For any size business, attending a trade show can be an incredible way to gain visibility, as well as interact with potential customers. It’s an excellent place to show-off or demonstrate new products, too.
While the conference will play out like any other, one that includes a B2B community will have a unique focus. For instance, marketing to a B2B crowd with conventional techniques is different than it is with B2C. You should expect differences in events and interactions, as well.
Putting an effective presentation together is much more involved than registering, showing up with a booth and some swag, and talking about your brand or products. What are some things to consider before the trade show is booked? What should you do to ensure you’re not just reaching the right people, but also doing it in a highly effective way?
Why Are You Attending and What Would You Like to Achieve?
The most successful marketing campaigns are goal-oriented, allowing teams to focus on what they want to achieve, whether that’s simply getting the word out about a new product or finding a certain number of new clients.
The same approach should be taken with trade show participation. Are you trying to gauge interest for a new product concept? Do you want to grow exposure for your brand? Are you there to network and strike up new relationships with potential partners or clients? Relationship marketing is more important than ever, of course.
Once you’ve identified your motive, choose a goal. If you want to grow your customer base, set an actual number of sales you’d like to make. If you’re networking, make a point to introduce your brand to a specific number of potential partners.
Having a clear reason for attending, alongside verifiable goals, adds more value to your preparation.
Are You Attending the Right Event
There are hundreds — if not thousands — of conferences you can attend. Everything from consumer-focused to invite-only events has benefits, even if you’re chasing B2B clients specifically. Narrow them down in relation to your goals. What would help you achieve your mission and what would be a waste of resources?
Sometimes, you have to select an event you might not have otherwise, simply because it has more influence on what you wish to achieve. Attending a lighthearted and fun trade show with lots of consumers involved is not ideal if you want to network with other professionals and grow your relationships.
Consider who will be attending, including any rivals or competition. Look at what kinds of products and services have been popular at past shows. What are attendees most interested in seeing? How can you maximize exposure or boost your end goal? Is that possible at the event you’re considering?
How Much Space Do You Need?
Participating in a trade show is expensive, but you can minimize costs by reducing the space you need and maximizing your outreach.
Plan to use the smallest booth or room size and then expand based on what you need, rather than what you want. If you can fit all your equipment, presentation tools and demos within the boundaries of a smaller booth, then do it.
Tacking on real estate just for the sake of having a bigger space isn’t effective, and it’s rarely impactful.
Mind Your Surroundings
One element that is often overlooked is the placement of your booth. If you have an elegant yet small booth and you’re sitting next to a showstopper of a presentation, then your impact is going to be reduced. It has nothing to do with the quality of your presentation or experience, and more to do with flashy distractions.
At a trade show, you’re competing against every exhibit there. That doesn’t mean you should adopt an attitude to be the biggest and best — it just means you should be aware of what’s happening around you at the event. Who has the biggest space or booth, and how will that affect you? How can you attract more visitors?
Who Are You Targeting?
The B2B market is incredibly diverse. Any event is going to have hundreds or thousands of attendees, some of which aren’t a good fit for your brand. Decide before you even show up who you’re targeting, why and what you want to happen.
It’s common to see companies counting the number of people that stop at their booth. Although it’s great to have more people, not every visitor is the type of customer you want or need. It’s exactly like looking for valuable leads in conventional marketing. Some are worth more than others, and it’s the same case here.
Implement and Maintain a Quantifiable Value
Implement a system that allows you to measure your progression. If you’re looking to boost customer numbers, then consider tracking successful leads. If you want to increase exposure, look at how many people willingly took swag from your reps or showed interest in your products.
Even something like knowing how many people viewed your digital signage can provide insights about value.
At this point, you should be able to see why it’s important to choose a measurable value early on. You’ll need to prepare in advance, and you can’t do that unless you’re armed with the right information.
For example, you might need to install technology. Bluetooth beacons can send out local alerts and notifications. Smart sensors can be used to detect various activities. Touch-screen displays and event-specific mobile apps can boost engagement. Many brands now incorporate tactile, interactive strategies to encourage engagement and garner attention.
Announce Your Presence
Arriving at an event without calling attention to it ahead of time is pointless. Make sure you announce your presence well before the event takes place. Promote it on social media and discuss what you will be doing at the show.
Don’t just stop when the event has started, either. Consider live-blogging from the site, posting videos or content streams, and holding concurrent promotions for attendees.
Be Familiar With the Venue
You’ll probably be visiting a remote city or location. That means it will be easy to get lost or miss an appointment. Do your research beforehand to ensure you’re familiar with your surroundings, both inside and outside the venue. This includes becoming familiar with rules and regulations for the location you’ll be visiting.
Attending an event in Orlando is completely different from attending one in Los Angeles or New York, for example. It’s going to alter your deadlines, your schedule and even how prepared you should be.
What Are Your Post-Show Plans?
Just because the event has concluded doesn’t mean your work is done. You’ll need verifiable ways to track impact and results. Was your attendance successful? What can you improve or do better next time?
More importantly, what are your plans for following up with potential contacts, clients and leads? You must continue to be as active after the event ends. Continue promoting your participation on social and discuss what attendees thought about your exhibit. Encourage commentary that tells you how influential your presence was.
Preparation Is Key
Trade shows and live events can be overwhelming, especially when the attendee count is high. It helps to plan accordingly and complete your due diligence, so your goals and achievements are met with relative ease. It’s up to you to maximize how much value your attendance accrues.
Lexie Lu is a UX content strategist and web designer. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, watching HGTV and walking her goldendoodle. Feel free to check out her design blog, Design Roast, or follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.