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Meet Jeannette La: An interview with an exhibiting whizz

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Posted by , 28th February 2017

Jeannette La an exhibiting whizz offers her advice for successful events

Turning stand visits into sales is no mystery for Jeannette La

Despite her youth, Jeannette La has a considerable amount of exhibiting experience. On your behalf, I was keen for her to share some insights.

A native of the US, Jeannette now lives and works in the UK. She is currently Head of Marketing at a world-leading supplier of virtual sports video and gaming platforms.

Read our interview, which follows below.

Jeannette, can I begin by asking you about the day to day duties of your role as Head Of Marketing?

It’s pretty varied, but it could be summed-up as coordinating and acting upon the expectations of our different business groups. I lead the formation of a communications strategy. That covers customer journeys from our website through our business. And leading all aspects of our trade show and events programme.

How important are trade shows to your business?

Trade shows play a huge role for us. We take part in 8-10 main shows annually and probably allocate around 60% of our marketing budget to support trade show activity.

I lead a team with three other members for events. Between us, we handle participation in shows in Europe, the US, South America, Singapore, and Macau.

Our biggest stand and show presence is in London where our brand ambassadors Mike Tyson and Shaquille O’Neal feature as guests on our stand.

We exhibit to generate sales, to promote new games and new brand licence opportunities. Our clients are decision-makers within regulated markets that are looking for video lottery terminals and virtual sports gaming equipment.

Our stands at shows are video-heavy, so there’s a lot of AV and digital technology in use and many IPads!

Can you highlight other forms of marketing that your business uses?

Apart from our trade show spend, we invest in digital. Things like bespoke videos and sales presentations are essential for us. We produce webinars. We tend not to do much trade press advertising at the moment.

What process do you go through when deciding on where to exhibit?

We know who our customers are and we work in 35 different countries. So when we exhibit, we are focused on building brand recognition within our market and on showing and demonstrating the latest games and cabinets. We want our clients to be fully aware of all our latest developments.

A list of events for a calendar year is put together many months in advance. We have a core rota of shows that include events like ICE in London, G2E in Las Vegas, Enada Primavera in Rimini and Fadja in Bogota.  We add to this list, other events large and small in the markets in which we operate.

The draft event list includes shows that have been researched by my marketing team plus recommendations from members of our various business teams.

Likewise, we also review any events that colleagues think are underperforming—cutting the least successful from our event programme. We then invest those funds into other shows on our schedule.

Before my team firmly books any events, we get our proposed show schedule signed-off by our Board. Once confirmation of our plan is received we can start the space booking and show planning process. A new show can make the schedule after sign off, but we would need Executive approval before adding it to the event list.

Can you talk about show success measures for your business?

Usually, we start any show evaluation by measuring the leads generated. Each event will have its lead target dependent on attendance and the type of people the event attracts. We will also set goals for attracting and meeting key clients and key client prospects. We also measure the number of quality sales meetings held.

Branding impressions are also measured. We keep testing recognition of our corporate branding with key clients and prospects. Two years ago, we made many changes to our branding, and everything took 7-8 months to work through and appear. Events provide an opportunity for us to keep tabs on our brand recognition in the marketplace. And we measure this recognition.

We check awareness using short surveys with critical clients on our stand and feedback from staff.

How do you decide on your space requirements?

Ultimately, our Chief Product Officer (CPO) heads-up all hardware and content decisions related to our events.

My team and I will then book space at shows based on instructions received. The area we require or take can be dictated by the size and number of cabinets that we want to display and by the site options that different events can offer us.

Stand sizes across a year range from pop-ups for company meetings to sites of 500sqm in prime locations at leading industry trade shows.

Once the sites are secured, we prepare stand designs which I present to our CPO for approval or fine-tuning and then, for sign-off.

Who handles your stand design & logistics?

For design, we used to work with several different agencies local to the markets where we operate. Now we find it easier and more beneficial to work with one company, Collins Winning. They handle all of our events worldwide.

