I’m in Las Vegas for the IFT 2017 show (that’s the International Food Technologists), and I spend a few minutes discussing how I approach walking the floor of the show. Also, a quick look at the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show.
Well, these might not be actual tradeshow marketing secrets, simply because by its very definition, a secret is something that is not well known. The following items are fairly well known and no doubt you can easily find them online – but the question is: are you using them to their full capacity and capability?
First, let’s look at first impressions. Hey, you only get one chance! And as you know, in tradeshows, perception is everything. Make your first impression strong, and the second piece of the puzzle will fall into place a little easier.
Next, know that the image you put out at a tradeshow isn’t just a random piece of your brand – it’s your whole brand. It IS your brand. If you miss the mark here, your next puzzle piece just got harder.
Up next: your staff. You can have the sweetest exhibit at the show, but if your staff sucks, it will all go for naught. Which means that your staff should not only know what they’re doing and be presentable and friendly and good with people, they should be well-trained in the challenges of dealing with hundreds of people on the chaos of the tradeshow floor.
Now, be sure to have something for people to do when they arrive at your booth. It could be a product demo, an interactive tool, a video to watch, a virtual reality headset to wear – anything that engages them for more than 8.4 seconds.
Ninety percent of success is showing up. Of course, you say, you’ll show up. But do you really? Are you really there for the full show? Are you there ready to listen to a client’s complaints and respond? Are you there to jump in when there is a problem or challenge and not leave it for someone else? Be there. All the time. Not just when you’re on the clock.
Cross your T’s. Dot your i’s! Details are important. When you slip on an important detail, someone – perhaps a potential client – is bound to notice.
Yes, details are important, but so is keeping your eye on the bigger picture. Tradeshows are a powerful way to reach markets that you otherwise would not be able to access so easily and economically.
Really, it’s all in the follow-up. Yup, I was kidding back in that earlier paragraph where I said the key to tradeshow marketing success was to draw a crowd and then know what to do with them. You’ve got to have a good follow-up plan in place. And be sure the work the plan.
Finally, be flexible. Sometimes, you just gotta MacGuyver things and adjust to a changing landscape. Be willing to go with the flow and see where it leads, as long as your overall strategy doesn’t change.
Time for another list – this one is called 7 tradeshow exhibit “must-haves” and it’s pretty simple. What 7 things (items, people, plans) are essential to making your next tradeshow appearance a whopping success? Let’s count them:
Branding that is clear as an angel’s giggle. A visitor should know at a glance what you sell and what kind of a company you are. She should be able to intuit so much with that glance: how you approach the marketplace, how the company culture works, how you view the environment, wha
t kind of company you are. A good 3D exhibit designer working with a knowledgeable and responsive marketing team can work magic with the right design.
Professionalism that is as obvious as, well, Captain Obvious. Your fully-trained staff will know how to approach visitors in a friendly and engaging way, and how to either answer their questions or get them to the right person. Staff training goes a long way and is worth more than you’ll ever spend on it.
Lead capture system as effective and smooth as a glass of fifty-dollar bourbon. Once you have a prospect in your sights, make the transition from visitor to prospect so easy when gathering contact and follow-up information that they’ll barely know it’s happening.
Interactivity that engages and draws a crowd. Okay, not every activity can draw a crowd at all times. But what if you had something in your booth that was interesting and engaging enough that once a few people got going, it attracted other people? And if that activity was directly related to your product or service, wouldn’t that be about the best you could do? Well, you could top that by making sure you were gathering contact and follow-up information from as many of those people as you could, once you qualified them.
A comprehensive tradeshow marketing plan that covers months leading up to the show, through the show, and through the follow-up period. This would mean pre-show marketing, show execution and immediate follow-up with the hottest prospects.
Enough STUFF: business cards, lead sheets, sell sheets, samples, demos – all of the stuff you need to hand out to visitors, show they what you do and so on. Take more than you think you’ll need. Unless its dated, you can always repack it and use it next time.
Comfortable shoes. Ha! You saw this one coming, didn’t you?
Secrets to tradeshow success? There’s no secret! It’s all out in the open. Actually, it’s all lurking online somewhere. Just for fun, I plugged the search term “tradeshow success secrets” into the Google to see what I came up with.
