If you are like most exhibitors, you don't have a clue about trade show marketing. At some point, you purchase a display, which you think is the trade show marketing plan. It's not. So, let's talk. Really talk.
You are probably a sales or marketing professional. You rely on Act-On, Marketo, or HubSpot for automation. You use CRM software like SalesForce or Infusionsoft. You have a comprehensive email campaign strategy and track it with Constant Contact, Yesware, or MailChimp. All smart. Actually very smart. You understand that marketing requires a strategy, the right tools, and a method of measuring your success.
And when you have challenging problems outside your skillset, you tap into consultants for lead generation, sales training, social media, and SEO. For your advertising, you have a team dedicated to maximizing your spend and metrics. In this hyper-competitive marketplace, you need every advantage that money, strategy, and discipline can bring.
That's not meant to be a loaded question. You either do or you don't. There's no middle ground because exhibitors who waffle when it comes to trade show marketing are mostly wasting their money. These are the exhibitors who participate just because they should or because their competitors are there. They complain about the expense, the feeble leads, and the terrible ROI.
There was a sense 15 years ago that the Internet would make trade shows irrelevant. It didn't. Instead, it changed attendee behavior. Smart trade show marketers have gotten much better at pre-show marketing. Why? Because most attendees no longer "walk" the floor. They "research" and "shop" the floor just like they would an online purchase. They've already decided who they'll visit days, even weeks before their feet hit the aisle carpet. Getting them to your booth via pre-show marketing is much more important than luring them into your booth at the show.
Here's an easy way to determine if you've been successful at pre-show marketing. Your booth should be busy, really busy no more than 30 minutes after the doors open. You should view it just like preparing for the Grand Opening of a store.
Of course you do. Imagine conducted a sales/marketing meeting or presentation without metrics. You love numbers. You love studying and reciting them to others like parables from the Bible. You get visibly excited using a spreadsheet to compare the Toledo to the Albuquerque office.
But, when it comes to your trade show marketing, you are like a four-year old with blocks, relying on the # of leads to judge success. Sadly, you pat yourself on the back if the leads are electronic and not a roll of paper cascading off the counter. For most exhibitors, anything beyond that falls into quantitative voodoo. There's no measuring costs per show, return on sales, or contribution margin per client.
You should be. It's kinda required for anyone in sales and marketing. At every trade show, you are doing two things: meeting with customers and suppliers and evaluating your trade show staff. Far too often, we are spectacular at the first and abysmal at the second.
We view trade show staffing along the same lines as a wedding invitation -- the more the merrier and we pray no one gets so drunk they puke in public. When we do hold staffers accountable, it's condensed into a pre-show rally which includes 10-minute booth training. It's a joke. No one has roles. No one has responsibilities. There's no backup plan to the backup plan. You wing it, something you would never do when preparing a presentation for your next major client. Who may just happen to stroll into your booth and chat with Tommy Boy.
I won't bother to feed your ego on this one. You aren't an expert. Not even close. You may be an expert at banner ads or print advertising or closing techniques, but you probably don't know squat about exhibit design and trade show marketing. How do I know? Experience working with exhibitors and walking shows.
Now, don't misunderstand me. You know marketing and you know sales, but you decided at some point to believe that trade show marketing is more of the same. It is and it isn't, and you'll blow a ton of money until you know what works and what doesn't.
I mean this literally. Take some advice from a trade show professional.
1. Work with your Exhibit House. Exhibit Houses and Distributors do much more than design and build exhibits. They work with exhibitors on strategy, show services, ROI tracking, booth training, etc. They see the painful mistakes that their clients make that cost them money and prevent them from succeeding at trade shows.
Believe me . . . they want your trade show marketing to be wildly successful. That way you'll add more shows to your schedule, you'll purchase new exhibits, and you'll tap into their services.
2. Work with Independent Consultants. Like any industry, the trade show industry has seasoned independent consultants who want to share their advice for a fee. Some are generalists. Others specialize in booth staff training or ROI measuring or social media marketing or lead generation or overall trade show marketing.
They know their stuff. They are paid to know their stuff. Don't know who they are? Ask your exhibit house or use this niffy tool called Google. That said . . . always get references and do your homework.
3. Become an Expert. You can either continue to whine or you can take classes at EXHIBITOR, HCEA, or other exhibit industry events. There are hundreds of classes each year on every imaginable topic related to trade shows and trade show marketing. The classes are a great place to meet industry professionals and share your successes and failures with colleagues. For such a big industry, it's actually a very small community.
No one can know everything. And what's true for marketing automation software or social media advertising is also true for trade shows. Know what you don't know and for everything else, seek help.
For more information about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.
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