Written by: Eric Dyson
Trade shows and face-to-face marketing events are essential for brand building, inter-industry networking and lead generation. Why then are so many exhibitors ill-prepared to take advantage of the great boom events offer them? Well the answer is many exhibitors simply don’t know how to prepare properly, or they are unaware of the fact that they lack the proper event marketing infrastructure for success. This post will highlight some best practices when it comes to event preparation for a trade show or face-to-face marketing event to help you get ahead of the game.
Research fellow exhibitors:
Undoubtedly, you will meet a lot of your top competitors at an industry event. You will also be surrounded by many potential vendors and prospective clients as well. Before your event make sure to check the list of exhibiting companies, do a little bit of research into the brands you think it would be worth networking with and plan on visiting their exhibit space. Remember, trade shows are about more than just exhibiting, they are also about establishing powerful industry relationships.
It’s worth keeping in mind that while you’re exhibiting you have a golden opportunity to spy on your competition by gathering field intelligence from attendees regarding their thoughts on your rivals. You should ask attendees who visit your space what they thought of other exhibitors, how they are enjoying the show and which booths impressed them the most. You can take the information you have gathered on the ground and visit the most admired exhibits to get an idea of what attendees find appealing in an exhibiting space. You can then use this information to improve upon your event marketing efforts in the future.
Build your brand:
It sounds like a no brainer right? Of course, promote my brand at a trade show, that’s why I’m here. However, the problem is promoting a brand is only one part of the brand building process. First you need to establish where your brand fits into your market, are you a value brand, luxury brand, innovator or high-tech? You need to identify where your brand stands because every step of the brand building process will fall in line with where you want you brand to be positioned.
The second step in branding build at a trade show is aligning your trade show exhibit with your company’s personality. If your brand is a value brand then make sure the imagery and language printed on your trade show exhibit’s graphics convey the value of your products. Luxury brand’s should make sure their exhibiting space conveys a sense of lavishness and should flirt with gaudiness etc. The key in exhibit design isn’t in creating the most impressive design, but rather an exhibit that clearly conveys your brand’s messaging to prospects. The goal here it to create consistency, which will in turn help build your brand.
The third step in brand building for a trade show revolves around your booth staffers because they are the liaison between the public and your brand. As such, the team members that occupy your booth should be the living embodiment of your brand. They should have intimate knowledge about your products and your history. To ensure the preparedness of your booth staffers, test each prospective team member on their product and company knowledge and hand-select people based on the results of your test. If you find out that you don’t have enough qualified booth staffers create pre-event learning sessions to bring people up to speed with your brand before the show.
Leads are the coal that make the sales train go, so make sure that your lead generation program is as robust as possible. Too often leads are not being properly qualified on the trade show floor. This is not an indictment against hard-working event staff, rather it’s a symptom of the confusion that can occur when planning for a trade show.
To make sure your event marketing campaign does not fall victim to lead management over site, take time to gather your event staffers, go over your process of qualifying a lead. i.e. which attendees meet the target demographic, the type of contact information needed, key job titles and whether or not a prospect has purchasing power. Creating a good screening process will cut down on poorly qualified leads and maximize the efforts of your staffers.
Drafting a sales script for your team to follow can also help create a more accurate lead generation program. When your booth staffers are winging it out on the trade show floor conversations with prospects can often veer far off-topic. Sales scripts can help combat this by giving your booth staffers a line that they must tow in each conversation they have on the trade show floor.
Any way you slice it, the simple and most effective way to be prepared for an upcoming event—or more broadly, for events in the future—is by taking into account all of your shortcomings at past events, addressing them with your event staff and setting out a plan of action to tackle them. The tips found in this post are meant to help you to that end, however it is up to you what other measure you need to take for preparedness as each brand has its unique needs.