Success is measured by how much effort you want to put into it. I suppose that’s true of pretty much anything you do. But good effort is important.
Trade leads and information with other exhibitors (that aren’t your competitors). I admit, I’ve only heard this one a time or two, and I suspect it’s rarely done. I wonder if you could actually get anyone to do that with you.
Let people play with things. Yes, adults like to get hands-on experience as much as kids do. Create an experience where visitors can interact with something and they’ll stick to your booth longer than others.
Have a booth host that knows what’s up. A trained staffer is worth their weight in gold. The really connections are person-to-person.
Speak at a show. If you can’t speak at a show, sit on a panel. It’s better than nothing. If you can’t do either of those, create your own event that you speak at and invite everyone in your database.
Steam live video from your booth. With the advent of Facebook Live, it’s easy to pull out your phone and go LIVE! Interview guests, do product demos and more.
Stop people in their steps with creative flooring. Put your logo or some other attractive graphic at foot level. It’s still enough of a new thing that it’ll stand out and get people to stop.
Know what to say to people. It’s great to have a trained staff member, or to have booth staffers who are knowledgeable on the products you offer. But spend time honing a brief 30 second pitch that focuses on the pain people have around things that your products can solve. For instance, if you sell roofing with a lifetime guarantee, ask visitors if they experience leaks, or if they are due for a new roof but are afraid of hiring some fly-by-night firm that won’t back up the roof installation. Let them identify their pain, then tell them that your product can resolve that pain.
Follow up. When you do get leads, don’t sit on them. Pick up the phone and get back to them. Nuff said.
Once the tradeshow is over, it’s easy to let a few things slide because, after all, you’ve been working your fanny off for 12 or 14 hours a day for several days straight! But if your tradeshow followup can manage to do just a few things prior to taking that five minute well-deserved rest, here’s where to start:
Make sure the leads are delivered to the sales crew. Depending on the size of your operation this may be hundreds of leads and 10 or more sales people, but it might be a lot less. Make sure the leads have good contact info, and correct follow up info (who gets what and when), and make sure they’re graded in terms of importance and urgency.
Check the booth crate(s). It’s easy to let this step slide, because the crate may not get back for days, or even weeks. But take a half a day or whatever time you need, make sure the crates were packed properly, make sure all items are there and in good shape. Make a list of what’s missing and what needs repair before the next show.
Compile and file all of your reports: travel expenses, products sold, samples given away, booth personnel, comments from the staff, costs of the show, and so on.
Gather photos and videos. These could be useful for social media, your company blog, and checking to make sure that the booth is in good repair, or to document damage.
Gather any social media, media or PR stats. How many tweets and Facebook posts went up during the show? How many retweets or interaction? How many videos were posted on YouTube and how many views did they gather?
Give a report to the boss. Not only will this show them the overall results, it’ll help justify your position (if it needs to be justified). Added benefits include having that information spread throughout the marketing team and management, show trends from show to show, and give you a go-to place for questions about the booth, shows or anything related.
The tradeshow is over. You’ve made sure the booth is packed in the crates and will be picked up by the shipping company. You’ve gathered the leads and have them in a safe place for transport back to the sales team. You’re ready to relax on the airplane and order up a well-deserved adult beverage.
Whoa! Not so fast! You’re not really done, are you?
While it’s great tying up loose ends at the show and getting off the floor in one piece, it’s just the beginning to your follow up.
First off, thank the folks that helped out. This ranges from the booth staff to the lead person on the set-up crew to the pre-show marketing team that helped out prior to the show. Send out a thank you card or an email (cards make more of an impression!) or thank them in person – just be sure you do it.
Next, go over the leads with the crew that gathered them. This may take place within a few days of the booth staff returning to the office. This confirms the follow up method, the value of the lead (cool, warm, hot), and when the follow up needs to commence. Then deliver that information to the sales team.
Now, go over any feedback or survey results you may have as a result of the show. Even if you don’t have actual in-booth survey results, check any feedback you may have gotten through social media posts during the show. Take screenshots and file them in your show folder. Make notes on what people liked and what they didn’t.
