Trade shows. We’ve all done them, and we’ve done them for years. But recently there’s a lot more scrutiny about their ROI, leading to a decline in overall attendance. Because everyone is starting to wonder: are trade shows really worth it anymore?
Yes. They are. You just need to know how to use them.
1. PRE-TRADE SHOW MARKETING
A lot of folks show up at the trade show and figure they’re drumming up their business by standing at the booth. Showing up is sort of the bare minimum. But what if you get a running start ahead of time?
Digital marketing can help you to warm up leads and create a target-rich environment before the doors even open.
Pre-show marketing identifies who’s interested enough to read your material, so that you can let them know you’ll be available to meet in person and talk one-on-one. Now, sometimes the hosts of a trade show have “The List”: a collection of attendee contacts that you can email. But honestly, unless someone raised their hand really high and said, “Email me! I want you to email me, please!” then renting that list isn’t always a great approach. If you make a habit of renting lists, before long you’ll turn into a spam machine.
That doesn’t mean you can’t send emails pre-show. Notify any attendees you know – not to advertise your product, but to mention you’re going to be available to meet with them and perhaps demonstrate some useful solutions in person.
Use the leads and information from your sales team to send personalized messages.
This customer has mentioned wrestling with this problem? This is where your CRM database comes in handy: Outlook Salesforce, Hubspot, Pardot, and others. You can plug that information into merge tags to generate relevant emails. “Hey Joe, this is Tom over at XYZ Company! Don’t know if you’re going to this trade show, but we’re gonna be there. We’ve talked before about this issue you’ve been struggling with: we’d love for you to stop by for a few minutes so we can dig into it deeper.” Who wouldn’t show up for that?
“The key is just to let them know that you’re there and that you want to hear about their situation.”
Let people know what (and maybe even who) you’ll have at their disposal. Drive value by making a relevant offer that will motivate them to stop by your booth. Maybe it’s a panel discussion, a subject matter expert, a product demo, a cocktail meet at a nearby restaurant after show hours – heck, sometimes even a nice free tchotchke is all you need.
Pre-show emails may or may not work – you’ll only know if you track them.
2. MID-TRADE SHOW MARKETING
Granted, mid-trade show marketing sounds a little counter-intuitive. But most people fall short here because they don’t realize: they shouldn’t stop sending emails.
The trade show isn’t the finish line.
Even if it’s just a daily update of who came by and what you were up to, an email going out every day of a trade show is a powerful thing. Nothing gets a prospect shopping a bit faster than finding out that his number-one competitor was at your booth before he was. Keep those daily emails going.
In fact, emails are often more welcome during the trade show than they are before it starts.
If you’re on somebody’s list and they email you five times before the show even starts… it’s usually a bit much, especially if their message is little more than “Come see us because we’re amazing!” stuck on repeat. Besides, at that stage, most of us are running around in a frenzy just trying to prepare for the show. We don’t want to bother with any emails until we get there.
But once everyone gets to the trade show, then they enter ‘convention mode’ and get caught up in the heat of the moment. They don’t want to miss anything! Sending emails during the trade show is both relevant and will help to keep you at the forefront of their mind. Some companies will even send short messages in the early morning before the floor opens, teasing for their expo – or teasing the next day’s display in an evening message. It generates buzz and excitement and keeps a higher energy in the air, because the information is current and relevant.
“The five days before you might be like, ‘I’m getting stuff done because I need to get it done before the show. Don’t aggravate me.’ But then when you’re at the show, that’s like the whole focus of your life… when even the organizers send me an email, I pay more attention to it at the show than I do before the show.”
Just make sure you do more than just stand at your booth. Keep marketing, and stay relevant. You don’t have to promote your product – just get people to drop by so that you can begin building those relationships and learn about their needs.
3. POST-TRADE SHOW MARKETING
Once the high of the trade show wears off, everyone gets wiped out: so it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of fall-off here. You come back, you have a list of leads… but most of them aren’t ready to buy, because these are long buying cycles. Maybe your sales team takes the top 10% with the most potential and does an amazing job of following up, but what about the vast majority of your leads?
Maybe they get a generic, “Thanks for stopping by,” email, and then… crickets. Maybe that list that you worked for gets lost. It’s on an Excel spreadsheet who knows where, and it doesn’t get loaded into any database.
A lot of pipeline revenue is lost simply because of the idea that, “They’re not ready to buy, so we’ll catch them next year.”
“They’ll call me if they want to buy. They’ll remember us eight months from now,” is crazy when you think about it. You spent tons of money on this! In what other part of your business can you spend thousands of dollars, but not have a decent answer when someone asks, “What did you get out of it?”
“Where are the leads?”
Plug that data into your CRM! In fact, most CRM software nowadays has a kiosk mode on it, designed specifically with trade shows in mind. Visitors can fill out a form, hit ‘Enter,’ then pass the form to the next person. No paper, no muss, no fuss, and your leads are all primed and ready. Some CRMs also have a great section that says “notes” where the salespeople and marketers can add data later, so these leads are sent on the right track. And thanks to automation, they can get an email as soon as they hit “Enter” on that form.
Decide how you want to collect the information at the show. That’s going to determine how you follow up after the show.
And whatever you choose, make sure you know where those leads are going to collect afterwards. Every organization is different in this respect. In some companies, those leads are the property of marketing right away. For some, it’s the property of sales, because it’s their job to follow up, and marketing doesn’t see the data until a month later. But you need to follow up swiftly – at least the day after, if possible, so there needs to be communication so that can happen.
Once that communication gets started, whatever journey the leads go down… if you’re a fan of results, use video content within your marketing emails, and use analytics to track those views and see who’s really watching and interested. You’d be amazed how many people didn’t seem like hot leads, but then suddenly your analytics are showing that they’re watching all your content and forwarding it on to everybody in their company, and you had no idea. That’s great information to send your sales department: “Hey, maybe we need to push this person up a little higher on the list. We might need to give them a call.” Video-tracking analytics and automated marketing exists out there. So take advantage of it.
Whatever methods you decide to run with… the point is to be proactive.
If you don’t have all the emails written that are going out post-show, before the show even starts, you’re sunk. The only thing you should have to do after the show is dump the leads in the system and hit ‘Go.’ Because as soon as that show is over, you’re not going to want to linger on it. You’re going to be moving on.
“I’m guilty of it… We’re all running to that finish line. When we get there… ‘Squirrel!’ And I’m off to the next project.”
So to recap…
Spend time before the show to map out a strategy and a game plan. Have emails prepared ahead of time and ready to go. Make sure that you have a database to collect your leads. Make sure that when you face your boss afterwards, you can have the confidence to say, “Yes, here’s what we got out of it. Here’s the pipeline revenue. Here’s the return on investment.”
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