Trade shows, conferences and events are back. After a few rough years around the economic meltdown of 2008, we've definitely seen a return of situations in which people can connect about new products and services in real life (IRL). In fact, data suggests that while other kinds of communications investment such as press, TV and signage decreased between 2005 and 2016, trade shows and fairs increased by 9%.
But you probably know that trade shows, conferences and events can be expensive. According to Hubspot, over $570 billion was spent on attending or sponsoring events in 2018 and it's been reported that over 20% of B2B marketing budgets are allocated to them. The cost of simply attending events are often eclipsed by the costs to exhibit. Exhibiting at a conference means that you have to build out a booth and then have it shipped and installed. Then, you have to staff it and make sure your plan for connecting with prospects is supported by things like marketing materials. Having said all of this, here are some tips for making the most of your investment in trade shows, conferences and events.
1) Be Prepared
I'm not going to dwell on this too long because it goes without saying but you should spend the time before any trade show, conference or event to make sure your team has a detailed plan in place. Make sure everyone understands what the goals and objectives are so that your whole team is aligned to meet them. Know who your target customers are so that you can plan to get in front of them without wasting time. Be sure to think about more than just your physical presence. For example, you want to make sure you have digital tactics like social media ready to support everything you're doing while you're there.
2) Rock Your Booth
There have been huge improvements in trade show booth technology in recent years that have made booths easier to set up and transport, while giving exhibitors better options for showcase their brand. LED light technology in particular has made its way into the industry and combined with printing advancements, made it easier to create eye-catching designs.
We've been supplying booths and displays for close to 25 years but in recent years we've been a dealer for DUO and here's an example of a light-weight display that's easy to set up. It will go from this...
... to this in less than 60 seconds.
3) Social Media
Social media is a great way to connect with prospects before, during and after any event. Before the event, figure out what the hashtag is and start monitoring conversations. Get your hands on the exhibitor list and if you can, the attendee list, and follow them. Start getting a feel for the conversations happening on social media around the event and participating in them. That way, people have a chance to get to know your brand before the event even starts.
Most events have apps so make sure you have a great looking profile in those apps that stand out. If there are forums or groups for the event, get active in them and start engaging with attendees. Perhaps there something new and exciting that you're going to be showing off.? Use that to get people excited to meet you.
4) Video Killed The Trade Show Floor
HDTVs have made it easier than ever for you to show eye-catching video at your booth. We strongly recommend that you considering using video to get people's attention as they walk past your booth. You can use live action or animated video but you'll probably need to have your sound off so make sure you have subtitles. Just be sure to have great quality visuals because it's fair to say most people will be bombarded by visual inputs at a trade show so you'll need to be sure to stand out.
Here's an example of a video we created for The Canadian Real Estate Association that was shown in their booth at a recent trade show:
5) S.W.A.G. (Stuff We All Get)
Don't bother investing in useless S.W.A.G. like pens, notepad and those gawd-awful stress balls. Everyone is tired of getting them and frankly, people throw them away so they are bad for the environment. Instead, spend some time working with your promotional product supplier to find something unique that is also useful. We've been working with a client recently to supply them with branded webcam covers. Most people have been just putting a piece of tape across their webcam but imagine the impact of somebody seeing your logo every time they look at their screen.
There is also a growing trend towards eco-friendly promotional products. In their simplest form, these products are just like traditional promotional products but use different materials like recycled, biodegradable or compostable paper or plastics. Common examples you might consider would include notebooks, water bottles or journals. You could also work with your supplier source alternatives to single use plastics like metal straws that include branded carrying cases or bento boxes for on-the-go lunches.
6) Email, CRM and Marketing Automation
Email is still and has always been a powerful marketing tool. If you can get a list of attendee emails, spend time doing research and send a targeted email before the event. Don't go and blast an email out to everyone, make sure you have permission to contact when you get the list. But the real power of email can be in the event follow up. With a little planning, you can really move the needle.
You should consider scanning business cards with a simple app at the event and having them added to your contact list. You could also use marketing automation to confirm opt-in of the contacts and add them to your mailing list. Going a step further, your sales people could be set up to trigger automated follow up emails as soon as they load a contact to your CRM. We recently developed email templates and automated workflows in Hubspot for a client that sends personalized follow ups from scanned business cards collected at events.
They key to getting the most out of any trade show, conference or event is to take the time to develop a plan, think of almost every way you can get attention from the right people and execute on that plan using a variety of in-person and digital tactics. It's never been easier with tools such as Hubspot or any other marketing automation platform.
If you need any help with your next trade show, conference or event... get in touch with us today.