Trade shows and events continue to be one of the most effective business-to-business (B2B) strategies worldwide in terms of profitability. A survey of Fortune 500 companies revealed 14% achieved a return on investment (ROI) of 5:1, generating approximately $5 in revenue for every $1 spent.
Now that trade shows are back, industry events are a welcome opportunity to step out of the Zoom zone and be present at real live, in-person gatherings. Bookmark our 2023 Trade Shows list that covers wireless, RFID, IoT, telecom, medical devices, contactless payment, retail, transit, B2B marketing, and more.
Here at Forward Vision, we still offer tons of tips and tricks for virtual events but know that trade shows are precious opportunities for you to personally connect with prospects. Putting your “best foot forward” is a must. What do you do to make the most of the opportunity? Read on.
The secret to getting better quality leads (and more of them) is treating every trade show like it is just one step in your overall sales process. There are five foundational pillars on which to build this step. They include planning your approach, executing it flawlessly, and following up with a strategic plan of action.
1. Sharpen your planning process
Rather than approach a trade show like it’s an isolated event, have a plan in place that covers before, during, and after the show. Begin by locating a list of attendees and sponsors. Look for people you already know, young companies that would be a good fit for your product or service, and attendees to contact ahead of time. Finding a way to compile a list of people and companies beforehand is an important forward-looking groundwork that will add octane to your marketing and sales efforts.
The more promotion you do before the event, the better. In the months leading up to the show, let people know you’ll be there.
- Update your website to let site visitors know about the show. Consider adding an events page that describes the tradeshow’s highlights. Let them know your booth number, invite them to drop by, and entice them with a drawing. How about offering them a chance to win the latest tech gadget, for example? Now that’s a great incentive.
- Monitor blogs and social media for mentions of the show. Set up a Google Alert to be notified when the event is mentioned. Reach out to the people who are talking about it, especially influencers.
- Re-engage with people you’ve met at previous events. Give them a call or send them a quick email. Find out if they’ll be at your upcoming show.
- Design a booth display and create demos that have impact. There’s no second chance to make a good first impression. Applying some out-of-the-box creative thinking and your best marketing chops will make your company memorable.
A final word about planning: once you have a general idea of who is going to the event, you can begin to prioritize prospects. In a sea of hundreds of booths and thousands of people, this is an extremely helpful way to begin focusing on people who are most likely to become part of your sales funnel.
Now’s the time to pull out all of your best marketing communication skills. There are many ways to spark buzz, and social selling is among the best. In addition to paid and organic social media, use email drips, phone calls, direct and digital messaging to reach targeted prospects. By the time the event rolls around, they should know who you are. The goal is to place your company on their mental radar and eventually book a meeting.
- A direct mail campaign targeted at current prospects and customers can also be an effective way to get traffic to your booth. A simple postcard is all you need.
- Consider producing a newsletter that contains a profile of the event. Share nice-to-know tidbits about the agenda and venue and encourage people to meet you there. Don’t forget to include information that makes it easy to contact you.
- Introducing a new product at the show? Perfect! It’s a great way to create buzz, build interest, and attract media attention. Make sure your product launch management process includes all of the elements to ensure success.
3. Get your game on
Your event strategy may include walking the floor as well as manning a booth. The goal is always the same: To book a meeting or demo. Amid the hustle and chatter of a trade show, set a concrete goal of a certain number of prospects to engage, or badges to scan, and stay focused on meeting it.
Collecting leads has to be fast and easy for both visitors to your booth and your sales team. Often, you can rent lead collection software and hardware from trade show organizers. There also are third-party tools to scan attendee badges directly to a laptop or tablet. Give booth staff enough time to become familiar with whatever system you use so the collection process is quick and efficient.
Have multiple lead collection stations in place. Make sure you have a backup plan for collecting leads in case something goes wrong. The goal is to avoid allowing interested visitors to leave without recording their contact details if they are qualified as true prospects.
Another valuable way to generate leads is to identify speaking opportunities at the show. Seek out conference organizers who might know of an open slot or a speaking opportunity at a conference attached to the show. Giving a speech or hosting an information session introduces you to an audience who might not otherwise find their way to your booth. It also helps position you as an expert in your field and widens your reach.
4. Execute meticulous follow-up
Good fortune lies in carefully following up on the data you collected at the tradeshow. It doesn’t matter how many emails or business cards you collected; if you don’t do anything with them, your efforts will fall short.
When you get back to the office contact your leads immediately to keep the conversation going. Leads left unattended will quickly grow cold in today’s fast-paced environment. Prospects will either forget you or get scooped up by competitors who are faster on their feet.
You may want to consider having a follow-up email drafted even before you attend the show. Then, upon your return, you’ll be able to quickly do a few edits to customize it. The prospect will be fresh in memory and the likelihood your email will be recognized is that much better.
When it’s time to give them a call, remind them of your conversation and ask for a date to do a demo. If your research reveals that the names you got are not actually in a buying position – that’s fine too. It’s perfectly fine to ask them to refer you to a decision-maker.
Remember, use the same laser focus at every step: Get a meeting. Book a demo.
So many sales reps and marketers walk into a trade show, look around the room, and become completely overwhelmed. They’ll talk to anyone willing to listen, fail to qualify leads, and ultimately return insufficient ROI. But once you’re in the process of tracking leads and consistently following up, you likely will begin to see your hard work begin to pay off.
As one veteran trade show sales rep noted, “Trade shows can be a great way to generate a lot of warm leads in a short period of time. But if you’re looking around the conference room or trade show wondering where to start, it’s already too late.”
Maximizing lead generation goes a long way toward achieving a positive return on your trade show investment. But that’s only part of the process. Make sure you have your post-show sales process mapped out beforehand so you can follow up as soon as you get back. Contact your new leads while you’re still fresh in their minds.
What happens after you get back is what determines whether attending the show was a success or not. So don’t drop the ball. Keep working your process. And if, by chance, a prospect slips through your lead-capturing strategy, take a screenshot of their LinkedIn profile to remember them. If you’re lucky enough to get their business card, remember to take notes on the back of the card for a more personalized follow-up. Or better yet, use apps that can make digital sharing and integration easy.
5. Go for the gold
There can be no doubt about it: A trade show is your chance to showcase your brand. For companies in the technology and B2B markets, industry events are invaluable and will experience an important rebound as the pandemic subsides. By some estimates the trade show market in the U.S. is projected to hit $14.5 billion by 2024.
To turn trade show conversations into revenue, lay the groundwork beforehand, keep your eye on your goal, and continually nurture your pipeline of prospects. Whatever you want your ROI to be, it is critical to figure out how you will measure the pay-off so you can decide whether it was worth your investment and worth repeating next year.
According to Exhibitor, an online magazine of best practices in trade show and event marketing, 84% of trade show attendees who are looking for products and services have the authority to make a buying decision. It’s up to you to make the most of this golden opportunity. Be sure you use every tool in your toolbox – as well as the conference promoter’s toolbox – to maximize your return.
Do you need help with trade shows? Forward Vision Marketing has trade show experts specializing in the B2B technology space, and we’ll be happy to assist.