number, reach out via phone to build rapport and possibly solidify a sale. For those who left just their email information, send out a brief email thanking them for stopping by and offering them an opportunity to download a spec sheet, request more information or some other CTA. By the number of unsubscribes you get, you’ll learn fairly quickly who is genuinely interested in your offerings and who just wanted a free mug. For the contacts who remain subscribed, create and deploy a lead nurturing campaign. Doing so will allow you to better gauge each person’s interest level and determine where to focus the majority of your efforts. You can also invite subscribers to follow you on social media, where you can keep the conversation going on a more personal level.
Hold a Debriefing
Finally, when all is said and done, hold a post-mortem debriefing to discuss and analyze the results of your efforts. What worked and what didn’t? What would you do differently next time? Was the trade show itself worth attending, or should you avoid it in future years? Document everything you discuss, that way, when it comes time to plan for another trade show, you can refer to your notes for guidance.
You don’t have to have a ton of money, give away luxurious prizes or turn your booth into a circus to generate buzz at the next trade show you attend. You simply need to develop and execute a comprehensive trade show marketing strategy. Begin by identifying your Why and infuse it into everything from booth design to messaging to talking points. Don’t forget to spread the word and inform current customers of your upcoming plans. Select the right team of people to act as your brand ambassadors and ensure they’re prepared to follow through with your engagement plan. Last but not least, follow up with leads to keep the trade show enthusiasm going.
At Momentum, generating brand awareness and leads is what we do best. Contact our team of experts to help you develop and deploy a successful trade show marketing strategy.