Why digital and trade shows are not enemies of each other

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Posted by , 2nd July 2019

How digital and trade shows can work together effectively for lead and sales generation

Trade shows bring you face to face with people who are interested in what you have to offer. And you know when they are going to be there.

Most people handling trade show participation for their companies are not full-time events marketers. Problems can arise when it comes to making the most of trade shows especially with the rise of digital

Trade shows are different from the other forms of marketing that most exhibitors are familiar with when doing their “day jobs.’

The rise of digital marketing has something to do with this. 

With digital marketing, direct contact, and by that, I mean face to face discussions do not happen. 

The planning and thinking that a digital campaign requires are very different from those for exhibition participation. 

That’s not to say that trade shows are superior to digital or vice versa. 

On the contrary, I believe that they complement each other, but they are very different. 

This lack of familiarity with events combined with a lack of preparation can lead some exhibitors to question the value of their spend post-event.

Why do so many companies who participate in trade shows question the value of their participation? Moreover, why are so many exhibitors unsure about their results? 

Two things are puzzling about those questions

1. Trade exhibitions can transform the fortunes of a small or medium-sized enterprise. Meet the right people and sale can rocket upwards very quickly. 

2. If exhibitors aren’t always sure what they get from exhibitions, visitors to trade shows undoubtedly do. 

Trade shows and conferences have never been so popular 

Attendance to events has not diminished, except within industries where consolidation has occurred. 

Elsewhere attendances are buoyant. On top of that, there has never been so many exhibitions and conferences to attend, sponsor or join.  

  • Thirty-two thousand trade events took place in 2018 according to the latest market report from UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry
  • Not only are there more events but more people are attending them both as visitors or delegates: 303 million visitors just to exhibitions alone (source UFI June 2019)
  • And because of those impressive numbers, nearly 5 million companies exhibit within one or more shows every year (source UFI June 2019)

Most stands organised by people who have other day-to-day marketing priorities

As any trade show organiser will tell you, the range of job titles held by the primary contacts within the companies that exhibit with them will vary hugely. They will include;

  • Managing Directors 
  • Owners/Founders 
  • Marketing Directors & Managers
  • Marketing Executives 
  • Sales Directors and Sales Managers
  • Brand Managers 
  • Office & Administration Managers 
  • Personal Assistants 

Trade shows are usually something that need to be organised and worked on as an extra duty on top of a regular and generally very full “day job.” 

There are very few full time “Events Managers” working in small and medium-sized UK businesses.

First-time exhibitors are often shocked at the amount of time that must be devoted to the organisation of even a modest-sized stand, mainly because they have no operational process in place for this type of activity. 

On-stand sales management at shows can be hit and miss because the people staffing stands have not been briefed or prepared thoroughly.

So, what’s the answer? 

Understand the advantages trade shows offer and work with, not against them 

The USP’s of trade shows versus digital and most other forms of promotion are;

No.1: That you book to be in a place where you know lots of prospective clients are going to be! 

No, if’s or buts, the hall will have lots of people mooching around. 

Probably the unique feature of events is this one quality.

You know that you are going to meet people on a given date in your calendar.

The second most important feature of exhibitions and events is that the people attending are in a buying frame of mind. At the very least they are in “an interested in new things” frame of mind.

The visitor stats from UFI quoted above are a testament to that. 

The third and perhaps most underestimated aspect of exhibitions is how they cut out huge chunks of the sales process. 

The prospecting time usually associated with building a sales funnel gets slashed. 

Personal contact established; you have sales information; follow-up arrangements are in place. 

Result? Weeks of work compressed into two or three days. 

So, knowing that on defined dates in a designated place, prospective clients for your business are going to be present, it must be apparent that adequate preparation is vital

Without in-depth preparation, you can jeopardise results. It’s a subject covered by various writers in previous articles from Exhibitors Only. 

That’s because it can have such a significant bearing on the outcome.

Digital marketing and trade shows make a powerful combination 

Digital marketing and trade show participation work brilliantly together. 

Use trade show participation as a marker around which you build digital marketing campaigns. 

You can use your company’s participation in an event as a focus for digital and content marketing campaigns. 

Encouraging people to meet your business at a show offers an excellent way to take email conversations further. 

You can book sales appointments and demonstration times. 

Alternatively, invite people to sit-in on demonstrations and talks or, meet key members of your technical and management teams. 

Extend the value of your trade show spend and the content you have created 

Content creation and content marketing have seen tremendous growth both in spend and in the time allocated to development and promotion. 

What’s often missed is that trade show participation and content go together exceptionally well. 

Event supply specialist GES highlighted the demand for content in their 2016 Trend Tracker report. Quoting from their report way back then;

“Content doesn’t always have to be served up in a session. Marketers are thinking of innovative ways to integrate adult learning environments into design moments throughout the show floor. From gamification and QR code-driven “passport” challenges to push notifications based on an attendee’s location, they’re making sure every inch of the event is optimised.”

In simple terms, make the most of the content you have created and look for ways to use it in the run-up to an event and in the weeks that follow. 

Why the accurate recording of costs is so important   

For you to know the actual value that your event programme delivers, you must measure results versus costs. 

Sounds obvious. However, unless you are focused on capturing both sides accurately, you won’t be able to know for sure;

  • What your return on event spend has been 
  • The actual cost of an exhibition sales lead versus leads from other channels 
  • The average sales value of orders generated from events versus other sales channels 

Accurate numbers also provide you with a firm base for comparing costs across all parts of your event budget. 

You can compare space rates, hotel costs, stand build costs, AV and any other parts of a budget that can be purchased competitively 

Knowing your numbers will give you much more certainty when budgeting and when you advocate taking part in more events.  

That’s because you’ll know how much it costs to generate a trade show lead and a trade show order compared with the other forms of marketing your company undertakes. 

You will be able to blend digital with live events and demonstrate the actual value of both to your business. 

Posted in Marketing  /  Sales  /  Trade show marketing  /  Trade show sales

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