A client recently asked me a great question: “Are tradeshows still valid anymore?” When clients ask questions like this, it shows me they are open to the possibility that marketing tactics have changed (yes) and that some of the oldies still work (yes).
Despite the general mood, tradeshows and other event marketing tactics are still very much alive, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. The fourth quarter of 2013 showed a 5.8% year-over-year increase in tradeshow attendance compared to 2012, “the biggest gain since the third quarter of 2007”, and a 3.0% increase for 14 quarters of growth, according to the CEIR Index Fourth Quarter 2013.
That said, my experience is that the vast majority of the (very expensive) tradeshow dollars are totally wasted. Why? What I see most companies doing is funneling a lot of dollars into poorly designed, inflexible booth properties and then just showing up at the show, thinking that the leads will just come flowing in their booth. Not likely. So how do you make that typical $100K tradeshow budget really pay off for you? By doing the right pre- and post-show marketing and maximizing your time at the show. Here are 22 ways to make the most of your tradeshow budget.
- Secure the best possible show floor location (like real estate, all that matters really is location, location, location). How do you do this? A variety of ways but mostly with an experienced tradeshow expert working every angle for you.
- Announce your tradeshow presence to your own mailing list and social media channels. Even if they don’t go, you get kudos for attending and showing up at key industry events. And it’s a good reason to reach out and touch your community.
- Make a compelling pre-event offer to attendees to pick up/attend while at the show.
- Set up meetings in advance with key people. One of the best advantages of an industry show is the ability to meet with a lot of players in a short period of time and save the T&E of visiting them individually.
- Consider sponsoring the event for premium exposure – and for goodness sake, make sure you actually USE all the benefits offered to sponsors! <I’m amazed by how often this is overlooked … sigh>
- Do everything you can to get on the podium. A booth is nice, but a podium presentation is ten times as nice.
- Have a plan for the show and share it with everyone who will be working there. What are your objectives? Key messages? Key people who can speak to reporters, customers, etc.? Plan, plan, plan.
- Design a simple, flexible set of booth properties using design best practices so you can adapt them to a variety of situations and booth sizes.
At the Show
- Meet with your key players. You know, the ones you have advance meetings with because you set them up before the show?
- Work your booth. Show up. Smile. Be inviting. Be welcoming. Offer attendees a place to sit down, get a drink, start a conversation. Sure, some are duds and some are tire kickers. That’s part of the sales process, and they are all humans and tradeshows can be wearing.
- Promote your podium talk at the booth.
- Promote your booth at the podium.
- Live blog and do social media from the show floor. Be useful to the folks at home.
- Consider doing a video (or several) summarizing or reporting on what you see at the show. Post on your site and promote via social media. Use the show’s hashtag to increase virality.
- Don’t sit behind your counter. Stand in the aisle, or near the edge of your booth. Shorten the distance required to start a conversation.
- Don’t chit-chat with your co-workers. You are there to engage with new people. This is Disneyland, folks. When the lights go on, you are ON!
- Show up. Smile. Be inviting. Lather, rinse, repeat every day of the show.
- Reach out to every lead/attendee who came to your talk or booth. Ideally within 24 hours. Speed matters to people.
- Work those leads. Did they request information? Did they want to speak to someone? I know you’re tired after the show. Make it happen anyway. You’ll stand out because you did.
- Reach out to your own list and SM channels and offer them a summary of the show. They’ll appreciate the info and you show up as a leader in your field.
- Follow up from any meetings at the show to move the sales process forward.
- Offer the podium talk as a webinar to your mailing list to increase the value of that content. Incorporate any feedback gained at the meeting.
It’s also worthwhile to do an annual evaluation of the effectiveness of various shows for your company (talk to us about how to do this). As you can see, there are so many ways to maximize the ROI for your tradeshow budget. Let me know in the comments below any that I missed or you think should be added. Happy show time to all!
Jenn LeBlanc, CEO & Founder of ThinkResults Marketing, works with tech CEOs and CMOs to drive results. Whether it is a 350% increase in web traffic, a 1400% increase in online leads, or a 400% increase in conversion rates, Jenn delivers results.
Call for a free 30-minute consultation about your marketing project with Jenn. Email us to set up your complimentary consultation and start driving your results today.