According to MecLabs’ Marketingsherpa, tradeshows are budgeted for a major portion of 2012 B2B marketing expenditures across organizations of all sizes. From large (1000+) organizations with 33% of their budget to Medium (100-999) at 20% and Small (<100) who typically budget 19% of their marketing spending.
The numbers seem somewhat surprising given all the hype around inbounds web leads, social media marketing and marketing automation, but given that again, according to marketingsherpa the perceived effectiveness of tradeshows moved up to the fourth most effective marketing tactic – from seventh and taking into consideration the cost of show participation the numbers do actually make sense. Tradeshows, in spite of their obvious success have appeared to be on the decline for the last several years, but just like so many other tried and true marketing tactics, they’re experiencing that back and forth rise and fall in popularity that affects just about every B2B marketing tactic.
So, with the new confidence that the market is showing for trade shows, how can you maximize the effectiveness of every dollar you spend? In other words, how can you hold as many productive introductions and conversations with a cross section of representatives from qualified companies?
Basically, you have two main streams of promotion available to you – passive and active.
Passive promotion is the work you do to drive inbound leads (who will all think that contacting you is their idea). The tools at your disposal for passive communications are social, site based and word of e-mouth. Blogging and discussions can build background interest and credibility within the appropriate communities. Announcements and white papers posted to your site – preferably with associated auto-responder email series for down-loaders can incorporate news about your tradeshow participation and the events you’re planning. Look for interesting hooks and promotions (maybe even fun) to induce contacts to share your emails or site information.
Both before and during the event, be sure to take advantage of mobile opportunities with short videos that your contacts can share and stay up to date with new smart phone event apps that can help you create interest around your participation and perhaps incorporate a useful at-event service for your contacts. Look at replacing at least part of your more traditional handouts (also known as throwaways) with QR codes. And of course, Tweet your little heart out both before and during and after the event, combining a preplanned schedule and up to the minute spontaneous Tweets.
Once you’ve planned to cover your grass roots, passive programs and drive a few interested parties to your door, you need to concentrate on your more deliberate and active trade show lead generation program. It’s all about generating visibility and promoting your company to your chosen audience to talk –face to face – with the right people. It’s about making the best impression when they visit you – at your booth or not- and then following up promptly and consistently to qualify your new contacts and focus your communications on converting the right prospects into sales ready leads.
You have a number of audience “pools” to choose from when creating the lists of contacts to run promotions to including – (in no particular order)
- Local customers
- Past Attendees – customers and prospect companies
- Registered Exhibitors
- Speakers and their companies
- Registered attendees
- Locally based prospect companies
- Prospect companies most likely to be attracted to the show
- Current prospects in any lead nurturing or sales funnel
- Sales rep suggestions and recommendations
With the exception of a list of a list of registered attendees which can only come from the show organizers, creating lists of the companies and contacts shown above are well within the abilities of most organizations to assemble, although they will require different levels of research. If you simply do not have the staff available to manage this research, help can easily and quite affordably be found using basic web and telephone research services.
Depending on the timelines; direct mail, email, web announcement and newsletter promotions can create advance awareness of your participation at an upcoming event. As you get closer to the show you really need to add telephone calls and voicemail messages mixed with a few emails from your marketing and/or sales teams. They’re a more personalized way to issue event-within-the- event invitations, including booth and floor appointments, reminders and confirmations, demos, networking events, dinners and other receptions.