Depending on who’s in charge, it’s also time to document all of the costs associated with the event: travel, salaries, booth rental/purchase/upgrade/I&D, booth space rental and associated costs. Add in the cost of samples and giveaways. Now that you have this figure, when another six months have passed you can get sales figures that came as the result of the show appearance and determine the return on investment. Then do it a year later to see what’s changed.
Record-keeping is one of the best ways to track trends in your tradeshow marketing, so keep detailed accounts of as much as you’re able.
Did you and your team take photos, create videos and upload them to social media sites? Document all of the photos uploaded, keep copies of booth photos (especially any misfit graphics or booth pieces so you can get it repaired before the next show) and videos, client testimonials and associated documents.
Finally, look ahead. Do whatever planning is necessary for the next show, whether it’s a small regional or local show or if it’s the next big national expo. Make note of graphic updates that might be important, booth fixes, and prepare for whatever promotions might be coming down the pike.
Is a tradeshow marketing as easy as setting up a booth, smiling as visitors come by, and asking a few questions?
Sure, that’s some of it. But creating a mindset in your team for tradeshow marketing involves more.
So let’s capture a few items that are critical in creating a tradeshow marketing mindset:
Realize that all of your visitors are rushing around and want to visit as many booths as possible. Which really means, don’t waste their time.
Some thing: you have hundreds of people you’d like to see. Don’t let unqualified visitors waste your time.
Prepare for a marathon. Three or four days of standing, meeting, greeting, collecting information, giving demos and answering questions can take it out of anyone. Make sure you’re in good physical shape prior to the big event.
With the fast proliferation of mobile devices, your customers are connected to their world through the smartphone they carry. They do research, make connections, pay bills, find a nearby restaurant and more while on the move. Realize how this affects your marketing message and methods and learn how to reach them on this platform while they’re on the move at a tradeshow.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. I can’t stress this enough. Too many exhibitors think about things a few weeks ahead and try to make major (or even minor) changes without putting thought into it or knowing how much time things change. From graphic changes to booth makeovers to staff training to pre-show marketing and post-show followup, know how much time all the items take and work backwards from the show date.
While a tradeshow is a single, specific event, the online discussion around it will start weeks prior to the show and will continue for weeks afterwards. When you are targeting a show, be sure to listen to the chatter by monitoring the show hashtag, and prepare what you’ll do with sharing information, photos and videos for weeks after the show as the energy dies down.
You’re one of hundreds, or thousands of other exhibitors. There are only a few ways to stand out: have a freakin’ awesome booth that stops people in their tracks, have something going on in your booth space that compels them to stop such as a professional demo or interactive activity, create a pre-show marketing message and campaign so powerful that people make a stop at your booth one of their priorities or have a product that everyone needs or wants to see NOW.
Once the show is over, your work is not done. To make the show worthwhile, all of those leads and related information must be delivered to the right sales folks to follow up in a timely manner. Again, the race is still underway and you’ll have competitors who are following up within 24-48 hours. What’s your follow up plan?
Mindset is everything. The more you’re prepared for what tradeshow marketing and execution entails, the better your results!
In the 1992 Bill Clinton Presidential Campaign, his advisors made sure the campaign talking points were focused on the economy. So much so that they held as their campaign mantra “It’s the Economy, Stupid!”
It’s unimpeachable advice.
That is, to focus to sharply on one single element. Sure, they had to make sure that all other parts of the campaign were functioning well, but the economy was the overarching focus.
Focusing on making sure you follow up on your leads is as critically important.
The long-held statistic that 80% of all tradeshow leads are never followed up with may or may not be true (doubtful, actually), but what is true is that if you don’t follow up on those leads, you won’t sell anything to those potential clients.
In the course of lead generation and follow up, what’s really going on?
First, there are the methods of gathering leads. Make sure yours are effective.
Then, the leads must be graded in terms of Cool, Warm and Hot.
Third, the leads must contain information that allows the folks back in the office to follow up properly.
Fourth, they must be followed up in a timely manner, consistent with what was agreed to with the prospect.
And fifth, they MUST BE ACTED UPON!
It’s like they told me in junior high school: if you want to dance, you have to ask someone. You can’t just spend the entire dance standing in the shadows with all of the other folks scared to ask someone to dance.