Event Marketing – 7 Steps to Trade Show Brilliance

I just read another good article in the blog Eyes on Sales. This one, written by Kelly Robertson identified six ways for sales people to boost their numbers this year. Here is a link to the original article which is terrific reading for anyone in sales. 6 Powerful ways to Increase Your Sales in 2012

Reading over his list, it struck me that these six ideas are also ideal ways to increase your effectiveness at trade shows. Trade shows are specific selling opportunities that can easily be pulled in too many different directions with all the activity going on. But with the money that is invested into trade shows and events (on average about one in every five marketing dollars) improving your company’s effectiveness in achieving your show objectives offers a fabulous ROI opportunity.

So, what are the steps and how do they apply to your trade shows?

Make More Appointments

For trade shows, reach out ahead of the show to the contacts you anticipate will attend. That includes local businesses that fit your needs, past attendees, session registrants, your customers and where applicable – other exhibitors. It’s reported that 82% of businesses who are judged to be the most successful at tradeshows engage in pre-show marketing. Success btw is measured asgenerated leads that turn into business.

Your goal is to book pre-set meetings with as many of the right people as possible and take advantage of this often rare opportunity to meet face to face. Your invitation program should include traditional mail, email, voicemail and live calling.

Identify Your Ideal Prospects

Don’t waste your appointment setting efforts reaching out to the wrong contacts. If the attendee profile of a show isn’t matching your target audience, then sadly, you might be exhibiting at the wrong show. Look over past attendee lists, current and past exhibitor lists and the speaker sessions, carefully. Are the sessions dealing with the problems that you can help your customers solve? Are they attracting contacts from the right departments and the right levels of seniority?

If you’re not sure if a show is right for you, attend it first as a visitor before you invest in exhibiting. Once you know you’re in the right place, determine if the organizers release a preshow list of session registrants (at least the companies) and dig into the right organizations to focus your own appointment setting activities against the best contacts, not just the easy ones.

Research Your Attendees Challenges Ahead of the Show

Session titles will often give you a starting point on the challenges that your attendees might be facing, but you also need to look at their industry publications and general news to identify the issues. Check publication websites that also focus on industry wide challenges and reports of players in that market and look at the websites for the likely attendees who you most want to talk to.

Spend some research time ahead of the show on social media sites for business where you can not only start to identify the companies you’d most like to talk with, but also look for applicable groups and their discussions to find the current hot topics and buttons.

Any confirmation of show attendance or confirmed booth appointments are special opportunities to do some detailed pre-show prospect research so that you can make the most of your face to face selling time with them.

Focus Your Contact and Selling Time at the Show

This is all about being brutally organized and taking advantage of every minute by working your own strategically predetermined sales plan.

If you’re going to be making the rounds of other booths, plan your schedule ahead of time and work the exhibitor list in advance to book fixed appointments. Identify the players and know what companies and issues to focus your research on. Reach out to contacts in what should be their own selling downtime and don’t expect to be able to just waltz up to the VP at their booth during a busy time and have them give you more than the time of day (if that).

Once you’re at the show it’s too late to spend your time on the phone or on your laptop trying to find the best contacts to set up a time to talk.

Use Your Most Effective Tools to Connect with Decision Makers at the Show

As has already been stated, once you’re at the show, it’s too late to spend your own time on your laptop and phone trying to reach out to contacts to confirm appointments, invite to events or update the reasons they want to come and see you.  Instead, set up automatically executing communications campaigns to run during the show. Remember that just because you’re going to take a campaign approach, it doesn’t mean that you lose personalized contact. Segment your lists into similar groups. Voicemail, used alone or in synchronized voicemail + email campaigns is a great way to keep your contact plan more personal. As well, don’t hesitate to bring your own company heavy hitters to bat for you by having them record peer to peer invitations and updates on your behalf.
Use all the personality, technology and influence that’s available to you to make the most of this target rich environment.

Fine Tune Your Presentation Angles

So, you finally catch the attention of a C-Level contact you’ve been trying to connect with for 2 years and you bore them! What did you do wrong? For starters you might have fallen back into one of those almost inevitably trite opening sequences like “So how are you finding the show?” or other event equivalents of talking about the weather and then you probably made it worse by only talking about your company.
A trade show discussion is just like any other regular introduction meeting in person or on the phone. You can’t take up the discussion – even the opening of it – talking about you or your company, your many blue chip clients, international kudos and/or ground breaking research. They don’t care. Really, they don’t. Your new contact cares about their company, their problems and their needs and that’s why they’re at the show.

It’s time to re-work that opener you’ve been beating to death for the last five years and replace it with some intelligent, discussion provoking, questions and ideas that will NOT have your new contact wishing they’d instead opted for the courtesy boxed lunch rather than spend their time talking with you.

Bring notes! Now I know some people will not like this idea, but write out the main questions you have for a new contact before you sit down and don’t hesitate to check your notes. There are a few reasons why this is a good idea, the first being you’ll get the important questions covered. But, on top of that you’re tangibly demonstrating that you have thought this through ahead of time, that you’ve done your homework and you’ve taken more of your own time than you’re asking of them.

And when they answer your questions- be totally certain you understand what they said. If you don’t understand say so and ask for clarification immediately. Don’t just stand there going “uh-huh uh-huh” and nodding your head when you don’t have the faintest idea what they’re talking about. If you’re afraid that asking for clarification will make you look like an idiot, don’t worry. You’ll easily look like twice the idiot when they realize from the glazed look in your eyes that you don’t have a clue what they just told you and you’re too full of your own ego to admit it.

Make a powerful connection and differentiate you and your company from your competitors and you’ll be remembered positively after the show.

To Kelley’s 6 points, I’m going to add a seventh.

Be the First with the Best Follow Up

Situations change but most principles will stay the same and as far as lead follow up is concerned the principle is this – Do it Now!

I confess that I used to think that following up on a lead immediately -like within five minutes of an internet lead- felt desperate and rather tacky, but I was wrong. In this overwhelmed business environment where contacts who used to be fairly reachable in 6 attempts now take more like 18 tries to get a connection, you must follow up any shred of interest immediately. Waiting even half an hour to call on an internet inquiry drops your connect rate 100X.

Now, you can’t follow up on your trade show connects in five minutes, but if there is a follow up to be done or more information to be sent, do your best to get it into their hands (and keep yourself and your company in their head) before they get swamped with whatever backed-up at the office while they were away.

Once again, campaign communications like segmented recorded voicemails or voicemails with an email follow up, emails or short live messages and of course live calls are a perfect way to get to the punch before your competitors clutter up the environment. You won’t likely get much of an answer right away and you don’t want to swamp your new contacts, but if you can steal their attention for just long enough to identify a next step, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring that the time, planning, work and considerable expense that you and your company has spent to get to this point has the best chance of bearing profitable fruit.

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