Many organisations view events and trade shows as a necessary evil rather than strategic lead generating activities, while most also admit spending a significant portion of their budget on them.
As the New Year is underway and the deadline for finalising 2018-19 marketing plans is looming if not already past, I would like to share some of my top tips for getting the most value from your event participation.
1. Start early
Trade shows are a major investment. Many marketers spend over a third of their annual budget on events. Start planning at least nine months prior and make sure that all key stakeholders are engaged and actively involved in the strategic development process.
2. Have a plan. Better yet, have more than one
Create an overall event plan for your region establishing a show selection criteria to ensure you are reaching your desired target audience. Develop a strategic plan for each event setting measurable objectives, outlining message strategy and detailing marketing initiatives. Most importantly, once you have created your plans - stick to them!
3. Execute pre-event marketing
Consider your objectives and execute pre-event email, social or direct mail campaigns accordingly. Pre-event campaigns should have a clear, measurable call to action such as booking an appointment or stopping by your booth.
4. Create your own audience
Don’t focus marketing efforts solely on the event delegate list or rely on the event organiser to drive traffic to your booth. Instead capitalise on your own resources by focusing your pre-show marketing on your customer base, leads from previous shows or web generated contacts. Your current customers are the most likely to be interested in new product information and the opportunity to meet with key executives or to have questions answered by technical experts.
5. Create a team
Your booth staff are your key to success so choose valuable team members. Make sure all show staff are briefed on the show strategy and understand how to utilise all of the stand resources before the event. Be strict with your stand rules – i.e. no mobile phones, laptops, etc. Make the best of the time you have with prospects and customers.
6. Promotional items
Promotional items do not have to be expensive, but they do have to be relevant. Make sure give-aways effectively represent your brand and are something useful for your customer. Give everyone a reason to carry or wear your brand such as a chance to win a grand prize at the end of the day.
7. Prize give-aways
Who doesn’t like to win something? Grand prizes add excitement and can create a buzz around your booth especially if you tie the entry into a quick, fun game or competition. Excitement can be created with items ranging from the newest technology gadget to the latest Star Wars themed Lego kit.
It can be easier said than done at a busy booth, but it’s imperative to input notes and capture information regarding each conversation and booth scan. Whether it’s a phone call or email, follow-up will likely be more well-received if it is personalised. Collate and distribute the show information so that hot leads can be followed-up directly by account managers.
9. Measure your ROI
Know going into the show how you are going to measure success and define how you will measure each marketing technique and its effectiveness. If your business goals include driving inflow, accelerating pipeline, building brand awareness, promoting thought leadership and strengthening partner relationships then set measurable targets.
10. Event wrap-up
Lastly, create an event summary report. You will be glad you did when it’s time to consider renewing event sponsorships. Summarise all of the events details, get honest feedback from your event team, analyse your goals and recap what worked and what didn’t work.
To sum it up, executing a successful trade show involves a great deal of advanced strategic and tactical planning, attention to detail and targeted follow-up.