Working with one design agency enables a deeper understanding of our business and our requirements. Ultimately it saves much time as we don’t have to keep explaining what we do and to whom we sell. Effectively, the agency is an extension of our team, which is massively vital for building and promoting our brand.

For logistics, we have an in-house logistics team, and they handle all event shipping arrangements. The arrangement makes things much easier for my team and me, given the global nature of our show programme.

Can you tell readers about marketing to visitors pre-show?

We always send invitations to our clients, and we will also invite prospective clients that our sales team has identified. Also, we will advertise our webinars, ensuring these include a promotion for our next show appearance. We send emails to our client and prospect lists. We use our website and the show’s website to promote our presence.

For last year’s G2E show in Las Vegas, we ran a teaser campaign about Mike Tyson appearing on our stand (which he did). That was very successful for us, both in awareness terms pre-show and at the event itself.

What role does content play for your company at trade shows?

Content is huge because trade shows offer educational as well as sales opportunities. We actively seek speaking opportunities. We use webinars in advance of a show, typically one month out to build awareness of new things that we will be showing. And, we send those webinar recordings out post-show as part of our follow-up process.

And what about following-up with show visitors?

We follow-up very quickly with our stand visitors. We thank them for visiting our stand, and we also highlight where on our website, they can access show-related product information.

The sales cycle for our products can be very long. Government approval is a requirement in some countries, plus there will be the time needed for testing and a trial period. So, keeping in regular contact with our most interested prospects is essential. Ongoing marketing plays a role. We find that webinars are useful in helping to answer questions that may arise. They also help to build confidence as they share the experiences of successful clients.

How does your business assess the success of show participation?

We gather data from multiple sources. We can check measurable things like leads collected, sales meetings held and the number of speaking sessions in which we participated.

Our stand team is surveyed and asked for their views on the show. We ask them to note any sales activations that have happened post-event. Key sales leaders tell us what value they put on each show and whether or not they recommend returning to the next event.

The answers supplied play an essential part in determining which events we will participate in the following year.

Which tech items are you using in your trade show work now that didn’t exist just a few years ago?

Data availability within venue halls has dramatically improved, and for a business like ours, this is hugely important. We can show our products as intended for use, and that’s a big selling plus with show visitors.

Raspberry Pis are another recent innovation. These are tiny computers that drive all of the videos and live feeds on our stands, a critical feature of our displays at big events. Because they are small, we carry less weight in hardware to venues. Also, they are very inexpensive, so we have saved money on tech-spend costs.

My piece of tech that I use and recommend is Trello. I find it an excellent project management tool.

The question I have been itching to ask; In a previous role you increased sales by 160% at one event! What did you do to engineer this huge upturn in results?

Much of what I did was straightforward, but that show was vital to the success of the company I was working for. Forty per cent of total orders for the year were relied-on to come from this particular event.

“I clarified our message.”

The messaging proposed for display on our stand was varied and very inconsistent. So, I made sure that inside the business, we had our core story straight before we printed any display materials or any messaging connected to our stand.

Doing this made it easy for visitors to see and understand what we were offering. It made a massive difference to audience engagement at the show.

After messaging, I addressed the processes connected to show participation. Frankly, these were broke. Our staff weren’t communicating effectively with each other internally or with external suppliers.

Given that we expected and were counting on, signing many deals on the show floor, anyone working on our stand needed to know what procedures were in place for show offers, lead management and for following-up.

By drawing all of these elements together and establishing a clear sales position, we managed to achieve a 160% show on show upturn in sales.

Jeannette, thank you for sharing all of this great information. Before you leave, can you offer one key tip for someone new to exhibiting?

I think my advice would have to be;

Prepare for the worst and plan for the best. If anything, over plan.

I’ve had a stand stuck in a snowstorm (went to a furniture store and created a new stand there). Graphics printed entirely incorrectly; found a copy shop and made the best of what we had. Glitches will happen, and you have to deal with them because the show is going to open and you need to be ready.

It’s one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy trade shows. You have to work hard, but the rewards can be so great too.

You can read Jeannette La’s business bio in our Experts section. 

Posted in Content  /  Stand Management  /  Trade show advice  /  Trade show marketing

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