Experience marketing in action. Buyers at the London Wine Fair experiencing the brand. Note the cardboard stand which is part of this exhibitor’s sustainability approach to wine making.
One of the buzzwords associated with events in recent years is experience marketing. OK, that’s two words but…. you often hear talk about or see articles on, experience or engagement marketing. A definition of that word that I like in relation to exhibiting is “an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone.” Of course you want that impression to be a favourable one and ideally one that leads to business being signed. Creating an experience and creating engagement with your visitors is the subject of today’s post.
Wikipedia describes engagement marketing like this;
Engagement marketing, sometimes called “experiential marketing“, “event marketing“, “on-ground marketing“, “live marketing“, “participation marketing“, or “special events” is a marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages them to participate in the evolution of a brand or a brand experience.
Rather than looking at consumers as passive receivers of messages, engagement marketers believe that consumers should be actively involved in the production and co-creation of marketing programs, developing a relationship with the brand.
It’s a big subject
Experiential marketing is a big subject and it can be a big budget item. However, in this article, I’m going to outline some core principles that can apply to any sized stand and budget. Principally, it’s about a way of thinking before you start any doing of creating an event “experience.”
Many exhibitors exhibiting on small stands focus more on sales than experience
And that’s understandable, all exhibitors want to generate a positive return on their show investment. The danger with this approach is, that all of your thinking is about what you want to achieve and do. In this case, the visitor can get overlooked and that may actually hurt your show performance and your results.
All interaction or lack of, forms an experience
Whether you consciously think about creating an experience or not, you, your stand team and stand create an experience with every visitor that comes near to or onto your stand.
Bear in mind that one or all of the above can actually stop people from even coming onto your stand. Here are some real quotes heard at trade shows;
Those people looked unfriendly
The stand team were too busy talking to each other
I couldn’t see what their product or service was
Visitors who say things like this have already decided what their experience is going to be like on the stands they have chosen to avoid. You don’t want your stand to be graded like this.
Simple experience building blocks and tactics
Spending time thinking about creating a positive experience for visitors will help your core sales objectives.
It starts pre-show
Seeing things from the point of view of the people that you most want to meet is the starting block.
Yes, you have a product or service to sell, but what are the issues that visitors are facing? How can your company help them get what they need or want? Thinking about these issues ahead of the show is really important.
The answers to questions like those above, should help you frame the messages for your stand graphics and digital displays. They can also help you improve other simple aspects of visitor “experience.”
The greeting visitors receive
Yes, this can make a big difference. A positive “good morning” or “good afternoon” with a smile goes a long way and immediately positions your company well in the minds of visitors. By all means then lead into your clarifying questions, but start friendly and positive. And this feeling needs to last all day, not just at the start.
The questions that you ask
Opening questions to visitors that include the word “you” (a lot) are much better than statements about how great your product or service is. They are also much more likely to create engagement with your visitors. “Are you looking for something specific? Are you at the show today to solve a specific problem. Is this a product that you have used before……”
Fun elements on your stand
Fun is often overlooked in the serious preparation for making sales. Making those sales is serious to you and your business, not so much to show visitors. Yes, they too are looking for serious “solutions” but you can entice them onto your stand and say something about your company by including a fun element or two. They don’t have to be expensive. See this article for some ideas.
Tea, coffee, soft drinks, water go down well with visitors. Many will say no when offered but they appreciate the offer. Visitors who are on your stand for in-depth conversations, including current or past clients may well say yes. Take the opportunity to learn more about your prospective and actual clients. Sending visitors on their way with a bottle of your branded water is good for experience too. If you have a bigger budget, what about branded coffee cups? See this article for details.
Branded products of all descriptions have been used successfully for years to create brand awareness and recognition. They can also be used as part of your experience-building campaign before an event during an event or after it’s over or at all three stages with your top prospects. This article explains in more detail the role promotional items can play in building brand recognition.
Your post-event follow-up
A follow-up from an exhibitor that is fast, personalised and presents accurate information about what was requested, reinforces a positive visitor experience. For added impact include an image or video of your stand to help your stand visitors remember who you are and what you were showing.
If your stand included a game or other attraction you could send an image of this too.
Why go to all the trouble of creating an experience?
There are lots of reasons but here are two important ones that are directly linked to sales.
- To stand out in crowded exhibition hall
- To be memorable in the minds of your visitors
If your stand doesn’t stand-out in some way, you will not attract visitors towards or onto it.
If you are exhibiting on a small stand in a crowded exhibition hall, you need to be seen. Experience marketing is one tool that you can use to help you achieve a more visitor magnetic quality.
Also, when you exhibit you are competing with many of your fellow exhibitors not just for sales but for buyer attention. Being memorable is a way to stand-out to visitors when the show is over and not just in the immediate aftermath of an event. You want ongoing recognition in your market. View incorporating an experience in your show marketing with this goal in mind.
As ever, next time you exhibit or visit a show, take some time to look at other stands to see how they are using experience marketing to create impact and generate leads on their stands.
Meantime, get thinking about what you could do next time you exhibit to create fun, interest and traffic on your stand.
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