When you have a product or service to promote, a strong presence at trade shows and conventions can help to build your brand. By getting your product into the hands of your target demographic, meeting with potential clients, and interacting with others in your field, you can bolster your reputation.
Whether this is your first event or you are a seasoned professional, it is always a good idea to learn from others and continuously build your skills. Our guide to event marketing covers everything you need to know about promoting your brand at a conference or trade show.
What Is Event Marketing?
Event marketing is a method of marketing a service, product, brand or business at a promotional event. It differs from many other methods of marketing as it involves direct interaction between a company representative and their desired target audience. It can include displays, booths, presentations, printed materials and audio-visual components.
Don’t confuse event marketing with event organisation or management – they are very different. Event management involves the planning, organisation, promotion and hands on management of the trade show or conference itself, not the individual booths or displays involved.
20 Tips To Help You Approach Event Marketing
- Your booth needs to be on point – The very first thing that any attendee is going to learn about your brand is how you present yourself at a conference. A haphazard, sloppy or paltry booth says a lot about your business, and will have people avoiding you in favour of more professional competitors. Have an attractive exhibition stand professionally crafted for your business – this is an investment that pays off at any conference.
- Get there early – Arrive to the event as soon as you are able to access the venue. This gives you time to set up, have a coffee, and relax before the onslaught of attendees. You’ll be well-rested and ready to go when the doors open
- Dress appropriately for the demographic – You should be wearing clean, well presented and on-brand clothing that suits the crowd. Suits and ties are a default in many businesses, but if you are at a travel or lifestyle trade show, you might want to be wearing business casual (or even outdoorsy) choices.
- Make sure that your booth is good to go – Before the doors open, check that all of your technology is working and your literature is in place. Stock brochure stands, test videos, open your apps and ensure it is all ready to go.
- Check out the competition – With any remaining time you have, make your way through the entire exhibition. This allows you to answer any questions the attendees might have late in the day and potentially make some connections.
- Visit the press office – You should say hello to those on the press team to let them know that you are available for an interview at any time during the event. They may feature you in promotions for the next event, or send journalists over your way.
- Choose key roles for everyone on your team – If you are manning the booth with a team, you should designate specific roles to everyone, including specialists who are available to answer the most detailed questions.
- Make things interactive – An attractive stand or booth is always a good first impression, but can you offer more than this? Feature videos, tablets, contests, games, and products to handle. Demonstrate your best sellers, and allow people to get hands-on.
- Offer attendees a free trial, sample or gift – Everyone loves free stuff, and conference attendees are no different. Offer free gifts, a trial of your app, a voucher or a sizable sample.
- Closed questions are a death knell – It is well known that closed-ended questions are a no no in sales. After all, they give punters a chance to give a yes or no answer and walk away, completely unengaged with your brand. Try a more conversational strategy and ask open ended questions, including “How are you enjoying the tradeshow?” or “What else have you seen that caught your interest?” People like to talk about themselves, so give them the chance!
- Treat all attendees like VIPs – It should go without saying that you should never judge a book by its cover. When you make assumptions about attendees, you can end up losing valuable sales and contacts. In today’s world, even a young, ‘unprofessional’ looking twenty something could be the owner of a successful company, and a suited and booted type could be their assistant! Ask questions, build relationships and treat everyone with respect.
- Qualify, qualify, qualify – Conferences and trade shows are ultimately a massive sales showroom, and so you need to qualify those who approach you so that you can a) determine how to best address their needs and b) decide if they are likely to become a client. Common qualifying questions could include: “who is your normal supplier?” “How satisfied are you with your current set up?” “What challenges are you currently facing?”
- Provide evidence and testimonials – We can all make enviable claims about our products and services, but not all of us can back them up with evidence and testimonials. This is why it is so important that you present as much ‘proof’ as possible during the small amount of time you have to make an impression. Show figures in a clear, easy to understand way, or show a short video that explains some of your recent successes. Most importantly, tell your potential customers how these facts and figures can benefit them in concrete ways.
- It can be a numbers game – The conference floor can be a madhouse, and you need to speak to as many attendees as possible in order to get your message out there and hit on those few who make it all worthwhile. That said, keep watch for timewasters, and learn how to cut these dead end conversations short in a polite but firm way. Similarly, don’t monopolise anyone’s time when they clearly want to get away! Keep things professional and concise.
- Keep track of your leads – You’ve spent all of this time and effort to be here – don’t squander the opportunity by failing to keep track of your leads! Of course you should collect all business cards offered to you, but you should also have an offer or contest that allows you to digitally collect info on a tablet. Make a note of the people who seemed particularly promising, and follow up with them in a highly personalised way.
- Keep extra stock on hand – Make sure that you have more than enough brochures and giveaway items on hand. Anyone who is interested should be able to easily stop and grab them. That said, don’t offer expensive materials to just anyone – save them for the people with whom you have the strongest connections.
- Promote the event on social media – Find out the event’s official hashtag and start posting about it on your own Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages. Any extra footfall through the door means more potential clients for your business.
- Don’t eat or drink at your booth – This one should go without saying, but it is shocking how many people munch away on a never ending supply of food and drink at their exhibition stand. Plan and schedule breaks for all employees so that everyone has a chance to get refreshments away from the booth.
- Have a plan to follow up with all of your leads – You’ve collected loads of promising leads, but now you need to be able to follow up with them. Send a general courtesy email to all who visited your booth, and suggest some potential next steps, or extend an offer. Make sure to follow up on your most promising leads with a phone call.
- Debrief about the positives and negatives – In the first days after the exhibition, gather your team for a full debrief in order to identify wins and areas with room for improvement. Present any metrics you have been tracking in order to show how the event benefited the business, and keep your team updated on ROI.
Finally, it is always important to reach out and thank the organisers. You would be amazed at how many people forget to personally thank the event organisers for including them in the trade show. By reaching out and giving thanks, you set yourself apart and move to the top of their list for the next event.
Taking part in a trade show, conference or industry event is a valuable opportunity for businesses at all stages. By following the simple tips listed above, you can maximise this experience and get the most out of it. A strong event marketing strategy will help you to make connections, build rapport, and establish promising leads.
James Birch is the sales and marketing manager at Colour Graphics. He is an expert in quality printed marketing materials