The largest single expense for most B2B marketers is event marketing, including trade shows. On average, trade shows eat up about 20 per cent of the total marketing budget, compared to 13 per cent spent on digital marketing, 12 per cent spent on content marketing, and 8 per cent spent on websites. According to Ruth Stevens with Advertising Age, “trade shows and events are the second most-cited source of new product and new vendor information — after peers and colleagues — among small- to medium-sized business owners.” It is no wonder then that marketers are willing to make such a large investment in trade shows.
Trade shows are particularly important to the construction industry. According to the Construction Marketing Association, “for certain categories like construction equipment, trade shows are critically important to allow for product demonstrations, client meetings and entertainment.” In fact, when it comes to the construction industry, trade shows can make or break your sales targets.
Proper Planning is Key
There are no shortcuts to a successful trade show. The three keys to success are planning, planning and planning. More specifically, pre show, during show, and post show planning. Don’t consider the three to be different segments, but rather one process. Throughout the process you need to keep in mind three further keys to success:
- Tracking: Tracking your visitors and potential leads should begin before the show starts, and continue right through to post show analysis.
- Visitor centric experience: Cater to all types of visitors; it is your booth but it is their experience that matters.
- Embrace technology: Use modern methods like social media to reach out to trade show attendees beforehand, create engaging experiences during the show, and track and analyze the data afterwards.
Pre Show Best Practices
1. Build Anticipation
Businesses often undervalue the importance of the build up to a show, spending on average just 5 per cent of their event marketing/trade show budget to creating awareness prior to a trade show or event.
2. Set Up Tracking
According to the Construction Marketing Association, “while trade show investment is high, often results measurement is weak or lacking. Why? Because more often than not exhibitors rely on business card readers for the sole measure of leads and results.” Relying solely on card readers is simply not good enough.
You should begin implementing your tracking methods prior to the show. Consider using e-mail signups, contests that require entering business information, social media incentives, and other digital techniques to increase the number of ways that you are tracking visitors and generating relevant leads.
3. Target Attendees
Long before the show starts you should be reaching out to attendees, providing them with information about your construction materials and encouraging them to visit your booth during the trade show. This should not only boost visitors, but also ensure that those who do visit already have some understanding of your product or service, bringing in ‘high-potential’ visitors.
When you reach out be sure to offer trackable incentives to encourage attendees to visit your booth like contests, promo codes, or early sign-up options to receive limited promotional materials.
4. Target existing leads
Reach out to current clients and ongoing leads, invite them to the trade show and prepare to blow them away.
Connect with current contacts through email, phone and social media (especially LinkedIn). Use all channels at your disposal and don’t forget to promote the show itself via social media, email marketing and other regularly exercised channels. If the trade show has designated hash tags (#) then remember to use those in your social media promotion.
During Show Best Practices:
Preparation is crucial, but it all comes down to how you execute.
1. Location, location, location
The old adage “location, location, location” is as relevant during a trade show as anywhere else. It isn’t always easy or cheap to get the prime location, but it can pay off. Most shows sell out fast, so you need to be on the ball and start booking your location for next year as soon as possible. According to Richard Larson, brand manager for Go Promotional, “some prime locations are even grandfathered in, so you may need to think even further in advance.”
2. Mid-show promotion
Just because the show has started, doesn’t mean that you are done promoting your booth. Continue to promote during the show. Visit other booths, set up flyers, offer freebies, hold contests, be exciting, be loud, and be flashy.
Consider designating people to hand out flyers, lanyards, brochures or other promotional materials to attendees before they even enter the building so you can focus your time making connections and building relationships.
3. Appearances matter
People are naturally attracted to well designed, colourful, exciting or bright booths. Make sure that your branding is featured prominently in all directions. Ensure that you are approachable, both in terms of design (you don’t want a restrictive design that places a barrier between you and potential clients) and in your demeanour.
You need to put your best, most passionate people on the booth. Keep them talking and keep visitors engaged. But be warned, not everyone is naturally suited to booth duty. Consider investing in sales training, or hiring outside help – but remember no one knows your business better than you.
One of the biggest trends in event marketing in 2016 is to focus on the client more than ever. In fact, the vocabulary surrounding event marketing is changing – no longer are people focused on the ‘event’, instead they are focused on the ‘experience.’ Provide a range of different ways that people can get involved with your product or service during the trade show.
Use demonstrations and a range of presentation devices including print materials (such as pamphlets, and, of course, business cards), scale models, side-by-side comparisons, testimonials and any other material that you can leverage. If you sell new, lighter building materials you had better have some on hand that visitors can pick up and feel for themselves.
To create a true ‘experience’ that keeps clients engaged be sure to utilize a wide range of mediums. Everyone learns differently. Don’t let a customer slip by just because they prefer to take in information visually rather than tactilely. In addition to videos, consider using a preprogramed iPad that allows users to explore the details that they consider most relevant.
6. Contests and Discounts
Holding contests will generate interest, provide you with tracking information and ultimately generate leads. Similarly, offering one-time discounts with strict conditions can turn leads into sales right then and there on the trade show floor.
You can also leverage trade show participation by providing special discounts that require a unique trade show code. Using a unique promo code will help you track your success after the trade show has ended.
Post Show Best Practices
Just because the trade show is over, doesn’t mean your work is done. Just the opposite in fact – the real work is just starting.
1. Follow Up
It shouldn’t have to be said, but it does. Once you connect with potential clients, and collect email addresses, don’t just let them sit there collecting dust. Reach out via a phone call, social media (LinkedIn), email, or in person.
2. Have a Plan
Regardless of how you follow up, you should have a plan already in place. This includes a general outline and specific action plan for bringing booth visitors through the marketing funnel.
3. Analyze the Data You Tracked
If you tracked visitors accurately then you should be sitting on a treasure trove of important data. Just because you didn’t convert a visitor into a sale doesn’t make their information any less valuable.
Depending on the type of information you collected you should take some time to analyze your visitor’s sector, budget size, company, and personal attributes. From this you should be able to identify patterns to help you move forward and make improvements for your next trade show.
With large marketing budgets on the line and the potential to capture new vendors, trade show success has never been more critical for construction material companies. Don’t miss an opportunity to move your product forward because you haven’t leveraged your trade show event.