Show Time!

November 19, 2015

Grow your trade show results with this proven strategy.

By Lorrie Bryan

“Wow! We’re extremely satisfied with the ROI metrics from the trade show we recently attended,” says only about 8 percent of event marketers surveyed.

According to studies, more than half of event marketers reported low to middling satisfaction in tying the considerable costs of exhibiting to actual revenue to provide an ROI assessment. If you are like most trade show marketers, you’re probably wondering what those 8 percenters do differently. Are there tricks of the trade show that they solemnly swear not to share? Are they handing out iPads in their swag bags or luring prospects with magic acts, mermaids, or massages? Maybe they’re just working harder—or smarter. Yep! They have likely discovered how to use the power of integrated marketing technology to fuel a strategy that drives high-value prospects into their booths and subsequently yields a significantly higher return on marketing investment.

A systematic approach

You likely wouldn’t plant a spectacular ornamental tree in your landscape and then ignore it. You would water it and nurture it so that it grows. But often, companies will purchase exhibit space at a trade show and then do little to nurture and grow that marketing opportunity. An effective systematic trade show marketing approach delivers the right message at the right time in the right way—much like an automated drip irrigation system that efficiently delivers the appropriate amount of water right to the tree’s root system.

“At a lot of the trade shows that you go to, you’ll see a lot of marketers standing around in their booths trying to get people to come talk with them, and they’re paying a lot of money to be there. What they’re lacking is a systematic approach to achieving success and optimizing the trade show experience,” affirms Joe Manos, executive vice president at Mind FireInc, a marketing intelligence and automation software provider headquartered in Irvine, California.

Before, during, and after the show

Manos says the overall strategy must include: pre-show marketing that creates awareness and results in prescheduled trade show appointments; show-time marketing that includes contact throughout the show, personal engagement, traffic, and scheduled group presentations; and post-show marketing with appropriate follow-up and closes.

“We don’t just let prospects know we’ll be at the show; we foster further engagement by offering them special opportunities and incentives, and we encourage them to pre-schedule an appointment and plan on meeting with us during the event. Then when we’re at the show, we’re hosting presentations and appointments, and driving additional traffic and daily engagement by sending out emails of our presentation schedules as well as text message reminders to prospects who have opted in. After the show, we follow up with everyone who we contacted with the appropriate specific messaging,” Manos says. “Any one of these strategies done well will help improve your results, but if you execute all three, you see a significant increase in revenue and opportunities generated at the trade show. It’s a game-changer.”

Automation magic

There’s no substitute for face-to-face communication, and trade shows provide a unique opportunity to meet qualified prospects and shorten the existing selling cycle with quality face time. The events also offer a positive environment where you can meet with existing customers and build stronger relationships. This isn’t going to happen unless you successfully attract attendees to your exhibit space for a one-on-one conversation.

Imagine this trade-show experience: Each day, trade show attendees automatically receive a personalized good-morning email from you that includes pertinent trade show information and highlights the schedule of your group presentations and booth activities. As you are preparing for your presentations, your prospects are receiving text messages reminding them of the events. Throughout the show, prospects who you have effortlessly contacted line up to say hello and find out more about your products and services. Your customers are coming at preset times in response to your invitation to meet with you one-on-one. The constant parade of attendees heading to your booth attracts attention and leads to even more engagement opportunities.

“The messaging focuses on key activities and opportunities at the show and in your booth. It also drives prospects to the booth for special events and presentations,” Manos explains. “The key for success is ongoing high-value, relevant touches throughout the event. You are essentially engaging in an ongoing dialogue with each prospect with your automated marketing program. Each day the campaign touches all prospects and customers with a different message and call to action. Strategy is continually tailored based on responses or additional information captured.” And all of this is accomplished with the magic of marketing automation.

The magic results from the melding of robust technology, the right process, expertise, and tracking and measurement. This enables you to integrate your offline and online channels; personalize your message; capture responses and react in real time; and track, measure, and improve ROI. “We always focus on making sure that once someone responds, we can take care of them and have a one-on-one conversation,” Manos adds.

Don’t invest in logo-branded pens, light-up super balls, ugly/funky T-shirts, and cheap tchotchkes. Instead, invest in a well-executed show strategy. It can provide significantly higher return on marketing investment, comprehensive reporting on all marketing touches and responses, key marketing intelligence, high-value leads, strategic meetings, and, ultimately, an increase in sales revenue dollars.